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  1. #1

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    I may well be getting a bit ahead of myself here, but I plan to try arranging something (Autumn Leaves maybe, just to be different ) in chord melody style. The thing is, I would like it to last for maybe a couple of minutes or so, so that I can use it to impress friends and relatives with a reasonably long performance. So I would be most grateful for advice and opinions on ways of keeping the interest going over several choruses. Things I can think of include:

    Intro section (rubato maybe)
    Change of feel
    Walking bass section
    Single line improvised section accented with the odd chord (although I'm not sure my improvising is strong enough harmonically to stand up to this sort of test!)
    Key change

    Also I would hate for it to sound like a formula, although maybe the answer to that one is just to be really good!

    Thanks for any help or thoughts everyone.

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  3. #2

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    Rather than worrying about using all the different tools at your disposal, I would suggest:
    1) what does the MELODY say to you? Is there a piece of it that jumps out at you? The first 3-note interval, perhaps?
    2) Take that interval, and play it in single notes; different places on the neck & different strings give different tones;
    3) Then play it in dyads or triads, or add a counterpoint line;
    4) Expand it; contract it; move it around the fingerboard; turn the notes upside-down, inside-out;
    5) Play it in block chords or alter the harmony: use parallel voicings, slash chords, whatever, but what you are doing is Developing a Motif from the MELODY, not just playing over a set of changes;
    6) You can use your tools (walking bass, single lines, whatever) as your statement of the MELODY develops, but instead of thinking about the tools, you're thinking about the MELODY.
    Just my suggestion.

  4. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by jseaberry View Post
    Rather than worrying about using all the different tools at your disposal, I would suggest:
    1) what does the MELODY say to you? Is there a piece of it that jumps out at you? The first 3-note interval, perhaps?
    2) Take that interval, and play it in single notes; different places on the neck & different strings give different tones;
    3) Then play it in dyads or triads, or add a counterpoint line;
    4) Expand it; contract it; move it around the fingerboard; turn the notes upside-down, inside-out;
    5) Play it in block chords or alter the harmony: use parallel voicings, slash chords, whatever, but what you are doing is Developing a Motif from the MELODY, not just playing over a set of changes;
    6) You can use your tools (walking bass, single lines, whatever) as your statement of the MELODY develops, but instead of thinking about the tools, you're thinking about the MELODY.
    Just my suggestion.
    And a very excellent suggestion I think, which is causing me to look at things from a somewhat different angle. I like what you say about being melody driven as I have always felt I tend to like the melody aspect of music especially. So I wonder if I can persuade you to expand a little on what you are describing - say I have worked on developing a motif from the melody as you describe - how would I then use that motif to help create/expand my arrangement? Apologies if I seem a little slow with this, although I suspect you are at a somewhat more advanced level than myself.

  5. #4

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    OK; "Anthropology", "I've got Rhythm", and "Oleo" all have the same chord form; if someone dropped a CD on in the middle of a solo where the musician was thinking in terms of "........now I do this technique, now that one........" how would you know which tune it was??? The thing that differs is the melody! So say with "Summertime", the opening 3-note interval goes E, down to C, back to E. Start with that; single line, maybe repeat that second E, or enlarge/contract the intervals. There is NOTHING wrong with playing single notes for awhile to develop your motif; the idea is to build texture, or let the motif determine what tools you use to add to it. Wes Montgomery used a formula for 'texture' in about 75% of his solos: first single-line, then octaves, then block chords! You have even more techniques at your disposal: you can start with single lines; then add a "call and response" counterline after you have established your motif and the audience has related it to the tune; or add octaves, or "chord stab" comping, then block chords. These things build tension as you add to your texture; you may then want to do some walking-bass over the changes; remember, though, that (to me) this is kind of a tension releaser as it is not really a development of a motif, so I would use that when you have added enough so that you want to let a little steam out of the kettle. Another tension releaser is a rubato section (who sez that once you start at tempo you have to stay there???) Rubato sections don't have to be at the start of a solo. It can be unexpected, a slow, introspective section, giving you a chance to do more full-chordal work that maybe you can't do with relaxation at tempo, then back to tempo? Why not? Who sez? If you think not of what tools I use at this point or that point, but pick a motif, and think of adding & releasing the tension/texture, I think you'll find your arrangement enlarged without sounding like just noodling or running patterns. I dunno, that's just my opinion.

  6. #5

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    Thanks so much for that jeseaberry, I'm glad I pushed you to reveal more! I can see how your ideas would apply to an intro passage, but also would work at other stages of the solo. Some fantastic ideas there for me to think about. Your right, Wes did use a formula so maybe that isn't the problem (it certainly wasn't a problem for him) but as you say - to making one's playing relate to something i.e. the melody. I think this is quite a high level to get to, especially if you can improvise this way on the spot (which is one of the things jazz is about I suppose!). I wish I was at this level myself, but at least I can aspire to it and with work I may get there one day. Cheers again for the insight and the great post!

  7. #6

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    It really is not a consideration of what level you are; that's totally unimportant. You develop as a musician, not just a guitar-player, if, no matter what your skill level, you keep in mind what it is you are trying to do: not one chorus- walking bass, one chorus block chords, one chorus single lines, etc., but say what it is that YOU have to say about THAT particular song at THAT particular moment. If that's how you approach learning from Day 1, I think your direction and focus will be better off in the long run.

  8. #7

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    I feel like a foolish young novice desperately trying to understand the wise words of a great Zen master! Or The Karate Kid and Mr Miagi possibly... However, I do agree that your music should mean something to you and not just be a succession of techniques you have practiced. In my head I sound like a wonderful combination of Pat Martino, Joe Pass and Barney Kessel with my own amazing originalilty thrown in. The reality is slightly less inspiring! But joking aside, I think like a lot of people, I do have something in my head which does indeed have some meaning (for me at least). I wasn't entirely joking when I said I might have a go at Autumn Leaves - I love that tune. But I think a lot of us somehow tend to lose our way a bit somewhere in the learning process of trying to play what we "hear". It is all too easy to get bogged down with techniques and theory and whatever, and to lose sight of the original goal which was the MUSIC.

    But cheers again for your replys, I have got a lot from them. I only wanted to make my arrangements last a bit longer, and I got a whole philosophy thrown in for good measure. Plus it's great to be talking to someone from a legendary jazz city like Chicago from my ordinary small town in Lincolnshire!

  9. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meggy View Post
    Things I can think of include:

    Intro section (rubato maybe)
    Change of feel
    Walking bass section
    Single line improvised section accented with the odd chord (although I'm not sure my improvising is strong enough harmonically to stand up to this sort of test!)
    Key change
    This is an excellent start. Some things I do to make tunes a little longer are to medley them with others from the same composer, change meter, use my amp's tremelo or other such device to evoke a different feel (think Bill Frisell), and chordal improvisation (think Ted Greene).

  10. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by jazzalta View Post
    This is an excellent start. Some things I do to make tunes a little longer are to medley them with others from the same composer, change meter, use my amp's tremelo or other such device to evoke a different feel (think Bill Frisell), and chordal improvisation (think Ted Greene).
    Cheers for that jazzalta, I'm not sure if my non-jazz fan friends/relies are ready for Bill Frisell yet, though I love him... And if only I could do chordal improvisation like Ted Greene! But some cool ideas there, especially I hadn't thought of the medley one.

  11. #10

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    Here is some advice

    In order to make a decent arrangement on the fly you need to use the tune's form to your advantage - Let the tune dictate when a new device need to be applied but make the change up at a recognizeable form change. As stated before, always keep the melody as your raw material so your solos don't end up sounding generic from one tune to the next.

    Devices at your disposal are:

    • Intro devices
    • Key modulations
    • Rubato
    • Bass solo
    • chord solo
    • Broken arps
    • single line (I think it is best to use a call and response method using the melody to keep thing on track)
    • time changes (you can sometines switch between 3/4 and 4/4 in some tunes to great effect)
    • Swing to latin feel
    etc...etc..

    For example... using an AABA form this might be one set of choices.

    1. Intro:...(Last 4 or 8 Bars - try to disguise the melody but preserve the feel and use a good turnaround to get to the head)
    2. AA:..Play Rubato to the bridge.
    3. B:....Introduce rhythm with the Bridge - play the melody
    4. A:....Play out the the final section in time - keep with the melody
    5. AA:..Back at the top - Improvize to the Bridge.
    6. B.....Bass line solo over the bridge.
    7. A:...Chord melody on the melody tunes melody (maybe re-introduce rubato to anticipate an ending)
    8. Ending - Long or short - maybe same as intro with resolution to the I chord.
    If this is not long enough... go around the block again but don't introduce more devices, just mix them differently. Too many tricks in one tune might kill the cohesion. If you still feel the tune is not long enough, then you probably have more musical ideas than I do.

    Try to think like a "listener". A listener needs structure to understand and anticipate. Listeners will key in at form change-points to see if something new is coming. Keeping the melody in play also allows the listener to keep their place in the music. In other words, present your fovourite devices in a structured way and don't feel that more is better. A little well executed surprise here and there is all that is required.

    Hope this helps in some way.
    Last edited by Jazzaluk; 07-30-2009 at 10:42 AM.

  12. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzaluk View Post
    Here is some advice

    In order to make a decent arrangement on the fly you need to use the tune's form to your advantage - Let the tune dictate when a new device need to be applied but make the change up at a recognizeable form change. As stated before, always keep the melody as your raw material so your solos don't end up sounding generic from one tune to the next.

    Devices at your disposal are:
    • Intro devices
    • Key modulations
    • Rubato
    • Bass solo
    • chord solo
    • Broken arps
    • single line (I think it is best to use a call and response method using the melody to keep thing on track)
    • time changes (you can sometines switch between 3/4 and 4/4 in some tunes to great effect)
    • Swing to latin feel
    etc...etc..

    For example... using an AABA form this might be one set of choices.
    1. Intro:...(Last 4 or 8 Bars - try to disguise the melody but preserve the feel and use a good turnaround to get to the head)
    2. AA:..Play Rubato to the bridge.
    3. B:....Introduce rhythm with the Bridge - play the melody
    4. A:....Play out the the final section in time - keep with the melody
    5. AA:..Back at the top - Improvize to the Bridge.
    6. B.....Bass line solo over the bridge.
    7. A:...Chord melody on the melody tunes melody (maybe re-introduce rubato to anticipate an ending)
    8. Ending - Long or short - maybe same as intro with resolution to the I chord.
    If this is not long enough... go around the block again but don't introduce more devices, just mix them differently. Too many tricks in one tune might kill the cohesion. If you still feel the tune is not long enough, then you probably have more musical ideas than I do.

    Try to think like a "listener". A listener needs structure to understand and anticipate. Listeners will key in at form change-points to see if something new is coming. Keeping the melody in play also allows the listener to keep their place in the music. In other words, present your fovourite devices in a structured way and don't feel that more is better. A little well executed surprise here and there is all that is required.

    Hope this helps in some way.
    Helps a lot, cheers Jazzaluk! I do recognise some of the things you mention in the playing of some of my favorite guitarists now you mention it! I wonder if you could more specifically expand a bit on the "intro devices" plus I do wonder what would be covered by the etc...etc... at the end of your list lol! You've already said a lot, so I hope I'm not asking you to write a book (perhaps you should consider it though ) but would be grateful for anything you could add.

    Love the AABA example, I have been working a bit with "My Romance" which is an AABA I think, so I find it good to think of what you say in terms of possibilities for that tune.

    Thanks again!

  13. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by Meggy View Post
    Helps a lot, cheers Jazzaluk! I do recognise some of the things you mention in the playing of some of my favorite guitarists now you mention it! I wonder if you could more specifically expand a bit on the "intro devices" plus I do wonder what would be covered by the etc...etc... at the end of your list lol! You've already said a lot, so I hope I'm not asking you to write a book (perhaps you should consider it though ) but would be grateful for anything you could add.

    Love the AABA example, I have been working a bit with "My Romance" which is an AABA I think, so I find it good to think of what you say in terms of possibilities for that tune.

    Thanks again!
    Hi Meggy

    Re: Etc...Etc... / There are many devices that I have heard used to beef up chord melodies. I just named the ones that I think can be applied to entire sections of a tune as a way to lengthen it. In additions, there are many melodic and harmonic embelishment devices to explore that can be applied to spice up individual phrases of a tune. such as, counterpoint, parrallel structures, quartal harmony, octaves etc. To master them all is a lifetime of work, so I certainly am not capable to do them all. I suggest you try to become proficient in only a few devices and techniques that you personally enjoy and apply them in as many situations as you can. You'll know when you should add to your repertoire of devices.

    Re: Intros.... / This is a very challenging aspect to chord melody playing. It is a bit ellusive since it demands that you actually compose something new that will setup the tune. Intros are rarely provided in the real books. Learning to create cool intros will affact all aspects of your playing since it requires you to dig in and figure out where the hooks are in the tune...rhythm, harmony or melody.

    So here are some ideas that might get you started. (I'm sure others have different approaches)

    For Bossas; two chord vamps work best in most tunes. Some altered V chord that vamps up a 1/2 tone and back is popular. In this case the rhythm is the paramount focus.

    Ballads... the last eight bars played in rubato is the most direct technique. You can introduce rhytmn during the turnaround if you want to start with a groove. These intros should be crafted and not left to chance. Use the tune's raw material too create your intro. I do this by paying close attention to the melodic content of the last section and reduce the melody to "target notes". I then look for rhythmc motifs in the melody and use the target notes and motifs to create you own simple melody to apply to the chord progression. The key is to keep the idea short and simple so it can be repeated and embellished by the cjhord progression. This takes time but I find it very fun and rewarding. It gets easier and after a while you will build a repertoire of motifs.

    Swing tunes. Same as above but only faster ...or... use a I VI II V progressions chordal phrases work well...again focusing on rhythm.
    But....the tried and true method of creating intros is to... "listen, beg, borrow, steal"...

  14. #13

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    Good question and many good suggestions here already.

    Adding a slighly different angle.

    I would listen to big band arrangements of songs . (big bands from all periods of jazz)
    The big band arrangers work with a very wide pallette and dynamic range.
    In this medium extending the song form and composing additional material is the norm.

    From these observations comes the not so small task of translating it to a solo guitar arrangent.
    Since guitar lacks the power of a big band, we can create the greatest dynamic contrast when we also
    develop the ability to play the song sparsely and quietly.

    How about Sonny Rollins 5 minute cadenzas at the end and sometimes in the middle of a song.
    Something to work towards anyway.

  15. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Jazzaluk View Post
    Hi Meggy

    Re: Etc...Etc... / There are many devices that I have heard used to beef up chord melodies. I just named the ones that I think can be applied to entire sections of a tune as a way to lengthen it. In additions, there are many melodic and harmonic embelishment devices to explore that can be applied to spice up individual phrases of a tune. such as, counterpoint, parrallel structures, quartal harmony, octaves etc. To master them all is a lifetime of work, so I certainly am not capable to do them all. I suggest you try to become proficient in only a few devices and techniques that you personally enjoy and apply them in as many situations as you can. You'll know when you should add to your repertoire of devices.

    Re: Intros.... / This is a very challenging aspect to chord melody playing. It is a bit ellusive since it demands that you actually compose something new that will setup the tune. Intros are rarely provided in the real books. Learning to create cool intros will affact all aspects of your playing since it requires you to dig in and figure out where the hooks are in the tune...rhythm, harmony or melody.

    So here are some ideas that might get you started. (I'm sure others have different approaches)

    For Bossas; two chord vamps work best in most tunes. Some altered V chord that vamps up a 1/2 tone and back is popular. In this case the rhythm is the paramount focus.


    Ballads... the last eight bars played in rubato is the most direct technique. You can introduce rhytmn during the turnaround if you want to start with a groove. These intros should be crafted and not left to chance. Use the tune's raw material too create your intro. I do this by paying close attention to the melodic content of the last section and reduce the melody to "target notes". I then look for rhythmc motifs in the melody and use the target notes and motifs to create you own simple melody to apply to the chord progression. The key is to keep the idea short and simple so it can be repeated and embellished by the cjhord progression. This takes time but I find it very fun and rewarding. It gets easier and after a while you will build a repertoire of motifs.


    Swing tunes. Same as above but only faster ...or... use a I VI II V progressions chordal phrases work well...again focusing on rhythm.
    But....the tried and true method of creating intros is to... "listen, beg, borrow, steal"...
    Fantastic answer, thanks for saying so much there Jazzaluk - as you say, a lifetime's work (I'd better get started...). I think I've milked you enough now but cheers again!

  16. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by bako View Post
    Good question and many good suggestions here already.

    Adding a slighly different angle.

    I would listen to big band arrangements of songs . (big bands from all periods of jazz)
    The big band arrangers work with a very wide pallette and dynamic range.
    In this medium extending the song form and composing additional material is the norm.

    From these observations comes the not so small task of translating it to a solo guitar arrangent.
    Since guitar lacks the power of a big band, we can create the greatest dynamic contrast when we also
    develop the ability to play the song sparsely and quietly.

    How about Sonny Rollins 5 minute cadenzas at the end and sometimes in the middle of a song.
    Something to work towards anyway.
    Some great ideas there bako, cheers! This is turning into a great thread for me so I'm very glad I started it. Funny you should mention the big band thing, it reminds me that I was once lucky enough to go to a seminar conducted by Barney Kessel, and he did a little demonstration of doing pretty much what you describe - he would play a close harmony sax bit, then trombones answering and so on. It was most impressive, he really knew how big band arranging worked.

  17. #16

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    As guitarists we can limit what we reach for by the facts of how hard it is to get certain sounds into our fingers. Using a big band as a model might help free our thinking around the many possible arranging approaches. We can certainly create higher and lower voice dialogue as you say. Some of the solo chordal work of Wes reminds me of a big band shout chorus.

  18. #17

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    The above posts already form the makings of a "how to" guide on playing chord melodies. I tend to gravitate toward the things Jazzaluk mentions. In addition, I would suggest learning the melody in a couple of different positions so you can play it thru on a different part of the neck with different chords/voices.

    I was taught to see the board in a variety of positions and learn the tune in each of those positions, cataloging every possible chord change in each position. This way, you have lots of choices in a variety of positions, and won't play the tune the same way each time, which makes it jazz.

    A simple device that helps lengthen a trip thru the form is to approach every chord a half step away from above with a dominant chord. Some voicings work better than others, but it is a cool way to really thicken things up harmonically. Good luck with it.

  19. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by derek View Post
    The above posts already form the makings of a "how to" guide on playing chord melodies. I tend to gravitate toward the things Jazzaluk mentions. In addition, I would suggest learning the melody in a couple of different positions so you can play it thru on a different part of the neck with different chords/voices.

    I was taught to see the board in a variety of positions and learn the tune in each of those positions, cataloging every possible chord change in each position. This way, you have lots of choices in a variety of positions, and won't play the tune the same way each time, which makes it jazz.

    A simple device that helps lengthen a trip thru the form is to approach every chord a half step away from above with a dominant chord. Some voicings work better than others, but it is a cool way to really thicken things up harmonically. Good luck with it.
    I agree it is starting to form a very useful guide Derek, and thanks for your additional suggestions. Quite a lot of work involved in putting it all into practice I think, but no-one ever said this was going to be quick or easy! I will take it a step at a time I guess.