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Jazz or advanced improvising from Theme ?

vhollund

Member
Messages
3,519
I'm curious to know if some of you have practiced improvising just from a melody,
without any chords. And using the rhythmic structure of the melody to "bounce" of while variating.

I find this rather difficult at a higher ...well even low speed can be, though it helps have a sheet of paper to come back to the melody in rhythmically weird places.

Do you practice this approach?
 

vhollund

Member
Messages
3,519
Yes , but let's say I hand you just a theme , no chords
Could be a weird Bulgarian folksong
 

JonR

Member
Messages
14,844
Good question.
I don't think I've ever tried it - never had the occasion to - but I tend to improvise from melody anyway, so I can't see it being a problem.
It would begin by varying the rhythms of the melody, stretching and compressing phrases; and then omitting or adding the odd note; maybe introducing chromatics.

IOW, the principle is identical to when I have a chord progression: I use the given material. Normally a melody contains a complete scale, or a near complete one. If it doesn't (say it's a pentatonic melody), then the other 2 notes (not to mention chromatics) may be up for grabs.

But I'll admit it's an intriguing exercise. I'm wondering if I'd be listening out for implied chords... or trying to impose some (if I thought the melody had its dull moments).
 

splatt

david torn / splattercell
Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
24,975
ornette coleman, don cherry, billy higgins, charlie haden & etc..... & etc.
_____________

yes, all the time..... but, i don't hesitate from applying (or, simply hearing) new harmonisations to same;
implied "tonalities" are in the musician's ear, mind, heart & hands.
in some cases, any note in the melody --- or note-sequences --- might become a new "root" (or, "tonality")..... & etc.
 

guitarjazz

Gold Supporting Member
Messages
21,306
ornette coleman, don cherry, billy higgins, charlie haden & etc..... & etc.
_____________

yes, all the time..... but, i don't hesitate from applying (or, simply hearing) new harmonisations to same;
implied "tonalities" are in the musician's ear, mind, heart & hands.
in some cases, any note in the melody --- or note-sequences --- might become a new "root" (or, "tonality")..... & etc.
I miss Billy's smile.
 

Neer

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
12,511
Bryan Baker's book is primarily about this, but he does not go into great detail.
 

vhollund

Member
Messages
3,519
Thanks for the inputs
I have this Awesome but very ..."embellished" 9/8 folk music theme that I've been wanting to record for quite some time. Underlying is just a drone from the fifth really, so not much happening other than the theme. I try to play something simple and then get back to theme in the end of the phrase. It is quite not the easiest exercise ever
Maybe i'll figure out some neat chords to use also....
 

dewey decibel

Member
Messages
10,358
I've been working on this quite a bit recently, both with well known standards/melodies and with little melodies of my own. I think I got into it trying to prepare for solo gigs (something I've never felt I was good at).

The thing is, I always hear harmony. I can't help it, the second I get more than just a couple notes something in my head fills in the rest. Doesn't mean it's the correct harmony (if there is such a thing), yet it's there. But it's also not set in stone, it's not like I hear a form or arrangement and then stick to it, it's a liquid kind of thing.

So I'd say its similar to Splatt's response, where it's a constant, evolving set of reharmonisations. And usually those reharms are triggered by altering the phrasing of the line- holding a note, doubling one, cutting it short, changing the accents, etc.

It's really liberating to approach standards in this way, especially in solo playing, although I'll admit I'm nowhere near having a strong enough grasp of it to provide musical examples. But thinking of *just* the melody of something like Days of Wine and Roses, or say Stella- it can be really enlightening.
 

vhollund

Member
Messages
3,519
Holding notes in a complex and fast theme seems to be a good adwise.
The challenge is really to get back to the theme at different places , so I've tried to practice that by making empty spaces playing only some of the phrases , but still placed the same.
I really should have worked like this more, it's a very musical approach to learning a theme
 

Tomo El Gato

Member
Messages
1,790
As Splatt hinted, this is a strong defining characteristic of the 'free' approach to improv brought by people like Coleman. Motivic development, theme/variations (slong with rhythmic complexity) are perhaps the most important tools in improvised music that does away with busy chord progressions - whether it's modal jazz, bitches brew type vamps, or late period Coltrane. Interestingly, it's also commonplace in pre-bebop jazz (Satchmo's solos are a great example).
 




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