This section discusses rythm and phrasing for the melodic line, use of syncopation, 'dramatic' intervals and arpeggiated vs. diatonic.
Some have said that jazz uses too many notes. Listening to a broad spectrum of players will dispel this notion. Miles Davis accomplished powerful melodies like 'My Funny Valentine' and 'Someday My Prince Will Come' with a minimum of notes. Bop and Swing are diatonically oriented with a lot of notes like Bluegrass flatpicking and will get your feet moving. The slow ballads make the listener thoughtful.
The way you phrase your melody is its shape. If you connected all the notes of a written melody with a solid line, you'd see the shape of the melody. In jazz phrasing, you might start your riff on the off-beat, the and of beat 2 or 3. A good example of a mixture of on count and off count phrasing within the same melodic line is found in the Music Man's '76 Trombones'. 'Seventy' is beat 4 of the intro on count and 'Six' is beat 1 of the 1st measure on count. 'With a hundred-and-ten' is a triplet figure that starts on the and of 3. Think of the melodic shapes in relationship to the time lines, the lines of the measures.
A good example of syncopation in pop music is the Police's 'Spirits in the Material World'. The verse is primarily a reggae rythm. The string pulse always falls on the off or 'and' beat. The bass line bounces around the beat, and the vocal is mostly syncopated. During the chorus, the song effectively shifts to a straight rock beat with a snare on 2 and 4. Syncopation isn't a necessity for a good jazz melody. 'Favorite Things' is almost entirely on the beat.
A 'dramatic' interval is a jump of a 5th or more in a contiguous melodic phrase. In the love song from 'Titanic', Miss Dion displays her awesome range with a jump of an octave. The verse lays back and is very linear, almost lulling you to rest, then the chorus hits you-'near, far, where[octave]ever you are' and blows you away. The octave jump is very powerful and can produce hit songs like 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow', Aerosmith's 'Dream On', which actually uses a 9th and dozens more.
Guitar players seem to be pretty evenly divided between linear players and arpeggio players. Linear players like Carlos Santana use diatonic scale forms-a lot of melodic minor and pentatonic forms. Arpeggio players like Eric Johnson are all over the fretboard using inversions to facilitate the new starting point of the riff as they work their way up the neck. For example, you might start at the low E and go E-B-D-E-G#-A-B. Let's say you finger that last B on the 4th fret of the G string. You would be in a good position to start the riff from the G# on the 4th fret of the low E and go G#-A-B-E-B-D-E. This scale form is basically a harmonic minor and is a favorite of Eric's. A skillful combination of linear and arpeggio within the same melody can produce a memorable tune.
BACK TO MY HOME PAGE