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jazz composition 1 5/28/03 4:32 PM Page 42

JAZZ COMPOSITION THEORY AND PRACTICE

PITCH CONTOUR AND RANGE

Pitch contour plays a definite role in melody writing. The effect of a smooth line within
a narrow range tends to be relaxing, whereas a rough or jagged line that covers a wide
range tends to be more intense. The following examples are drawn from two tunes with
very different pitch contours.

(See “Any Friday,” page 120.)

(See “Let’s Split,” page 122.)

APEX (CLIMAX)

Most jazz tunes have an apex. The apex (or climax) is the highest note in the tune. It is
strategically placed to provide the most dramatic moment and usually (but definitely not
always) occurs about two-thirds to three-quarters of the way through.

Look through the book at the various tunes and place a check mark over the highest note
in each. Compare measure numbers to determine whether the apex is early or late. Here
is a short list of some of the tunes, along with a measure count for the apex and the total
number of measures.

“Samba de Goofed,” page 155; apex in measure 15 out of 40 (early)


“Scrooge,” page 147; apex in measure 21 out of 32 (average)
“Sez Who?” page 144; apex in measure 21 out of 24 (late)

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CHAPTER 1 MELODIC CONSIDERATIONS

EXERCISES
1. Write a sixteen-measure melody that stays smoothly within the following range.

Slow ballad
1 B Maj7 C–7 F7 D–7 G–7 C–7 F7
2 3 4

5 A–7( 5) D7( 9) G–7 C7 C–7 F7


6 7 8

9 B Maj7 D Maj7 G Maj7 F7


10 11 12

13
B Maj7 B 7 E Maj7 A 7 C–7 F7 B Maj7
14 15 16

2. Write a sixteen-measure melody that encompasses the following range and contains
the apex in measure 11.

Medium jazz waltz

1
D–7( 5) G7( 9) C–7 A 7
2 3 4

5 D–7( 5) G7( 9) C–7 F7


6 7 8

9
F–7 B 7 E Maj7 A Maj7
10 11 12

13
D–7( 5) G7( 9) D Maj7 C–7
14 15 16

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JAZZ COMPOSITION THEORY AND PRACTICE

MELODIC TENSION AS A FUNCTION OF STYLE

Tensions were a relatively uncommon melodic choice for jazz composers during the
1920s and 1930s. Most melodies were based on chord arpeggios or scale patterns that
did not expose these relatively dissonant notes. Those tensions that were used usually
resolved immediately to related chord tones a step away in the manner of a suspension
or an appoggiatura, or they were treated as approach notes.

Since the advent of bebop in the mid-1940s, melodic tensions have played an
increasingly important role in jazz performance and composition. Today, unresolved
tensions are part of the musical palette available to all writers.

Older Styles

Low tension level

Medium swing
F–6 G–7( 5) C7( 9) F–6 C–7( 5) F7( 9)

B –7 F–6 D–7( 5) G–7( 5) C7( 9) F–6

(See “Scooter,” page 128.)

Newer Styles

Higher tension level

Bossa nova
F–6 G–7( 5) C7( 9) F–6 C–7( 5) F7( 9)

T9 T11 T 13 T9 T 13
T11

B –7 F–6 D–7( 5) G–7( 5) C7( 9) F–6

T9 T9

(See “Let’s Split,” page 122.)

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CHAPTER 1 MELODIC CONSIDERATIONS

EXERCISES
Construct a sixteen-measure melody outline in half notes. As a challenge, limit yourself
to melodic tensions on each chord. Try to organize the tensions into intervallic patterns,
or use them as guide tones and voice lead them. Have the apex in the twelfth measure.
(Major 7 may be considered a tension in this exercise.)

1
FMaj7 B Maj7( 11) E –9 A 7(13) D Maj9 C7( 9) B7( 9) B 7( 9)
2 3 4

5
A–7(11) D7( 9) GMaj7(13) E–7(9) A–7(9) D7( 13) G–7(9) C7( 13)
6 7 8

9
FMaj7(9) A Maj7 B Maj7 D Maj7 CMaj7 A–7(11) FMaj7 D7( 9)
10 11 12

13 G–7(11) C7( 9) A–7(11) D7( 13) G–7(11) C7( 9) G Maj7( 11) FMaj7( 11)
14 15 16

Now create a melody by embellishing your melody outline. Use four-measure


antecedent and consequent phrases.

Easy bossa

1
FMaj7 B Maj7 E –9 A 7(13) D Maj7 C7( 9) B7( 9) B 7( 9)
2 3 4

5
A–7(11) D7( 9) GMaj7(13) E–7(9) A–7(9) D7( 13) G–7(9) C7( 13)
6 7 8

9
FMaj7(9) A Maj7 B Maj7 D Maj7 CMaj7 A–7(11) FMaj7 D7( 9)
10 11 12

13
G–7(11) C7( 9) A–7(11) D7( 13) G–7(11) C7( 9) G Maj7( 11) FMaj7( 11)
14 15 16

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