While I was in graduate school, I had to develop a method of learning all the tun es that were thrown at me at a daily

basis. In an earlier post, I outlined a me thod I learned from Jody Fisher on learning the chords to a tune. In this post, I am focusing my attention now to the melodic side of working through the raw h armonic material found in many jazz tunes. Remember, this is only one way to do this. If anyone has other ideas, please sh are them in the comments. Roots – It is essential that you learn the root movement of the tune you are w orking on. This will aid in memory retention of the chords and ear training. I f you can internalize the sound of the roots of all the chords, the melody will make more sense. Guide Tones – Guide tones are the essence of any chord progression. There are usually two main versions of a guide tone line. The first one begins on the 3r d of the chord and the second one begins on the 7th. Learn to connect these not es in a variety of ways both melodically and rhythmically. Voice Leading is an important aspect in the improvisations of the jazz masters. Arpeggios from the Root – In this step we are branching out to cover all the n otes in a given chord. Essentially if you stick to these you won’t hit any wrong notes, but I find it more challenging to make interesting phrases from these. E xperiment with different rhythms and inversions with these arpeggios. Guide Tone Arpeggios – Once you internalize a few different guide tone lines i n addition to the arpeggios from the roots, you can begin to connect these in a melodic way. This is the first step in gaining some facility over a particular progression. I practiced this A LOT. Construct a Bassline – This step is the first that requires some improvisation . In college I would write out several of these over a tune and then mix and ma tch them to find one I liked. The whole idea here is to create a melody using o nly quarter notes that works with the harmony. Continous Motion – I first heard about this exercise from a David Baker book. The general idea is to play as slow as necessary in order to play continuous ei ghth notes over a progression. This exercise develops fluidity and helps you dev elop the sense of keeping your place in a progression. Little Scale Exercise – David Berkman’s Book “The Jazz Musicians Guide to Creative Practicing” was a great help with this step. Start on any note within the scale or arpeggio of the first chord and go up and down the span of a 5th by only chan ing the qualities of the notes as needed. 3579 Digital Exercise – This concept I worked on from a book by the saxophonis t Jerry Bergonzi. This is partial to the guide tone arpeggios we looked at earl ier, but now involving extensions. It works great over altered dominant chords. Alternate Triads – For each chord, I chose another basic triad that would work harmonically and composed a line using only those notes. It is a great way to breath new life into a progression that you feel stuck with. You can also inclu de upper structure triads as well. Diatonic 4th Arpeggios – These will add a distinctly modern sound to your line s. For guitarists and pianists, I would develop quartal voicings based on these lines. As with any exercise, you want to mix up the approaches to keep the listener gue ssing.

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