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Sage Wisdom

"Good improvisation communicates harmonic progression melodically. Effective melodies manipulate harmonic content through the use of guide tones and preparatory gravity notes, masterfully woven in systematic tension, release, and transparent harmonic definition."

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January 12, 2012 | Turnarounds and melodic intent

We've discussed the concept of theory vs. intuition in improvising before. There's a continuum in the approach to how to create melody starting on one side with calculation of formulaic scales, modes and arpeggios and reaching the other side with blind, reckless intuitive spontaneity.

Just blow.

In the middle somewhere, there's the notion of taking and bending a melodic nugget. Call it a lick, a motif, a riff, you have a familiar sequence of notes that you reproduce, transposing and manipulating on different sections of the fretboard. There's spontaneity, but you still have a long leash on altering time, adding and subtracting notes, and any other aesthetic edit your inner Muse should choose to throw out there.

"Turnarounds" are great field research for how you can take a set of notes and wrap some cognition into the process. Identifying the notes in these little 3 and 4 chord patterns can give you some direction that supports and communicate the vertical (chord) structure of the horizontal (melody). The notes that change are the notes that identify the chord and propel into the next. (If you've not heard this term, we've got some past articles in the links below that can elaborate.)

In the Getting Into Jazz Mandolin book, we've got some extended exercises to help you develop some insights into zeroing in on the notes of the chord as you blow through them. It's a concentrated look, and one you can apply to larger sections of songs, too, especially progressing through the Circle of Fifths. We'll give you an example in the PDF below, but as usually, we'll plug getting the book to really go deep.


pdf_sm.gif Sample Turnaround Patterns for drilling


Blues 501 (Jazz!)
Applying Turnarounds
Another look at Turnarounds
Improvisation: Pattern-based vs. Theory-based

Posted by Ted at January 12, 2012 2:09 PM

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