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Jazz Blues: Part Two The Melody



While there are several approaches and combinations of approaches to writing jazz. The most common is based on the progression first. Then melody supports the chord changes second. If you haven't as of yet go back to Part One and re examine the jazz-blues progression for "Blues For Yous Toos" Play the progression. You don't have to try and satiate yourself with the most complex chord formations or intriguing rhythmic patterns. Even if you can only strum one chord per half measure it will be enough. Try to read straight from the chord chart.


So lets talk about the challenges of writing against a progression such as this. Ideas for improvisation and writing all look good on paper. And then it happens. We want to use every option at our disposal while maintaining the basic premise of "Melody line supports the chord it's played over" Pentatonic ideas can apply, Modes apply, We may have adapted the principle of Guide Tones as a strategy for writing. Those of us who are constantly reaching for http://forums.songstuff.com/blog/159/entry-1535-fuzzy-logic-jazz-theorems/ because we have internalized them as well as those who may have read of jazz theories but can't see the application are often stuck between a rock and a hard place of too many options with too little time.

One can "read with one's ears" or "hear with one's eyes" but one cannot do both simultaneously. And most importantly one cannot both analyze and perform at the same time. If your personal goal is simply to learn to perform the song... Then while you may have a new song to add to your repertoire, you've lost the plot. Nonetheless at the end of this lesson I've attached a midi file at the end of the lesson for those who may wish to play the song for a better "feel"

Download the following pdf and print it. Don't simply display it on your monitor. You'll need a pen as well to mark the points of interest. It's important for you to physically go through the process. I'll list several "devices" you can use in your own writing / improvisation. Not only will you gain a more intimate knowledge of theory but you'll be able to develop your own ability to analyze songs for yourself by reading for analysis rather then reading for performance.

Without further adieu the transcription


Print it up and break out your pen be prepared to scribble all over it.

The very first thing to take note of in the transcription is.. The rest on measure 1 beat 1

Starting the melody either after or before the first beat of the first measure creates rhythmic displacement. While more common to blues then jazz many musical genre's use this type of device. If the first note of the melody happens just before the first measure then it has a tendency to create "energy" or excitement. If the first note of the melody happens after the first beat it of the first full measure can create a sense of "swagger" or laid back emotive qualities.

The very first complete phrase lasts two measures. Nine Notes. If you break those nine notes into three , three note groupings a pattern emerges. Eb-D-Bb, Eb-D-Bb, Eb-Db-Bb. Listening to the song the pattern is very apparent while simply reading the sheet it's less so. Looking and listening to the first two phrases we see, hear the subtle difference of note displacement. The first Eb is shorter then the second and third. The third Bb is longer then the first and second. Rhythmic variance within a (sort of) repeated phrase or "riff"

Pay special attention to the last three note grouping of our first phrase Eb-Db-Bb in measure two. This is where the fine line of jazz vs blues is defined. In blues while working over the first 8 measures the melodic phrasing is generally not modified where the IV chord appears. This can create "tension". A tension that is naturally resolved as the I chord returns. Generally in blues the melody line only supports the I chord till the turnaround. Whereas in (progression based) Jazz the melody's function primarily serves to support the chord it is being played over. (with exceptions) Qualifiers out of the way we notice that the lick is not transposed for the IV chord it is simply "displaced" to support the IV chord. In short sometimes you don't need to reorganize your thought train for a completely different mode a simple shift of a specific note (Db for D natural) does just fine.

In measures 3&4 we see the same phrase beginning to repeat but because the chord stays on the I chord the melody supports the I chord (Bb) with a classic blues/jazz lick based on the chord.

Measures 4&5 we again see the same Eb pattern supporting the Eb7 chord.

In measures 6&7 things get interesting.... Both the iii7 and the VI7 chords are common substitutions for the I7 chord.

The melodic line ignores the substitution instead playing the same phrase as was used in measures. Three of the Five notes contained in the phrase over Dm7 do not fit the Dm7 chord and yet we somehow survive the tension of the phrase. The next three note grouping F-G-Bb also while being close is not the cigar for the G7 chord. Not the end of the world simply a slight embellishment which functions perfectly for the next measure...

The triplets in measure 9 are simply two alternating notes rhythmically displaced. D-Eb as notated we get D-Eb-D then Eb-D-Eb etc. The presence of the Eb note is sufficient in supporting the Cm7 chord. The phrase is escaped by a simple "Basie" maneuver. F over the F7 chord followed by repeating the F note an octave down.

Measures 9&10 also introduce us to the famed "two-five" or ii7-V7 as represented being Cm7-F7 for the key of Bb. While the 12 bar blues is the standard blues form in jazz we have several "common progression" forms, and even more less common progressions which feature the ii7-V7 passage. Sometimes it's within a single measure and sometimes it's drawn out with each chord getting it's own measure. There are an endless parade of jazz licks and lines based on the "two-five" Some are in the context of a larger grouping of phrases such as ii7-V7-i or even I-Vi-ii-V. At any rate if you continue down the jazz path much of your "cred" will come from how well you negotiate ii-V changes.

The last phrase in our song starts on the V7 chord then navigates to the very common jazz turnaround of I7-VI7-ii7-V7

Here we have a fly in the ointment. The more you look at the phrase which starts on the third beat of bar 10 and ends in Bar 12 the more you may struggle with the harmonic rationale for the notes used. "Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar"

And sometimes a phrase is created by using the blues scale. The end of the song is based on the G(minor) blues scale. and the very last two notes of the 12th bar make a great lead in into measure one.

Ready to draw your own analysis? Play along with the home version and download the midi file here -


Note, the supplied midi file has a two measure count in. With some midi players it may displace the actual 12 bar presentation.

Next up a look at improvisational approaches to chords over this very same song...

Stay Tuned


Recommended Comments

Yes, No


Jazz is an improvised art form. The chord chart let's one see the forest from the trees as an overview to the entire progression.  Unlike other forms of music where performing a "standard" the goal is to simply recreate the original song verbatim. In jazz the goal is to "interpret" the changes and make your own decisions as to the specifics of how it is performed.


Remember my rant about jazz guitarists in this thread....



Most of the songs are "Misty"  While the song is the same the "treatments" are quite different. Each guitarist chooses "how they want to play the chords and where to finger" 

In jazz when a bassist looks at fake sheet it doesn't contain the bassline. Merely the melody and the chord changes. It's up to the bassist to interpret the chord changes and apply a bassline that he 'feels" is appropriate for the song.  Same for the keyboard player and the guitarist. They get the chord chart and they are left with the decisions of how to play the song. You might want to interpret the piece and play it "Freddie Green" style simply playing on the four four beat and only using three note chord voicings.  You might want to play sustained extended chords or common inversions / substitutions.  That's up to you it is not the original transcription or my personal choices/treatment of a song that matters it's what you do with the chart as determined by you. Your take your sensibilities, your responsibility.


That being said the more familiar you are with options such as common approaches the easier the decision making process becomes and the less time becomes devoted to wading through the notation/tablature when you want to learn a piece quickly.  That's why jazz songbooks are called "fakebooks" (including the [url=http://www.amazon.com/The-Real-Book-Sixth-Edition/dp/0634060384]Real Book which is the de facto standard for jazz players)


My next installment on improvisational approaches to chords could easily be extended to a book so deep few would wade through it. Rather it will be a "foot in the door" approach, It will be transcribed in tab for easier reading.  Most/all of my writing is done in BIAB as that is the most popular format for jazz material expressed as "interpretations"  one would find in the real world of jazz players actually playing/interpreting jazz standards.  I release content in midi and pdf currently so you can both see the concept and hear the interpretation.  However porting .mid to popular guitar tab format such as guitar pro is a nightmare.

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Because interpreting charts takes me too long. I can barely remember the C stave at all. If I couldnt do it at 16, I'm not going to try again at 61.


I can follow ideas by ear, though I'm not sure what I supposed to be doing with the dropbox midi files. I have listened to them and played (improvised) over them. Thats about all.

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Re midi file.... mission accomplished then.  If you listened to it and improvised over it then  you've heard the song in (a) context in regards to the notation of the melody I laid it out in tab in the pdf if you choose to want to learn the melody to have a "working knowledge" to go along with the analysis.  In my analysis of the song I break things down pretty thoroughly as how the melody supports the progression.  A lot of it I'm over analyzing. 



Re chords.  You aren't 16 anymore and in a way that's a good thing.  The goal is (or should be) to memorize very few chord simple easy to play chords and work them out. I doubt you have to open a book and look at an open D chord and a rhythm pattern before you play it either writing your own songs or playing songs you have in the past.  


As you gain a comfort level with simpler jazz chord ideas you should be able to easily play them with out having to reference The guitar chord diagram or tablature. 

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