©2000 James Walker
(This lesson is the first of three lessons dedicated to the subject of reharmonization. June's lesson will address adding chords to a progression, and July's lesson will deal with the topic of chord substitution.)
Any jazz musician (especially those who play chordal instruments) can benefit from good reharmonization skills. The ability to alter and adjust harmony to fit one's musical tastes is one of the elements which helps to define and express a player's musical personality.
Traditionally, functional harmony has grown out of polyphonic (read: melodic) composition. The second and third lessons in this series will address reharmonization techniques which alter or replace the existing harmony. This month's lesson, however, will draw upon melodic concepts to offer ways to embellish existing harmonies. The techniques described here are often skills which novice jazz musicians already have under their hands, from previous classical studies, and offer immediate options for those players still unfamiliar with functional jazz harmony.
One common technique is planing. This basically means moving the same shape (or voicing) up or down on one's instrument. Most mallet percussionist plane up and down the chromatic scale when learning chord voicings:
Planing can be done over scales other than the chromatic scale. Diatonic scales (Ab major shown here), pentatonic scales (Ab major pentatonic shown here), and diminished scales may provide the note choices when planing a voicing:
Here, a shape is planed not through a scale but by root movement. This allows one to move "outside" the harmony of a tune, while still retaining the strength of the voicing's structure.
This example demonstrates root movement by whole steps:
The techniques above may be applied when approaching (a.k.a. targeting) a particular chord. Here, an Fmaj9 chord is approach by half-step, with the same voicing approaching chromatically in parallel motion:
This same movement can take place as a "neighbor chord." Just as a non-chord tone may be analyzed melodically as a "neighbor tone," moving away from a chord tone and then returning to it, a chord can function the same way harmonically. (One might say that the added voicing is actually four neighbor tones, all moving in parallel motion):
Melodic motion may also be added by adding a second voicing to the same chord. Notice that the leaps in this example take place within the same sonority (i.e., one Cmin9 voicing moves by leap to another Cmin9 voicing), but movement from one sonority to another follows the traditional rules of voice leading (keeping common tones from chord to chord, and moving other voices the shortest distances possible):
The use of these techniques will add a significant amount of melodic activity when comping on a chordal instrument, or when arranging a chart, without even exploring the options available if the actual harmony is altered. June's lesson at malletjazz.com will present some ways to embellish a song by adding new chords to the pre-existing harmony.
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