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Method for practicing embellishing melodies in a jazz context?

Discussion in 'General Instruction [BG]' started by DuluthDank, Jul 30, 2019.

  1. I find that when practicing jazz, I often don't pay as much attention to the original melody as I should when improvising a solo. What methods do people use to practice embellishing the original melody of a tune?
  2. Bob_Ross

    Bob_Ross Gold Supporting Member

    Dec 29, 2012
    Learn to play the melody without embellishing it first.
  3. JRA

    JRA my words = opinion Supporting Member

    00 images2b2.
    DuluthDank likes this.
  4. Mushroo

    Mushroo Supporting Member

    Apr 2, 2007
    Massachusetts, USA
    Transcribe players who are good at embellishing the melody.
    Spin Doctor, Nashrakh and DuluthDank like this.
  5. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Years ago I was lucky enough to have some time talking with Don Ellis. I asked him about auditioning players for his band. He simply said, "I ask them to play something, then I ask them to play it again in a different way, and I keep asking that until they run out of ideas".
    It's a good way to practice what you're talking about. Play the melody several times. Each time you play it, add something (or subtract; that's a way of embellishing). Don't try to come up with a finished product at first, let each new idea interact with the old ones. Keep changing.
  6. Groove Master

    Groove Master

    Apr 22, 2011
    Author of Groove 101, Slap 101 and Technique 101
    One of the master for phrasing on the EB is Marcus Miller. Yeah I know he's been known for his slap but the man is playing so well the fretless bass and listen to his phrasing. There is a whole book right there. You'll hear all kind of slurs, grace-notes, tremolo, vibrato etc...
    GastonD and Whousedtoplay like this.
  7. GastonD


    Nov 18, 2013
    Belgrade, Serbia
    Todd Johnson had a good workshop on the topic over at SBL some time ago. The bottom line is, IIRC, play the melody straight 10 times in a row, as it will make embellishments (adding, subtracting ,changing rhythms, phrasing, articulation...) sort of "scream at you", i.e. the places where it can be done will become much clearer.
    Spin Doctor and DuluthDank like this.
  8. GastonD


    Nov 18, 2013
    Belgrade, Serbia
    DuluthDank likes this.
  9. Ed Fuqua

    Ed Fuqua

    Dec 13, 1999
    Chuck Sher publishes my book, WALKING BASSICS:The Fundamentals of Jazz Bass Playing.
    There's always this. Working on this exercise was what got me to making what little sense I do when I play. Not so much about embellishing the original melody as it is starting to hear alternate melodies i.e. your own improvisations.
    mambo4, Groove Master and Joshua like this.
  10. Since reading this, I haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. It’s rather genius in its simplicity. This really does reduce all the practice and experience and ear training and melodic sensibility down to one simple litmus test.

    I would even go one step further and ask how would you fare in this audition? Now, I fancy myself a very good jazzer, a fair improviser, and (as an arranger) having an above average sense of melody. But it occurs to me I wouldn’t last very long in this audition. In fact, it dismayed me to realize I couldn’t pass this simple straightforward test.

    To the point that it has altered my entire practice routine, having found a glaring deficiency, and wanting to correct it.
    bassfuser likes this.
  11. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
  12. BassChuck

    BassChuck Supporting Member

    Nov 15, 2005
    Well, I've never had to do an audition like that. But I also arrange and compose and I find it a very interesting tool in searching out all the possibilities. I run through the toolkit, tempo, range, style, jazz embellishments. I play games like, "What if Mozart wrote this" (or any other composer with a definite style). Perhaps there are a few notes, melodic fragment that reminds me of another song, the I could quote part of.
    But eventually, like being asked 'why' by a 4 year old, you'll run out of ideas, cross over into the world of stupid and silly and end up with, 'because I said so'.
    Have fun.
    theguy316 likes this.
  13. theguy316


    May 4, 2018
    Santa Cruz
    Examine the relationship between the melody and the chords. I feel like identifying the key tones in a chord progression can give me a deeper understanding of certain themes present in a melody.

    Improvising is fricken hard work. But if I know I'm going to take a solo I really try to collect my thoughts and think about how I am going to transition first. Starting a solo with confidence can set the pace and keep you expressive.
    GastonD and DuluthDank like this.

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