C| cadence | cadenza | chart | changes | chord substitutions | chorus | chromatic harmony | chromatic scale | clarinet | clave | comping |conga drums | consonance |cornet | countermelody | counterpoint | cup mute | cycle | cyclic form
M | major scale (or mode) | |maracas | measure | melodic paraphrase | meter |microtones | minor scale (or mode) | modal improvisation | mode | modulation | |monophonic texture |motive | mouthpiece | multiphonics | mute |
more definitions on Definitions Page TwoA
the standard 32-bar form for many popular songs. AABA refers to the melody and harmonic progression (not the text, which can have a completely different pattern. Each portion of the form is eight bars long, with the bridge serving as the point of contrast. We can think of AABA this way: A = statement; A = repetition; B = contrast; A = return.
A good example of the standard 32-bar AABA form is "The Potboiler", an original composition written for this class by John D'earth. "The Potboiler" is based on rhythm changes (the harmonic progression to George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm").
playing a stringed instrument (such as the string bass) with a bow. For an example, listen to Pete Spaar play his bass arco.
music that does not have a tonic, or tonal center. Such music will sound dissonant to the average listener, but in fact the concept of dissonance or consonance simply doesn’t apply, since there is no “home key” to resolve to. Pure atonality is rare in jazz, but musicians nevertheless often use free improvisation, which approximates atonality in its emphasis on elements other than harmony (timbre, melodic intervals, rhythm).
Among jazz musicians, improvising atonal music is known as playing outside.
Many avant-garde musicians prefer to use an atonal approach to their improvising. For an example, listen to the following example by alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy from his 1964 album Out to Lunch
a subset of homophonic texture in which the pitches of the accompanying harmony move in exactly the same rhythm as the main melody. Block-chord texture is typically found in big-band jazz, as, for example, when a saxophone section plays and simultaneously harmonizes a melody. See also soli.
A good example of block-chord texture is the saxophone chorus of Duke Ellington's 1940 "Cottontail."
An older example is the clarinet trio, performing in block-chord style on Jelly Roll Morton's 1927 "Dead Man Blues."
A twelve-bar cycle used as a framework for improvisation by jazz musicians. Blues forms share the same basic underlying structure: they begin with a tonic , or I chord, move to the IV chord on the fifth bar (the beginning of the second phrase), returning to I two bars later. In the last phrase (measure 9), they move to the dominant, or V, before finally returning to I in m. 11. This basic form is altered by
There are many examples of performances in twelve-bar blues form on this web site. One example created for the course by John D'earth is "Midriff".
a blues piano style in which the left hand plays a rhythmic ostinato (i.e., repeated pattern) of eight beats to the bar. For an example, listen to the boogie-woogie playing of Kansas City pianist Pete Johnson.
wind instruments played with a cup-shaped mouthpiece. This category includes the trumpet, cornet, trombone, and tuba.
One example of a famous break comes from Charlie Parker's performance of"A Night in Tunisia".
The Free Bridge Quintet offers a different example with four breaks--for tenor sax, trumpet, piano, and tenor sax again.
the middle part of an AABA form i.e., the "B" part. (Musicians sometimes also call it the "channel.") It usually serves as a contrast, and typically ends with a half cadence. Its function is to connect, or “bridge,” between the "A" sections.
stopping places that divide a harmonic progression into comprehensible phrases. Cadences that end with the tonic chord are known as full cadences, while those that end with the dominant chord are known as half cadences.
(term from classical music): a virtuoso passage for a single instrument, usually monophonic.
jazz slang for harmonic progression.
substituting one chord, or a series of chords, for harmonies in a harmonic progression.
a single statement of the harmonic/rhythmic cycle defined by musical form (e.g., 12-bar blues, or 32-bar popular song form).
the scale containing twelve equally spaced notes within the octave, corresponding to all the keys (black and white) on the piano.
a time-line pattern used in Latin music. Its rhythm can be represented verbally as : dah-dit-dah | dah-dah|, or in reverse form, | dah-dah| dah-dit-dah|.
playing chords in a rhythmically unpredictable fashion as accompaniment for an improvising soloist. Comping is an important way for the harmony instruments in the rhythm section (e.g., piano, guitar) to add a contrasting rhythmic layer.
In Latin percussion, two tall drums of equal height but different diameters, with the smaller one assigned the lead role.
harmonies that are stable (i.e., that do not need to resolve to another harmony).
(also known as an obbligato). In a piece whose texture consists clearly of a melody with accompaniment (i.e., a homophonic texture): a countermelody is an accompanying part with distinct, though subordinate, melodic interest. If the melodic interest were not subordinate, the texture would be polyphonic: two or more melodies of more or less equal melodic importance.
In classical music, the countermelody is known as an obbligato.
In the following example from "A Sailboat in the Moonlight," the melody is sung by Billie Holiday, while the countermelody is performed by tenor saxophonist Lester Young.
In the following example, John D'earth plays the main melody on trumpet, while Jeff Decker plays the countermelody on tenor saxophone.
two or more melodic lines of equal importance (i.e., polyphonic texture), especially when composed.
a fixed unit of time, repeated in a potentially endless progression, used as a musical framework In jazz, a cycle (also known as a chorus) usually involves a fixed unit of time and a harmonic progression.
the tendency to base the overall structure of a musical performance on repeated cycles.
individual notes in a scale. If a major scale is defined by "do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti," do is the first degree, re the second degree, and so on.
the seven-note scales commonly used in Western music. The most common is the major mode, which is expressed by the syllables “do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do.” (Note that the scale begins to repeat itself at the eight note, or octave.)
the chord built on the fifth degree of the scale, represented by the roman numeral V.
Listen to John D'earth and pianist Bob Hallahan improvise using the Dorian scale.
to play more than one instrument. E.g., tenor saxophonists often double on the soprano saxophone.
Listen to the following example from Billie Holiday's "Fine and Mellow." You will hear a trombone soloist playing in a slow tempo. Halfway through the excerpt, a baritone saxophone enters playing double-time, accompanied by a double-time drum part.
a technique in which a drummer plays unpredictable rhythmic accents. In the bebop era, a strike on the snare drum was typically followed immediately by an explosion on the bass drum. (Some say the name "be-bop" comes from this combination.) Dropping bombs remains an important way for the drummer to add a contrasting rhythmic layer.
As an example, listen to this excerpt from a solo by Charlie Parker (over "A Night in Tunisia"), where the drummer's interjections are especially frequent: as in the John Coltrane performance of "My Favorite Things": Audio
a kind of meter in which the bar is divided into groups of two. In duple meter, the listener would count along either as "1, 2, 1, 2, 1, 2...." or as "1, 2, 3, 4, 1, 2, 3, 4....." Duple meter is the ordinary meter for jazz performance.
refers to volume, or loudness. Some jazz passages feature sharp contrasts in dynamics.
a four-stringed guitar used in popular music, amplified through an electric speaker. Listen to Pete Spaar play the electric bass.
the position of the lips, facial muscles, and jaw necessary to play a wind instrument.
chords to which additional pitches, or extensions (sixths, ninths, sevenths, thirteenths) have been added beyond the basic triad. Such chords are frequently used by jazz musicians to add tension and sophistication to harmony.
a collection of lead sheets used by jazz musicians (called "fake" books because musicians "fake," or improvise a performance without detailed notation).
improvising without reference to harmony, often in an atonal context. In free improvisation, the focus usually shifts to areas that can be masked in harmonic improvisation: timbre, melodic intervals, rhythm, and constant interaction among musicians.
For an example, listen to the following example from the World Saxophone Quartet's "Steppin'"
music that flows through time without regularly occurring pulses. One appropriate metaphor for free rhythm is "breath rhythm."
An example of free rhythm is the opening from John Coltrane's A Love Supreme.
to slide seamlessly from one note to the next. Easily achieved with the voice or on the trombone (with its slide), but also possible with good breath control on other instruments (saxophone, string bass, guitar, trumpet).
Creating an unusual timbre on a wind instrument by growling in the throat while playing. Listen to these examples of John D'earth growling on the trumpet and Jeff Decker growling on the tenor saxophone.
a plucked string instrument with waisted sides and a fretted fingerborard. The acoustic guitar was part of early jazz rhythm sections, while the electric guitar began to be used in teh late 1930s and came to dominate jazz and popular music in the 1960s.
Creating sounds with an unusual timbre by squeezing the valves of the trumpet only halfway. Listen to John D'earth using half-valving on his trumpet.
a hollow mute made by the Harmon company (hence the capitalization). Originally it had a short extension comine out of a hole in the middle, with which musicians could make various amusing effects. But with Miles Davis, musicians began using the mute without the extension and playing close to the microphone to attain an attenuated timbre. See mutes.
Listen to an example of John D'earth playing Harmon mute.
An example: the opening of a song uses the harmony C in bar 1, then G7 in bar 2. (All you need to know is that the chord "C" contains certain notes, while the chord "G7" contains other notes.) During bar 1, any notes from the "C" chord will be consonant, and others are likely to be dissonant (i.e., they will produce tension that needs to be resolved). In bar 2, the situation shifts: the consonant notes are those in the "G7" chord. A soloist using harmonic improvisation must keep track of the chords (or "changes," as jazz musicians often call them) and continually adjust the melodic line to fit the harmonic background.
Coleman Hawkins's performance on "Body and Soul" provides one excellent example of harmonic improvisation.
Another famous example is John Coltrane's harmonic improvisation on the chord changes to his tune,"Giant Steps". Coltrane's melodic line effortlessly adjusts to find notes that are consonant with the chords in the rapidly moving harmonic progression.
Bob Hallahan of the Free Bridge Quintet offers a harmonic improvisation on the chords to the tune "I Got Rhythm".
a series of chords used as the basis for improvisation; also known as chord changes. In a harmonic progression, both the order of chords and their place within a rhythmic cycle are specified.
An example: the harmonic progression for an eight-bar phrase may be represented by the following chart:
| C | C#o7 | Dm | Fm7 | Em | A7 | Dm | G 7 |
Each of these symbols represents a particular harmony, according to a shorthand that jazz musicians must learn. (The “m,” for example, is short for “minor”; “7” means to add another note to a triad.) The vertical lines (bar lines) show the downbeats of each bar or measure. According to this chart, a C-major triad is heard throughout the first measure. On the downbeat of the second measure, it changes to a C#-diminished seventh chord.
Jazz musicians usually treat harmonic progressions as cycles-— that is to say, they are repeated as potentially endless loops.
a technique by which a jazz musician may bypass certain chords in a harmonic progression in favor of other, “substitute” harmonies. This may be done spontaneously or as part of a pre-conceived arrangement.
a composed section, typically performed in unison, that frames a small-combo jazz performance by appearing at the beginning and again at the end.
an arrangement for big band that is collectively created by the band and not written down (musicians therefore carry it in their “heads”). A head arrangement typically consists of block-chord riffs and a set order of solos. Head arrangements can be created on the spot as musicians extend a piece indefinitely by adding (and instantaneously harmonizing) riffs.
A classic example of a head arrangement is Count Basie's "One O'Clock Jump." In the following excerpt, you will hear different solos: in each case, the wind instrument is backed by riffs from a different section (saxophone by trumpets, trombone by saxophones, etc.).
a musical texture characterized by one main melody with a clearly subordinate pitch accompaniment. Homophony is the usual texture in a jazz performance (e.g., an improvised solo accompanied by a rhythm section).
jazz slang for any wind instrument
a meter featuring beats of unequal size. A meter of five, for example, can be understood as a grouping of three notes followed by two notes, as if one were counting “1-2-3, 1-2.” This kind of meter is known as a meter of five: it can be heard in the famous composition "Take Five" performed by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. You may also listed to a different example performed by the Free Bridge Quintet.
A different kind of irregular meter is seven, often broken up into patterns of twos and threes: e.g., 3 + 2 + 2, or 2 + 2 + 3. This latter type (2 + 2 + 3) can be heard in the following example by the Free Bridge Quintet.
an informal gathering at which musicians perform jazz for their own enjoyment. It can be competitive, with one musician trying to outdo another; or it can be friendly and supportive.
jazz slang for the process of maintaining a steady, unchanging rhythmic foundation. "Keeping time" is a necessary element for producing rhythmic contrast. In mainstream bebop, the instruments that keep time are the drummer's ride cymbal and the string bass.
a short melodic phrase learned by jazz musicians and used in their improvisations. A lick may be repeated precisely between two different solos.
the most common of the seven-note scales commonly in use in Western musical culture. It is the scale that we sing to the syllables, “do re mi fa so la ti do.”
In Latin percussion, a gourd filled with beans and shaken.
melodic paraphrase uses a pre-existing melody as the basis for improvisation. The variations may come in rhythm or melodic contour (removing notes as well as adding them), but whatever the change, the original melody should still be recognizeable. Musicians often use melodic paraphrase when they first state a melody, to make the statement personal.
Some improvisers prefer to work primarily with melodic paraphrase. One such musician is the singer Billie Holiday, who took familiar melodies and molded them to her own satisfaction. Listen to what she does with the melody on this example from George Gershwin's famous lullaby (from Porgy and Bess), "Summertime.".
one of the most common of the seven-note scales in Western musical culture. Its arrangement of whole steps and half steps is slightly different from the major scale, and is often associated with different emotional responses (e.g., sadness)
The most famous example of modal improvisaion is Miles Davis’s "So What," which asks the improviser to draw on one scale for the A sections; during the bridge, the same scale is transposed a half step higher (at about 0:30 in the excerpt).
Another short example is performed by Jeff Decker with the Free Bridge Quintet. .
a change of key—i.e., changing the note that serves as the tonic.
Listen for the modulation in the following two excerpts from Duke Ellington's "Concerto for Cootie." Ellington modulates into a new key in this example, about ten second into the performance. About twelve seconds into the next excerpt, the band then modulates back to the original key.
NOTE: this concept is far less important for jazz than for classical music, since changes of key are used in European concert music as a crucial means of generating tension and drama.
a musical texture characterized by a single melody with no pitched accompaniment: for an example, listen to the opening of Louis Armstrong's "West End Blues." When a monophonic texture interrupts the usual texture of jazz performance, it is known as a break.
a short melodic or rhythmic idea used self-consciously by a musician in the course of a solo. Motives are usually varied in the course of a performance.
the portion of a wind instrument into which a musician blows. For brass instruments, the mouthpiece is cup-shaped. The musicians places the lips into this cavity, where they vibrate to produce sound.
by heavy overblowing, musicians playing the saxophone can create several pitches at once. These are often used in avant-garde jazz.
Listen to Jeff Decker create multiphonics on his saxophone.
a device that can be used to alter the sound, or timbre, of an instrument. (Only the brass instruments use them e.g., trumpets and trombones). Trumpet players in particular use a variety of mutes, such as the Harmon mute, a hollow mute with a hole in the middle that is stuck into the bell of the trumpet; the plunger mute, the rubber cup from the bottom part of a toilet plunger, which is waved in front of the bell; the cup mute or the straight mute, both of which are used in symphony orchestras.
On the following example, listen to Ray Nance play a solo with a cup mute on Duke Ellington's "Take the 'A Train'."
Now listen to Cootie Williams play a much wilder-sounding solo on the next example, using the plunger mute, on Ellington's "In a Mellotone."
Copyright W.W. Norton