Melodic Soloing

taken from:


best way to create melodic solos

voice-leading through changes

melodic means creating a melody over changes (sounds obvious, but many people don’t think how to connect the changes)

to internalize the melody, listen to many different versions of song you’re working on; then learn melody by ear;

for improv, start with melody just changing a few little things like the rhythm of it, it’s a great starting point for improv because already have a melody that works & yet you’re improvising

next, write own melody over chord changes (contrafact), how to do this:

voice-leading is how melody connects from chord to chord; so many people play vertically on each chord without connecting them; it doesn’t sound cohesive. improv happens “at the bar line.” transitions form chord to chord is most important. esp. beat 4 (current chord) to beat 1 (new chord)

neighbor / leading tones (just below or above landing tone)

enclosure – below then above (or vice versa) then landing tone

landing tones – chord tones

all the things you are – melody is already 3rds

how can lead into those?

a) lower neighbor (diatonic) (on beat 4) to 3rd (on beat one)

b) upper neighbor

c) 2 lower neighbors (diatonic; can use chromatics but not as stable or strong and isn’t best place to start for teaching) (ex: 8th notes on 4 and & of 4)

d) 2 upper neighbors

e) enclosure – lower then upper neighbor

f) enclosure – upper then lower

many variations on all this – can add and take away and combine them

how to fill in rest of bar

what you play between the chords matters more than what you play during the measures – voice leading is everything

(page 3)

1. play diatonically

two lower neighbors

two upper neighbors – scale up to it or skip up to it; alter rhythms etc.

goal is for whole line including voice-leading to be smooth

1 upper 1 lower (or vice versa)

2. chromaticism

(page 4)

two lower neighbors – mix diatonic and chromatic and especially use them to get into voice leading at end of bar

one lower, one upper – can take shape of voice-leading and reflect that in rest of bar’s line

voice-leading works with any chord progression

homework – write in diatonic & non-diatonic lines with any rhythms (pages 8 & 9)

transcribing is not really learning why the line works

hearing the voice-lead lines gives you ideas to fill in your own lines

lines will be more musical, melody, and horizontal

go through same process again on root or fifth, or even 7 or 9, and then again combining any of them

don’t have to do it all the time in real life; just practice it that way

other aspects of improv:

tone quality