Welcome back to part 3 in our Contemporary Composition series! In part 3 we will talk about how I go about choosing the meter, harmonic rhythm and melody. I hope you’ve enjoyed this series and that it adds value and benefit to you!
Let’s take a quick look at the chords that we chose from part 2: Db6/9, Amaj7, Bbmin7 & Bmaj7. There is no magical formula for determining the meter…you just need to make a decision! Do you want it in 3/4, 4/4, 6/8, 5/4, etc.? You can make your decision on the style (i.e. swing, straight-eights, latin, etc.) and go with a meter choice. I’ve decided that for Back and Forth that I wanted to make it 4/4 swing.
The next step is either choosing the harmonic rhythm (when and how often the chords happen in time) or creating the melody. Some charts I choose to work with the melody first and others the harmonic rhythm. In the case of Back and Forth, I chose to start with the melody first.
To do the melody, I sat down at the piano and played through the chord progression slowly and let it influence my melodic decisions. While playing through the progression, I will sing ideas that come to mind over the changes. These are my first attempts at improvising over the changes. I will take some ideas and throw out others. I will do this over and over until I come up with something concrete that I can sing more then once over the progression. If your ears like it…keep it! There was a short melodic fragment that kept sticking that I decided to keep and transpose through the changes. It looked something like this:
This became my melodic fragment that I used throughout the composition and decided to transpose through the progression. Now I need to decide the harmonic rhythm. Do I want the changes to happen on every bar, every other, or? I played through the melodic fragment over and over and wanted the melody to help suggest the harmonic rhythm. To me, the melody suggested the C# in the second bar be held out before the phrase repeated. This ended up creating a series of 3-bar phrases. This made my “A” sections into a 12-bar form. I now have my “A” section created.
In part 4 we will look at the overall form and creating contrasting sections. If you haven’t already, please be sure to check out my books (Breaking the Monotony and Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose) at my Digital Store. Tonight (9/24/12) I will be premiering Back and Forth at Dazzle Jazz Club. If you’re in town, come check it out! We play from 7-9pm.
Jason Klobnak is a versatile trumpet player that has been performing as an active musician, author, clinician, composer and educator. His band, J's Ruckus, is Denver's blend of Post-Bop, Soul, Gospel, and Hip-Hop. They perform infectious and up-lifting originals for audiences hungry for a memorable live experience. J's Ruckus released their latest album, Suck Less, in March of 2020 and their first EP, Sermons, in July of 2019. Both were recorded live in front of an audience. Suck Less was recorded to a packed auditorium at Arapahoe Community College's Waring Theater in Littleton, CO. Sermons was recorded in front of a sold out crowd at the Soiled Dove Underground. The JKQ (the Jason Klobnak Quintet/Quartet) is Mr. Klobnak's Hammond B-3 centered groups. The JKQ released their third full-length album in March of 2018 called Friends & Family. It has been very well reviewed, on numerous Top 10 lists for Jazz radio stations across the country (including Denver's KUVO 89.3FM which named it May 2018's CD of the month), and in Jazzweek's Top 100. Each composition was written for specific family and close friends (that might as well be family). Their second album, New Chapter, was recorded in part thanks to the Pathways to Jazz Grant from the Boulder County Arts Alliance. In 2015 and 2016, New Chapter was in the Top 75 on the Jazzweek charts and on the Top 10 playlists for over a dozen radio stations worldwide. Their first album, Mountain, Move made the Best Recordings of 2013 list from AllAboutJazz.com by C. Michael Bailey. His very well reviewed Christmas single, Hark the Herald, in 2016 as part of a creative project with musicians James Roberson and Nathaniel Kearney Jr. Besides the JKQ, Mr. Klobnak is a B.A.C. (Best American Craftsman-custom trumpet), Denis Wick (mouthpiece and mutes) and Westone Audio endorsed artist (ES20 and Tru Customs). Mr. Klobnak has played and recorded for numerous groups ranging from jazz, soul/R&B, indie-rock/pop and gospel. In addition to performing, he has also written two improvisation-based books called Targeting: Improvisation With Purpose and Breaking the Monotony and is currently an adjunct professor and brass instructor at Arapahoe Community College. Mr. Klobnak holds a bachelor degree from Drake University (Des Moines, IA) and a Master’s degree from the University of Denver, Lamont School of Music (Denver, CO).
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