Learn to improvise. 2003-2004. Lesson 02: melody, harmony, chord F.

A melody is a group of musical tones, sounded one after another, which together make up a meaningful whole.
For improvisation it is practical to distinguish between instrumental- and singer-oriented melodies.
Instrumental melodies may be impossible to sing and can be used to dance.
(Cantabile) melodies, which can be sang, have longer notes, humanly intervals and can be used for a moving expression of feelings. They can be generated by using the voice during improvising.
The distance between two notes is called an 'interval'.
(Physically it is the ratio of frequencies rather than a distance, but to make music it is not necessary to know this.)

It is practical to consider a chord to be made up of intervals.
Harmony is the combined sound of chords and melody, sometimes interwoven in a complex way. It is easy to distinguish the melody from the chords when a singer accompanies himself on a guitar. A composition of Bach however may have several melodies which together form the chords. In such a case 'harmony' is a better word than 'chords'.

For improvisation we will only consider chords and melodies (at least in the beginning). Once the structure of the music is well understood in this way, it is a natural step to let the right hand help to add extra tones to the chords in the left hand, to let the left hand emphasize particular tones as a second melody voice and things like that.

An investigation has proven two remarkable things in the musical mind which are interesting for the improviser:
  1. A song is more determined by its harmony than by its melody. This turned out when one changed the melody or the chords of a well known song. A very little change in the chords was readily perceived, but one didn't mind changes in the melody so much.

    It is a well known procedure in the jazz music to leave the chords of a song untouched but restrict the improvisation to melodies.

  2. Nobody can recognize two or more melodies simultaneously. Always one of them will appear as melody and the others as accompanying. One can switch very fast from one melody to another, though (when listening to Bach e.g.).

    In the jazz improvisation this is applied in different ways. There is one soloist at a time, or the underlying harmonies are thoroughly kept in mind.

HOMEWORK: Play with the chords C and G7 like the previous lesson.
Learn also the chord F in the position a-c-f, where c is again the middle c.
Pay attention to the fingering in order to have the hands relaxed
and to be able to switch easily between the three chords.
During playing the chords with the right hand one can use the left hand to add a bass tone to it. This can be the root (note c during chord C, g during G7 and f during F), but also one of the other notes that belong to the chord. Click here to hear an example (4:21 minutes in MIDI).
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