Melodic Conventions through Improvisation
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The study of the common melodic units in western music — motives and phrase and period models — begins with a solid understanding of the fundamentals of music. At the same time, a solid understanding of the fundamentals is strengthened by the study of the common melodic units. Using improvisation on the student’s applied instrument as a means of engaging melodic elements in active musical contexts strengthens student’s ability to recall fundamental concepts quickly in order to use the units appropriately. In doing so, improvisation strengthens their understanding of both the common melodic units in western music and the fundamentals of music. This paper will focus on using jazz improvisation as a model for teaching improvisation in the standard music theory classroom in order to supplement the acquisition of basic concepts and connect these concepts to the student’s applied instrument. In this paper I outline a four-tier jazz improvisation model that focuses on the melodic aspects of improvisation, and a three-tier adaptation of that model to function in the classical music theory classroom in the context of common-practice era repertoire. The first tier of the adapted model is concerned with the acquisition of the fundamentals of music. The second tier is concerned with the acquisition of embellishment patterns, cadence patterns, and motivic development. The final tier is concerned with the acquisition of phrase and period models, irregular phrase and period structure, and phrase extensions. Each tier of the adapted model is divided into two to three sub-tiers that detail basic improvisation exercises designed to target specific skills or concepts. This adapted model is designed to strengthen students’ fluency in recalling the fundamentals of music and to supplement the understanding of the common melodic units in common-practice era music, including embellishment patterns, cadence patterns, phrase models, period models, and motivic development.
Table of Contents
Introduction -- The jazz model -- The classical model -- Conclusion