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A Little Gem II (The Melody)
The last blog started the discussion about creating arrangements of our tunes that are little gems. We talked form, harmony and listening for musical motifs on which to base our arrangement. This time we are going to discuss the melody section of our tunes.
The melody is hugely important it is the part that your audience hears most naturally and should be supported by the rest of the arrangement. Even if that support is to just simply stay out of the melodies way the support still needs to be thought about in relationship to the melody. (see blog Little Gem)
There are many ways of achieving a good delivery of a melody and the more variations you have to your approach the more you have to offer the listener. Of course, I do not recommend to many ideas in the one song. Usually less is more here.
One really good idea is to make a simple statement of the melody often just by itself. One of Wellingtons top Jazz pianist Jonathan Crayford often starts a number by just playing the head (tune) as a single unaccompanied melody. I liked the approach as it set me up (the listener) with the tune and a positive expectation of what was to come.
Of course, the tune must be played well for this to work.
- Have you experienced the situation when someone has played a tune to you that you know but when they played the tune you have not recognized it? It seems strange when you are told the name of the song and think to yourself “I know that one but I didn’t hear it”.
- A number of things could be causing this result. Timing, no real arrangement i.e. just the chords or perhaps the melody is being treated as just a bunch of notes. We need to go further than just playing the notes on the page. Dynamics, articulation, phrasing and nuances of timing all need to come into the shaping of the melody. In short, we need to think like a singer.
We need to listen to the melodies and learn the words. Sing the lines even if there are no words. Imitate the sounds that you hear by using your skills on the piano. A well-crafted melody may use staccato, small slurs or couplets, well placed soft notes and definitely a dynamic shape to the line. In the first blog on arrangement I stated that even the classical people apply the concept of a little gem. This area is where they really excel. Every note is important and therefore every note must be thought of as to how it is to be stated. The beauty of sound if you will.
- Try to bring the melody to the point where you can hear the words even though they are not being sung. Classical dudes tend to make up words for their musical ideas so as they can sing the tunes and gain greater understanding. This is to improve their overall delivery of the melody on their instrument. The Bee Gees use to work together as a team always on the melody first. Once they had made that melody the way they wanted it, it was set and the rest of the arrangement had to fit to that melody. This hopefully will give you some idea of the import that artists place on their melodies or main melodic ideas. So, go for the detail, produce a sound that really says something, move people.
- OK, now we have discussed a lot of the main areas in arranging our tunes. We understand the need for real effort in our arrangements. It is time now for some examples and time for us now to have a play. Get out there and arrange your favorite Jazz head, pop tune or melody you have heard. It can be anything really. This link is to a wonderful orchestral version of the “Microsoft Waltz” check it out it is worth a chuckle and proves that anything can be worked on creatively. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dGKwx-BFO0E Really give it your best shot. I would love to hear your results.
I have three tunes in the pipe line that I will be recording. A Taylor Swift, Niall Horan and Ed Sheeran. Opps and an old one “Falling in Love Again” we will use these for examples in our next blogs.
A wee story to finish. I was lucky enough to go and check out a guitarist in August roughly with a couple of friends. Peter who is a pianist and artist, Vito a guitarist and myself went and saw Trace Bundy. Trace Bundy is a guitarist from the US who does a solo act. He often uses loop pedals just like Ed Sheeran and often just plays his instrument. Van Larkin an Australian performer also on guitar opened for him. They were both brilliant. Van’s version of working class man really did it for me and Trace was engaging and most entertaining. What they had that really relates here is that each tune they played was really worked on heaps to achieve that “Little Gem”
They used all sorts of techniques to achieve their arrangement a lot of them totally outside of the box and the melodies popped out even though they weren’t sung. I sat in the audience and thought to myself “yes this is the way for music to go”.
- It takes effort and real skill but music always did. Get into enjoying this process and you will love the results.