Melodic Embellishments for Jazz Guitar
The language of jazz is full of examples of melodic and harmonic material which has been changed and transformed to suit the needs of specific players and stylistic sub-genres. The following studies examine the use of a variety of melodic embellishment techniques which have been prevalent in jazz lines most notably since the Bebop era and still form a significant part of most jazz musicians melodic vocabulary today.
The melodic embellishments for jazz guitar as outlined below may sound odd or even unnatural to your ears at first, especially if you haven’t experimented with adding chromatic tones to your playing, so I would suggest working on these without any time reference at first, just so you hear the approach initially in isolation before trying to apply it in tempo.
Many notable players from the history of jazz have experimented with placing the chromatic pitches which form some of the embellishments on weaker beats in the bar, then resolving onto chord tones (arpeggio tones) on the stronger beats. This might be a good place to start at first, before later trying other rhythmic approaches.
If a Cmaj7 chord is spelt out fully in an arpeggio with the 9th, 11th and 13th degrees added, it produces a total of seven pitches all drawn from the C major scale. These (diatonic) pitches are the ones which will be used for our examination of melodic embellishments.
In simpler terms this means playing the following pitches: R 3 5 7 9 11 and 13
The exercises below now explore the various embellishments as applied to this extended Cmaj7(13) chord.
Explanations are provided above each staff as to the specific approach being employed in the example.
Take your time with learning these embellishments, as they may sound strange at first, but over time you will notice these creeping into your playing to good effect.
My thanks goes to the late, great Charlie Banacos for introducing these concepts to me and insisting that I learn them properly!