EXPLORING JAZZ ARRANGING
USING GARRITAN JAZZ & BIG BAND
INTERACTIVE EDITION

by Chuck Israels




Lesson 13 - Writing for 2 Voices





Writing For 2 Voices:

There is a long history of jazz bands with two lead voices, starting with the extraordinary recordings made by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie in the late 1940s. That style used trumpet and alto saxophone mostly in unison, with occasional passages in thirds, playing rhythmically and harmonically complex melodies (with uncanny coordination). A few years later, Horace Silver developed a style that substituted a tenor saxophone for the alto, simplified the melodies, and treated the piano part like a big band brass section, creating a rhythmically powerful sound. In this case, the range of the tenor makes octaves with the trumpet stronger and usually more effective than unisons (except when the trumpet is in its lower register). Gerry Mulligan had piano-less quartets where one instrument played the lead melody while the other played independent contrapuntal lines, establishing a modern version of the New Orleans tradition of polyphonic ensembles. Bob Brookmeyer used some of these contrapuntal textures in tenor sax/valve trombone recordings he made with Stan Getz. By the time Miles Davis launched his first working quintet in 1955, he had changed the two-horn format in a way that emphasized expressive freedom for the lead voice and relegated John Coltrane’s tenor to silently waiting for solos or to playing quiet background lines in ballads. Occasionally, part of a melody would be played by the tenor, in alteration with Miles’ trumpet.

These are the established traditions for writing for a band with two lead voices. By choosing the right texture and technique, or the right combination of textures, considerable variety and musical interest can be created.Remember the effectiveness of unisons and octave doublings. Using the piano keyboard to test this texture is deceiving. The piano can give an idea of octave doublings, but it gives an opposite impression of the strength of unison winds, which do not have the effect of the collapse of sound that the keyboard indicates as the music changes from two voices in harmony to a unison texture.
(This is a good example of how the use of the Garritan Jazz Library can help guide the arranger to better understanding of the results of the writing.)

FOR A CONCERTED, THICKENED LINE TEXTURE:

When creating a harmony part for the second voice, start with those melody notes that have an obvious relationship to the chord of the moment, (the chord tones), and then fill in the passing/neighbor tones in the melody with notes that are in the “chord scale”. Sometimes the harmonic character of the melody will indicate the appropriate chord scale. For instance, dominant 7th chords will most often use passing notes from the mixolydian scale based on the root of the chord, but prominent altered notes in the melody may indicate the use of other scales including, among other possibilities, the melodic minor scale starting on the flat 9th of the dominant chord, a whole tone scale, or a diminished scale.





Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

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Using only consonant intervals (octaves, 3rds, 6ths and sometimes perfect 4ths) becomes predictable and boring, but an overabundance of dissonant intervals (2nds, 7ths, augmented 4ths, diminished 5ths, and sometimes perfect 5ths) quickly loses its effect. Saving the dissonances for important climaxes or rhythmic accents helps achieve a good balance.

Keep the voices within the span of one octave, except for 10ths and an occasional 9th.


When harmonizing non-chord tones in the melody, especially those that are not in the current scale, harmonize the next melody note that is in the scale first. Then use parallel (usually chromatic) harmonization for the preceding note(s). It is a safe rule to follow that if a note can be viewed as a chromatic approach tone, then harmonizing it that way is the most effective method. This method can be used to harmonize any non-chord tone melody note that approaches a diatonic melody note from above or below by half step.



Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

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Most two-voice textures use similar motion. Contrary motion is possible, but it can produce awkward results if the lower line seems out of character with the lead line.
N.B. Parallel motion maintains momentum. Contrary motion impedes it slightly. Occasional use of elements (like contrary motion, or cross rhythms) that impede momentum is useful in establishing variety and contrast. The resulting resumption of smooth forward motion is often doubly effective after a moment of rhythmic friction. (Apply the brakes, rev the engine, and pop the clutch!)



Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

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A WORD ABOUT REGISTER: most melodies will be harmonized with a second voice that appears in a lower register, but it is not the register that determines which voice is perceived as the melody. It is the range of intervallic motion. The voice that moves farther attracts the ear and is heard as the main melody. That is why it is essential to limit the movement of the secondary voice to smaller intervals than those of the main voice whenever possible, and when it is necessary to move it farther, then it should move no more than a minor third more than the melody moves.

The second part should move melodically when the lead part moves. If the lead line changes notes, then repeated notes in the lower part are permissible only from down beat to up beat, or if they create a percussive “pedal point”. If the lead voice has a rhythmic anticipation, or a tied note, the same rhythm should appear in the second voice.

There are some situations that invite the use of a “constant structure” in which the lower voice remains at a fixed interval (perfect 4ths and 5ths are most effective) below the lead voice for a period. Minor 7th chords, Dominant 7th chords, and bluesy melodies are most appropriate for this treatment.




Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

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CREATING AN INDEPENDENT, CONTRAPUNTAL, SECOND VOICE:

Balance the areas of activity and inactivity. When the melody is active, reduce the level of activity in the second voice. When the lead voice is less active, increase the level of activity in the second voice. Choose the principle notes for the second voice from those that help define the harmony of the moment, primarily the 3rds and 7ths of the chords. If the melody contains some of these significant harmonic pitches, base the second line on the remaining “power” notes. Use passing tones and non-chord tones in the second voice in enough proportion to give it individuality and character.

Contrary motion promotes the perception of independence.

Lines in a contrapuntal texture should contain different pitches whenever possible. This promotes independence and separation of lines.

All lines must be melodic and harmonically correct, especially at main cadential points.

Lines with more predictable rhythmic patterns tend to sound subordinate to lines with less predictable rhythms.

For maximum clarity, orchestrate different lines with different colors.

Here is a paraphrase of Autumn leaves with an independent second voice that provides essential harmonic information (even in the absence of the bass line), maintains motivic interest and development, and balances the rhythmic activity in the phrases of the melody. It’s worth noticing that the second voice is made up of some main harmonic notes that are absent from the melody and occasional non-chord tones, and that the true bass notes are almost entirely absent from this example. The chord root only appears as an important note in the second voice in the 16th measure, yet the intervallic combinations of the two voices make the harmonic progression completely intelligible. This example works equally well as an unaccompanied duet or with a rhythm section accompaniment.




Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

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Here is the same example orchestrated for bass and guitar, with the bass playing the lead voice. In this case, the lead voice is lower in pitch than the secondary voice, but since both voices are melodically balanced and satisfying, having the second voice appear in a higher register is not disturbing.




Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

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(In both examples, the secondary voice stays above D below middle C with the brief exception of the downbeat of measure 25, where the low C can be heard as the root of a Cm6 chord.)
One good use of either of these examples would be as an unaccompanied duet for an opening chorus, followed by an interlude played by the piano, or piano and rhythm section figures, and then a solo section with a wind instrument and a full 4/4 rhythm section texture.

Textures like these work best orchestrated with one instrument on a part, or with one section of the band on a part. Using solo instruments allows greater individual expression on each part while using a whole section increases the weight and density. Mixed colors can work, but care must be taken to make the resulting orchestral colors sufficiently different to maintain the separation of the parts.
(Try this example using cup mute trumpet doubled with flute for the first voice and open trombone doubled with bass clarinet for the second voice.)
The following example demonstrates several 2 voice concerted techniques. It starts with the trumpet and tenor sax in octaves, a familiar sound to those who have heard Horace Silver’s many wonderful quintet recordings. In measure 3, the tenor part leaps (in the same direction) one half step more than the lead voice, a condition I like to avoid, but the effect is rendered nearly unnoticeable by the following immediate change to contrary motion. The voices join in a unison texture (approached in contrary motion) and continue for a while moving in and out of unisons, 2nds, 7ths, and octaves, always making the change of texture in contrary motion. The approach to the 3rd at the beginning of measure 9 has the tenor again moving parallel by an interval a step more than the lead voice moves, but this condition is again mitigated by another immediate change to contrary motion. The end of the piece has a texture of 6ths, 3rds, and a final 4th, consisting mostly of extensions of the basic harmony.

There is an added staff, below the transposed tenor and trumpet staves, showing the horn parts on one staff, in concert pitch, in order to make it easier to see the relationship between the two parts.

The piano chords are mostly used in rhythmic juxtaposition with the horns, setting up a contrapuntal rhythmic texture with occasional percussive support for the horn attacks. An experienced jazz pianist might come up with a similar part from a chord chart and might find even better choices after hearing the piece a few times, but leaving all of that up to a pianist’s interpretation is risky. This “written out” accompaniment assures integration of the piano part from the beginning. Adding chord symbols to this part might indicate to an experienced player that the part is a suggested jumping off point for creative interpretation.

The trumpet and tenor solos each start their 1st chorus with a 4-measure break. Two piano solo choruses each begin with an octave unison send-off/break for the trumpet and tenor. The two send-offs help maintain the motivic development of the piece and add to its integrity by putting short ensemble passages between the piano solos, adding “orchestral” interest to the form.

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Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

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Here is an example of an entire arrangement for 2 voices, guitar and bass, using call and response (in the introduction and coda), 2-voice line thickening (with moments of contrary motion) and independent polyphony. The first chorus (measures 1 – 12) alternates an independent bass line texture with line thickening harmony. In the second chorus (starting at measure 13), the texture changes to a more independent and rhythmically grounded bass line that takes advantage of opportunities for contrary motion and increasing activity melodic when the guitar part is static.




Score References & Musical Examples Using JABB:

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Coming Next Lesson: Lesson 14 - Writing for 3 Voices