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Approach Technique with Mechanical Voicings

Objective:
Harmonization of a melody for 4 parts in a smooth soli texture. The ideal is to have all lines to be similar in shape.
In order to attain this objective, certain characteristics will help:
Contrary and oblique motion should be kept to a minimum.
The under parts should not repeat a note if the melody does not repeat a note.
Use of approach note reharmonization techniques.
Since smooth similarly shaped lines are important, a linear based method is presented here.

Process:

1. Analyze the melody/harmony relationships. Find as many approach note patterns as possible.
Sometimes more than one analysis are possible. They should be remembered and can be used as
problem solvers later. When the melody has extended scalar motion, try to alternate chord tone,
approach, chord tone, etc.

Gmaj7

app
# prep

&

target

PT

example 1: A passing tone approach pattern.

2. Work backwards from the target note at the end of the approach pattern (or phrase). Voice the target
note first. Remember the target note is a harmonic tone voiced with the given chord.

Gmaj7

target

?#
J
prep app

&

Approach Technique Based on Line Writing

example 2: The target note is voiced with the given


Gmaj7 in a drop 2 with 9 for 1 in the second voice.

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Approach Technique with Mechanical Voicings

3. Next voice the approach note. Use an approach note in all parts.
The melody approach note goes to the melody target note.
The 2nd voice approach note goes to the 2nd voice target note.
The 3rd voice approach note goes to the 3rd voice target note.
The 4th voice approach note goes to the 4th voice target note.

Gmaj7 app target


prep

?#
&

example 3: The approach note is voiced with an approach


note in all voices.

4. Examine the voicing that was made under the approach note. Does it make sense as a diatonic, dominant, parallel,
or chromatic approach reharmonization? If yes, then it's good - keep it. If no, then manipulate the voicing until it
does make harmonic sense - see problem solving later in the text.
Diatonic approach reharmonizations include chords that are diatonic to the key, to the chord scale, or diatonically
related to the key (such as modal interchange chords or auxiliary diminished chords). When you use diatonically
related chords, make sure your lines don't become awkward or unmelodic. Also, make sure the reharmonized voicing
moves smoothly to the next voicing and makes harmonic sense. A thorough understanding of tonal harmony is
essential in deciding what works and what doesn't.
Dominant approach reharmonizations include primary and secondary dominants, subVs, and dominant function passing
diminished chords.
Chromatic approach reharmonizations are most common when the melody itself is a chromatic approach. Diatonic
chromatic approach notes more often get a diatonic or dominant approach reharmonization. When you use chromatic
approach reharmonization, make sure your lines don't become awkward or unmelodic.
Parallel approach reharmonizations are more typical in modern contexts. They often produce reharmonizations that
have distant or no functional relationship to the given chord. They are usually quite noticable. Parallel approach
reharmonizations are rare in classic jazz and standards. But they're not unusual in fusion, funk, or blues. Be aware
of the stylistic context of your arrangement.

&

?#

app

example 4: The approach note voicing turns out to be an


A-7, a diatonic approach reharmonization.

A-7

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Approach Technique with Mechanical Voicings

5. Finish by voicing the preparation note if there is one. Remember the preparation is a harmonic tone that is voiced
with the gived chord. Try to create a smooth line in all voices. Imitate the shape of the melody. Make or remove
chord tension substitutions to maintain good linear motion.

Gmaj7

prep app target

?#
&

example 5: The preparitory note is voiced with a Gmaj7.


The 4th voice does not make a 9 for 1 tension substitution
so scale wise motion is maintained.

Problem Solving:
You'll soon find out that the process doesn't always work out as easily as the previous example. An arranger is only as good as
his/her ability to solve the problems that occur. Ideas are easy, "I want the sound of a soli." Making them work takes effort
and attention to detail. Having a number of strategies to solve the problems is invaluable. Some strategies that can help
follow.
Voicing problems to avoid:
!Low Interval Limit violations - a real interval or chord function is too low.
Seconds - avoid seconds in the top two voices as it tends to obscure the lead note.
!b9 interval - a b9 between any 2 voices in a voicing is extremely harsh and should be avoided until more advanced study.
Incomplete Chords - in mechanical voicings, each chord function (1, 3, 5, & 7) should be present in every voicing.
!Avoid Notes - so called "avoid notes" are notes that change the sound of a chord and maybe even the chord's function.
Missed Tension substitutions - depending on the style, this may or may not be a problem. Jazz and jazz influenced styles
(such as some latin, jazz-rock, and R & B styles) should include tensions as much as possible to sound authentic.
Incorrect Voicing Technique - including misspelled chords, accidental errors, and incorrect drops (e.g. a note is dropped two
octaves instead of one).
Soli problems to avoid:
Repeated Notes - generally, if the melody is not a repeated note, then the under voices should not have a repeated note.
This problem can be a technical problem for players at faster tempos as well as not being stylistic.
Awkward Lines - all under voices should feature lines that make sense melodically. A melodic line is easier to play and is
often performed more musically by instrumentalists.
Missed Anticipations - remember if the melody anticipates a beat with a new chord, then the chord is anticipated as well.
Extended Reharmonization - is a different technique. Approach note reharmonization will not conflict with rhythm section
comping when done correctly. Approach reharmonizations are short in duration and resolve to the given chord. Extended
reharmonization features a number of consecutive voicings that are not the given chord. The result can conflict with rhythm
section comping. Extended reharmonization is a rich and useful technique the should be studied apart from approach note
reharmonization technique.
Bad Mel/Harm Analysis - make sure your analysis of the melody identifies the approach patterns fully and correctly.

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Approach Technique with Mechanical Voicings

Example 6 contains a repeated note problem in the 3rd voice. There are two easy ways to solve this problem.

Gmaj7

prep app

&

?#

target

example 6: The 3rd voice has a repeated F#.

D7

1. Make or remove tension substitutes in the voicing of the prepatory note. Also, substitute 6 for 7 in Maj7 or
MinMaj7 chords. [Note: 6 should not substitute for b7 on a min7; that would create a change of function problem.]

Gmaj7
prep app

?#
&

target

example 7: Using 6 for 7 in the 3rd voice of the


prepatory note solves the problem.

D7

2. Make or remove tension substitutions in the voicing of the target note. Of course, you'll have to adjust the
approach voicing as well. Then the prepatory note voicing may fit with good linear motion.

Gmaj7

prep app target

&

?#

example 8: Using 9 for 1 in the target voicing in the 3rd


voice. The adjusted approach voicing becomes A-7. And, the
prepatory note voicing fits with good linear motion in the 3rd
voice.

A-7

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Approach Technique with Mechanical Voicings

Example 9 contains a repeated note in the 4th voice.

G7

b
& b

? b b

target
prep app

example 9: The 4th voice has a repeated F.

F7

3. If the problem involves an approach note that moves by whole step to its target, try using a chromatic
approach instead. Reexamine the resulting voicing to make sure it makes harmonic sense.

G7

b
& b

? b b #

prep app target

example 10: Using a chromatic approach in the 4th voice


solves the linear problem and creates a dominant approach
reharmonization.

D7

4. Find and try all the possible diatonic approach chords, dominant approach chords, chromatic and parallel approach
chords. Use one even if not all voices result in approach note patterns. But try to keep approach note patterns in as
many voices as possible - for smoothness.

5. Re-voice the passage using an alternate analysis if the melody can be interpreted more than one way.

6. Reinterpret the rhythm of the melody. Problem notes can be eliminated with shorter or longer durations.
Rhythmic placement can influence how a note is heard.

7. Reharmonize the given chord progression, but make sure you don't destroy the character of the tune.

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Approach Technique with Mechanical Voicings

8. Most of the time, problems can be solved using the above techniques. However, sometimes you have to "live" with
the problem. In this case accept the "lesser of all evils."
The more acceptable "evils" include:
Independent Lead - this can sound good or bad depending on your skill using the technique.
A repeated note - but not on active lines at fast tempos due to performance difficulties.
Change voicing types in the middle of a phrase - but try to maintain smooth line as much as possible. Under parts
should not leap excessively more than the melody. Changes of timbre during large leaps in under parts can be
distracting.
An incomplete chord voicing - one chord function (1, 3, 5, or 7) is missing. However, it's important not to double any
note in the voicing. A single 3 note voicing will noticably stand out as different from the 4 note voicings around it.
Cross parts - for example one instrument goes from being the 3rd voice to the 4th voice. Choose a musical
opportunity to cross back. This will create some contrary motion with the melody and smoothness will suffer. Again,
under parts should not leap excessively more than the melody.
A major 2nd in the top two voices - but still avoid minor 2nds in the top two voices.
The less acceptable "evils" include:
Extended reharmonization - can create conflicts with the rhythm section comping. It can also contrast in sound with
approach note reharmonization textures before and after it. When choosing this, it might be better to use extended
reharmonization technique more consistently through the section of music. The rhythm secting comping should be
limited to avoid conflicts: rest the harmony instruments and write the bass line.
Live with slight low interval limit violations. Significant low interval limit violations should still be avoided.
"Evils" that should be avoided entirely:
b9s in voicings - can be very destructive. Again, using them is a topic for a more advanced discussion.
b2s in the top two voices - will definately obscure the lead note which is the melody we want heard.
Writing under parts above the lead - will also obscure the lead note which is the melody we want heard. In recording
situations where voices are in isolated tracks and mixing is possible, this technique may be more inviting. However,
occasional use will create an uneven overall texture in the soli. This technique is also a topic for more advanced
discussion.

If a satisfactory result is not produced with the problem solving techniques discussed above, then rethink your
creative choices:
Try different voicing types.
Try solo melody with or without background pads or tutti voicings.
Try a contrapuntal texture.
Get creative...

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