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AOS3

DavisBuckleyMoby
AoS 3 covers popular broad in the broadest sense of the word. Below is Miles Davis’ All Blues, from the 1959 album, Kind of Blue.

Jazz Styles

Jazz music is so broad, and encompasses such a large range of influences, but the task below tries to enable you to understand the different styles in chronological order.

Walking Blues – Robert Johnson by Robert Johnson on Grooveshark

The Chrysanthemum by Scott Joplin on Grooveshark

West End Blues by Louis Armstrong on Grooveshark

One For Daddy-O by Miles Davis on Grooveshark

Salt Peanuts by Dizzy Gillespie on Grooveshark

Virtual Insanity by Jamiroquai on Grooveshark

Blue Skies by Frank Sinatra on Grooveshark

Azulito by Mario Bauzá on Grooveshark

(Please note, Grooveshark is no longer available so this task cannot be undertaken).

The eight tracks above are stereotypical examples of the following styles of jazz. Can you put them in order, with one piece to match each of the jazz eras in the table below?

Era Jazz Style
Pre 1900 Early Blues
1900-1920 Ragtime
1920s Dixieland
1930s Big Band
Late 1940s Be-bop
1960s Cool Jazz
1970s Latin Jazz
1970s Acid Jazz/Funk

The dates are loose, and need taking with a bit of a pinch of salt. All the styles overlap with each other to some extent, and all styles are still popular now, but the dates in the table represent when the concept of the style began, and it was in its ‘heyday’.

For a bit of help defining the different eras, try this website for some clues.

The Genre – Cool Jazz

Cool jazz is a style of jazz pioneered by Miles Davis in the album Kind of Blue. It has a laid-back rhythmic feel, and usually fairly simple, repetitive chord sequence. This allows for lots of free, extended solos, using modal scales. It was the predominant new form of jazz during the 1960s, but was probably overshadowed by more mainstream musical developments in pop music, including most obviously, The Beatles!

Musicians Performing on the Kind of Blue Album

  1. Miles Davis (trumpet)
  2. Julian ‘Cannonball’ Adderley (alto saxophone)
  3. John Coltrane (tenor saxophone)
  4. Bill Evans (piano)
  5. Paul Chambers (bass)
  6. Jimmy Cobb (drum kit)

It is generally considered to be one of the finest line-ups of jazz musicians to ever step into a recording studio together. Each of them is a titan of jazz in their own right!

All Blues is the greatest selling jazz album of all time, no matter which of the various lists you look at, and it is currently (March 2014) in both the UK and US Top 10 Jazz Albums on iTunes:

Jazz Top 10

Musical Features of All Blues

Instrumentation
There are specific roles for each instrument within the sextet:

Frontline – this group is the three melody instruments, trumpet, alto and tenor saxophone. They mainly play melody, which is improvised for the most part. They take it in turns to play. Occasionally the trumpet uses a mute.

IMPORTANT – you need to be able to hear the difference between the alto and tenor saxophone – basically they have a slightly different tone, and the tenor is lower in pitch than the alto, but spotting the difference will take practice.

Rhythm section – these instruments provide backing. The bass plays either short riffs, or a walking bass pattern (moves up and down on the beat, often by step). The kit provides a swing beat, and plays using brushes (instead of sticks). The piano comps – this means it provides harmonic backing, based on the 12-bar blues sequence. The chord shapes, or voicing changes constantly, often missing out the root of the chord (because it is played by the bass). The piano does have a melodic solo in the middle of the piece.

Harmony
The harmony is incredibly simple. The whole of the piece is based on the 12-bar blues chord pattern. This is a basic harmonic sequence that has been used to create a massive amount of jazz, rock, pop, funk, r ‘n’ b – in fact you name a modern style, it will have used 12-bar blues within it at some point, probably. Try this for a quick, varied list (each linked to YouTube videos which will open in a new window): Austin Powers theme, Rock Around the Clock – Bill Halley and the Comets, Mercy – Duffy, Candyman – Christina Aguilera.

This is what a version of a basic 12-bar blues in G (the key of All Blues) might look like (on the left). It has a turnaround in bar 12, finishing on a dominant chord, which leads neatly back into the tonic chord to kick-start the next repeat of the pattern:

12-Bar Blues in G1

12-Bar Blues modified1

However, Miles Davis’ All Blues (on the right) uses a modified version of the chord sequence. Notice that bars 9 and 10 are more sophisticated harmonies, and that bar 10 has two chords, moving in parallel.This building block of 12 bars is repeated throughout the piece.

All the chords contain an added 7th, and bars 9-10, an added 9th. The addition of extra notes on top of the triad is what gives the harmony its jazz sound.

Notice also that there is a very limited range of chords, based on I, IV and V.

The chords are played by the piano, which provides harmonic support.

Structure
This is very simple too, and relies on lots of repetitions of the 12-bar blues. There are three basic sections:

Intro/Link – four bars, based on the first four bars of the 12-bar blues.

Head – this is a main melody, which is repeated a few times during the piece. The melody is played on the trumpet, and it lasts 12 bars.

Solos – these are improvised, and last different lengths, but always multiples of 12. The trumpet, alto and tenor saxophone, and piano take it in turn to solo.

Melody and Rhythm, and other Musical Elements

  • The melody is arguably the most important aspect of the whole piece. The simple harmony pattern allows the players freedom to improvise fluently, mainly using the mixolydian scale. This sounds like a major scale, but has a flattened 7th, and in the key of G looks like this:Mixolydian G Scale
  • A normal G major scale would have an F# in it. The use of a flattened 7th is what gives the melody a ‘jazz sound’, along with other chromatic notes, such as a flattened 3rd and raised 4th.
  • The head and all the solos use a variety of ornaments, such as mordents and appoggiaturas, which provide melodic decoration.
  • The head and solos use lots of rhythmic syncopation, or off beat patterns. The head and many ideas in the solo start with short riffs, some of which have a pick-up (upbeat). This is all performed in 6/4, using a basic jazz waltz swing quaver feel.
  • Dynamics are used freely and expressively in all the solos, but the whole piece generally has a relatively quiet dynamic level. Some hairpin crescendos and diminuendos are used.

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document should help you with this process.

The next Set Work in AoS 3 is a song, Grace, from the 1994 album of the same name, by Jeff Buckley.

You might also like the cover of Hallelujah, which also appears on the album. It is an emotive, and unique take on an iconic song. Buckley started to develop his reputation as a musician of note in New York during the early 1990s through performing cover sets in small clubs. He was picked up by Columba records in 1993.

Task
Why not have a listen to other songs from the album, Grace. Clicking on this link should take you there in Grooveshark. If it doesn’t work, just open Grooveshark in another window, and type ‘Grace Jeff Buckley’ into the search box.

This is quite a difficult thing to do, but what makes his sound unique? Maybe you disagree with this, and you don’t like his sound at all. Then why not? Which is your favourite song from the album, and why?

Watch Buckley in action by clicking here, at the MTV studios in 1995, and then here’s an interesting cover of a Jeff Buckley song here by Scarlett Johannson. Have a listen to both.

Who was Jeff Buckley?

He is a cult figure in the world of rock music, who died tragically young in a drowning accident. Although he wasn’t particularly significant in terms of record sales, he is often cited as a musical influence by other bands.

For a brief biography, plus links to other websites, and other listening opportunities, this BBC iPlayer radio page is a good starting point to explore his music. Chris Cornell, US rock star also makes a case for why Buckley should be included in Rolling Stone magazine’s ‘Top 100 singers of all-time’, at 39th position, claiming that his music has influenced Chris Martin and Damien Rice at times during their career.

Grace
This album, recorded in 1994, was the only completed studio album that Buckley made. The sound of his voice, and guitar is unique (and this is often an overused word, but not here).

He had started work on a second album and recorded a few demo tracks, but never got around to finishing it.

So why this song?

What is it about this particular song that makes it worth being a Set Work? It’s the only rock song in the list.

  • It’s a great song.
  • The instrumental line-up is what you might describe as a ‘standard rock line-up’.
  • It has a standard rock song structure, based on a verse-chorus pattern.
  • The vocal style is really interesting and varied.
  • The harmonic language is also unusual.

Performance line-up and guitar playing techniques
Apart from Buckley, who sings, plays lead guitar, and also provides his own backing vocals, there is also rhythm guitar, bass guitar, keyboard strings, and drum kit.

What is the difference between rhythm and lead guitar? The rhythm guitar plays a chord sequence in a rhythmic, strummed or picked pattern, whereas the lead guitar plays a melodic line.

Also, the guitars are all tuned to drop D. This means that the lowest string, normally tuned to E has been retuned to a D. It allows the D major chord and Ds in the bass to be played with the lowest string open, creating a rich deep tone to the sound.

Finally, there are a number of studio effects used in the guitar playing (and occasionally in the vocal line too): delay, reverb, and flanger. If you need help defining these terms, there’s a handy little guide here.

Task: Find examples of a strummed rhythm guitar idea, a picked lead guitar arpeggio, and a lead guitar melodic solo in the score, and mark them in. This is a straightforward task.

Structure

As mentioned above, this song uses a standard verse-chorus structure. The intensity of the song builds through the verse, into the pre-chorus and is heighten further in the chorus:

Intro – Verse 1 – Pre-chorus – Chorus

Link – Verse 2 – Pre-chorus – Chorus

Middle 8

Link – Verse 3 – Outro (based on chorus material)

Task: Find the different sections in your score and mark them in. Many are labelled, and double bar lines give you some guidance as well.

Melodic Style
Buckley’s melodic style is unique, and has a number of easily identifiable features:

  • The general pitch level is low in the verse, higher in the pre-chorus and higher still in the chorus. This helps the building of intensity mentioned above. Overall it means that the range (from highest to lowest note) of the vocal line is very wide
  • Phrase lengths vary quite widely, becoming longer particularly in the outro.
  • There is a lot of ornamentation and chromaticism.
  • There are lots of melismas too (lots of notes to one syllable).
  • He uses scoops up to notes, uses vibrato throughout the song to alter the tone of his voice, and portamentos (vocal slides).
  • He provides his own backing vocals, which are multi-tracked.

Harmony and Tonality
There are two distinct areas here:

  • The link and intro (after bar 3) use a D major tonality, and the rest of the song is based on E minor, but with a modal feel.
  • The chords have rich variety. Some are simple power chords – open chords which have no middle note of a triad, e.g. an E power chord has only the notes E and B in it, and no G in the middle.
  • A drone is used, so the chords change over a sustained bass note. This occurs in the verse.
  • Broken chords/arpeggio patterns are used, such as the opening of the intro.

Other Musical Features
The piece has a steady, lilting 12/8 time signature and is a moderately slow tempo, about 60 bpm. The sense of rhythmic drive is provided in the song by the strummed guitar, particularly through the link sections.

There are a variety of drum fills at the ends of phrases, and particularly at the end of sections.

The use of kit is rich and varied, provided by the use of toms and cymbals, which change throughout the different sections.

The texture is predominantly homophonic, with some polyphonic moments particularly when the backing vocals have a countermelody in the Middle 8.

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document should help you with the process.

The final AoS 3 song is Moby’s Why does my heart feel so bad? from the 1999 album, Play.

Who is Moby?

Moby is an artist from the USA who has worked in many popular musical styles including punk, rock and latterly dance styles. His career has not always been filled with success with much of his early work being commercially unpopular until the release in 1991 of his single ‘Go’ which bought him fame in Britain. He then spent much of the 90s touring with bands like The Prodigy, Orbital and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

The album ‘Play’, from which ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad’ is taken was released in 1999 prior to which Moby had spent the previous creating material for the album. The three previous singles received little attention whereas ‘Why Does My Heart Feel So Bad’ reached number 16 in the UK charts and was might with acclaim by music critics.

Tonality and Harmony
The key of the song is A minor, and the harmony is built using two 8-bar chord sequences. These are used throughout the verses and choruses. The chord sequences are shown below – notice each chord is always repeated, creating a mini-block of two bars:

Bar 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Chord Am Am Em Em G G D D

Sequence 1 is used in the verse: ‘Why does my heart feel so bad?’

Bar 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Chord C C Am Am C C Am Am

Sequence 2a is used in the first half of the chorus:’These open doors’

Bar 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
Chord F F C C F F C C

Sequence 2b is used in the second half of the chorus.

Task 1:

Have a go at playing through the above chord patterns. In the exam, a common question is to give you a copy of this chord diagram, with some chords missing, and you have to fill in the gaps. Although remembering the changes is possible you might find it easier to hear them and playing them will certainly help you to understand the changes more. If you are not sure how to construct the chords try having a look at this website. Don’t forget to hold each chord for four beats, and then try playing some different rhythmic patterns with them.

Melody – vocal samples
The entire melody line – all the singing in this song – is created using vocal samples, in this case of 1950s gospel singers. A vocal sample is exactly what it implies – a short snippet of someone else singing, which he drops into his song. He then writes all of the other musical ideas around these. To fit with the chord sequence, the samples selected are in A minor.

There are two samples, ‘Why does my heart/why does my soul?’ (male voice) and ‘These broken walls’ (female). Moby makes them more interesting to listen to by varying which chord sequence is used with which sample – a technique called reharmonisation (harmony – DR G SMITH). This happens in the chorus. He also uses echo canon.

He also adds digital effects to them to transform them – see below for details.

Moby prefers to use samples rather than record himself singing because the emotional range and the sounds of different voices was something he enjoyed exploring. Also, if the samples are out of copyright, they’re free to use too!

Technology in the song – equipment
Moby records all his own music in his own home, as many solo artists working in a club dance style might. It is important to know which bits of gear he uses to construct the song:

  • Drum machine (Roland TR909) – used to create the drum loops in the song.
  • Piano sounds (Emu Proformance/Yamaha Synth) – the two piano sounds used are taken from these two sources.
  • Synth sounds (Roland Juno 106/Yamaha SY22 and SY85 synths) – the bass sound and various synth strings come from these synthesisers (a bit like a keyboard).
  • Vocal sounds (Akai S3200 sampler) – the sounds of the 1950s gospel singers, mentioned above, are lifted from the original recording, and edited using a sampler.

Technology in the song – effects
The use of effects refers to digital manipulation and alteration of sounds, either as their being recorded, or in the post-production process (after the recording has been completed). Moby uses a Yamaha SPX900 Multi-effects unit in the production of this song.

Firstly, you need to understand what ‘EQ’ means – this is where certain frequencies (high, middle or bass) are boosted or reduced to create a specific sound. This is done post-production. The best example to remember is ‘telephone voice‘ sound in verse 2. This is created by removing the high and bass frequencies from the vocal sample, making it sound like the singing is being done down a telephone line.

Two further effects used in this song are reverb (imagine the feeling of performing in a large church), and delay (a type of echo effect, that you might get with the sound bouncing around the walls of a cave!).

Task 2:

Try listening to a random short section of the song, and identify which layers of the song are playing, and which bits of equipment are being used to create the sounds, and which effects are being used at that moment. It is the quickest way of learning this info.

Structure
The song has a simple verse/chorus structure, best shown by the diagram below (IMPORTANT – EDEXCEL’s score refer to the Verse as ‘Section A1-8’ and the Chorus as ‘Bx1 and By1 etc, just in case you’re also looking at that and are confused):

  • Green – Vocal samples, either ‘Why does’ or ‘These open doors’
  • Blue – Main piano pattern, chord sequence 1, 2a or 2b
  • Red – Additional piano melodies and synth strings chords (the chords used here always match the pattern of the blue piano chords)
  • Orange – Synth bass (always matches the root/bottom note of the blue piano chords)
  • Yellow – Drum loops

Moby Structure Timeline

If this is too small for you to read, then you can open the Word document by clicking here. Bear in mind that the paper size for this is A3, which you might have to adjust if you want to print at home.

Other basic info
4/4 time signature, 96 bpm, homophonic texture throughout. Dynamics are determined by the number of layers performing at any one time – less layers = quieter dynamics.

Revision

As with all the pieces, there is a three-way process to learning everything you need to know about the piece:

  • Know the basics (C) – title, composer, key, time signature, instrumentation etc. This needs learning to start with.
  • Understand the detail (B/A) – the technical details of the piece, and how they relate to DR G SMITH. This needs you to have written up all the detail onto your score. Listening to the piece lots whilst following through the score is what is needed here.
  • Hear the detail (A/A*) – being able to recognise the sound of all the technical language in the pieces, with no score in front of you. Listening to the piece without the score is what you need to do here.

This checklist document should help you with the process.

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