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Jazz Solo’s Rhythmic, Melodic & Harmonic Analysis Essay

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Updated: Jun 24th, 2020

Introduction: The Harmony within

Creating a composition belonging to a specific genre requires that recognizable patterns should be followed. Combined with an original concept to build the melody on, the given approach allows for creating a true work of art. Though the instruments used in Kemo’s solo are quite few, the harmony created with the help of elements such as tone, rhythm and motives allows for an easy identification of the composition as a smooth jazz solo (Callender 2007).

Rhythmic Elements: Setting the Pace for the Music

Flowing slowly and smoothly, the melody, nevertheless, has a very strong basis introduced by its key rhythmic elements. At first, they seem to make an integral entity; however, as the song progresses, one can distinguish the key elements that comprise the foundation of the solo (Williams, Fredrickson & Atkinson 2011).

Key Rhythms

Listening to the solo piece carefully, one will be able to locate the key rhythms in the percussion that serves as the background for the main theme. To be more specific, the sound of brushes sets the tone and the pace for the song, whereas the mallets create a recognizable pattern (Fidyk 2009).

Motifs and Their Meaning

The key motif of the solo can be identified almost instantly. A four-note figure reiterated throughout the song (Jiménez, Molina-Solana, Berzal & Fajardo 2011), it sets the mood for the entire song and creates a unique structure that builds up to a rather subtle climax. The pattern, therefore, tricks the listener into a calm and slow-paced meditation, leaving the former on a quiet and a suddenly ambiguous note.

What the Phrases Say

Each of the phrases contains four beamed notes, which make the above-mentioned motif and represent the recurring pattern in the song. Opening with four Bs beamed into a single entity, the phrase continues with a G quaver and then flows smoothly into an F crotchet. The following E quaver is tied with a beamed pair of E and F, therefore, allowing the phrase to flow elegantly across the break. The G that follows allows for creating a melodic sequence with a retrospect into the start of the phrase; thus, a unique feel of harmony and completion is created, filling the audience with comfort. Finally, the phrase flows into an E crochet and ends with a slightly ambiguous and unusually saddening C minor.

Kemo’s Solo (Sheet Music)
Picture 1. Kemo’s Solo (Sheet Music)

Melodic Content: Filling the Song with Meaning

The melodic content of the song, though seemingly simple, is very powerful; in fact, the harmony is represented in just as strong a way as the melody, i.e., the focus of the composition. While the melody can be distinguished easily, the beats shift from the background into the foreground, which creates a rather original pattern. The melody being admittedly complex, the harmony still takes its toll over the mood of the song, adding a touch of an uplifting mood to it (Carenbauer 2010).


The melodic formula of the solo under analysis is quite peculiar. On the one hand, the aforementioned four-note construction, which is present in every single phrase, can be viewed as the key motive of the solo. On the other hand, one must mention that the tie between E and the beamed notes also occurs quite often in the solo, thus, contributing to its uniqueness and making it all the more memorable.

Guide Tones

The guide tones within the solo bring out the hidden melodies and lead to the development of harmony in the solo. Incorporating rather complicated pattern, guide tones sway from uplifting to minor, which adds to the complexity of the piece, making it emotionally fueled.


As it has been stressed above, the phrases of the song are represented by a reiterating pattern featuring four beamed As. Since the phrases in the solo are far from being short, they allow for the melody to breathe, therefore, adding to the impression of a thought-provoking wistful mood.


The range of the melodic content is also quite impressive. The melody varies from a C sharp to a B. The shift from C sharp to B, however, does not occur fast; instead, the composer gives the solo some room for fitting enough development into the melody and making it less intense.

Melodic Motion

The melody in the solo flows rather smoothly due to a long progression of notes between the highest and the lowest pitch. As a result, the melody does not conflict with the rhythm – quite on the contrary, the two constitute each other.

Melodic Relation to Harmony: The Composition as a Whole

In a weird way, neither the melody, nor the harmony are shifted into the shadow in the composition in question. When considering the functioning of the composition as a whole, one must admit that, with the melody being obviously the priority in the song structure, the harmony also plays an essential part, often becoming so powerful that it becomes as independent as the melody is.


As far as the chords are concerned, the solo features a number of triads with a bass note style.


The tones of the song seem to start with unstable ones and then resolve themselves into the stable tones. The approach of changing the tone from stable to unstable creates a rather unsettling mood, which contributes to the overall air of the song.


Likewise, the expressions are rather vivid in the solo in question. By combining unique instruments and creating an original melody, the composer managed to make the song outstandingly expressive.

Relation to Song and Musical Style: In the Rhythm of Jazz

The solo in question bears a very distinct resemblance to the smooth jazz style and can be easily identified as the specimen of the one. The instruments, as well as the choice of the chords, shows clearly that the composer was willing to create a sophisticated and at the same time relaxed atmosphere with a smooth jazz tune.


The solo seems to occur in the third fourth of the song; in other words it represents a link between the beginning of the song and its denouement.


The length of the sample also speaks in favor of jazz as the defining style of the melody in question.


The solo clearly belongs to the smooth or lounge jazz, as it has been emphasized above.

Dynamics and Articulation


Though the melody flows nearly without any interruptions, spotting dynamics in the solo is quite complicated. It could be argued that the dynamics can be heard at 00:20, when the harmony and the melody are suddenly interrupted witbyh a pause.


The dynamic element is introduced into the solo with the help of a pause and the following high note produced by the synthesizer.


The dynanics being barely noticeable, its effect is minor.

Conclusion: The Power of Improvisation

Despite the fact that the song in question – or, to be more specific, a solo from the song – features a rather scarce amount of instruments, it still manages to create an exotic and unique impression by displaying a unique approach to structuring a melody. With the help of a specific arrangement of the melody and the harmony parts of the solo, the author managed to create a cadence of sounds that sets a very specific mood and introduces the listeners to a calm and relaxed, though a touch wistful, atmosphere.

Reference List

Callender, C 2007, ‘Interactions of the lamento motif and jazz harmonies in György Ligeti’s Arc-en-ciel,’ Intégral, vol 21, pp. 41–77.

Carenbauer, M 2010, ‘Melody and harmony for guitarists,’ American String Teacher, vol. 60, no. 2, p. 74.

Fidyk, S 2009, ‘Workshop: percussion – get a grip: showing how to hold sticks and mallets,’ Teaching Music, vol. 16, no. 6, pp. 61–62.

Jiménez, A, Molina-Solana, M, Berzal, F & Fajardo, W 2011, ‘Mining transported motifs in music,’ Journal of Intelligent Information Systems, vol. 36, no. 1, pp. 99–115.

Williams, L R, Fredrickson, W E & Atkinson, A 2011, ‘Focus of attention to melody or harmony and perception of music tension: An exploratory study,’ International Journal of Music Education, vol. 29, no. 1, pp. 72–81.

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