Right Hand Octaves & Chord Melodies
In this lesson we will create a bigger and more powerful sounding arrangement by playing the melody in octaves above a stride left hand style.
We will also explore the concept of chord melodies where we harmonise the melody with the chord tones of the underlying harmony to create a full sounding solo piano arrangement.
This style of arrangement is heard in the recordings of Erroll Garner – the original composer of the tune “Misty”.
Playing Octave Melody Lines
Whilst the melody on lead sheets is typically shown as a single note melody line, we have the creative freedom to play the melody in octaves. Using the octave pushes the melody into the higher registers and it’s a useful device to add impact to the melody.
We first play through with a single note melody and then play the exact same notes but with the melody doubled in our right hand.
Erroll Garner Style ‘Chord Melodies’
We can take the octaves a step further by adding the chord tones in between the octaves which creates a fuller sound in the upper registers. This technique was used extensively by Erroll Garner, the composer of the tune “Misty”.
To create a chord melody with fill in the space in between the octave melody using the primary chord tones 3, 5, and 7. We can also play the alterations within the octave over dominant chords to emphasise the colour of the altered tones.
Single Notes vs Octaves – The Trade Off
There are benefits and limitations to using single note melodies or using octaves/chord melodies. When using single note melody lines we have many free fingers to add other melodic embellishment such as turns, grace notes, and inner voices.
The octave and chord melody approach gives us a stronger sound but our right hand fingers are occupied with a handful of notes and so unable to add intricate melodic decoration.
Ultimately there is no right or wrong approach and these melodic devices should be combined to create different textures and effects in our jazz piano performance.