Creating Material for Intros, Endings, etc. Jingle Bells Big Band Intro

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One of the best music classes I ever had was when I was completing my Master’s Degree at DePaul University in the late 1980s. It was a music history class that was centered around the late classical/early romantic period.

The professor had us go through an entire Beethoven Piano Sonata in class, and he proceeded to dissect the hell out of the thing showing us every nuance of how the Sonata was put together (i.e. melodic and harmonic elements). His whole point in the end was that even though Beethoven was considered a “classical” composer (time period), he had pushed the style so far that the piece had one foot in the romantic style.

But…the thing that I most remember from this particular class, however, was how Beethoven used already written melodic material and “tweaked” it some to create something new for the next phrase or section of the Sonata. In other words, he didn’t always reinvent the wheel – he used every bit of music that was already on the page to help him compose the rest of the piece. (I guess the epitome of this would be his 5th Symphony).

We jazz arrangers can take this same concept and use it to our advantage too. The nice thing about being an arranger is that you already have material to work with. You rarely have to start from scratch.

In this lesson, I take the tune Jingle Bells and use the melody as the basis for part of my introduction for a big band chart. I will not finish this chart for Christmas 2010, but there’s always next year. As usual, let me know if you have any questions, and comments are welcome too.

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7 Replies to “Creating Material for Intros, Endings, etc. Jingle Bells Big Band Intro”

  1. Rick Hirsch

    Recycle, recycle, recycle!


    Really insightful, clear lesson, Jim.


    Question: Do you find yourself re-using your introductory material elsewhere in the chart, perhaps as a “supporting actor” or “secondary character”? Or are you more inclined to take a Mozart-like “throw-away theme” approach?

    ~ Rick

  2. Jim Martin

    Rick: I generally will reuse stuff more often than not, maybe changing it around when used later. Just depends I guess, but it seems like once I come up with a few things to tie a chart together, I don’t “throw them away”.

    One thing I don’t generally do (almost ever) is write a strict D.S. Al Coda, or D.C. Al Coda. Its an easy route to take, but I try to come up with something different so I don’t have to just repeat an entire section verbatim.

    Also, there are a bunch of simple techniques that a year of traditional counterpoint taught me too, things like diminution, augmentation, etc. Those can be a real big help as well when working on a chart.

  3. curt streuli

    It sounds great but the reharmonization is way over my head. I understand the tritone sub at the end, but in terms of things like which chords get #11 and which get + and #9 and all that stuff, that could probably be several more lessons right there.

    Fortunately the part about recycling and revising the melody was more at my level of understanding.

    Great lesson with a lot to think about.



  4. david morris

    recycle, restate, reharmonize, Shostakovich’s 7th is a great example of using a snippet or motif with twisting ,turning and restating a melodic idea and morphing that melodic idea. How big of an imagination do you have?



    ** DAVID

  5. Jim Martin

    UPDATE: Still haven’t completed this chart, but I will in the first part of 2012. After listening to this lesson again I now want to finish it!

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