When I was in high school, I purchased an arranging book by Russell Garcia, and in it he talked about the concept of using (what he called) “rhythmic curves”. The idea was to write phrases just based on rhythm – no harmony or melody – just rhythm.
I guess I really didn’t realize it but I’ve used this concept countless times when coming up with ensemble passages, or new melodies for tunes. Stripping away melody and harmony forces you to think of rhythm as the main element of a melody, and you can really concentrate on getting phrases just right by varying rhythmic snippets to result in interesting longer phrases.
In this tutorial, I took a few tunes and isolated only the rhythm of the first 8 bars or so. These are random standard tunes I thought of off the top of my head. See if you can identify all of them just by the rhythmic structure of their melodies.
This concept comes in really handy when writing a new tune over standard chord changes. Come up with a number of rhythmic curves first, then experiment with new melodies based on those rhythmic phrases.
Good luck! NOTE: I do not identify the actual tunes in this video, but the answers will popup at the end of the video.
I just noticed I rushed the tempo of the first example! Sorry about that!