Reharmonization and Voicing of a One Chord Melody (big band)

When writing for big band, there may be times when you have to voice out an entire multi-bar melody over just one chord. When you do, you will need to be able to find spots within the melody that warrant using a quick reharmonization so that the whole passage doesn’t just sit on one chord.  That can get boring real quick.

This lesson covers a simple (and fast) way to make a one chord melody sound interesting for big band. I show you a simple melody I made up on an F7 chord, voice it out for big band, then I play for you a real chart that worked great by using this technique.

Keep in mind that what I show here is not the only way to solve the problem. I could have sat around all day and made each note move to a different chord, but most of the time that is either unnecessary, or would possibly be way too much for harmony for the line.  Always strike a happy medium and make sure everything still swings and “lays” right for the horn players.  Let me know if you have any questions.

11 thoughts on “Reharmonization and Voicing of a One Chord Melody (big band)”

  1. Hey Jim, awesome lesson. The one thing I´d really want to know is what voicings are you using in that real chart you show at the end of the lesson. Thank you very much for the hard work you´re doing to give us this lessons

  2. Hello Jim, this was a great video tutorial ! I’m about to check the voicings you’ve used, but I have one question before that:
    Why did you use C+7(#9) instead of the F dominant C7(#9)?
    Thank you very much for all you are teaching us !

  3. Sorry Jim I’ve misunderstood that.
    I mistook the C+7(#9) with a CMaj7(#9) so you can discard my question.
    Thank you !!!

  4. Hello Jim, quick question: why do you choose start at the 13th to build the triad down in the F7 instead of the 7th?
    Thank you as allways for all your great lessons!

  5. Hello Jim thanks for your reply, I’m referring to the trumpets, at the 1st F7, you voiced them (from above to bottom) F-D-A-F, is there some reason not to start with the Eb instead of the D and construct a triad from there? Just to include the 7th of the chord?
    Thank you !

  6. Hernan, constructing a triad down from Eb wouldn’t work because you would have a Bb in the triad, which is the 4th. That voicing is a Sammy Nestico trick, building the trumpets down in a triad. A D minor triad works just fine because it includes the 13th and the 3rd. The root is the melody note and its doubled at the octave. Could have made it a closed voicing too, F-D-C-A. That would work as well.

  7. I understand…
    So the triad has to be a mayor/minor one and the 2nd voice has to have the 1st of that triad?
    What about an Am7b5 triad from the Eb? (F-Eb-C-A) is that concept incorrect?
    In other hand, isn’t this the closed voicing instead of F-D-C-A?
    Thank you again Jim !

  8. Hernan, I don’t generally voice the trumpets as a triad for a half-diminished chord. Moreso for minor and dominant chords. Dominant chords are nice because depending on the melody note the triad voiced in the trumpets can include a few upper extensions of the chord.

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