How to Embellish a Melody



In this Jazz Hero Masterclass I show you 3 techniques you can use to embellish (decorate) any melody (how to make a simple melodic idea sound more interesting).

Identify the resolution notes of the chord that you’re playing – these will always be the root, 3rd and 5th (1 3 5) of whatever the chord is. Only these notes sound resolved where they are. So if there’s a C minor chord in the chord sheet, the resolution notes will be C Eb G (1 3 5 of C minor). All other notes in the scale are tension notes, which want to resolve by moving the nearest resolution note.

You can embellish any of the 3 resolution notes using a range of ‘ornaments’ (melodic decoration) borrowed from classical music:
1. The ‘appoggiatura’ – precede any resolution note with a dissonant tension note a step below or above the resolution note. Play the tension note on the down beat that the chord is played on, then immediately resolve that note to the resolution note on the next beat.

2. The ‘turn’ – play the resolution note – tension note above – repeat the resolution note – tension note below – end on resolution note. For example, over a C minor chord, you could decorate G with a turn – G Ab G F G.

3. The ‘double appoggiature’ – preceded any resolution note with a tension note below, then the tension note above, then the resolution note. So in C minor, you could apply a double appoggiatura to G, by playing F Ab G. Or you play the same shape upside down – Ab F G.

Practice using these types of embellishment all types of chord – in particular, the major 7, minor 7, and dominant 7 chords which most of jazz is built of.