Counterpoint #1


In ensemble passages Gil composes interesting bass lines which entail good melodic sense. I like to think of them as a first species counterpoint – not with all the interval rules necessarily, but the general guidelines that counterpoint contains.

I’ve borrowed this paragraph from Openmusictheory

Counterpoint is the mediation of two or more musical lines into a meaningful and pleasing whole. In first-species counterpoint, we not only write a smooth melody that has its own integrity of shape, variety, and goal-directed motion, but we also write a second melody that contains these traits. Further, and most importantly, we combine these melodies to create a whole texture that is smooth, exhibits variety and goal-oriented motion, and in which these melodies both maintain their independence and fuse together into consonant simultaneities (the general term for two or more notes sounding at the same time).

Audio examples are below.

Boplicity – bars 1-8

Here is the trumpet (melody) and tuba (bass) parts for the first A section of Boplicity.


The chords in this example are from a lead sheet. Notice how much Gil deviates from the original chords. The bass line here creates its own interesting melody that is still “goal-directed”. In the example below I have used arrows to point out the use of contrary motion. Contrary motion is very strong and it is used well here often leading to melodically and harmonically important points.


Gil still uses the original chords of course, and he utilizes the root note in the counterpoint at melodically and harmonically important points.

Counerpoint1Boplicitya (2)

Gil only breaks the texture twice in the first A section. In bar 6, Gil “un-hinges” the bass line, and in bar 7 the melody and bass line are in unison (I will cover these in a future blog post).

My Ship – bars 7-15 (first A section)

Here is the melody and bass parts for the first A section of My Ship. Again the chords are from a lead sheet. I have highlighted some contrary motion.


Use of the root note at meaningful moments.

Counterpoint1MyShipa (2)

Gil uses parallel motion in in this first A section for contrast and drama.


In the second play through in the audio examples I have boosted the bass and cut the high frequencies so its easier to focus on the bass line.


Music and scores can be purchased here:


Voice Leading #1

Gil Evans was known for his excellent use of voice leading to create exciting inner parts that allows the performers to express themselves.

The following examples show the use of “non-standard” chords that were most likely arrived at via voice leading. Good use of voice leading gives greater direction (and hence resolution) to the harmony.

Audio examples are below.

Boplicity – Bar 10


The “non-standard” chord here is the Bb major. It contains both the 11th and the #11th. On its own, the chord would be rather dissonant. However the use of this sonority allows the inner voices to move step wise to the next chord. Note the inner melodies.

BoplicityBar10 (3).gif

Miles Ahead – Bar 1


In the this rich sonorous opening of Miles Ahead there is an interesting chord. One would usually expect a standard V7 or V7b9 before the Cmaj9. Gil borrows a D# and F# to lend a more interesting sound and greater semitone movement to the following chord.

MilesAheadBar01 (2)

Note how using the Gmaj7 gets you out of the trap of having the 3rd of the II (or bI7 in this instance) stay on the same pitch for the V chord.

Moon Dreams – bars 22-23

In this example the voice leading is in the bass. This is one of the more common causes of “non-standard” chords.


Note the chromatically descending bass line.

Each is example is played five times. The third and fourth times are played at half speed so its easier to hear the voice leading.

Scores and music can be purchased here: