"If you navigate in thirds, getting to chord tones by threading thirds in a million different combinations, you will always be melodic, not just playing scales. For a beginning jazz student, I might have them play a whole solo in thirds. It will stop them from being too scalar." https://ethaniverson.com/interview-with-charles-mcpherson/

This quote, from Charles McPherson seems to imply that approaching a melody using thirds is a reasonable exercise for beginners to get comfortable with.

Can someone explain "playing a whole solo in thirds” relative to a fairly simple ballad such as ‘Misty’.

  • Can somebody give me an example of such a solo? Jan 20 '17 at 13:31
  • What types of thirds if you play the c major scale in thirds you will be changing between ,imor and major thirds often. These types of blanket statements lends itself well to cracpottery.
    – Neil Meyer
    Feb 22 '17 at 18:57

Simple answer to the final part is "No". Misty is one tune that doesn't lend itself well to being played in thirds.

I think the quote is addressing tunes that are scalar, where there are runs up and down, consecutive note wise. Misty doesn't do that, and there's the added problem that thirds assumes playing a diatonic note a third (be it maj or min) above the melody note. Try it with Misty, and the new notes don't match the chord for that part.

Which is probably the crux of the matter. The harmony in thirds must work with the chord, otherwise it will sound bad. Let's try something more scalar - Fly Me to the Moon. First bar Am(7). Tune - C B A G, harmony E D C B all fits - the G+B is on the weak part of the bar. Next Dm(7). Tune F G A C, harmony A B C E - again, the C+E on the weak part. So it continues in thirds and fits well.

A problem may occur when, say, the chord , in C, is C, but the main melody note is G. Put a third above this - B - and it often won't match the chord. Obviously if it's Cmaj7, it will; but not over a plain C chord.

When a tune jumps about, it's not easy, or suitable, to harmonise in thirds - the upper note doesn't always work. As a technical exercise, it's an idea, as your quote, but musically can end up as a disaster.

  • 1
    I think the question was about constructing a solo in 3rds, not about harmonising the existing melody in 3rds. Jan 20 '17 at 14:05
  • @LaurencePayne - so why mention 'Misty'?
    – Tim
    Mar 21 '17 at 23:48

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