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Four By Miles Davis Jazz Music Analysis


Below is a complete analysis of the A2 Music jazz piece, Four by Miles Davis. Feel free to skip to the parts most relevant to you.

Be sure to check out the other A2 musical pieces and AS musical pieces I have analysed on Ask Will Online.

Introduction

  • Miles Davis was a leading figure of jazz musician the 1970s: at the time this piece was recorded. His improvisations in Four are virtuous and are based on chordal material from the head.

Texture

  • The texture of the piece is melody dominated homophony. 
  • The Break starts with a monophonic texture from the Trumpet. It descends in gapped chromatic fashion and is based around the scalic idea from the head.

Harmony

  • Although the opening melody during the Head is diatonic, the harmony, to accompany this melody, is chromatic. 
  • F#m7 --> B7 is an unexpected progression in E flat major. This occurs at bars H10. The progression occurs between Gm7 and Fm7. 
  • The chords used at bar H10-H12 are of a chromatic descent - B7 adds typical colour of modern Jazz. 
  • The bass goes off track at 1.4 of the First Chorus. The chord for that bar is A flat 7 which is not recognisable from the bass notes. 
  • There are broken chords in the bass at 1.9. Before this though, the bass avoids the root and 3rd of D flat major adding a 9th and 13th instead. 
  • The harmony moves in circle of 5ths at bar 1.26. 
  • The chord at 2.25 should be iii7 (Gm7) but is instead E flat major (this also happens at 2.29). An extra chord is then added a bar later being C7.

Tonality

  • The piece is written in the key of E flat major.

Instruments

  • The piano is ‘comping’ - this is when every chord the piano plays is an extended chord (with there being a concentration on the upper extensions). 
  • The piano is also non-melodic, staccato and syncopated often avoiding the first and second beat of the head bars. This is known as ‘pushed’ chords. 
  • The Trumpet, double bass and bass has a high tessitura. 
  • The bass features lots of passing notes 1-2 bars after 1.9. 
  • There is a change in the tessitura of the bass a bar later at the point where the Trumpet’s pitch bends.
  • The Trumpet has low pitches at bar 2.24. 
  • The Trumpet has a high tessitura at bar 3.2. This high tessitura motif is repeated 4 bars later. 
  • A bar before 4.1, the Trumpet plays with a half valve - This is when only half the valve is pressed down.

Melody

  • The melody of the Trumpet during the head features short three note scalic phrases. This is inverted so the phrase is descending at bar H2. 
  • There is a ghost note in the Trumpet at bar 2.1. 
  • There is a quarter note at 2.31. This means it is a quarter note higher than A natural. 
  • At bars 3.9-4.0, the notes clash with the underlying chord of E flat major. This rarely resolves onto chord notes.

Rhythm and Metre

  • The rhythm is surrounded by the continuous use of quavers. 
  • The bass at H9-H12 is fast walking and pizzicato from the use of continuous crotchets. 
  • There are a continuous group of quavers at bars 2.4-2.6 with there being triplets found occasionally too.

Structure

  • The head is a 16 bar repeated section. 
  • The head features a diatonic melody with only two chromatic notes being D flat at the end of H2/start of H3 and G flat at the end of H6/start of H7. 
  • The four bars of H13-H16 are condensed to just two bars two bars later. 
  • The Break starts after the two bar condense. 
  •  The First Chorus starts after the break. 
  • Wide leaps are a feature of the 3rd chorus such as at bars 3.21-3.22. 
  • The repeating notes are a distinctive feature in overlap to the 4th chorus.

About Will Green

A student in England studying Automotive Engineering with Motorsport, Will created Ask Will Online back in 2010 to help students revise and bloggers make money. You can follow AskWillOnline via @AskWillOnline.

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