In this lesson we’ll look at and play a theme from Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier Book 1; Fugue 10 in E minor. What I find so great about this melody is that it uses a guide- tone cliché or line cliché, that is common in jazz. The same guide-tone cliché can be found in many jazz tunes such as Bebop (Dizzy Gillespie), In Walked Bud (Thelonious Monk), as well as in many improvised solos; John Coltrane uses this line cliché in many of his improvised solos.
Try to sing the melody first to get it into your ear. Also, visualizing each note in relation to the chord will really help you understand how the melody and harmony work together. The first part of this melody works great over any minor chord, especially if the chord is functioning as a minor tonic. The 2nd part of the line works over a dominant 7th chord with a b9 and so can be used well over a ii-7 V7 progression.
After you understand the line theoretically and you can hear the line by singing it slowly (a piano will help with this process – or the mp3 below); then learn the melody on your instrument through all 12 keys.
Use this mp3 to sing or play along with – this will help you hear the melody: