~ sequence ~

~ 1234 ... ~

~ permutation ~

~ 123 231 312 ... ~

classic minor
in musical form
lyrics and rhyming

'all of life is sequential yet we continually permutate our own ways ... :)

In a nutshell. For some reading here, getting started with improvising might be a daunting endeavor but we've got to start somewhere, so here's another way to begin improvising. The basis of understanding the whole tamale here is to believe in using the same notes for building up melody and harmony. In our theory we call this 'diatonic' and all our pitches sound correct when interacting with one another.

'... there's only a couple of places it'll go

"To avoid criticism ... do nothing, say nothing, be nothing." Elbert Hubbard

1 3 2 4 3 5 2 ... 1 2 3 2 1Tranes


St's go ... sequence. Is the



IBID diatontoc etc.


understand diatonic
1 4 5 major and minor
relatives and modes
scales to arpeggios
arpeggios to chords
color tones and style

major over a One chord 765654543432321ala I Remember April

done links to . Is the



IBID diatontoc etc.


understand diatonic
1 4 5 major and minor
relatives and modes
scales to arpeggios
arpeggios to chords
color tones and style

Art ~ theory keys. Is there a series of musical theory keys, that studied roughly in listed order, combine to unlock an inner perspective that builds a foundation for endless explorations for the curious and evolving musical artist? There could very well be.

understand diatonic
1 4 5 major and minor
relatives and modes
scales to arpeggios
arpeggios to chords
color tones and style

In principle. A sequence is an order of events that form a loop.

A permutation is simply a rearranged variable of the elements in a sequenced loop.

understand diatonic
1 4 5 major and minor
relatives and modes
scales to arpeggios
arpeggios to chords
color tones and style

In principle. A sequence is an order of events that form a loop.

A permutation is simply a rearranged variable of the elements in a sequenced loop.

understand diatonic
1 4 5 major and minor
relatives and modes
scales to arpeggios
arpeggios to chords
color tones and style


Musical sequence / permutation:
Composing music is sometimes said to be “10 % inspiration combined with 90% persperation.”
The ideas and discussions which follow address this 90% persperation aspect of the art of musical composition. Whether the composed music is written out and perfected by rewrite or spontaneously improvised and perfected by practise, similar principles for thematic development are involved.
To “create refreshing melodic ideas and develop them thematically”, that is cool. Improvising artists can prepare themselves for the spontaneous emergence of nice ideas by internalizing fundamental principles of permutation and the sequencing of melodic ideas. When the nice melodic idea arrives via “10% of inspiration”, there is still 90% of coolness to extract out of the lick by various means.

“Sequence" is defined here simply as an "order of successive events", each event musically termed a "episode” (gl) within the sequence. To "permutate" is to simply to take one idea and create other ideas from it. This is done by simply rearranging the original elements. For example, the letters:

(A B C) permutates to (C B A) and is sequenced into (A B C) (C B A) (A B C) (C B A) etc.

In the above example we have simply reversed the order of the “elements”, creating a “permutation” of the original “core” (gl). We then “sequenced” this core by creating a series of “episodes”, each of which mirror elements of the original components. The newly permutated idea oftentimes retains a semblance of both its theoretical structure and emotional / intellectual direction. The recombination of musical elements from a principle theme or variation is usually termed to “permutate.” Linking two or more occurences of a theme, variation or permutation together potentially becomes a “sequence.”

The format which follows simply extracts “cores” of ideas from each of the various melodic resources so far discussed and permutates them through various “filters” (gl). Main focus is given to the major / Ionian mode, the major triad and the minor / Aeloan mode. Theses two distinctive groups creating the major and minor tonal environments and countless melodies. The “filters” are various diatonic, chromatic or intervalic “treatments” (gl) that we “permutate” our melodic idea through, searching for new versions of coolness. Here is a chart listing potential melodic resources and permutation / sequence “filtering” possibilities.

“cores” (created from) permutated / sequence filters (treatment of cores)
one idea / rhythmic simply repeated over and over (vamp)
sounds of nature emotional environment of the tune
melodies of songs / pitch structure of the tune / form
major scales diatonic intervals: 2nds, 3rds, etc.
minor scales chromatic motion/ /enhancement
triads / arpeggios cycles of thirds / fourths / fifths etc.
guide tone lines sequential combinations of intervals

Composers of music create melodic motifs and develop them into compositions. Players interpret the music by learning the core and filtering it through the structure of the tune. Choose a melodic resource, create a “core” melodic idea from that group of pitches and “permutate” that idea through a “filter.” If this seems a bit text book, it is. The key to collect here is that upon finding a sound we think is cool, we can determine it’s “core and filter”, and by knowing these aspects , employ to our best advantage. The above list of musical elements is part of what our college professor used to call “grist for the mill.” I think what Dr. Miller was getting at was simply that part of the initiation and training of the improvising musician was to explore through the artistic elements available. To experiment and exercise with the resources thru prolation, to look for new ideas and create new melodies. One may rarely if ever spontaneously “improvise” a chromatic sequence of ascending triads, but by shedding this possible permutation off the bandstand, a new idea might emerge. A new idea that does become part of a players vocabulary and perhaps the motif of a new song. Exploring 1: Perhaps the simplest kind of sequence is also the oldest? One rhythmic idea with one pitch which is repeated, like a chant, over and over. Example 1.
In continiously repeating a sequence, a “groove” can “come to life” which has the potential to be a bit hypnotic to the human psyche, settling down the thought process and clearing the way for pure thought. The first two measures in ex. 1 above create a mini “call and response” (gl) musical phrase, which is in of itself an age old basis of communication. As part of spiritual ceremonies, the “call” by one group of voices that prompts a “response” by another, unites folks spiritually together. Joining voices in this manner and repeating one idea as a chant becomes very powerful, a living force of collective consciousness, one that can “lighten” the soul and burden of the believer. Here is an elemental call and its response in the minor tonal environment. Example 2 in “F” minor.
Blues music and its basic 3 chord / 12 bar form could also be viewed as a “filter” for permutating and sequencing ideas and when coupled with the principles of the call and response format, create a well worn format for expression. Here is the above idea “filtered” thru the 12 bar Blues form. Ex. 3

Lets filter the above 12 bar Blues through the major tonality filter. Example 4.

A bit vanilla huh? Lets combine ex. 3 and 4 together. Example 5.

Starting out with just a simple rhythmic idea in ex. 1, we permutated and sequenced our idea through various “filters.” First, we created a “call and response”, then formatted this idea through the minor Blues filter. That was a bit disappointing so we tried the major Blues filter. That version was deemed to “vanilla” so we tried the combining of the two tonality filters and created ex. 5. Al-though repetitious, ex. 5 is a basis for evolving a more complex melody, if so desired and would “work” if I needed to come up with a new Blues “head” right now! Does it all come down to simply exploring and experimenting? Is playing one pitch rythmically equally as powerful as a million?
Exploring 2: One important use of permutation and sequencing is in creating “themes and variations.” So much of our physical and spiritual world is based on a central “theme” from which are created “variations.” In this scenario, we simply take the elements we like from our “melodic idea” and recombine or arrange them seeking a new melodic idea with a similar emotional and artistic statement. Going back to our first melody, Handel’s “Joy to the World”, lets create a variation on this theme using techniques of permutation / sequence. Here is the melody / guide tone line. Ex. 1

First to extract the first 3 pitches and sequence this core into an 8 bar phrase. Ex 2.

Here the rhythm pauses in bar 15 and 19, the sequencing is interupted. Ex. 3.

Another shift in the rhythm and the line is a smooth, permutate of the first pitches and idea. Ex.4

This next pass combines elements from each of the above ideas. The following idea is the “polished” variation on the original 4 bar theme. Example 5.

So now I have two melodies. One being a variation on the other, both with a similar expression within a similar emotional context. Improvising musicians love to do this. Its what they do best. Create one idea from the next. Truly a very exciting thing to do! Whatever one’s “natural gift” of coming up with cool melodies, when paired with the study of permutation and sequence, we set the initial guidelines for shaping and emergence one’s musical “voice.” The above transformation from one melody to the next is partly a process of selecting an idea, phrase or aspect of a melody that you dig, then trying different ways to abuse that “cell” or “motif” to suit your musical tastes. Historians suggest that L.V. Beethoven is the master of development, who probably right next to Duke Ellington inspired the lick that “music is 10% inspiration and 90% persperation!”

Exploring 3: Running a core theme through the format of the tune has historically been a favorite activity of the improvising Jazz musician. So much like theme and variations but now more strongly coupled with a sort of “road map” as to where the tune is going. In the following examples, I extract a motif from my composition “I Can’t Believe You Didn’t Know”, see page 14, and adapt it through the first 4 bar “A” section of the tune. This adaption is concerned with the written harmony of the tune, permutating the pitches of the melodic idea as it moves through the chord changes, looking at some options. Termed playing “inside” the chord changes, our improvised melody can to a certain degree be organized by the harmony of the tune. This is a very joyous, challenging and popular activity for the improvising creative musician generally referred to as “soloing.” (gl)
Here is the “as written” first 4 bars, the guide tone line is the half notes. Swing @ 160. Ex.1

F major G min A min Bb major
With such a strong guide tone line and harmonic direction, one way to start our “solo” might be to simply diatonically encapsulate the pitches of the guide tone line melody of the first 4 bars. Ex. 2

F major G min A min Bb major
Or non diatonically. Example 3.

F major G major A major Bb major
Big difference huh? Overall, these last two examples are quite similar, I’ve simply slipped in the “major triad filter” and all of a sudden things change, moving “outside” (gl) of the diatonic realm. Try to slip in different filters when your shedding, see what happens. If you come up with something nice, run it thru the cycle of fourths, if it still is “holding up”, use it in a tune. This may become a “signiture” lick for you, a part of your vocabulary which creates your “voice.”

Diatonically arpeggiating the written chord changes is always a sure way to go. Example 4.

F major G min A min Bb major
Permutation of the above arpeggiated idea. Example 5.

Substituting additional harmonies into the written line to further expand the melodic possibilities can be a big part of ones approach. Either diatonic or nondiatonic pitches are commonly used. Ex. 6.

F maj F# dim G min G# dim A min D 7 Bb maj 9
In the above example we simply place “passing chords” between our written chord progression and outline the colors in the melody, spicing up our harmonic progression and creating new options.
Exploring 4: Lets go back to our first melodic idea and extract a new guide tone line. Ex. 1

In this pass, lets extract the just the first pitch of each of the four measures of this phrase. Ex. 2

As we can see in the above example, the “C” major triad emerges from the line, (“C”, “E”, “G”). With it’s three part structure, this powerful building block is ideally suited for endless permutation and sequencing possibilities. Played confidently, triads always work. Lets create some lines by permutating and sequencing the major triad through various filters (gl) or treatments. The following eight examples build triad configurations on the diatonic scale degrees of “C” Ionian.

Ascending diatonic triads moving stepwise. Example 3.

Permutation of above idea, simply reversing direction of every other arpeggio. Example 4.

New permutation of the three note triad. Example 5.

New idea, starting on the third of the chord, triad or arpeggio. Example 6.

Permutation of the above idea. Very popular model. Example 7.

New idea, starting on the fifth of the chord, triad or arpeggio. Example 8.

Permutation of the above idea. Example 9.
Run the music of examples 3 thru 9 through the cycle of fourths.
New idea for permutation of diatonic triads, starting from the fifth. Example 1.

Permutation of the above idea using a four note “cell.” Example 2.

The following ideas sequence major triads through various use “filters.” These filters are interval based and simply move major triads around. Ascending triads by half step. Example 3.

Ascending triads moving downward by whole step. Resequence this idea moving upward. Ex. 4

Cycle of fourths. Major triads moving by perfect fourth. Resequence w/ cycles of fifths. Ex. 5

Cool min. 3rd / fourth / 1/2 step resolving cadential motion. Common triadic turnaround. Ex. 6

J. Coltranes minor third / fourth triadic post bop symmetry. Quite fun in brighter tempos. Ex. 7.

Triads play a huge part in all styles of American music. Jazz melodies such as “In the Mood”,
“All of Me”, “Cherokee”, “Air Mail Special”, “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most”, “Birdland” and “Giant Steps” are just a few compositions have melodies that are clearly structured around tonic major triad pitches. From Pop Jazz dance tunes to complex harmonic and melodic organization, triads are a key melodic component. So cool. Abuse the above ideas to initially explore theoretical ideas working with triads, then begin experimenting in your own directions.

Filters used above; diatonic, chromatic, whole step, perfect fourths, minor thirds / fourths. Are there others? Of course, the mix and match possibilities are limited only by our own imaginations.
Explore 5: Going back to our first theme, Handel’s “Joy to the World” is in essence a major / Ionian mode. Lets look at easy diatonic permutations and sequences created from this group of pitches.

Intervalic sequence of two pitches in ascending thirds. Example 1.
Permutation of the above idea. Simply changing directions. Example 2.
Permutation of the above idea. Look to the interval studies section for more intervalic ideas. Ex. 3
Here is a simple three note “core” moved diatonically by step. Example 4.
Permutation of the above idea. Example 5.
Permutation of the above idea. Example 6.
Here is a common four note group (1,3,4,5) moved upward diatonically by step. Example 7.
Permutation of the above idea. Example 8.
Permutation of the above idea. Example 9.

As time permits, run ex. 1 thru 8 thru the cycle of fourths, fifths, chromatic and whole tone filter(s).
To musically permutate and sequence melodic ideas while avoiding redundancy is the real challenge. Especially if the cool “cell” comes along while playing live, that’s always fun. Again the idea of creating one melodic idea per chorus and permutating and sequencing that idea through the format of the tune. Big challenge. To continually develop the idea we just played while telling a story which builds and climaxes. Yes!
Explore 6: Lets extract just the major pentatonic group from the color above, create a guide tone line, extract a core idea and filter it through our list of permutation and sequence techniques. Ex. 1
Our core idea comes from the first 2 bars above, which is then diatonically sequenced. Ex. 2
Here the above core is sequenced through the cycle of fourths. Example 3.

Permutating and sequencing the core idea upward chromatically. Example 4.
Permutating and sequencing the core idea downward by whole step. Example 5.
Permutating and sequencing the core idea downward by whole step. Example 6.
New three note idea diatonically sequenced. Example 7.
Permutation of above idea. Example 8.

As a solist in the Jazz format, coming up with one nice core idea from the original melody and “working” that one idea through the format of the tune is historically an important part of the live performance format of Jazz music. “Working” one core idea per chorus and permutating that
idea into each successive chorus helps to tell important stories and build strong climaxes.

understand diatonic
1 4 5 major and minor
relatives and modes
scales to arpeggios
arpeggios to chords
color tones and style

Sequencing musical ideas. Simply in that this is the same pitch above our root as the perfect fourth, just now moved up an octave. Again we bump into the idea that with the colortones, the music theory of the natural diatonic 11th is usually more about chords than melody. Thus, having an 11th usually implies that we also have some sort of 9th in our chord. And having a 9th implies we've a 7th in the chord as well. 'The finger bone's connected to the hand bone, the hand bone's connected to the wrist bone' ... all in a perfectly closed loop. Ex. 1.

loops of pitches

A melodic cell. This half step above the tonic is often simply referred to by its numerical designation. Generally we'll use the sharp (#) when ascending away from the tonic and the flat (b) designation when descending towards our tonic pitch. I also call this pitch a blue note, but I'm probably the only one that does.

half step
music notation



I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up every morning ... Every day I find something creative to do with my life.

Miles Davis
#2 / b3




(1)Mauleon-Santana, Rebeca. 101Montunos, p. iv. USA Sher Music Co.,Ca. 1999

(1) Isacoff, Stuart. Temperament ... The Idea That Solved Music's Greatest Riddle, p. 40-42. USA Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2001

(2)Aebersold, Jamey and Slone, Ken. The Charlie Parker Omnibook. New York: Atlantic Music Corp., 1978.

( start here :)