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Interesting discussion. I still don't find the terms all that confusing, but I agree that the distinction may not always be particularly useful.

To me, it's about intent and approach, more than chords vs. scales. So not so much about whether a melody line uses big steps ("Over the rainbow", "Willow weep for me") and arpeggios or small steps and chromaticism, nor is it about whether a melodic line goes way off center or perfectly follows the chord tones. Approach tones tend to have a melodic effect when used with arpeggios, etc.

It probably doesn't even make sense to think of a given (improvised or composed) phrase or line as "vertical" or "horizontal" per se. As far as composed lines are concerned, most "songbook" tunes will presumably have started with a melody, the head, then changes have been set up to support the head in a pleasant, functional and stylistically appropriate manner. The improviser can then consider presenting chords ("guess that tune!") or another melody, either harmonically consistent, say, with guide tones galore, or way out there, or probably a nice mix of these approaches interspersed with a fair bit of noodling and handwaving...

That's the gist of my understanding, as someone who is still very much at the learning to walk stage.
 

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As long as we have a theoretic and practical grasp of what melody and harmony are, getting bogged down in semantics or conflating horizontal and vertical for those words is superfluous. Jazz is harmony dominant typically or at least to a non musician it sounds complicated. Challenging pieces of classical music can also leave this feeling. Take, for example, Chopin’s Revolutionary Etude, somewhere buried in all of that dense harmonic structure, the melody is stated in very sparse punctuations above it.
 

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Partly why I suggest people use more specific terms rather than terms (vertical/horizontal) that, as we see, have various definitions.

OK, well that does make total sense and I understand what you are getting at when you say it like that - thanks for defining what you mean, but as you see not everyone sees it like that.

EDIT: I can also see how a specific teacher/method may employ the terms vertical/horizontal in a teaching context (and teaching is the main context here as great improvisers don't think "now I'm going to play horizontal/vertical") and if that helps those particular students that is all good. The problem only arises when those students use the terms in a wider context away from that specific teacher/method.
I don't have a music degree, but the definitions I was taught by a guy with a Masters were that vertical is building your scale/arp/pattern chops and horizontal is learning to move through the half-steps between chords effectively and exploit them to their fullest in your soloing. Like vertical is your show off athletic kind of skill, and horizontal is learning to exploit the dramatics of chord changes, the tension and release between chords.
 

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I've heard Lester Young referred to as a Horizontal player (Vs. Coleman Hawkins the vertical player). I think people generally take Horizontal to mean melodically driven and Vertical to mean harmonically driven or motivated.

Take Lester Young's solo on Pound Cake, totally melodic yet there's arpeggios all over it, in fact it's far more arpeggio based than a typical bop solo....
Yes, I've heard the same thing about Lester Young vs Hawkins. And yet they both clearly use both scales and arpeggios. As to connecting chords, I think 'voice leading' is a much better term because it is accurate and descriptive, with the 'voice' (chord tone) of one chord leading smoothly into the closest 'voice' of the next chord.

I like terms that make sense, but I guess since this is a thread on practicing, anything that helps you focus on a given concept is fine.
 

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Yes, I've heard the same thing about Lester Young vs Hawkins. And yet they both clearly use both scales and arpeggios. As to connecting chords, I think 'voice leading' is a much better term because it is accurate and descriptive, with the 'voice' (chord tone) of one chord leading smoothly into the closest 'voice' of the next chord.

I like terms that make sense, but I guess since this is a thread on practicing, anything that helps you focus on a given concept is fine.
But voice leading refers to a very specific thing, where "horizontal" is more broadly referring to exploiting the tension and release of chord progressions in your soloing. If I am not mistaken, it also refers to knowing which chords to apply more dissonance and then which ones to resolve that dissonance on. In contrast, vertical more broadly refers to building up your musical athletics, for example working out with a metronome, or learning new scales and patterns, 12-keying them and getting them up to speed. Like I said I didn't go to music school, and have only picked up these dfeintions from private instructors and other players I've hung out with. So if there's some official academic definition I'm running afoul of I'd love to be corrected on that.
 

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I did some horizonatl playing like that after falling off the stage at a gig in the late 90's. I spun mid air to fall on my back and avoid hurting my horn, and ended up finishing my solo from the floor with everyone staring down at me. Those were the days, one Long Island Ice Tea sucked down for every set, until I'd stumble out drunk with some floozie and wake up on an unfamiliar floor or in the back seat of my car, with a girl that looked much better the night before. xD
 

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But voice leading refers to a very specific thing, where "horizontal" is more broadly referring to exploiting the tension and release of chord progressions in your soloing. If I am not mistaken, it also refers to knowing which chords to apply more dissonance and then which ones to resolve that dissonance on. In contrast, vertical more broadly refers to building up your musical...
Could be a very decent definition, if only it was one that was understood universally.

Hence people saying why not just say voice leading or tension and release etc, that way I think everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet
 

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Could be a very decent definition, if only it was one that was understood universally.

Hence people saying why not just say voice leading or tension and release etc, that way I think everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet
My point was that "horizontal" is more like a broad umbrella term for exploiting chord dynamics through all of those and possibly other subcategories. At least that's my interpretation, which could be erroneous to some degree or another.
 

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Here's my take on "Horizontal vs Vertical" improvisation!
Really nice video lesson Dave! However, in a way, it illustrates the problem with those two terms. What you are discussing is what I'd call voice leading (and you called it that also, I believe). I guess 'horizontal' works to describe what you're saying but it's not the way a lot of players understand the term. You point out that it's not scalar and yet scalar is exactly what horizontal seems to mean to a lot of players. It does seem that sax bum understands it the way you are using the term, but how many others do? Anyway, it doesn't really matter that much as long as the point is clear. I still like 'voice leading' as a descriptive term. How about 'smoothly flowing' or something like that?

And hey, I'm often guilty of just what you're talking about--playing on each chord without focusing enough on connecting them. Got to work on that some more...I do work hard at connecting ii-V phrases smoothly with the surrounding chords so I definitely get what you're saying there.
 

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Really nice video lesson Dave! However, in a way, it illustrates the problem with those two terms. What you are discussing is what I'd call voice leading (and you called it that also, I believe). I guess 'horizontal' works to describe what you're saying but it's not the way a lot of players understand the term. You point out that it's not scalar and yet scalar is exactly what horizontal seems to mean to a lot of players. It does seem that sax bum understands it the way you are using the term, but how many others do? Anyway, it doesn't really matter that much as long as the point is clear. I still like 'voice leading' as a descriptive term. How about 'smoothly flowing' or something like that?

And hey, I'm often guilty of just what you're talking about--playing on each chord without focusing enough on connecting them. Got to work on that some more...I do work hard at connecting ii-V phrases smoothly with the surrounding chords so I definitely get what you're saying there.
I hear you. I believe you can have poor (vertical) and proper (horizontal) voice leading, so that's why I don't just use "voice leading" to mean "smooth, horizontal voice leading." I like that there are different terms, different ways to teach/learn, etc. Each teacher/player has their own thing, and I dig that!
 

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When I went to The Grove School the use of shapes and motifs was suggested for composition and improv.
They can liven up, create cohesion and keep peoples attention be they linear, chordal or a combination.
If you come up with one that spans over a measure then the plodding nature of some solos can be alleviated.
For me it's a matter of learning to hear like that then trying to play what's in my head without too much divergence.
Of course I will go in whatever direction happens out of necessity.
It makes me feel good when my playing approaches elegance.
 

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I hear you. I believe you can have poor (vertical) and proper (horizontal) voice leading, so that's why I don't just use "voice leading" to mean "smooth, horizontal voice leading." I like that there are different terms, different ways to teach/learn, etc. Each teacher/player has their own thing, and I dig that!
Yeah and obviously when you are teaching you explain/demonstrate whatever concept you're discussing so whatever term you use is fine. Ironically, I thought your demonstration of 'poor' (vertical) chord movement on that blues actually sounded pretty damn good, at least to my ear (could be you play so well it's difficult for you to sound bad!). But your point was made nevertheless.

p.s. While practicing today I realized that what seems to work best for me when moving from one chord to the next is to use approach notes and enclosures to smooth out the line, which is basically 'voice leading'. I've been practicing this for some time, especially on II-V-I lines, but also with any movement between chords, and now I tend to do it naturally without having to think too much about it.
 
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