Walter Bishop, Jr.’s Theory of Fourths

I’ve blogged about using perfect fourths as an technical exercise and as a method for motivic development in improvisation before.  The above YouTube video (click read more if you don’t see it) is the late pianist and music educator Walter Bishop, Jr. explaining how he discovered and explored the use of perfect forth patterns to derive both harmonic and melodic material in jazz improvisation.  He plays examples as he describes the application of using the perfect fourth interval on some of his original composition as well as on standards like On Green Dolphin Street and I Got Rhythm as well as standard progressions like the ii-V-I.

Good stuff for improvisors on all instruments and composers looking to expand their vocabulary and explore some new ideas.  The way he starts off by showing how to squeeze the range of a pattern based entirely on perfect fourths into a single octave range will help us non-pianists find a comfortable range in which to start off applying some of his ideas.

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