Date of Award


Document Type



Edith Cowan University

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Supervisor

Dr Lyndall Adams

Second Supervisor

Dr Renee Newman

Third Supervisor

Tom O’Halloran


This research examines the processes involved in developing and applying a novel melodic jazz improvisation technique—a chromatic-intervallic approach (CIA). Improvised melodic approaches in jazz music from the 1920s until today have primarily been driven through the development of tension within melody lines by using variations of the scale/chord method and harmonic substitution. The CIA examined through my saxophone and improvisatory practice in this research explores the incorporation of melodies derived from intervallic combinations, and assesses the resulting tension within the melody through the use of the Melodic Tension Rating tool; a tool created through the research period of this study. The practice-led research (PLR) methodology developed for this research engaged a semi-cyclic research design that allowed the reflexive moment of improvisation to be analysed and reflected upon. This in turn created insights into the processes used to internalise the concept and allowed further development of the concept throughout the study.

Chromatic-intervallic patterns were composed by combining melodic intervals and attaching them to varying interval cycles. This process allowed systematic exploration of this chromatic device and analysis of how it affected the levels of consonance and dissonance in the melodies. These patterns were then used as referents for further improvisations, allowing for less predictable application of the CIA and a practical understanding of the tension levels being created. The CIA was applied to numerous settings, including non-harmonic forms, single-note pedal points, individual chords, common harmonic forms and original compositions. The insights gained through this reflexive process yielded new potentialities for melodic construction in both jazz improvisation and composition, with devices such as ‘tension masking’ and ‘tension propulsion’ being developed within the process phases.

The PLR methodology directed the research towards its major creative outcomes: eight original compositions and a live studio recording. In the final chapter of the exegesis, these outcomes are analysed with reference to the research process, allowing for further reflection on practice and, more generally, on creative process within the arts.