Melodic improvisation strategies found in the improvisation of Peter Bernstein

Author Identifiers

Samuel Forster


Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Music Honours


Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA)

First Advisor

Kristian Borring


The aim of this research, through a transcription analytical approach, is to investigate improvisation strategies used by guitarist Peter Bernstein based on developing the theme or melody of a song. The theme or melody of a piece of music can be used as the source of inspiration for improvising musicians. In jazz, the melody is often stated at the beginning of the performance, and may set the tone for the solos to follow. This traces back to the early players of jazz who formed their solo based on embellished variations of the melody. While the complexity of jazz improvisation has evolved, the importance of the melody has remained an integral element, traceable through decades in the playing of musicians such as trumpeter Louis Armstrong, saxophonist Lee Konitz, and more recently guitarist Peter Bernstein. This paper examines three performances by Bernstein and analyses his solos to explore how he uses the material from the melody in his solos. Each of the performances features a different compositional style within the jazz repertoire (a Broadway standard, an instrumental jazz blues, and an original modal composition by Bernstein). Each composition is analysed and compared to examine how Bernstein’s employment of the melody in his solos varies in response to the composition. Through the study of Bernstein’s performance, Insight is sought into how jazz performers can incorporate the melody into their own improvisations and brief suggestions for a method is presented at the end.

Access to this thesis is restricted. Please see the Access Note below for access details.