Repetition, in its ability to provide emphasis, is as effective in the medium of musical pitches as in the spoken word. Jazz melody, which is deeply embedded in the call-response of African music, uses repetition in a particularly sophisticated manner. In the hands of a skilled jazz performer/composer, repetition can supply as much tension as the most elaborate developmental structure or provide only a quiet affirmation, as in a softly repeated final chord.
The amount of repeated material can vary from only one pitch to sections of much greater length. For example, the lyrics to the old song, "Come Rain or Come Shine," ("I'm gonna love you like nobody's loved you, etc...") uses only two pitches throughout the first phrase: the first note is repeated until the final three notes, which are heard on a lower pitch. Similarly, Ellington's famous jazz tune, "Satin Doll," uses two pitches in the first half of its first phrase, then transposes them to a higher pitch level for the last half. Yet, in both instances, coupled with unified rhythm and accents, pitch repetition serves as a vehicle for tension growth.
In Ex. D below, heard here, the melodic line consists of only three pitches and is repeated approximately every two measures. Within that framework, a hierarchy develops among the repeated pitches, themselves. The pitch, D, is most important since it balances between downbeat and offbeat attack points, thus creating accent motives as discussed in Article 1. (D is further enhanced by the repeated pitches in the left hand in the recording.) The pitch, C, produces less energy, since it remains on offbeats except for its second attack point. Finally, the remaining pitch, E, is least important because of its offbeat placement throughout )
In other instances, accent motives are created by the repetition of more than one note. Each of the three pitches in Ex. A, discussed earlier, constructs a coherent accent structure of its own. Thus, the performer can focus on any one of the repeated pitches or alternate between them to bring about a varied, even developmental, line as the phrase is repeated. In the Ex. EA below, Ex. A is first notated in its entirety, followed by line 1., which extracts only the D of the melody, then line 2 which uses only E, and line 3, using only F.
Listen to Ex. A again and clap the rhythm of line 1 in order to hear the accent structure created by the pitch, D. Repeat playing Ex. A and continue clapping accents as they occur on lines 2 and 3.
Accent motives can also be created from two or more different pitches. Who can forget the plaintive chant by Coltrane and his bandmates repeating "a LOVE su-PREME" over and over--the downbeat "LOVE" on one pitch creating an accent motive with the offbeat, "PREME", a whole step higher? It can be further noted that the accent rhythm is yet another example of the Charleston motive discussed in Article 1.