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How to Use Enclosure In Your Jazz Solos

To learn jazz language, you must be listening to the music and learning solos and lines from your favorite jazz musicians. Jazz is first and foremost an aurally learned music and it must be treated as such.

But it is also important to analyze jazz language and observe how jazz greats constructed their phrases. We can learn so much about jazz and how to become a better player by breaking things down and understanding how it works.

One common technique that jazz musicians utilize when playing lines is enclosure.

What is enclosure?

Enclosure is simply approaching a target note from above and below either diatonically or chromatically. Here’s an example:

enclosure 1

In this particular case the target note is the root (C), and it is being approached by a whole step above (D), and a half step below (B). The target is being approached by two notes, but enclosure is not limited to this. Here’s an enclosure using 4 notes:

enclosure 2

This one is targeting the 3rd of Cmaj7 (E), and is approached diatonically from above (G), diatonically from below (D), and chromatically from below (D#). This makes for a nice sounding resolution. We can also use enclosure when the target note is played twice:

enclosure 3

This one is both diatonically approached (F) and chromatically approached (D#) by a half step. There are many different possibilities for enclosure. So far all of our examples start with an approach from above, but you can also start with an approach from below:

enclosure 4In this case, the 7th (B) is being targeted, and is being approached chromatically from below (A#) and diatonically from above in half steps.

Not too difficult of a concept. But the big question is: how do we start getting enclosure to come out in our playing?

There are three ways we can practice enclosure patterns:

  1. By isolating single chords and experimenting with different kinds of enclosure (which we have already done).
  2. By applying enclosure to scales.
  3. By applying enclosure to different harmonic contexts.

Since we have already looked at some examples of enclosure in the context of individual chords, let’s take a look at enclosure being applied to a major scale:

C major scale enclosure

Here’s that enclosure pattern that plays the target note twice and is resolved chromatically. Notice how the target notes walk up the C major scale and how the enclosure follows suite. You of course can apply this same concept to any scale you would like to practice, and you are not limited to using this enclosure pattern. Rhythmic variations outside of eighth notes can be applied as well.

By applying enclosure to scales, you will be getting used to the technique and feel of enclosure patterns. The more you practice enclosure in different contexts the more natural it will begin to feel and you won’t need to think about it.

The next step is to apply enclosure to different harmonic contexts. Take a ii-V-I chord progression for example:

ii-V-I enclosure

Notice how each enclosure resolves to the target note (3rd) with an anticipation on the & of 4. The 3rd is always a wise choice to target in a harmonic progression like a ii-V-I because it establishes clear voice leading, however, any note can be targeted.

Another way to practice this is to apply enclosure to an entire song form such as the blues:

blues enclosure

Here we are using half step approaches to target the 3rds of each chord in the blues form. The blues is always a great place to start when applying new concepts like these, but of course you can practice enclosure in any song you are learning.

Start adding enclosure to your practice sessions today. The more you work on this concept the more natural it will feel, and you will be surprised when you start hearing it come out in your solos.

Brent Vaartstra
Brent Vaartstra is a professional jazz guitarist and educator living in New York City. He is the head blogger and podcast host for which he owns and operates. He actively performs around the New York metropolitan area and is the author of the Hal Leonard publication "Visual Improvisation for Jazz Guitar." He's also the host of the music entrepreneurship podcast "Passive Income Musician."



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