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Jazz solos

Jazz solos

Jazz Solos

This is the last in the series of extracts from my new book How To Solo: your guide to playing more creative jazz solos.

Click here to purchase my eBook How To Solo.

Chapter 11: Interlude

This chapter serves as both an introduction to chapter 12 and an opportunity to take a pause for breath.

During the past 40 years I’ve repeatedly found myself in the following position. I’m in a band or accompanying a singer and about to perform a new song. The bandleader hands me the lead sheet, which I’ve never previously seen.

Although I may not have come across this piece before, I’m nevertheless expected to perform it within the next five minutes. This experience can range from anything between an exhilarating challenge and looking for the nearest exit. The aim of this chapter is to make the experience positive.

Before continuing, you may wish to refer back to book 3, chapters 3, 4 and 5, where I provided you with tools for navigating through jazz standards and chord charts. But now it’s time for a reality check. How would you cope with the above scenario?

Let’s begin by taking a look at how a typical lead sheet might appear in a Real Book. Before studying the lead sheet , imagine that you are in a band or with a singer and have just been handed the music for the first time.

You now have less than two minutes before having to play the tune!

To use this crucial time efficiently, I suggest that you carry out a brief investigation into the following areas:

  • Key
  • Time signature
  • Song structure (form)
  • Melodic and rhythmic movement
  • Identifiable chord sequences
  • Complex chords

For this exercise I’ve chosen ‘Somebody Loves Me’ by George Gershwin.

This chapter serves as both an introduction to chapter 12 and an opportunity to take a pause for breath.

During the past 40 years I’ve repeatedly found myself in the following position. I’m in a band or accompanying a singer and about to perform a new song. The bandleader hands me the lead sheet, which I’ve never previously seen.

Although I may not have come across this piece before, I’m nevertheless expected to perform it within the next five minutes. This experience can range from anything between an exhilarating challenge and looking for the nearest exit. The aim of this chapter is to make the experience positive.

Before continuing, you may wish to refer back to book 3, chapters 3, 4 and 5, where I provided you with tools for navigating through jazz standards and chord charts. But now it’s time for a reality check. How would you cope with the above scenario?

Let’s begin by taking a look at how a typical lead sheet might appear in a Real Book. Before studying the lead sheet (fig 141, below), imagine that you are in a band or with a singer and have just been handed the music for the first time.

You now have less than two minutes before having to play the tune!

To use this crucial time efficiently, I suggest that you carry out a brief investigation into the following areas:

  • Key
  • Time signature
  • Song structure (form)
  • Melodic and rhythmic movement
  • Identifiable chord sequences
  • Complex chords

For this exercise I’ve chosen ‘Somebody Loves Me’ by George Gershwin.

jazz solos
Somebody Loves Me

You may feel that my five-point list seems a little excessive for the brief time allotted. However, it’s remarkably simple to speed read much of it:

Key

  • One flat indicates either F major or D minor.
  • The piece begins with Fmaj7 and ends with II-V-I in F.

We are therefore in F major.

Job done!

Time signature

  • 4/4 is stated at the start.

(Sometimes you’ll see the symbol ‘C’ (common time) which means the same thing.

How long has that taken so far? 10 seconds?

Song structure (form)

Some lead sheets do the work for you by marking the copy with letters to indicate sections: A, B, C, etc. The above example doesn’t, so we look for other clues:

  • Bar numbers
  • Repeat signs
  • 1st and 2nd time bars
  • Instructions such as DS al coda. (Back to the sign, play through until you reach the coda sign, then jump to the coda).
  • Double bar lines.

Apart from bar numbers and double bar lines, none of these clues can be found in our tune. However, the bar numbers provide us with a big clue:

Our tune consists of 32 bars.

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If you now want to improve your jazz solos, click here to purchase my eBook How To Solo.

 

 

 

 

 

Release of my new eBook How To Solo

Release of my new eBook How To Solo

HOW TO SOLO

How to solo is the name of my new eBook which has been released today. With the aid of over 150 illustrations I will show you the way forward with your soloing.

Purchase How To Solo here.

This is the fourth in the series of my eBooks ‘Learn Jazz Piano.’

You can buy a discounted package of all 4 books here.

To give you an idea of the contents, here are some short extracts from chapters 1 -5.

Chapter  1: The trouble with 7th chords.    

                                                              Because this book is primarily concerned with soloing over chords, I’ll start   with the chord that seems to be everywhere: the seventh. I suggest that it is often written and used incorrectly. This is of great importance to you when playing from a chord chart or lead sheet.

Lead sheets are littered with 7 chords: major 7, minor 7, dominant 7 and diminished 7. In most cases they are there for a good reason, with each note serving a harmonic purpose. But there are times when naming the chord as a seventh is misleading.

The problem arises when we consider the most important harmony notes within a chord: the two notes that identify it. These two notes, sometimes described as guide tones, are usually 3 and 7, because in most instances they serve a vital harmonic function

Chapter 2: Right hand / left hand.

We should all strive to become two-handed pianists. Unfortunately, most solos consist of a line of single notes in the right hand, supported by chords in the left. This is just one approach and should not be the default sound of jazz piano.

If the right hand is taking most of the load, then the left at least needs to be integrated, serving a musical function. However, there is no reason why the left and right hand shouldn’t take equal roles. Listen to Brad Mehldau and Stan Tracy for inspiration.

The first section of this chapter considers how the left hand can make a meaningful contribution, rather than just marking out the time. I’ll then suggest strategies where the left hand can become more of an equal partner.

Chapter 3: Chords and their scales

Dominant 7 chords

Because the dominant 7 is such a versatile chord, I’m recommending five scales that can be used with it:

  1. Mixolydian mode
  2. Lydian Dominant
  3. Whole tone scale
  4. Altered scale
  5. Diminished scale

Chapter 4: The Bebop scales

Bebop dominant scale

Because the bebop dominant scale is paired with a dominant 7 chord, our starting scale is the Mixolydian mode.

Once again, we will be adding an extra, chromatic passing note, but this time between steps 7 and the root of the Mixolydian mode.

Here is the C bebop dominant scale ascending and descending. The passing note is B♮.

Fig 45

how to solo

Chapter 5: Putting scales to work 

Encircling notes

Here, I have encircled two targeted notes. In the following example, each target note is approached from a whole step above and then a half step below.

Fig 65

how to solo

You can encircle any chord tone that is played on the downbeat. This can be achieved In a variety of ways, but your aim is to ‘surround’ the note from each side before striking it.

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Purchase How To Solo here.

In this book I take the lead sheets from some well know jazz standards and  illustrate routes through the chord charts that will take your jazz solos to a whole new level.

In chapter 5 I demonstrate this with Duke Ellington’s Take The A Train.
In chapter 7 I use ‘All Of Me.
Chapter 8 takes the A section of There Is No Greater Love.
In chapter 9 I analyse Irving Berlin’s How Deep Is The Ocean.
Yesterdays by Jerome Kern is used in chapter 11.

how to solo

Learn Jazz Piano checklist for soloing

Learn Jazz Piano checklist for soloing

Learn Jazz Piano checklist for soloing

Here are 12 essential tips to learn jazz piano soloing.

(This is an extract from my forthcoming book: Learn jazz Piano, book 4: How To Solo.)

1)   Chords belong to families.

A chord rarely exists in it’s own right and is far more likely to have a relationship within a family. It has usually come into being as a result of the chord that precedes it and then exerts a powerful influence over the chord that follows it. This is cause and effect.

So, rather than treating each chord individually, try to see the whole picture.

  • Chords form into sequences that often belong to one key centre.
  • If you can identify a group of chords you can then play a line through that sequence.

Once you begin to recognize these sequences and start stringing them together you will grasp the map of a tune.

2)    Threes and sevens

Your lines should be largely defined by the 3’s and 7’s within each chord. This is particularly relevant for dominant 7 chords but also applicable when a minor chord functions as II or VI. By identifying these notes ‘on the fly’ your solos will make far more sense harmonically.

3)    Barlines don’t exist

Barlines are not signposts ordering you to stop and start. If you have a secure inner pulse and can feel where beat 1 is, you can then drive through barlines rather letting them dictate.

4)   Your left hand isn’t a marker

If your chords are still mainly coming down on beat 1, then it’s likely that your left hand is serving little musical purpose. Both hands should be contributing creatively.

5)    Know your ‘ands’.

Where do your phrases begin and end? Rather than always starting on beats 1, 2, 3 and 4, launch your phrase from the ands of these beats

6)    Swing 8s.

There needs to be a constant feel of swing 8s, whether ore not you are actually playing them. They are always there ‘in the ether.’

7)    Play from tension into release.

A dominant 7 chord contains tension, which is released on arrival at the tonic. Therefore your phrase peaks and then falls. Once you’ve plateaued at the tonic you could take a breath, as there may be less or nothing to say.

8)    Invention, not regurgitation

Improvisation is about creation and exploration, not the reuse of ready-made phrases and licks. Play with a fresh and open mind as though you are discovering and exploring the piece for the first time. The more your mind is racing with scales, modes and altered chords the less room there will be for spontaneous creativity.

There should be some feeling of risk, as though walking a tightrope. Your safety net is the work that you’ve already put it. Now it’s time to let go. When you are in the zone, you are doing something very special: you are composing in the moment and this should be exciting and exhilarating. Your solo should feel like newly discovered terrain rather than a well-trodden path.

9)    Develop your ideas

Study the structure of a good song. It will begin with a strong idea and then repeat and develop this idea melodically and rhythmically. The same applies to soloing. Sometimes simplicity can be more effective than a flurry of ideas. Avoid the temptation to start your solo with all guns blazing.

10)     Employ dynamics

As in any composition, there are many types of musical expression that can be applied to your solo.

  • Employ a variety of accents on both notes and chords.
  • Vary your volume.
  • Move between legato and staccato.

11)     No sheet music

Sheet music is just information and the sooner you discard it, the better. Looking at a sheet of paper is yet another distraction from the job in hand. Music is an aural, not visual activity.

And finally…

12    )Play with others

Yes, I’ve said it before, but books, videos and backing tracks will only get you so far. The majority of improvised music is played with other musicians. Do whatever it takes to meet like-minded players, whatever their experience or instrument. It is by listening and interacting with others that moves your playing forward.

If you don’t have books 1 – 3 of Learn Jazz Piano you can buy them by following
this link

learn jazz piano
jazz piano eBook 2