Category Archives: articles for learn jazz piano

Here is the place to read articles that I’ve written for learn jazz piano.

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

How to solo

How to solo

How to Solo

This is an extract from my upcoming eBook ‘How To Solo’

Chapter 13: Too much information

If you’ve ever written a letter of complaint you’ll know that there is one basic ground rule to ensure a positive outcome: be concise and stick to the point. In other words, don’t ramble. If you’re returning a broken radio, your main point is that it’s not fit for purpose. To supplement this with an auxiliary list of complaints will only weaken your case.

When soloing, my students are often brimming over with ideas. Although creativity, in itself, is not to be discouraged, a creative overflow not only puts pressure on the improviser to continue in the same vein, but also makes it difficult for the listener to take in so much information.

As a general rule, resist the temptation to throw in everything at the start of your solo. This will give you nowhere to go. Instead, start simply with a clearly stated idea and then develop it.

The following five points will help you work towards more effective soloing.

  1. Give your phrases a trim.
  2. Repeat and modify your original phrase.
  3. Use fragments of your idea.
  4. Displace rhythm.
  5. Only play on the important bits.

I will illustrate this with the first section of a 12 bar blues in F.

Fig 148

How to solo
Busy solo

 

1          Trimming your phrases

Although there’s nothing terribly wrong with the line, it’s rather relentless, with no space to breath. So let’s give it a trim.

Fig 149

how to solo
Trimmed solo

2          Repeating phrases

In the next example I take the first phrase and then modify it in bars 2 and 3. Notice how the modification in bar 3 leads me down a new path.

Fig 150

how to solo
Modified phrases

3          Using fragments

In fig 151 I’ve taken fragments of my original phrases. Again, I’ve modified notes and rhythm to suit my purpose.

Fig 151

how to solo
Fragments

——————————————–

My new eBook ‘How To Solo’ should be available before the end of the year. Meanwhile, you can purchase Learn Jazz Piano books 1, 2 and 3 by following this link:

http://www.learnjazzpianoonline.com/jazz-piano-ebook.html

 

Jazz Repertoire: essential standards part 3

Jazz Repertoire: essential standards part 3

Building your jazz repertoire: part 3 of essential standards

Here’s my final list of suggestions for your jazz repertoire. These are all standards that you should become familiar with.

Although I’ve listed 14 tunes, I suggest you at least learn What Is This Thing Called Love, Softly As In A Morning Sunrise and Yesterdays.

For more of a challenge, take a look at Stella By Starlight.

So here’s the final list. If you wish to catch up with previous lists, scroll down the page.

———————————–

Lover Man

Composer: Jimmy Davis

Date: 1941

Form: AABA

Usual key: F

———————————–

My Funny Valentine

Composer: Richard Rodgers

Date: 1937

Form: ABC

Usual key: C minor

———————————–

My Romance

Composer: Richard Rodgers

Date: 1935

Form: AB

Usual key: Bb

———————————–  

Perdido

Composer: Juan Tizol

Date: 1942

Form: AABA

 ———————————– 

Secret Love

Composer: Sammy Fain

Date: 1953

Form: AABA

Usual key: Eb

———————————–

Softly As In A Morning Sunrise

Composer: Sigmund Romberg

Form: AABA

Usual key: C minor

———————————–

Star Eyes

Composer: Gene De Paul

Date: 1943

Form: AABA

Usual key: Eb

———————————–

Stella By Starlight

Composer: Victor Young

Date: 1944

Form: ABC

Usual key: Eb

———————————–

There Will Never Be Another You

Composer: Harry Warren

Date: 1942

Form: ABAC

Usual key: Eb

———————————–

What Is This Thing Called Love

Composer: Cole Porter

Date: 1929

Form: AABA

Usual key: C

 ———————————– 

What’s New

Composer: Bob Haggart

Date: 1939

Form: AABA

Usual key: C

 ———————————– 

Yesterdays

Composer: Jerome Kern

Date: 1933

Form: AB

Usual key: D minor

———————————–

You Don’t Know What Love Is

Composer: Gene De Paul

Date: 1941

Form: AABA

Usual key: F minor

 ———————————– 

You’ve Changed

Composer: Carl Fisher

Date: 1941

Form: AABA

Usual key: Eb

———————————–

You can find my full list of suggested jazz repertoire in
Learn Jazz Piano, book 3.

Jazz repertoire
Book 3

Essential Jazz Standards, part 1.

Essential Jazz Standards, part 1.

Essential jazz standards, part 1

As you build up your collection of tunes it’s likely that the bulk of your growing repertoire will consist of what is known as jazz standards. Although this term covers a wide range of material, it usually refers to well known songs played by jazz musicians but originally written for Broadway musicals by such composers as Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Richard Rodgers, George Gershwin and Harold Arlen.

In order to learn these essential jazz standards, my advice is for you to begin by listening to ‘straight’ vocal versions before approaching jazz interpretations. This will give you a secure understanding of the melody. Even the greatest jazz players often play an approximation, or wander away from the original melody into their interpretation or memory of the tune.

My list does not necessarily contain my favourite standards, but they are the tunes that usually come up when playing with other musicians.

You can find the complete list in chapter 9 of my eBook

Learn Jazz Piano, book 3.

I’ve also included the key that the songs is usually played in, but if you are accompanying a vocalist be prepared for any key.

I’ve boxed tunes that you should start with.

So here is part 1 of your essential jazz standards repertoire:

Crazy Rhythm

Composer: Irving Caesar

Date: 1928

Form: AABA

Usual key: G

 ———————————-

Don’t Blame Me

Composer: Jimmy McHugh

Date: 1933

Form: AABA

Usual key: C

 ———————————-

Easy Living

Composer: Robin & Rainger

Date: 1937

Form: AABA

Usual key: F

 ———————————-

Embraceable You

Composer: Gershwin

Date: 1928

Form: AB

Usual key: G

 ———————————-

Fly Me To The Moon

Composer: Bart Howard

Date: 1954

Form: AB

Usual key; C

 ———————————-

Georgia On My Mind

Composer:

Hoagy Carmichael

Date: 1930

Form: AABA

Usual key: F

 ———————————-

(On) Green Dolphin Street

Composer: Bronislau Kaper

Date: 1947

Form: AB

Usual key: Eb, C

 ———————————-

Have You Met Miss Jones

Composer: Richard Rodgers

Date: 1937

Form: AABA

Usual key: F

 ———————————-

Honeysuckle Rose

Composer: Fats Waller

Date; 1929

Form: AABA

Usual key: F

 ———————————-

How Deep Is The Ocean

Composer: Irving Berlin

Date: 1932

Form: AB

Usual key: Eb (C minor)

 ———————————-

How High The Moon

Composer: Morgan Lewis

Date: 1940

Form: AB

Usual key: G

 ———————————-

I Can’t Get Started

Composer: Vernon Duke

Date: 1936

Form: AABA

Usual key: G

 ———————————-

I’ll Remember April

Composer: Gene De Paul

Form: ABC

Usual key: G

 ———————————-

essential jazz standards
Learn Jazz piano book 3

 

Learn Jazz standards part 3: Tunes in 3/4 time

Learn Jazz standards part 3: Tunes in 3/4 time

Learn Jazz standards part 3:
Tunes in 3/4 time

I’m guessing that most of your repertoire is in 4/4 time. However, 3/4 is just as important and fun to play. This time I’ve also given you the structure (form) of each tune.

If you just want to choose a couple, I’d start with Some Day My Prince Will Come and Bluesette.

So here are 12 tunes in walz time to add to your jazz repertoire.

Tunes in 3/4 time

Alice In Wonderland

Composer: Sammy Fain

Form: AB

—————————–

Black Narcissus

Composer: Joe Henderson

Form: AB

—————————–

Bluesette

Composer: Jean Thielemans

Form: AAB

—————————–

Emily

Composer: Johnny Mandel

Form: ABAC

—————————–

Falling In Love With Love

Composer: Richard Rodgers

Form: AAB

—————————–

Footprints

Composer: Wayne Shorter

Form: AB

—————————–

Juju

Composer: Wayne Shorter

Form: ABC

—————————–

Moon River

Composer: Henry Mancini

Form: ABC

—————————–

Some Day My Prince Will Come

Composer: Frank Churchill

Form: ABC

—————————–

The Jitterbug Waltz

Composer: Fats Waller

Form: AB

—————————–

Up Jumped Spring

Composer: Freddy Hubbard

Form: AABA

—————————–

Valse Hot

Composer: Sonny Rollins

Form: AB

—————————–

 

Fats Waller
Fats Waller

You can find the complete list of jazz repertoire in book 3 of Learn Jazz Piano

Here’s the link to book 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Juju

Composer: Wayne Shorter

Form: ABC

 

Moon River

Composer: Henry Mancini

Form: ABC

 

Some Day My Prince Will Come

Composer: Frank Churchill

Form: ABC

 

The Jitterbug Waltz

Composer: Fats Waller

Form: AB

 

Up Jumped Spring

Composer: Freddy Hubbard

Form: AABA

 

Valse Hot

Composer: Sonny Rollins

Form: AB

 

 

Building your Jazz Repertoire part 2: Latin

Building your Jazz Repertoire part 2: Latin

Jazz repertoire part 2:
10 Latin tunes

The world of Latin American music is vast and would take a lifetime of study. What we are looking at here is a small collection of tunes with a Latin feel; songs that are likely to come up when playing with other musicians. I’ve tried to keep the list short, as it’s easy to get overwhelmed with too many choices. I’ve marked essential songs with *.

All these tunes have a straight 8 feel rather than swing.
The compositions of Carlos Jobim are of particular interest as they don’t follow the usual II – V – I  patterns.

You will find the complete list of ‘Building a Jazz Repertoire’ in book 3 of Learn Jazz Piano.

Here’s the link to book 3

 

At some stage you might find yourself comping behind vocalists singing this repertoire. A good reference is the Getz /Gilberto album (1964).

If you’re looking for an easy tune for starters I’d go for Blue Bossa.
Try Desafinado for something a little more advanced.

So here are my 10 choices of Latin tunes to build your jazz repertoire.
Although many artists have recorded these  tunes, I’ve provided you with suggested listening.

———————-

Blue Bossa*

Composer: Kenny Dorham

Listen: Joe Henderson

———————-

Con Alma

Composer: Dizzie Gillespie

Listen: Wes Montgomery

———————-

Desafinado

Composer: Jobim

Listen: Dizzy Gilespie

———————-

The Girl From Ipanema*

Composer: Jobim

Listen: Stan Getz

———————-

How Insensitive

Composer: Jobim

Listen: Oscar Peterson

———————- 

Meditation

Composer: Jobim

Listen:  Joe Pass

———————-

Manteca

Composer: Dizzie Gillespie

Listen: Red Garland

———————-

Nica’s Dream*

Composer: Horace Silver

Listen: Art Blakey

———————-

Song For My Father

Composer: Horace Silver

Listen: Horace Silver

———————-

Wave

Composer: Jobim

Listen: Paul Desmond

———————-

jazz repertoire
Jobim

I have now produced 22 videos for my online  Lean Jazz Piano course.

Click here for my online video lessons.

 

Building a Jazz Repertoire part 1: The Blues

Building a Jazz Repertoire part 1: The Blues

Building a Jazz Repertoire part 1:
17 essential blues tunes.

When building a jazz repertoire there’s no better place to start than with the blues. Notice that blues compositions are not confined to the jazz musicians that we associate  with the genre. We have everyone here from Miles Davis and Charlie Parker to Mingus and Monk. The following  17 tunes are essential to building a jazz repertoire and I suggest that you at least make a start by listening to some recordings.

Some blues tunes have a very simple construction, such as C Jam Blues and Blue Monk. Then there are others, like Blues For Alice, that consist of a more complex bebop sequence full of II-V’s.

Notice also that blues tunes are not confined to 4/4 time. For example, All  Blues is in 12/8 and West Coast Blues is in 3/4.

This jazz repertoire is particularly relevant for those of you planning to play with other musicians. These tunes come up all the time. However some, such as Bag’s Groove, are very easy to learn.

Building a jazz repertoire should be an integral part of your practice. How many tunes do you actually know?  It’s all to easy to study each new tune in depth but then forget your previous pieces.

So here are 17 blues tunes. Try to familiarise yourself with at least the 6 essential titles followed by *.  For beginners, I’d save Blues For Alice for later.

All Blues *

Composer: Miles Davis

Time signature:12/8

……………………………………………….

Au Privave

Composer: Charlie Parker

……………………………………………….

Bag’s Groove*

Composer: Milt Jackson

……………………………………………….

Bessie’s Blues

Composer: John Coltrane

……………………………………………….

Billie’s Bounce

Composer: Charlie Parker

……………………………………………….

Blue Monk*

Composer:Thelonious Monk

……………………………………………….

Blues For Alice*

Composer: Charlie Parker

……………………………………………….

Blues March

Composer: Benny Golson

……………………………………………….

C-Jam Blues*

Composer: Ellington

……………………………………………….

Freddy Freeloader*

Composer: Miles Davis

  ……………………………………………….

Misterioso

Composer: Monk

  ……………………………………………….

Mr. P.C.

Composer: John Coltrane

……………………………………………….

Nostalgia In Times Square

Composer: Charles Mingus

……………………………………………….

Now’s The Time

Composer: Charlie Parker

……………………………………………….

Straight No Chaser

Composer: Monk

……………………………………………….

Tenor Madness

Composer: Sonny Rollins

……………………………………………….

West Coast Blues

Composer: Wes Montgomery

Time signature:3/4

……………………………………………….

You will find the complete list in book 3 of Learn Jazz Piano, chapter 9:
Building a jazz repertoire.

Here’s the link to  book 3

building a jazz repertoire
Book 3

 

 

 

 


 

Recommended jazz albums

Recommended jazz albums

Recommended jazz albums – part 3

This is part 3 of my list of recommended jazz albums that I think you should be listening to. You can find the complete list in chapter 10 of  Learn Jazz Piano book 3.

I’m starting with another essential Bill Evans album and this time it’s live. I was fortunate enough to see him at Ronnie Scott’s in 1980.

For learning jazz pianists (and I count myself among them) there are certain piano players that I find more accessible and I’ve listed two of them below: Horace Silver and Wynton Kelly.

Anyone that knows me will not be surprised that I’ve included two Monk albums. The eccentricity of Monk often overshadows his unique approach. I feel it’s a mistake to assume that he’s playing strange and dissonant voicings just  to be different. In fact, everything he plays has a logic and purpose.

My one ‘guilty pleasure’ in this list is the inclusion of Andrew Hill.  Again, he is an acquired taste, but a true original.

I’ve not included Oscar Peterson in his own right as you can hear him supporting the great sax player Ben Webster in his 1959 album.

—————

Artist: Bill Evans

Instrument: piano

Title: The Complete Village Vanguard Recordings

Date: 1961

—————

Artist: Charles Mingus

Instrument: bass

Title: Ah Um

Date: 1959

Piano: Horace Parlan

—————

Artist: Ben Webster

Instrument: sax

Title: Ben Webster With The Oscar Peterson Trio

Date: 1959

Piano: Oscar Peterson

—————

Artist: Wynton Kelly

Instrument: piano

Title: Kelly Blue

Date: 1959

 —————

Artist: Hank Mobley

Instrument: tenor sax

Title: Roll Call

Date: 1960

Piano: Wynton Kelly

—————

Artist: Art Blakey

Instrument: drums

Title: Mosaic

Date: 1961

Piano: Cedar Walton

—————

Artist: Horace Silver

Instrument: piano

Title: Horace Silver And The Jazz Messengers

Date: 1954

—————

Artist: Dexter Gordon

Instrument: tenor sax

Title: Go!

Date: 1962

Piano: Sonny Clark

—————

Artist: Andrew Hill

Instrument: piano

Title: Point Of Departure

Date: 1964

————— 

Artist: Art Blakey

Instrument: drums

Title: Mosaic

Date: 1961

Piano: Cedar Walton

—————

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Instrument: piano

Title: It’s Monk’s Time

Date: 1964

—————

Artist: Thelonious Monk

Instrument: piano

Title: Monk Alone

Date: 1962 – 1968

Recommended jazz albums
Monk

Happy listening!

Paul

Learn Jazz Piano by Listening

Learn Jazz Piano by Listening

Learn Jazz Piano by Listening – part 2

This is part 2 of my list of essential recordings that I think you should be listening to. You can find the complete list in chapter 10 of  Learn Jazz Piano book 3.

Alongside playing and studying, listening to the masters of improvisation will improve your playing without you even knowing that it’s happening. Of course you can study the solos and even transcribe them.  There are apps for slowing the tracks down and changing the key like Tempo SloMo and Transcribe. But nothing replaces just listening to the music without trying to analyse it. I guarantee that it will sink in subconsciously and become a backbone of your own developing style.

In part one we looked at the recordings of Louis Armstrong, Lester Young, Charlie Parker,  Bud Powell, Coleman  Hawkins and Duke Ellington. I pointed out that it is important that you listen to other soloists besides pianists. Also, by listening to a recording of, say, Lester Young, you will also be hearing the great piano playing of Teddy Wilson.

In part 2 of my list we are now in the 50’s and 60’s.

Artist: Hampton Hawes

Instrument: Piano

Title: The Hampton Hawes trio

Date: 1955

———–

Artist: Sonny Rollins

Instrument: tenor sax

Title: Tenor Madness

Date: 1956

Piano: Red Garland.

———— 

Artist: John Coltrane

Instrument: sax

Title: Blue Trane

Date: 1957

Piano: Kenny Drew

————–

Artist: John Coltrane

Instrument: sax

Title: Crescent

Date: 1964

Piano: McCoy Tyner

—————

Artist: Art Pepper

Instrument: alto sax

Title: Art Pepper Meets The Rhythm Section

Date: 1957

Piano: Red Garland

—————-

Artist: Cannonball Adderley

Instrument: alto sax

Title: Somethin’ Else

Date: 1958

Piano: Hank Jones

—————–

Artist: Miles Davis

Instrument: trumpet

Title: Kind Of Blue

Date: 1959

Piano: Bill Evans

———————-

Artist: Bill Evans

Instrument: piano

Title: Portrait In Jazz

Date: 1959

We have now reached Bill Evans, perhaps the father of modern jazz piano.

Learn Jazz Piano
Bill Evans

Here’s the link to  my learn jazz piano video course

To be continued…

Study jazz piano: Suggested listening part 1

Study jazz piano: Suggested listening part 1

Three ways to study jazz piano

Three ways to study jazz piano are playing,  studying and listening.

Playing: I can only continue to encourage you to seek out other musicians. One of the  best ways to  study jazz piano is by playing with other people, whether with friends, with your teacher, at an evening class or summer school etc etc. Whatever gets you beyond just sitting at home and playing to backing tracks, the interaction and communication with other musicians is essential.

Studying: Hopefully, my learn jazz piano course and eBooks are helping you, but there is an ever growing number of resources now on the internet. Studying, of course, includes practice, and this doesn’t  just mean strolling through your favourite tunes and licks!

Listening: This brings us to today’s blog. How much jazz are you listening to? In a way, this is the easiest way to learn jazz piano, as you don’t need to be doing anything consciously. Just letting the music in without trying to analyse it will really inform your playing. Before I give you my recommendations, here are two pieces of advice:

Firstly, don’t just listen to the music you like. For years, I steered clear of 20’s and 30’s jazz, considering it old fashioned. Big mistake! You can learn just as much listening to Lois Armstrong as John Coltrane.

Secondly, don’t just listen to jazz pianists because that’s your instrument. Listen to how, for example,  great sax improvisers fashion their phrases.

So here’s the first in a series of recommendations. You’ll find the full list in book 3 of my Learn Jazz Piano eBook. Here’s the link to my books:

http://www.learnjazzpianoonline.com/jazz-piano-ebook.html

For each album, I’ve given you the pianist on the session, when the leader is other than a pianist.

Artist: Louis Armstrong

Instrument: trumpet

Title: Hot 5’s and 7’s.

Date: 1926 – 1930

Piano: Earl Hines

—————————–

Artist: Louis Armstrong

Instrument: trumpet

Title: Louis Armstrong Plays W. C. Handy.

Date: 1954.

Piano: Billy Kyle

——————————-

Artist: Lester Young

Instrument: tenor sax

Title: The Lester Young Story

Date: 1936 – 1949

Piano: Teddy Wilson and Count Basie.

—————————-

Artist: Charlie Parker

Instrument: alto sax

Title: The Complete Savoy Sessions

Date: 1944 – 1947

Piano: Bud Powell.

——————————

Artist: Charlie Parker

Instrument: alto sax

Title: Jazz At The Town Hall

Date: 1945

Piano: Al Haig

—————————

Artist: Bud Powell

Instrument: piano

Title: The Amazing Bud Powell

Date: 1951

——————————-

Artist: Coleman Hawkins

Instrument: tenor sax

Title: The Bebop Years

Date: 1939 – 1949

Piano: Teddy Wilson, Earl Hines and Hank Jones.

 ————————-

Artist: Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus

Instrument: Piano and bass.

Title: Money Jungle

Date: 1962

study jazz piano
Duke Ellington

To be continued…

Here’s the link to my video course.