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#2059035 - 04/04/13 04:29 AM Melody and chord tones in RH
ado Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 94
Loc: france
Hello Everyone

So finally after years of practice,frustration and struggle my left hand walking bass is there ,moving freely on it's own from note to note,slowly getting away from 1357 starting points and shaking off drilled paterns bits to give way to more spontaneous and improvised lines.

Now if I play solo or melody lines in RH the whole sound is sort of lacking something so I started to relearn my jazz standard repertoire playing the line together with one,two or three other notes from the harmony possibly keeping the melody on top.
Sort of rudimentary block chord playing in RH I guess,although I'm not sure if it would be too correct to call it block chords ,anyway I was wondering if anyone has some suggestions,excercise tips and advice on the subject.

Thanks

Andy
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ado

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#2059063 - 04/04/13 06:27 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
beeboss Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/09
Posts: 1171
Loc: uk south
It is just very difficult to get a bass line chords and melody happening at the same time, I don't think there is any getting around that. Sometimes you can trick the ear by alternating between single line stuff and some chords or by slipping into a bit of left hand stride every now and again but there is no real substitute for lots of block chord work. Listen to how the masters get round this problem and then try to use those ideas in your own playing.
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#2059090 - 04/04/13 08:03 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
Exalted Wombat Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 1183
Loc: London UK
Originally Posted By: ado
Hello Everyone

So finally after years of practice,frustration and struggle my left hand walking bass is there ,moving freely on it's own from note to note,slowly getting away from 1357 starting points and shaking off drilled paterns bits to give way to more spontaneous and improvised lines.

Now if I play solo or melody lines in RH the whole sound is sort of lacking something so I started to relearn my jazz standard repertoire playing the line together with one,two or three other notes from the harmony possibly keeping the melody on top.
Sort of rudimentary block chord playing in RH I guess,although I'm not sure if it would be too correct to call it block chords ,anyway I was wondering if anyone has some suggestions,excercise tips and advice on the subject.


You seem to be on the right track! Keep reading and playing lots of "classical" piano music, keep listening to lots of recordings. You'll discover plenty of ways this can be done.

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#2059262 - 04/04/13 11:55 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 357
Hey Andy,
I play a lot of solo jazz piano and I run into the same issues of how to treat the RH when there is walking bass in the LH. The way I look at it is that you have 3 options (assuming you are human from the planet Earth and you only have 2 hands - ha laugh )
1. Lennie Tristano approach of single-note bass line and single-note melody line: Dave Frank has some excellent masterclasses and performances with this technique (as you probably have already seen on this forum). He makes it look easy but this is a difficult one to master and play comfortably (freely improvising 2 things at once). I have enough on my plate with one! smile

2. The Dave McKenna approach of alternating RH single note melody lines and RH 2,3,or 4-note accompaniment chords in the "breaths" of the melody (or interrupting the melody with chord-stabs) . This is a little more do-able, but not by far. You still have to be able to improvise 2 fast-moving things at once, but the chord stabs (if you know your inversions and you don't have to think about them too much) will give your brain a temporary 'break' from the melodic task.

(this technique starts at 0:40):


3. The Dave Brubeck approach (why are all jazz pianists I'm referring to named Dave?) of playing 4-note parallel block chords (think big band sax-section or trumpet section) with the melody always on top (in your RH pinkie finger). This is the one I use most because the chords allow you to slow the vertical melody movement down and maybe repeat or stab an inversion (kind of like a shout-chorus in a big band). The melody can take a break and you can just rhythmically repeat an inversion. If it is well placed, it will be both easier for you the player, and still interesting/entertaining for the listener:



A good tune to practice that 3rd option on is Satin Doll. Start with A in your RH pinkie, work out the Dmin7 inversion (from bottom to top CDFA) so that the melody is always on top and play a walking bass line starting on D in your LH. By the way, you don't have to harmonize every single melody 8th note. You can catch the main ones - take for instance Satin Doll again, you could just play CDFA and then a solo G A and then when the G hits again over the G7 chord, you work out that it must be BDFG. You can then play BDFA when the melody has to be an A over a G7 chord. That'll get you nicely through the first bar!

Then take that and run with it, such as making up your own 'shout chorus' with repeated but interesting chords stabs. Then eventually more flowing chord-melodies.

One more thing, if the melody is a chord tone - great. Just figure out the inversion you need. But if the melody is a non-chord tone, like G melody over Dmin7 - you have to do the best you can. Pinkie has to be G, but then you can put a CDF below it or ACD (as many nearby chord tones as you can get).

Hope this gets you started on the right path.
Good luck!

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#2059566 - 04/05/13 03:02 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
ado Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 94
Loc: france
Thank you people,great suggestions Erichlof ,as matter of fact DFrank clinic on walkin bass was very elucidating on the matter and helped me imensely to speed up the process of learning it.
As you say Satin doll is great for that ,I find it easy also with Triste ,Lullaby of Birdland and few others.

Do you think certain keys easier then others?
Also do you find it easier looking at the chordsheet and head notes or playing from the memory.
I somehow feel that even on memorized song if I have chordsheet ahead it helps.
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#2059602 - 04/05/13 05:03 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
beeboss Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/18/09
Posts: 1171
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: ado
Do you think certain keys easier then others?


Keys are easy or difficult depending upon how much you have played in those keys. There is nothing intrinsically harder about one than another.

Originally Posted By: ado

Also do you find it easier looking at the chordsheet and head notes or playing from the memory.



It is much easier to play from memory, then you can look at the keyboard and your fingers and reduce a bit of the brainwork going on. If you are making memory slips then this is just an indication that you could know the tune/sequence better.
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#2059717 - 04/05/13 09:38 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
RonL Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/10/12
Posts: 180
Funny I have trouble playing in some keys - for some reason I have trouble when I have to play a G#minor chord or D# minor chord, but I have no trouble with an Ab minor or Db minor.

Bass lines are great fun but also hard work. Stick at it, go slow, follow the advice above (some great tips btw), check out some of the people above, I love the Dave McKenna style, he is amazing. The Lenny and Dave F stuff is great as well.

Also try a half note bass line instead of a quarter note line.

Try the Shearing sound, block chords with the melody doubled in the top and bottom note. There are tons of instructional books and videos on these topics out there.

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#2066425 - 04/18/13 08:09 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: erichlof]
Lost Woods Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/13
Posts: 104
Loc: The Netherlands
Originally Posted By: erichlof

2. The Dave McKenna approach of alternating RH single note melody lines and RH 2,3,or 4-note accompaniment chords in the "breaths" of the melody (or interrupting the melody with chord-stabs) . This is a little more do-able, but not by far. You still have to be able to improvise 2 fast-moving things at once, but the chord stabs (if you know your inversions and you don't have to think about them too much) will give your brain a temporary 'break' from the melodic task.


So if I'm right you have to know all the, let's say 4, inversions of the chord so you can put the right one "underneat"? I found it really hard like when you play a certain note and you want to put chord under it in the "break", you have to know immediatly the inversion closest to the note in split second. Because you're improvising you never exactly know where your melody is going to "breath" the time. Are there any good ways to practice this?

Are the chords u put under btw rootless or with root?

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#2066470 - 04/18/13 10:33 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 357
Hi Lost Woods,
Reviewing the video of Dave McKenna I posted above, looking specifically for what you were asking about, I found the following tendencies (at least in this particular performance)

- Dave plays/improvises the right hand solo melody (mainly swing eighth notes and triplets, with occasional flurries of straight 16th notes).

- He then deliberately pauses the action in the melody, or when it feels natural to him that a horn player or singer doing the same notes would need to take a breath.

- He waits anywhere from an 8th note to 2 beats of quarter notes to play the 'stab' accompaniment voicing, consisting of 3 to 4 notes, usually 4.

- the inversions themselves have either the 3rd of the chord on the bottom (Voicing 'A'in Mark Levine's Jazz Piano book) or the 7th of the chord on the bottom (Voicing 'B' in the Jazz Piano book).

- these are the same stock voicings that your left hand would do if the bass line was already being played for you by a bass player. Often they are rootless voicings, giving a more modern, colorful, 'jazzier' sound to the chords.

- He will frequently stay in that chord area for a couple of beats and play through 2 chord changes with smooth voicing motion (think L.H. stock voicings again when you are soloing), giving the right hand melody a longer break.

So, in answer to your question, no you don't necessarily have to be able to pull 4 possible inversions out of thin air. You probably have already practiced with the left hand these 2 'A' and 'B' voicings for when you play with a bass player and you are doing an improv solo.

The only trick here is practicing the same voicings so that you can now quickly and effortlessly play them in the Right Hand at any given moment.

My advice would be to start with longer 'breaths' like a dotted-quarter note or even 2 quarter notes. See if you can nail the 'A' or 'B' voicing and then quickly return to the melody. Or stay in the chord area through 2 or more chord changes, so you can give the melody (and your brain - ha) a longer break.

Hope this helps!
-Erich

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#2066513 - 04/18/13 11:49 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: Lost Woods]
Cudo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 127
Loc: Heidelberg, Germany
Originally Posted By: Lost Woods

So if I'm right you have to know all the, let's say 4, inversions of the chord so you can put the right one "underneat"?

Yes. There is always one root position and 3 inversions and you should learn them all by heart.

But as there are not only chord tones in the melody but also passing tones you should practice also the harmonization of the complete scale.
This is best done adding an aditional tone to the seven-tone scale so the order of the chords is always alternating between the original chord itself and the passing tone chord harmonisation.

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#2066823 - 04/18/13 11:57 PM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 357
Thanks Cudo for the nice chord-scale music. However, I don't want to confuse the issue for Lost Woods' question. What you posted is very useful for the Dave Brubeck approach that I posted the Youtube video to above. But for the Dave McKenna approach that Lost Woods is referring to, he uses stock A and B rootless voicings that most beginning jazz pianists have to learn in their left hands. He just is using them in the right hand during breaths in the melody. No need to learn all 4 inversions.

What you posted is very useful for harmonizing melodies in the Dave Brubeck style, or with the addition of left hand underneath octave-doubling of the melody note, essentially you arrive at the George Shearing block-chord or 'locked-hands' approach.

Just wanted to specify when to use one way, and when to use another. And you don't have to learn them all, although it would only make you a better player, right? smile

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#2067187 - 04/19/13 03:29 PM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
Lost Woods Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/13
Posts: 104
Loc: The Netherlands
Erichlof and Cudo really great posts thanks for that!!

@ Cudo, I learned that as block chords. Scale made out of chord and diminished chords. Still hard to use in solo cause you have to know your chord inversions (and diminished) extremely good... but I like to use it on the lead sheet melody, really great sound.

@ Erichlof, great advice. Yes I know my rootless A and B voicings and I know them even better in the right hand so it shouldn't be to big of a deal to "place" them. So what you're suggesting in short (if I'm right): rh solo melody and while 'breathing' comp the chord with an A or B right hand voicing.

I'll try that one laugh Seems much more do-able than let's say landing on a G while soloing in Amin7 and having to think about the 9(B), 3(C), 5(E) "under it" but just comp the B voicing under.

Somehow I thought you had to like hold the melody note with your pinky and comp with the rest of your fingers (so comping the B voicing would much harder with that aproach).

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#2067418 - 04/20/13 01:54 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 357
Hi Lost Woods,
Yes the A and B style is much more doable because you probably have practiced those many times (like I'm sure Dave Mckenna had too!). That's great that you can already do them in your right hand too. I would start out by picking a tune like 'Satin Doll' or 'How High the Moon' and walk the bass in the left hand and just do the A or B voicings in the right hand as a warm-up exercise to train your right hand to play these naturally and effortlessly. When you can comfortably make it through the 32-Bar form, then try adding snippets or short phrases of right hand melody solos with the same A and B chords filling in the gaps/breaths.

Your last paragraph is possible but more difficult. I HAVE heard Dave McKenna do this very thing on another CD - I think he did some of those more rare voicings on the tune Stardust. But most of the time, like in the video above, it is as I described - typical stock A and B jazz voicings. The hardest rhythm that he does the best of most pianists that I've heard is the quick 8th note comp between a very short break in the melody. So let's say he played a final melody note on beat 1, then he would do a stab on the 'and' of 1, then start the melody again on beat 2! In this situation, he might opt for the quick stab that is not the A or B voicing, but this is rare like I said.

The 8th note stab is by far the hardest and quickest to do, so be patient. Maybe start out with longer dotted half-note breaths and whole note breaths like I mentioned before, and work your way up to the quicker level.

Good luck!


Edited by erichlof (04/20/13 01:56 AM)

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#2067456 - 04/20/13 05:15 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
Lost Woods Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/13
Posts: 104
Loc: The Netherlands
Erichlof, thanks for your help really appreciate it smile.
One quick question though: if your melodic line ends in higher register. Would one comp in that register or quickly jump like 2 octaves down to comp an A or B voicing. In other words; do you choose the nearest comping possibility or not. The few vid's I've seen of Mckenna he doesn't really get in "high register" with his solo's so it's not really clear to me.

Since a few days I'm working slowly and accurately through this book called "Solo Jazz Piano: The Linear Approach" from Neil Omstead. Really carefully and taking time for every aspect before moving on. Very curious where my playing will end up ^^.

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#2067835 - 04/21/13 01:28 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
erichlof Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/26/10
Posts: 357
Hi Lost Woods,
Yes choose the closest A or B voicing at the time. Dave does jump down maybe an octave once in a while (but hardly ever 2 octaves) - but like you said, he doesn't do this stabbing much up in the higher register. Take a look at this video:



When he's high up, it's just single note melody soloing, but when he gets down into the mid/tenor register, he quickly throws in an A or B voicing. I just noticed on this video that he hangs on to the pinkie note of the last note of a melody phrase, while stabbing a 3-note version of the A/B voicing with his available fingers. This is a little less often, but it is good to know.

I like when he solos on the tenor register (below middle C) - the stabs are so fast that you almost need to slow the video down to see them! He was definitely the best at what he did!

p.s. as a side note, on a couple of later choruses Dave uses the block chord method mentioned by Cudo earlier in this thread. In fact, this arrangement has a little of everything: Walking bass, Single horn-like melody, Erroll Garner-type strumming quarter note chords in the left hand, Stride piano in the left hand (Teddy Wilson), and occasional George Shearing/Dave Brubeck 4-note chord melodies in the right hand to simulate a big band orchestra. Something for everyone! smile


Edited by erichlof (04/21/13 01:29 AM)

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#2067906 - 04/21/13 07:43 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 533
Loc: Leicester, UK
Giving a name to that - the 8th note stab - is really helpful. Eons ago, I used to go to hear DM at the Copley Hotel in Boston. You could sit at the piano or stand behind him and watch his hands. Was amazing! Neil Olmstead, who wrote the linear approach to jazz book, played an earlier gig at the Copley before McKenna - so that's an interesting connection

Building on what you've been saying .. McKenna's comping (the stabs) represent a way to sound like a whole band (bass, guitar, and tenor sax). Keeping that in mind is a good way to play in that style - it's a mental image that can guide us to hear what the style is about.

Those times when McKenna holds a note from a line in his RH fifth finger and then comps below w/the other fingers. That's a variation of a technique (from classical repertoire) where one hand plays two lines at rhe same time. That's all over the place in Bach .... Again that mental image - two lines in one hand can be a helpful way to look at it. Actually the same technique (two lines at the same time) can work in the left hand too. It's a way of turning the piano into a band or orchestra ..

One other thing to add is McKenna had an amazing feel (and sound) and those things are worth trying to emulate - imitation is a great way to build a mental image of how a style sounds. And sometimes its not the notes that are played that are important but HOW those notes are played ..how they're phrased. McKenna often rushed - he sped up through the course of a solo - that's also sonething to listen for. And it's NOT a criticism of his playing!

There's been so much good stuff said about DM in this discussion so hope all this adds a bit more ...


Edited by printer1 (04/21/13 07:49 AM)
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#2068304 - 04/21/13 11:00 PM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: Mark Polishook]
DRSJ Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/13
Posts: 10
Printer1 is right and I too am struggling with this. Playing chords under the melody in the right hand is a way to utilize three or four different voices (think SATB: soprano, alto, tenor, bass) with one instrument. In many pop/rock/r&b songs for example, the guitar or some other instrument 'strums' chords on every beat, under the vocals. When this music is arranged for piano, the question is how to deal with these strums. The LH is normally playing an octave bass or some sort of more complex bass pattern. The outer most fingers on the right hand are playing the melody in the soprano/alto range, and the inner fingers on the right hand are "strumming" the chord, usually in the tenor range. So your right hand is a little stretched. Without the melody, this is easy. The LH plays bass and the RH provides the chord 'strums'/changes each beat, the vocalist provides the melody. Like this:





Now, if Mr. Hernandez (aka Bruno Mars) or Mr. Richie were available to sing while I played, life would be easy, these patterns are easy enough. But without them, we're left to coordinate all of this while adding the melody/vocals with our pinky? This is exactly the way the piano solo versions are arranged for these songs.

Yes coordinating three voices with two hands is proving gravely difficult and I can only imagine how difficult it is to do this in a jazz/improv setting. I guess once you get used to playing two voices with the right hand, all you have left to learn are the changes in each piece and fill in from there. Easier said than done! Hopefully I won't have to go back to classical to develop this coordination.

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#2068485 - 04/22/13 06:51 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 533
Loc: Leicester, UK
DRSH ... maybe this is helpful?

http://www.key-notes.com/piano-chord-voicings.html

The main idea is practice the voices in a hand separately and then put them together.

I find the Bach Chorales to be a great source for practice material for bringing notes in a chord (some call it "voicing" the chord). The way to practice is first play the note or line that you want to emphasize. Then practice the other lines at a much softer dynamic. For things like melodies in the 5th finger over arpeggiated chords, you can practice the same way (and practice the chordal accompaniments so they're not arpeggiated).

... this kind of practice (over time) will lead you to control the technique.

Hope this helps!
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http://www.youtube.com/user/MarkPolishookStudio - Youtube Channel
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#2068568 - 04/22/13 10:33 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: Mark Polishook]
DRSJ Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/15/13
Posts: 10
Thanks Printer1. Very helpful.

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#2070419 - 04/25/13 03:46 AM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: Cudo]
ado Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/18/08
Posts: 94
Loc: france
Originally Posted By: Cudo


But as there are not only chord tones in the melody but also passing tones you should practice also the harmonization of the complete scale.
This is best done adding an aditional tone to the seven-tone scale so the order of the chords is always alternating between the original chord itself and the passing tone chord harmonisation.

Hi Cudo ,talking about that scale harmonization ,Im not very good reader and I sort of get it better like let's say in the case of C6 chord scale the extra note would be +5 if i'm not mistaken and the scale would be alternating inversions of C6 and say Ddim chord ,I wonder is there some simple explanation of this kind
for the Cm7,C9,Cm6 .Thank you
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#2072145 - 04/27/13 01:59 PM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
TromboneAl Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/12/04
Posts: 781
Loc: Northern, Northern California
Quote:
I wonder is there some simple explanation of this kind
for the Cm7,C9,Cm6


I think of it like this: If it's a chord tone, play the notes in the chord, otherwise play the relevant diminished chord. I thought Dick Hyman had a video on this, but all I could find was this one:



Edited by TromboneAl (04/27/13 02:14 PM)
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#2072182 - 04/27/13 02:51 PM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
jotur Online   blank
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5277
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
Thanks, Trombone Al! I was just experimenting with diminished chords today and where they work and where they don't, and this gives me another perspective and something to try.

Cathy
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#2072397 - 04/27/13 08:09 PM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
Mark Polishook Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 533
Loc: Leicester, UK
Barry Harris probably has the best explanation of all of this stuff on his web site. It's in a tutorial - not free, but it is information from someone who was there from the beginning ....
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#2097866 - 06/07/13 01:06 PM Re: Melody and chord tones in RH [Re: ado]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 331
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: ado
Hello Everyone

So finally after years of practice,frustration and struggle my left hand walking bass is there ,moving freely on it's own from note to note,slowly getting away from 1357 starting points and shaking off drilled paterns bits to give way to more spontaneous and improvised lines.

Now if I play solo or melody lines in RH the whole sound is sort of lacking something so I started to relearn my jazz standard repertoire playing the line together with one,two or three other notes from the harmony possibly keeping the melody on top.
Sort of rudimentary block chord playing in RH I guess,although I'm not sure if it would be too correct to call it block chords ,anyway I was wondering if anyone has some suggestions,excercise tips and advice on the subject.

Thanks

Andy


Yes, there's two methods of two-handed voicings on piano, and I will paraphrase from my book volume 5:

Method 1
--------
LH plays root and fifth
RH puts melody on top and nearest 3rd and 7th beneath it.
If melody note happens to be 3rd or 7th, double it an octave below

Method 2
--------
LH plays either root and third, or root and 7th, depending on the following:
* in stepwise or chromatic bass lines, use root and 7th
* in cadences of dominant chords (circle of fifths), alternate root and third/ root and 7th
* on mixed harmonies down the circle of fifths: root and 7th for all major, minor and half-dim; root and third for doms

RH: melody note on top.
3rd or 7th (whichever not played by LH) beneath
optional tension or chord tone beneath

Regarding walking bass line, you probably already know this, but keep in the mind the basic purpose of the bass is to establish the root and fifth of each chord, - these two tones are the chord center. Basic technique is to hit the root on the downbeat, the fifth or other basic chord tone on the weak beat


Edited by Michael Martinez (06/07/13 01:10 PM)
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Music Educator, Computer Engineer, avid reader of literature, enjoyer of the outdoors
http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/

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