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#2559024 - 07/27/16 06:57 AM What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons?
pianopap Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/04/16
Posts: 29
Suppose I have a background in classical piano and then start taking lessons for jazz / blues piano. What can I expect to learn with my teacher? Working from lead sheets, chord voicings, left-hand 12-bar patterns, right-hand riffs, jazz theory...anything else? Does this cover it? Thanks.

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#2559073 - 07/27/16 11:07 AM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
Mark Polishook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 1035
Loc: Leicester, UK
Pianopap, that's a really good question that can be answered in a lot of ways. Many teachers include the things you mention. But there's a lot more to it.

To start, you've got your background in classical music with all the technique and knowledge of repertoire that comes along with that. A lot of what you've already played applies directly to jazz. That speaks to the idea that instead of adding all that new stuff you mention you can build even more on the foundation you have already have.

Jazz theory is applied theory. It's theory of how to do things. Much of it comes from the classical side but it's been renamed. Much of it comes from just practical ways of looking at things that you can put to use immediately (such as this scale goes over that chord).

There's also the general language of jazz, including styles that flow across jazz history that you want to be conversant with. To simply, there's stride and bebop (to simply). Stride is a two-handed way of playing the piano. Bebop can easily be a two-handed way. But it's often taught lobster-claw style. As in LH (the big claw) punches out chords and the right hand plays the lines. There are other ways to do it .... And as for the two big styles I mentioned, they break down easily enough into a million different styles or just one big stream. It just depends on whom you're working with and what the point of view is.

I've maybe addressed some of what you asked. But something else that comes with learning to play jazz is learning about an improviser's aesthetic. Learning how to think in the moment. And then learning how to think in larger units. Dizzy Gillespie used to say, so I've been told, the faster you play the slower you think!

Another part of learning jazz is learning through your lessons how to teach yourself. It's about learning what specifically in jazz interests you and how to pursue it. That's something that'll come in part from listening to a lot of jazz and getting a sense of the history of it and what you, in particular, gravitate to in the history.

Something else you didn't mention is learning how to acquire a jazz feel. And learning what it means in jazz to have "time." As in you want someone to say to you "Wow, you have a great feel and great time." There's a lot of experience that goes into acqwuiring those things. A good teacher will help to steer you towards that.

And there's just general development of the ear. Many say the ear is the weakest link in the chain. Perhaps that should be taken a step further to say imagination can be a weak link too. Imagining what you want to play instead of accepting what you know from exercises.

Playing and improvising in 12 keys is also important although obviously that's not something that happens overnight or quickly. Really, any profound learning in jazz isn't going to happen fast.

If you were taking your piano to the mythical desert island, I'd say bring the Charlie Parker Omnibook and Bach's 371 harmonised chorales. And as many fakebooks as you can carry. And probably bring all your classical scores too. And you'll want an internet connection ...

What I commonly see in new students are self-limitations imposed by expectations of what the learning process might be or might consist of or how it should be. So that goes to maybe the most important part of it all. Which is everything you mentioned is generic stuff that any teacher, good, bad, or otherwise can help you with.

But what's really going to get you to the promised land is a GREAT TEACHER. Someone with whom you can work and collaborate and someone who's really interested in your progress and someone who won't just give you a collection of exercises but will look to more sure you understand the context and the how and why of what you're doing and, going back to what I said in the beginning, how to build on the foundation you already have.

Hope all above is useful. You'll also find from the answers that come to your question that there are a lot of ways to learn and many different paths. There are a lot of good pianists on this forum and a lot of good teachers so take in all you can! And find yourself the right teacher!
_________________________
PolishookPiano

mark@polishookpiano.com

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#2559100 - 07/27/16 12:24 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
mimi9 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/27/06
Posts: 42
Loc: San Francisco, CA
I took a beginning jazz piano class several years ago. I was (and still am) awful because I simply don't practice. I would say that the main things that we learned were playing 4 note chords around the circle of 5ths and up and down the scale in various keys (both hands) along with how to use voicings and play from a lead sheet.
The instructor also provided a play-along CD which is floating around my apartment somewhere. It was a great CD and a really good class but as I said, I simply don't practice so I don't get better.

Of course that was a class for a limited number of weeks, so if you took classes from a full time instructor, you would learn other stuff.

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#2559117 - 07/27/16 01:51 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
pianopap Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/04/16
Posts: 29
Mark - Thank you for that detailed answer. Very informative.

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#2559122 - 07/27/16 02:03 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
Nahum Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 1323
Loc: Israel
Here is a fragment of my program for jazz piano; it will be interesting to compare with the other teachers.
(I was also based on the knowledge of the student in the elementary music theory - intervals, triads, seventh chords, major, minor, tonic, subdominant, dominant,, tonality, tonic, dominant, subdominant,circle of fifths)

12 bar blues,its rhythm and groove , pentatonic scale, the blues scale, the harmony of the blues.

The concept of riffs, simple improvisation in blues form with riffs.

Transposition of blues. Introduction to the classic blueses and versions of harmonic scheme.

Another classic form of jazz - rhythm changes its form, the concept of a bridge, its main 2 harmonic schemes.

Execution of pieces in the form of blues and rhythm changes, arranged for piano.

The main cadence of bebop 2-5-1


But this is only the beginning!








Edited by Nahum (07/27/16 02:04 PM)

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#2559135 - 07/27/16 02:59 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 790
Loc: Chicago
pianopap: One question to ask at the outset, which will affect the teaching of jazz, is whether your goal is to play solo or with others. If you intend to play with others, for example, you need to learn comping, if you only intend to play solo, no real need for that. I agree with the long and excellent description by Mark Polishook, but I know from my own experience that whether you will play with others (and I highly recommend you do!) makes a big difference in how many skills are approached.

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#2559233 - 07/27/16 11:23 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
JazzPianoOnline Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/14/07
Posts: 128
Loc: raleigh, nc
Hi Pianopap - first things first- you will need to learn the essential 7th chords. Their are 5 basic familes, each with 12 members, for a total of 60 chords. They are: major 7, dominant 7, minor 7, minor 7b5 and diminished 7.

(There are others- these are the most basic and comprise 95% of what you will see in lead sheets)

Most teachers will have you drill them; I don't think this is the best way to learn them. I think you should take a Real Book (Hal Leonard Vol 6 Basic Real Book) and read through each and every tune. Play the root position chord in your left hand, the melody in your right. If you are unfamiliar with the tune find it on youtube and listen to it. Play through each tune up to 3 times- no more- and then move on. High throughput is key to this process.

This approach gets you learning the chords (and learning them "in the wild" as opposed to drilling them through the cycle of 5th) AND repertoire at the same time. Two birds, one stone. It is very difficult, time consuming and takes a huge amount of mental concentration and effort but it is the best way i've found to learn the chords.

You really need to have the chords deeply committed to both your head and hands. This will take many months but it is a fun journey and you will learn a lot of repertoire.

Looking down the road a bit, once these chords are second nature to you, you have a solid foundation on which to build. You can then learn voicings, rootless and spread voicings are the basic ones for playing with a bass player and for solo playing. You can then move on to improv, etc. You will also have a solid knowledge of the standard repoertoire too.

I've got a free lesson that shows you in great detail how to do all of this. Visit my site or feel free to write to me or more info!
_________________________
br
bill@jazzpianoonline.com
www.JazzPianoOnline.com
Step-by-step, easy-to-follow online jazz piano lessons.

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#2559282 - 07/28/16 04:47 AM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
Nahum Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 1323
Loc: Israel
pianopap, here you can read my article on jazz improvisation in the Almanac of Jerusalem Academy of Music.

http://www.jazzideas.com/About_Jazz_Improvisation.asp

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#2559298 - 07/28/16 07:16 AM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
Mark Polishook Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/29/12
Posts: 1035
Loc: Leicester, UK
Pianopap, I didn't mention it directly but jjo did: Playing with others is a huge part of the equation. That's where you find out if what you've been practicing works and it's also, maybe more importantly, where you find out what you need to practice!
_________________________
PolishookPiano

mark@polishookpiano.com

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#2559299 - 07/28/16 07:39 AM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13315
Loc: Canada
I just happened to see this question. This week I started a coursera course and am thinking that it might give you a good overview of some of the things involved. My background is classical as well, and I'm taking the course mainly to round off how my perception of music which presently is overly "classical". The course is well presented, carefully set up, with everything heavily illustrated through playing. The primary instrument is piano, but I've already seen some rhythmic concepts illustrated with a trumpet. In my own background I have a fair bit of "classical" theory behind me and this is serving me well. For example, I know the different kinds of seventh chords; today's lecture included voice leading principles like contrary motion of outer voices, step-wise motion which are both old hat, plus some new terms and concepts. It would be heavy going without that background. Rhythm is foreign territory, i.e. the way counting and timing are done, when you are coming from a classical background. But again this is extremely well presented. I know you're asking about lessons with a teacher, but I happen to be coming from there, and maybe this kind of course could give you some insights. https://www.coursera.org/learn/the-blues/

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#2559320 - 07/28/16 11:00 AM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: keystring]
Nahum Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 1323
Loc: Israel
Originally Posted By Mark Polishook


Jazz theory is applied theory. It's theory of how to do things. Much of it comes from the classical side but it's been renamed. Much of it comes from just practical ways of looking at things that you can put to use immediately (such as this scale goes over that chord).
Hope all above is useful. You'll also find from the answers that come to your question that there are a lot of ways to learn and many different paths. There are a lot of good pianists on this forum and a lot of good teachers so take in all you can! And find yourself the right teacher!

Originally Posted By mimi9
I took a beginning jazz piano class several years ago. I was (and still am) awful because I simply don't practice. I would say that the main things that we learned were playing 4 note chords around the circle of 5ths and up and down the scale in various keys (both hands) along with how to use voicings and play from a lead sheet.


Originally Posted By JazzPianoOnline
Hi Pianopap - first things first- you will need to learn the essential 7th chords. Their are 5 basic familes, each with 12 members, for a total of 60 chords. They are: major 7, dominant 7, minor 7, minor 7b5 and diminished 7.

(There are others- these are the most basic and comprise 95% of what you will see in lead sheets)

Most teachers will have you drill them; I don't think this is the best way to learn them. I think you should take a Real Book (Hal Leonard Vol 6 Basic Real Book) and read through each and every tune. Play the root position chord in your left hand, the melody in your right. If you are unfamiliar with the tune find it on youtube and listen to it. Play through each tune up to 3 times- no more- and then move on. High throughput is key to this process.

This approach gets you learning the chords (and learning them "in the wild" as opposed to drilling them through the cycle of 5th) AND repertoire at the same time. Two birds, one stone. It is very difficult, time consuming and takes a huge amount of mental concentration and effort but it is the best way i've found to learn the chords.

You really need to have the chords deeply committed to both your head and hands. This will take many months but it is a fun journey and you will learn a lot of repertoire.

Looking down the road a bit, once these chords are second nature to you, you have a solid foundation on which to build. You can then learn voicings, rootless and spread voicings are the basic ones for playing with a bass player and for solo playing. You can then move on to improv, etc. You will also have a solid knowledge of the standard repoertoire too.

Originally Posted By keystring
My background is classical as well, and I'm taking the course mainly to round off how my perception of music which presently is overly "classical". In my own background I have a fair bit of "classical" theory behind me and this is serving me well.
For example, I know the different kinds of seventh chords; today's lecture included voice leading principles like contrary motion of outer voices, step-wise motion which are both old hat, plus some new terms and concepts


An important German jazz critic Joachim Berendt wrote in his book "Das Große Jazzbuch" (1959) as follows:
"In their conversations jazz musicians doesn't speak so often about something like about harmony problems ; but all these" problems " from view point of European music - more or less old hat.

Since then, much water has flowed, and a lot has changed. Even frowning and pompous music theorists realized that jazz harmony is a separate discipline from classical European, despite the many similarities between them. F.e. the major scale and Ionian modus there are two different formations, despite the fact that they look and sound exactly the same ; and of course they are relatives.
Understanding the principle of building chords in jazz helps to find a connection between jazz harmony and jazz rhythm , as well as to understand the relationship between the melodic line and harmony. Together with the study of rhythm, I think this is the most important thing for jazz!

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#2559339 - 07/28/16 12:33 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: Nahum]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13315
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By Nahum
An important German jazz critic Joachim Berendt wrote in his book "Das Große Jazzbuch" (1959) as follows:
"In their conversations jazz musicians doesn't speak so often about something like about harmony problems ; but all these" problems " from view point of European music - more or less old hat.

Do you have the original German for that quote?

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#2559348 - 07/28/16 01:12 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: keystring]
Nahum Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 1323
Loc: Israel
Originally Posted By keystring
[quote=Nahum]]
Do you have the original German for that quote?
Bad translation , keystring ?
...wenn die Jazzmuziker sich unterhalten ,so sprechen sie ueber nichts so oft wie ueber harmonishe Probleme, aber all diese Probleme sind vom Standpunkt der europaeishen Musik aus gesehen - mehr oder minder "ein alter Hut" .


Edited by Nahum (07/28/16 01:30 PM)

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#2559405 - 07/28/16 05:50 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
Eric399 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/09/16
Posts: 87
Loc: Germany
May I try to translate this back into English?

In their conversations, Jazz musicians most often talk about harmonic problems, but all of these problems are more or less "an old hat" from the point of view of European music.

I think he means European modern classical music like dodecaphonic or serial music, from whose point of view a C7/9/+11 are not really modern.

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#2559408 - 07/28/16 06:19 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: Nahum]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13315
Loc: Canada
Originally Posted By Nahum
Originally Posted By keystring
[quote=Nahum]]
Do you have the original German for that quote?
Bad translation , keystring ?
...wenn die Jazzmuziker sich unterhalten ,so sprechen sie ueber nichts so oft wie ueber harmonishe Probleme, aber all diese Probleme sind vom Standpunkt der europaeishen Musik aus gesehen - mehr oder minder "ein alter Hut" .

It was a bit confusing. wink

When jazz musicians talk among themselves, there is nothing they discuss more than problems of harmony, but seen from the perspective of European music, all these problems are more or less "old hat".

Fortunately something being "old hat" is also an English expression.

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#2559427 - 07/28/16 08:16 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: Eric399]
Nahum Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 1323
Loc: Israel
Originally Posted By Eric399
May I try to translate this back into English?

In their conversations, Jazz musicians most often talk about harmonic problems, but all of these problems are more or less "an old hat" from the point of view of European music.

I think he means European modern classical music like dodecaphonic or serial music, from whose point of view a C7/9/+11 are not really modern.

Exactly atonal period influenced the bebop chords:


The piano part looks / sounds as if it was playing Thelonious Monk. However, a classically educated pianist does not understand why the C7 / 9/11 + preferably to play in the genre Swing CGE / BbDF#, but in bop ABbF# or ED / F#G.


This statement of Berendt reflected the widespread view that jazz just "infests" on the chords taken from classical music.







Edited by Nahum (Yesterday at 02:06 AM)

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#2559534 - Yesterday at 09:54 AM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13315
Loc: Canada
Going back to the original and my later comment which you quoted, Nahum, I was thinking of the OP who may have a similar background to my own. Somewhere in here I read a comment that I can't find anymore, that it is good to also already have some background in classical theory.

At the moment I am taking the coursera course called Learn the Blues, given by Dariusz Terefenko at the U. of Rochester. In the outline we read: "The material is presented through a close examination of key theoretical concepts as they relate to the blues. These concepts are then immediately put to practical ends using various exercises, drills, and improvisational activities involving different jazz musicians..... " This cannot in any way replace working with a teacher or spending time listening to and absorbing the music or playing with it at your instrument, but it does give background. (The later experimentation with harmony while classical music also started to experiment like in your example, Nahum.) It might be a good bridge for the classical musician.

The first things I've encountered in these lessons are quite familiar to me from classical: contrary motion of bass to melody, step-wise motion. Instead of being futuristic, I'm reminded of what musicians did in the time of Bach and before, where they had their own form of "lead sheet" and had to improvise along figured bass notation, adding the other notes and rhythms as they went along. .... And then there are the "fancier chords", the progressions that do not follow the rules of classically taught harmony theory as it is commonly taught. Having the background is in part a help, and would be a hindrance if you stay stuck in that other world.

I've mentioned the course because it might be helpful as a kind of overview for being able to talk the same language as a jazz/blues teacher, and getting more into that kind of mindset. Dunno if I'm right about that.

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#2559550 - Yesterday at 11:38 AM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: keystring]
Nahum Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 1323
Loc: Israel
Originally Posted By keystring
And then there are the "fancier chords", the progressions that do not follow the rules of classically taught harmony theory as it is commonly taught.
key string, at what stage did you study heterophonic harmony?



Edited by Nahum (Yesterday at 12:20 PM)

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#2559568 - Yesterday at 12:39 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13315
Loc: Canada
Nahum, I don't understand why you are asking me at what point I studied heterophonic harmony, since I did not write anywhere in my post about such a thing. The question is being asked by someone with a classical background with as yet unknown background in classical music theory which could be advanced or basic. Someone suggested that having some classical theory is an advantage, and so I looked at what I have started studying right now. I pointed out some BASIC things I'm learning in that course which are familiar because of the same basics I have learned in classical. I named them; contrary motion of bass and soprano was one of them.

The previous discussion went right away to advanced modern fancy things, and so I wrote "and then there are the fancier chords" - where I was alluding to your post talking about these things. "And then" meaning afterward, something to consider later. Surely when someone is starting out he will want to get at some very basic things such as being able to play and recognize seventh chords, and the basic I7 IV7 V7 of the basic blues form? In my own journey right now I'll be happy when I start being able to hear some of these basic things before getting fancy. I imagine that the OP is in a similar place.

The main idea is that there will be things that are the same, things that are different, and things that are the same but have a different name or seen (heard) from a different angle, as one bridges over from the other music world. I was writing from the standpoint of one novice to another, having found something that might be useful - that's all.

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#2559569 - Yesterday at 12:44 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13315
Loc: Canada
I've found a definition for "heterophony" here:
http://www.epianostudio.com/2008/11/15/musical-texture/

It distinguishes from polyphony as follows:

"Heterophonic music consists of two or more parts that are elaborating upon the same melody. Often this type of music is improvised. An example of this type of music would be jazz.
Polyphony:

Polyphonic music consists of two or more voices, but it is distinct from heterophony. In heterophonic texture, the part that all voices play is based upon the same melody (though the same notes may not be played). Polyphony is based on counterpoint. Counterpoint is a Latin term that in musical terms can be translated as “note against note”. This means that a counterpoint or polyphonic texture consists of two or more simultaneous melodies that are distinct from each other in notes and rhythm."

I still don't understand your question. Do you think that in classical theory I should have studied heterophony? Or is this a trick question meant to confuse?

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#2559580 - Yesterday at 01:18 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: keystring]
Nahum Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 1323
Loc: Israel
keystring, I just can not stand against the amount of your text and typing speed.
Just having a classical education, I, together with all studied polyphony, homophony, but not heterophony - only the term , which is an important part of African polyphony, and from there came to jazz. Pre-knowledge of classical harmony undoubtedly saves time, but doesn't replace an alternative view of it , for example: parallel fifths are very welcome; or tonic C maj 7 can be regarded as a compound of bass C and chord Em , or a combination of two triads C and Em, that allows at some point to replace part of the chord to another, retaining its function and name. This is jazz!
PS A simple definition heterophony: polyphony, combining several different versions of melody where parallelism - a particular case.


Edited by Nahum (Yesterday at 01:22 PM)

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#2559607 - Yesterday at 03:46 PM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: pianopap]
keystring Offline
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 13315
Loc: Canada
If the OP is like me, he would be starting with quite basic things. The only thing I was reflecting is what was written early on, that having some background in classical theory can be helpful. There will be differences.

I couldn't for the life of my figure out why you would have wanted me to have studied "heterophony" if I have had a still incomplete education in classical theory. I mean that is what you were asking me literally. Maybe you were not asking if I had studied, but were trying to say that it doesn't get taught in classical, or something. In that case it is better to say what you mean directly.

In the course I am taking right now, it is useful that I know what a seventh chord is, and the different kinds of seventh chord. This is really basic, but imagine somebody not even knowing that much.

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#2559717 - Today at 02:15 AM Re: What's normally taught in jazz piano lessons? [Re: keystring]
Nahum Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/27/14
Posts: 1323
Loc: Israel
Originally Posted By keystring
If the OP is like me, he would be starting with quite basic things. The only thing I was reflecting is what was written early on, that having some background in classical theory can be helpful. There will be differences.
If you know beforehand intervals 4 types of triads and 5 types of seventh chords, major and minor scales, quint circle; and most importantly - the concept of functionality (tonic, subdominant, dominant), you've had enough armed to enter into jazz harmony.

Quote:
I couldn't for the life of my figure out why you would have wanted me to have studied "heterophony" if I have had a still incomplete education in classical theory.
I'm not familiar with the amount of your theoretical education, and in general - as is customary in the West. I was a product of a completely different system also includes a harmonic censorship what demanded a lot effort to self education - and this despite the complete absence of literature.
Familiarity with polyphony and homophony can not explain some phenomena in jazz harmony, which are connected with heterophony. I am sure that you think - are good some theoretical knowledge of polyphony and homophony for classical music; I find it necessary knowledge in heterophony for jazz. Is it taught in jazz courses - is quite another question .

As my musical education refers to both areas, I am always glad to see the classically educated musician who truly seriously approaches to the jazz , especially to rhythm and harmony. This is the key to success; and in my professional biography, there are many such examples.

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