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#1037270 - 12/14/07 12:05 PM Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
This started from another thread and I just wanted to continue it separately here so we can have a discussion among interested forumites at AB.

Have you ever wished you could get on a piano and play anything? ANYTHING. For hours? Without sheet music? I just wanted to discuss a different approach, one I had taken when I started learning the piano.

You can do it. It's an alternative to sheet music and really stimulates your creativity. It's jazz improvisation.

You learn to play ballads, swing, and you can apply it to any kind of music really. But in the end you end up to be a well rounded musician at the highest level. Although we read sheet music in jazz, in most cases it's limited to playing what is referred to as the "Head" of a tune (which in layman's term is just the melody of the original tune). More focus is on Chords, Chord voicings, Rhythm and actual improvisation.

Has anyone thought of playing in this approach? This is often the basis of being able to play "cocktail piano", which is like toned down jazz. So not everything needs to be hardcore Bebop jazz. I'm focusing this discussion on Solo Jazz piano as it will be more in line with typical people here.

Here's a video of Jazz Pianist Hiromi.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=98JtaPWvSYM

Now as you watch this you'll see how she starts off with a rubato style soloing. And then in the middle of the piece she starts to swing the piece. This is jazz. Pure improvisation. This stuff is just coming out of her head at that moment.

Here's the master Bill Evans playing solo piano in a couple of videos. This is pure jazz playing. The second one is not a pure solo as the trio comes in but you can almost remove them and nothing much is lost in how Bill plays.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=qBqdxjHg4C0

http://youtube.com/watch?v=s6ni28bs8Ig&feature=related

Here's Keith Jarrett playing My Funny Valentine. Again this is not entirely solo but the background comping is very light.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=qIJuYpe2BHA&feature=related

Now I'm not going to kid you. This stuff is hard to learn and it takes awhile. But there are levels to achieve in early stages that is really fulfilling.

I assure that in no case here is anyone "noodling". There is a level of concentration that these masters have reached to create music at this level on the fly.

Hopefully this will stimulate your interest.
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#1037271 - 12/14/07 01:56 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
deeluk Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/25/07
Posts: 163
Loc: Fort Collins, CO
This is absolutely my goal. But it takes years to get there. Sometimes, it feels like it's impossible. There's a group of ABF'ers studying from Tim Richards and Mark Harrison's books here . Tim Richards advocates starting with the Blues where the form is much simpler and building your improv skills and hand independence. Then, you move into jazz which is more freeform and the chord changes become much more complex.

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#1037272 - 12/14/07 02:19 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Van Offline
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Registered: 09/04/06
Posts: 1215
Loc: S. California
This is one of my goals as well. I just use fakebooks to start me off and not have to go thru the by ear phase of improvisation. You should look up the play by ear pianomagic people here in the ABF, jazzwee, they have a very nice sound.

I love Evans, but generally can't stand Jarrett (although he doesn't sound at all bad in this one).
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#1037273 - 12/14/07 02:44 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Mr Super-Hunky Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/17/05
Posts: 4269
Loc: Arizona.
YES!

Since I don't take any (formal) lessons, I have made up my own and this method works INCREDIBLY WELL.

What I do is this:

I break up my practicing into three categories.

1.) I (force) myself to play written music even though I hate to. I don't ever want to be limited to only the things I can hum or sing.

I recently learned the most beautiful piece I have ever heard....EVER!, and if I did not have the sheet music, I would have never been able to learn it as I did'nt know it!.

2.) I spend LOTS-O-TIME simply making up my own melodies, chords, runs etc on the piano. The *technical* term for this is "noodling"!.

I cannot tell you how important it is to do this as I have learned many new combinations of sounds, chords and notes. (Remember, I do NOT even know my scales!).

3.) This is something that I feel most people do not do and that is to spend a good amount of time regularly playing along to the radio or your own favorite songs. This is probably the biggest help in learning to play by ear as you can start out by playing single notes that match the music you are listening to and your ear is also matching up a specific sounds (notes) with the proper key.

When you play along to music on the stereo, there is a considerable amount of "plunking of notes" just to try and find the right ones but after a few bars, you should be able to notice a pattern of what notes are sharps and flats and in many cases, this holds true throughout the song (but not always!).

If you really, and I mean REALLY pay atention to the notes you are hitting, it should'nt take long to get the tune right after a few attempts.

Of course you will make tones of mistakes but at the same time mistakes are VERY valuable as now your ear (if you are paying attention) should start to know what NOT to play!.

So, in a nutshell:

1.)Spend 1/3 time sightreading.
2.)Spend 1/3 time "noodling".
3.)Spend 1/3 time playing along to music.

This method lets you read, create, and accompany along, and it does work!.

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#1037274 - 12/14/07 04:48 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
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Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
I'm glad that you guys are interested. Most of the discussions here tend to be classical centric. I'm glad to know I'm not the only one interested in this.

My background in jazz is over three years of lessons with jazz musicians. My current teacher is a well known Jazz master and thus I have received a "formal" education (almost like attending a Jazz program in a University). It is gruelling but years later, I'm a little amazed myself at how far I've gotten.

One of the basic things in jazz is to master music theory. I think to learn jazz most efficiently, knowledge of music theory is critical. It's the foundation. In most of what I do in jazz, we don't really discuss theory much. It's assumed that we know all this. Most professional jazzers are experts in theory.

As an example, if the chord is a G7, it is assumed that you know all the scales that you can play against a G7 (Mixolydian, HW Diminished, Whole Tone, ALT, melodic minor a half step up...that kind of thing). Fortunately this stuff is easy to pick up in books.

Another thing that is basic to jazz is swing. It takes awhile to master and as a technical matter is difficult because I found it was difficult to swing well until your time was perfect. You're basically timing each eight note and you can't lose your place. Of course at the beginning I had to apply swing to simple melodies so that's how that started.

The most difficult part of jazz IMHO is improvisation itself and to be able to solo with a coherent musical message. Man, this is tough! You compare yourself to the best of the best as you listen to your solos and you see how far you have to go. Fortunately I'm not alone. I can hear pro musicians doing jazz solos and they're not perfect either. So I don't feel too bad.

Just to share what I've learned about Jazz improvisation, the language of Bebop isn't noodling based and much of the typical jazz sound we hear in solos is based on a simple principle (hard to apply though) of landing on the main chord tones on downbeats. It has the effect of making solos melodious. In effect, one has to train the ears to select notes that outline the chord changes. As I practice this more and more I realize it's all about the ear, training the ear, and then having the fingers execute what you hear.

Anyway, I hope this get's us started in discussing some jazz improvisation topics for those wanting to learn this stuff.
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#1037275 - 12/14/07 04:54 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by deeluk:
Tim Richards advocates starting with the Blues where the form is much simpler and building your improv skills and hand independence. Then, you move into jazz which is more freeform and the chord changes become much more complex. [/b]
This is certainly a valid way to get into jazz. In fact I started on Blues too. Actually, I probably started the noodling way first like SH. Blues is more structured than noodling.

One thing about blues that one learns to apply later in advanced jazz levels is that Blues is a lot about repetition (call and response). In improvisation, this repetition is important. I remember in my earlier attempts at soloing and when I listen to my recorded work, I saw that I had too many notes. Sometimes a coherent message is simple, not necessarily fast, varied in structure, and memorable. I learned it takes some repetition to be memorable. Blues gives a nice platform to try this stuff out.
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#1037276 - 12/14/07 05:04 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
pastafarian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 379
Loc: Canada
Hey jazzwee, thanks for hangin' out with us mortals in the ABF! Many of us are refugees from the classical battlefields and are trying to learn to play what we hear in our heads.

I have a question for you: in learning to "swing" do you think it helps to play with metronome beats on 2 and 4, versus on every beat?
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#1037277 - 12/14/07 05:06 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
SH - your style of doing it all by ear works too. But it reaches a limit IMHO. I was an old ear player myself.

In jazz though, the progressions get so complex with modulations to a different key at every measure that one's ear cannot react anymore. So specific to a jazz style progression (which BTW is based on many of the Showtunes in the 40's), I find it difficult to play a piece without first analyzing it.

By this I mean, identifying the key centers (which identify the scales to be used). After awhile this becomes automatic fortunately. My fingers know the sound of the scale as well as my ears.

There are some sounds that one cannot hear naturally. As an example, playing around with diminished intervals is kind of hard based on ear playing alone. Diminished scales are applied very frequently in jazz. Knowing a little theory reveals some new and unexpected tones that is kind of fun to listen to.
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#1037278 - 12/14/07 05:27 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
DeepElem Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/27/06
Posts: 367
Loc: USA
jazzwee, great topic !!!

This is all I'm trying to learn, and I am finding it very difficult. I see slow progress, but man is it painful.

I have a million questions, but I'll hold off and see where this thread goes.

One idea, I do see the classical people have threads that are "Study Group" for a certain piece. Do you think that might be something we could do with this style of learning ? Maybe pick some classic song (eg Misty or something like that) and go through all kinds of things one may do when playing the song in a solo piano style ?
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#1037279 - 12/14/07 05:27 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by pastafarian:
Hey jazzwee, thanks for hangin' out with us mortals in the ABF! Many of us are refugees from the classical battlefields and are trying to learn to play what we hear in our heads.

I have a question for you: in learning to "swing" do you think it helps to play with metronome beats on 2 and 4, versus on every beat? [/b]
Hey Pastafarian, yes that's how I was taught. Set the metronome to beats 2 and 4. I think this mostly helps to keep time though and train one to have this feeling of falling on the beat impulse.

However swing itself is a more complicated topic. Music readers will interpret swing as a dotted eight note + a sixteenth. In actual playing, that sounds hokey. You'll start sounding like Lawrence Welk (pardon me Welk fans). \:\)

Many modern players actually play straight eights and rely on accenting on the offbeat as well as dragging the beat to have the swing effect. The actual size of the notes in a swing pair can vary so much and the accenting plays such a big picture here that it's hard to have a formula.

BTW - compare the way Bill Evans in those videos swing compared to Hiromi and Jarret who mostly play straight with accents. Evans has a more uneven 8 note pair.

There are so many styles here so one has to rely on listening and then copy someone you like.
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#1037280 - 12/14/07 05:32 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by DeepElem:
jazzwee, great topic !!!

This is all I'm trying to learn, and I am finding it very difficult. I see slow progress, but man is it painful.

I have a million questions, but I'll hold off and see where this thread goes.

One idea, I do see the classical people have threads that are "Study Group" for a certain piece. Do you think that might be something we could do with this style of learning ? Maybe pick some classic song (eg Misty or something like that) and go through all kinds of things one may do when playing the song in a solo piano style ? [/b]
This is a great idea! One of the basic tunes to learn in jazz is Autumn Leaves. Beginners can play it with a single scale and it can be a great source of study of everything from voicings to soloing.

BTW - I look at this thread as more of generating an initial interest. Perhaps from here we start more specific threads. There are many jazz experts on this forum, they're just being quiet. They're all over the place, sometimes in the the Digitals forum, Piano Forum, Pianists Forum, and Non-Classical.

Maybe this will energize them all to provide some input.
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#1037281 - 12/14/07 07:06 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
deeluk Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/25/07
Posts: 163
Loc: Fort Collins, CO
 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzwee:
 Quote:
Originally posted by deeluk:
Tim Richards advocates starting with the Blues where the form is much simpler and building your improv skills and hand independence. Then, you move into jazz which is more freeform and the chord changes become much more complex. [/b]
This is certainly a valid way to get into jazz. In fact I started on Blues too. Actually, I probably started the noodling way first like SH. Blues is more structured than noodling.

One thing about blues that one learns to apply later in advanced jazz levels is that Blues is a lot about repetition (call and response). In improvisation, this repetition is important. I remember in my earlier attempts at soloing and when I listen to my recorded work, I saw that I had too many notes. Sometimes a coherent message is simple, not necessarily fast, varied in structure, and memorable. I learned it takes some repetition to be memorable. Blues gives a nice platform to try this stuff out. [/b]
Yup, that's definitely one of my biggest problems as a beginning improviser, I tend to play too many notes. I definitely don't have the hang of inserting some silence. Or repeating a phrase. At this point, I'm lucky if my improv follows the chord changes, and ends when it's supposed to. I often find myself getting lost. I feel like if I just get a few more notes in, it might sound better... I can't imagine what would happen to me if I were trying to improvise over a set of jazz chord changes. Guess that's why I'm still working away on IBP and not on EJPv1.

jazzwee, sounds like you're much further down the path to becoming an accomplished jazz pianist. I'd love to learn, hear about how you've progressed. Anything. Great thread!

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#1037282 - 12/15/07 01:13 AM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
deeluk, you are absolutely right in describing this path. It's a hard path. I'm not sure there some day that you just "get it". It does come in spurts like anything else but it seems that as you do it more and inject the proper rules in there, it seems to get better every day.

Now I'm not claiming to be an expert, that's why this forum is perfect since we're all growing here. But I've been through it and good teachers have ensured that I haven't strayed. So I will give you some of the stuff that I've learned relating to soloing over chord changes.

I think my improvs started to sound better when I clearly heard the chord changes in my head. So my teacher always promoted this hearing/teaching your ear process.

First of all, he focused me on playing only Roots/7's on the LH. No matter how complex the chord, you play a 1/7. So except for the quality of the 7 (maj7 or b7), you don't pay attention on the LH to Gm7b5, Gm7, Gb7. The left hand is always the same for all of them. BTW - it's very easy to play any tune in the real book just using a shell 1/7 voicing.

Now on the RH, when you're first soloing, you start out hitting the important chord tones. Since the left hand is already covering 1/7, the remaining important tones are 3 and 5. So you take any complex tune, and just play LH as I describe and then play just the third as a whole note.

The quality of a chord is really described mainly by two tones, the 3rd and the 7th. So if you just go through this exercise over and over, your brain starts to guide your tone preferences as it hears the musical flow. 3/7's are referred to as guide tones for this reason. They outline the flow of the harmony.

So after awhile, even in a complex tune, you begin to tend to favor the correct chord tones. I don't know what happens but it works. Then even if you play an extension or a note out of the scale, you use it only as a stepping stone to get back to the chord tone.

I remember doing this first on the tune "All the Things that You Are", which has a lot of modulations and can be hard for a beginner to solo on. This is a tune BTW where the melody is mostly on the 3rds anyway so once the connection is made between the location of the 3rd of each chord in your brain, and on your fingers, some connection seem to be made and now I don't think much about it. This is now an easy tune to solo on.

So in this exercise, your brain is taught to focus on root, 3rd and 7th. Now the 5th is easily connected in our brains for some reason and it just fits right in during the solo without any seeming extra effort.

Anyway, the result of all this is that if you know the chord, you are less likely to lose your place in the solo. As one gets more adept at this, you start to get more time to think about things like space, and phrasing, and rhythmic playing. It's hard to get to that point until your fingers can find the shape of the scale and the chord within microseconds of seeing the chord changes.

...As a side benefit, playing LH 1/7 is a big part of solo jazz piano. So this exercise actually pays off later on.
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#1037283 - 12/15/07 05:52 AM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Odyssey Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 11/05/07
Posts: 7
I'm all in for this thread \:\)

Recently I tried do find someone for doing excercises together on skype but it didn't work out. So if you are interested write me a private message to exchange skype id's.

The goal in these exercises is to have more fun in interval basics. Like call and response, also for rhythmic ideas... Come on guys \:\) it is also wonderful ear training...

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#1037284 - 12/15/07 12:02 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Les Koltvedt Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/13/05
Posts: 3195
Loc: Canton, MI
I'm in on this...we could pick Misty, Autumn Leaves, Green Dolphin Street, Satin Doll. I'm working with a teacher that's trying to show me the way. Really like the Vince Guiraldi, Errol Garner tones...simple 3 piece groups, you can hear the chord changes, which really sounds nice.
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#1037285 - 12/15/07 12:11 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jotur Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/16/06
Posts: 5658
Loc: Santa Fe, NM
I'd like to do this, too - any of the above Monster pieces would do for me, except - ignorance admission - I don't know Green Dolphin Street. Maybe Autumn Leaves first - tho I really like Satin Doll, too - someone here recently posted a nice recording \:\)

Cathy
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#1037286 - 12/15/07 12:18 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1916
Loc: Netherlands
I think improvising is actually really easy, although you have to restrict yourself. It's unrealistic to expect you can improvise like Keith Jarrett when you're just starting out.

The suggestion to take a tune like Autumn Leaves and just play 1-7 in your left hand is an excellent starting point because it's very simple. If you pile on too much theory at once, your brain will never be able to keep up.

Maybe we should start an Autumn Leaves study group where everyone submits recordings of their improvisations (preferably MIDI so the others can see what you played, although MP3 is fine), along with a description of what they did.

I think it won't do much good to delve deep into theory right away because that will just stifle your creativity.
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#1037287 - 12/15/07 12:49 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Mike A Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 521
Loc: So.Cal.USA
Definitely a topic I'm interested in.
 Quote:
Originally posted by jazzwee:
... I remember in my earlier attempts at soloing and when I listen to my recorded work, I saw that I had too many notes. ... [/b]
I've started working through a book by Hal Crook, "How to Improvise: An Approach to Practicing Improvisation," and the very first lesson is what he calls the "play/rest" approach, forcing you to not play notes all the time, focusing very consciously on the rests, sometimes for several measures at a time. Very helpful. Also tough to do.

Something I read once in an article about Miles Davis:

"[Miles Davis's] solos, whether ruminating on a whispered ballad melody or jabbing against a beat, have been models for generations of jazz musicians. Other trumpeters play faster and higher, but more than in any technical feats Mr. Davis's influence lay in his phrasing and sense of space. 'I always listen to what I can leave out,' he would say."

"The piano is the most orchestral of instruments. It is difficult for improvising pianists to learn to leave out some of the many notes at their disposal. The power of the sum total of 88 keys becomes a sort of drug, like political power. Miles Davis once advised addicted piano players to join what he called 'Notes Anonymous.'"

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#1037288 - 12/15/07 12:52 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Mike A Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 521
Loc: So.Cal.USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by mahlzeit:
I think improvising is actually really easy, ... [/b]
If only!

I think improvising is fairly easy if you're using mostly diatonic chords, but jazz relies so heavily on chromaticism that you can't really get away with that and have a true "jazz sound."

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#1037289 - 12/15/07 12:56 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Mike A Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 521
Loc: So.Cal.USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by deeluk:
... Tim Richards advocates starting with the Blues where the form is much simpler and building your improv skills and hand independence. Then, you move into jazz which is more freeform and the chord changes become much more complex. [/b]
I think that a trap that's easy to fall into is to get so attached to the blues scale that you never leave it. As powerful and great-sounding as it is, it can start to sound very repetitive.

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#1037290 - 12/15/07 01:14 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
 Quote:
Originally posted by Mike A:
 Quote:
Originally posted by mahlzeit:
I think improvising is actually really easy, ... [/b]
If only!

I think improvising is fairly easy if you're using mostly diatonic chords, but jazz relies so heavily on chromaticism that you can't really get away with that and have a true "jazz sound." [/b]
+1. It's easy to play something. It's hard to make a statement. Never mind sounding like Keith Jarrett. Even doing it slow like Miles Davis isn't easy.

I was listening last night to an MP3 of a jazz amateur that has been playing for many, many years. He was good. His notes were so simple and lots of quarter notes mixed in and good space. If you transcribed it, you would it was easy to copy. But you can see where the years have made an impact on his phrasing and swing.

This is the part that's hard to discuss over the internet.

Swing and phrasing and Rhythm are an extremely important level to jazz playing. Knowing which notes to pick is easier. Knowing which notes not to pick is even harder.

Regarding whether theory should be discussed or not, there's a minimum level of understanding needed to play jazz. It's no different than classical. You have to know your scales. And you have to know the intervals. From that one can learn chords. But I don't believe there's any shortcuts.

If we take the shortcut then we are ear playing and the discussion will be limited.

As an example, if we were to discuss how to play autumn leaves (without sheet music), we would have to understand what playing a 1 and 7 is on the LH and a 3 and 5 on the RH. Without at least this minimum of description we just have a bunch of memorized notes and we would never be able to play anything, at anytime, without sheet music.

Maybe we start there. Maybe we start explaining what it is we're talking about with 3rds and 7ths of a chord.
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#1037291 - 12/15/07 01:33 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
mahlzeit Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/24/06
Posts: 1916
Loc: Netherlands
I don't disagree with any of the above yet still claim that improvising is easy.

Improvising in a particular idiom such as jazz obviously requires one to be familiar with the rules and techniques of that idiom, and that can sure take many years to learn (I'm only a beginner myself).

But in the end, improvising is just inventing a melody on the spot. If you can whistle you've probably whistled a tune and then -- maybe unconsciously -- turned it into a variation on the original tune. I claim that everyone can do that, and that many people already do that. That is improvising.

Can you listen to a jazz record and whistle (or hum or scat) your own melody line on top of it? If yes, then you can already improvise.

Getting it into your fingers so you can do it on the piano, with full chords, is obviously a lot harder than whistling, but that's "just" a matter of technique.

Maybe we should provide a backing track with just the Autumn Leaves changes and then have everyone whistle on top of it. \:\)
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#1037292 - 12/15/07 01:41 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Mike A Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 521
Loc: So.Cal.USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by mahlzeit:
... But in the end, improvising is just inventing a melody on the spot. .... [/b]
Very important point. Too often improvisation instruction is not melodically focused (esp. chord/scale theory - CST - if used in isolation).

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#1037293 - 12/15/07 01:47 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Serge88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 775
Loc: Canada
"Can you listen to a jazz record and whistle (or hum or scat) your own melody line on top of it? If yes, then you can already improvise."

No I can't... but I can whistle the melody and add a note or two.

Maybe I should get a book 'How to compose for dummies'.

Serge
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#1037294 - 12/15/07 01:50 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Mike A Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/08/06
Posts: 521
Loc: So.Cal.USA
 Quote:
Originally posted by Serge88:
... I can whistle the melody and add a note or two. [/b]
Actually a very worthwhile approach to improvisation ... the embellished melody.

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#1037295 - 12/15/07 01:59 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
pastafarian Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 379
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by deeluk:
... Tim Richards advocates starting with the Blues where the form is much simpler and building your improv skills and hand independence. Then, you move into jazz which is more freeform and the chord changes become much more complex.
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I think that a trap that's easy to fall into is to get so attached to the blues scale that you never leave it. As powerful and great-sounding as it is, it can start to sound very repetitive.
I think that's an assumption that people automatically make when they hear the term "Blues" used.
Tim Richards uses the term to describe the classic 1,4,5 chord structure of the examples in IBP, but actually uses the blues scale (which he equates with the minor pentatonic scale for the purposes of IBP) very little.

The first explicit mention of the scale occurs on page 119, during a discussion of tritones in the context of LH R7,37,73 shell voicings which are used as the initial LH part in his arrangement of "Blue Monk", which begins --two pieces ahead of where I am now-- a discussion of "horizontal" and "vertical" improvisation. Up until now, the improvisational ideas have come predominantly from Mixolydian scales, not the blues scale, albeit incroporating flattened 3rds and 5ths where necessary.

It's a huge section with many assignments including one on an introduction to pseudo-srtide LH and creating walking bass lines and the horizontal/vertical stuff. I plan to stop before tackling it and work on fluency with what has gone before (triads, sixth chords and 7th chords) in 8 keys.

It seems to me that Richards wrote IBP specifically to teach improvisation in a harmonically simple environment in order to prepare the reader for jazz improv, to which he has devoted two additional volumes.
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#1037296 - 12/15/07 02:18 PM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
Serge88 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/27/06
Posts: 775
Loc: Canada
 Quote:
Originally posted by pastafarian:
[QUOTE]
It seems to me that Richards wrote IBP specifically to teach improvisation in a harmonically simple environment in order to prepare the reader for jazz improv, to which he has devoted two additional volumes. [/b]
I disagree, this is a great book but it doesn't show you how to improvise, it teach some blues tunes, licks and blues accompaniement.

Serge
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-Keith Richards


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#1037297 - 12/16/07 01:09 AM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
It's funny listening to arguments about the "Proper" way to learn to improvise. Let's discuss some of them...

1. Learn a ton of licks in all keys. Transcribe solos.

2. Chord Tone outlines and upper and lower neighbors

3. Embelish the melody.

4. Learn all major scales, melodic minor scales and all the modes and apply it to each chord.

Which is the correct way?

All of them are correct! Each person will gravitate to one or more of these methods and as long as one focuses on and goes all the way.

If you like your way, in the book "Metaphors for Musician" by Randy Halberstadt, it is recommended that you stick with it. He says there is no right or wrong way. Any method will work as long as you're dedicated to it.

One my teachers was more focused on #1, while another was focused on #2 and #4. Each of them believed strongly that their methodology works. And I'm sure based on their own personal experiences it did.

Regardless of the methodology, once one listens to enough jazz, especially from the masters, you start developing that critical ear, I think.

Others can comment but from what I know now (which in the scheme of things isn't much ;\) ), a good solo is probably 75% swing and phrasing and only 25% note selection.

This is why you can make a suprisingly good solo with just the use of 4 chord tones. Add a few neighbor tones on the offbeat, slow it down, give it a lot of space and you'll sound absolutely musical. Sounds simple so far.

Now until you start to apply swing here and jazz phrasing, it won't have the propulsion that you hear from the jazz masters.

Teachers devote a lot of time to teaching swing and jazz phrasing. If anything requires a teacher in jazz it is mostly this IMHO.
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#1037298 - 12/16/07 01:27 AM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
jazzwee Online   content
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/25/07
Posts: 7115
Loc: So. California
I see many of you want to work on a specific tune like Autumn Leaves or Satin Doll.

I would recommend Autumn Leaves first because it can actually be played using one scale. All the chords are diatonic to one key. However it is interesting because you would be switching between a major ii-V-I and a minor ii-V-i. It can be taken to a higher level as well because different scales can be used as you get advanced. In fact, you could use a lot of different scales here at the highest level and have a multitude of note choices.

There are two common versions of Autumn Leaves, one is in the key of G (Em), and the other one is Bb (Gm). Note the reference to the major key and its relative minor key. Both are used in the tune. I would recommend the version in the key of G (Em) because it uses more white notes, and is the more available leadsheet (Real Book 6th Edition uses G (Em) ).

Just a little background on my earliest jazz lessons...As I mentioned earlier, I started with Autumn Leaves. At first, I didn't know anything including how to construct a chord so my teacher wrote the voicing of every single chord. I just played the melody by ear. I couldn't read a lead sheet music at the time.

Anyway, I'm amazed that many years later, there's still something to be learned from Autumn Leaves. If you play Autumn Leaves in all keys (not a bad exercise), you'd have practiced every 2-5-1 in major and minor. Can't beat that! You could learn to play this tune as a solo piano tune or as a combo tune.

What you learn in this one tune could be applied to the vast majority of tunes in the Real Book. In fact, if you know how to play Autumn Leaves, Satin Doll should be a piece of cake.
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#1037299 - 12/16/07 07:29 AM Re: Jazz Improvisation/Solo Piano
LaValse Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/21/07
Posts: 1225
Loc: Mumbles, Wales
Hi jazzwee,

Excellent thread. I like this style:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG8wEzl2qCk&feature=related

Do you know if it's a named style...? Sorry - completely ignorant this end... \:\)

Free jazz?
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