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How to improvise in modal jazz: “So What” by Miles Davis

Attention!

The following post is not just for jazz players!


It seems to me that contemporary modal improv, which had its jazz  birth in the late 1950’s, was a huge influence on the increasingly improvisational rock of the 1960’s, (even when players might not have consciously realized it!), and has never stopped being at the heart of so many great pop/rock/jazz solos until this very day.

This is a brief introduction to the idea of “modal jazz.”  We’re going to look at probably the most famous example of modal jazz, a tune called “So What,” by Miles Davis and Bill Evans.

We’re looking at this piece because (1) it was part of a ground-breaking approach to jazz improvisation and composition when it came out, and it’s still definitive of the modal jazz genre (maybe the definitive  recording?) (2) because “So What” is the best-known track on one of top-selling jazz albums of all time, “Kind of Blue.”

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How to Find Your Way Across the Piano Keyboard Landscape

Here’s a musical overview of your piano keyboard, along with helpful hints for remembering the letter-names of the keys.

 

Linus the Jazz Cat
Linus the Jazz Cat

 

SHEET MUSIC WITH LETTERS 

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Chord Voicings for Jazz Piano (Rootless, Left-Hand, Type A)

Rootless Left-Hand Chord Voicings for Piano – ‘Type A’

“Rootless voicings” on piano (especially for left-hand support) are great for handling big jazz chords that normally can’t be covered by one hand alone. This video tutorial  shows you how to play a rich sounding II-V-I in the left hand, while allowing the bass player (or you, on another beat) to cover the root.

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The 7#9 Chord: Possibly the Funkiest Chord Ever

To all you funked-up rocking hip-hopping bluesy jazzy people out there,

Today’s post features an outrageously funky, bluesy chord which is also used in rock, jazz, and many other places.

This blues-based powerhouse is often called the “Purple Haze” chord, made famous by a Jimi Hendrix song of the same name.  You may also hear it called, more generically, a “Hendrix chord.” (Hendrix did in fact use 7#9 chords in several of his major songs.)

First a SLIDE SHOW, then a VIDEO. Enjoy!

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Blues Piano Crash Course #11: How to play blues piano in any key (how to transpose)

Welcome to the very last lesson of the The Blues Piano Crash Course!

 


Lesson #11


How to Play Blues Piano in Any Key

Learn how to transpose the chords, scales, and concepts you learned in this crash course into other keys.

“All the same things” apply to playing blues in any key.  You will simply be learning the steps needed to move your musical patterns and shapes — that is, the three main chords, the blues scale, your favorite licks, etc. — into any desired key!

Especially good keys for you to learn to jam in are:

C, E*, A, G, B-flat, and F.

*Q: What new key to play in first?

A: For most contemporary keyboard players, I recommend that you first apply the concepts from this lesson (#11) to playing Blues in E.  My main reason for suggesting “E Blues” as your next key to conquer is that most guitar players really like to jam in E.  In standard guitar tuning, the key of E has lots of convenient hand positions, including especially comfortable fingerings for the E blues scale.  I’m sure there are other reasons for the popularity of E in guitar blues, but I think this is a big one. (I’m going by my own limited guitar-playing experience, with that “E is easier theory.”)  But regardless of the reasons, there is absolutely no doubt that E is popular with guitarists and rock/blues bands, so if you’re planning on jamming with guitarists, that’s the first new key for you to learn. (Tip: You can pick “E” up right after, or right along with, your current studies in C — I’m thinking “bilingual” studies here in a sense.).

VIDEO LESSON

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