Jazz improv practice: A nice drill using “approach tones”

Here’s a nice jazzy drill, to give you practice on:

(1) Adding interest to your melody lines,  by sometimes preceding the “target tone(s)” of a chord with “approach tones;” and,

(2) increased mastery of any given scale, especially as it relates to the underlying chords.

As a result, the repeated act of mindfully (and not mindlessly) practicing this drill can increase your general facility with approach tones, as well as give you (possibly new) theoretical insights regarding chord-scale relationships. Dig? You’ll see.

How to Riff on Van Morrison’s “Moondance” – Part 1

 

Today we have two video lessons, either of which is a good introduction to a pretty simple notion, which I sometimes like to call the “melody machine.” With this, I’m not suggesting some big new original conception. On the contrary,  the concept I’m calling the melody machine is about as old as music itself.

If that nickname sounds a little gimmicky, it’s really not meant to be. I actually do call this device a “melody machine,” in my own thinking, part of an ongoing process of internalizing my favorite composition devices. Also, it’s fun to say, just like saying “Lollapalooza” or “Isn’t she pleasant?”

In a nutshell, this lesson shows you certain ways of using an underlying chord progression as a “thought generator” for creating melodic material.

First:

How to Riff on Van Morrison’s Moondance – Part 1

Continue reading “How to Riff on Van Morrison’s “Moondance” – Part 1″

“The Blues Piano Crash Course” Main Page

Course Description

Learn the essential elements of improvising blues piano, including the (minor) Blues Scale, the 12-bar Blues pattern, left-hand grooves, coordination exercises, and plenty of raw material for your own licks.

My goal is for you to start improvising great blues solos!

Although most of this course is in the key of C, there is a detailed lesson that covers transposing the blues scale, and the 12-bar blues progression, into other keys.

Is this what you’re looking for?

Students taking this course should be interested in learning blues improvisation.  Improvisation in blues usually has an underlying structure, a key center, and a chord progression that is being followed.  The rhythm and the chords give us that beautiful sense of a distinct groove, and the soloists do their thing “on top of” that.  In this course, you will learn the basic structural stuff, but you will also be given (taught) the popular raw materials for creating blues licks and melodies in general.  It will be your job to turn those raw materials into original licks.  I can give you expert guidance, hints and tips and raw material, which I do, but in the end, it’s your solo! That’s the beauty of studying improvisation. You get to own it.

Blues-inspired improvisation is at the core of, and will always have an influence on, countless musical genres. The blues scales, blues chord progressions, the “Blue Notes”…these are staples of so much great rock, hip-hop, jazz, country, gospel, and so on. That’s just to name a few of the mega-genres that have “blue blood” in their veins!

We can either forget about, or fail to recognize, the blues roots in so much contemporary music, but it’s everywhere.

So, back to the question, “Is this what you’re looking for,” I would suggest “yes,” because you read this far, still hanging in, after reading what’s what, so therefore you might like the class. That may be an odd conclusion.

Preview: To help you get an idea of how these videos might work for you, Lesson #4 (link below) is currently watchable as a full lesson preview.

Recommended knowledge or experience

  • You will need NO ability to read music (true for this particular course, and for most lessons on this site).
  • Knowing the names of the notes on your keyboard (like E, F#, G) is helpful in this class, but is not absolutely required.
  • We do start out hoping you already play “a bit of piano.”
  • Musicians who are already experienced with another instrument, including blues guitar, can benefit from this course as well. That is, you could potentially (1) pick up some keyboard skills and/or (2) learn new theory stuff and/or (3) get new ideas.

To receive updates of all new posts on this site (including new blues lessons), you can provide your email address here (we never share your address with anyone, period!)

Helpful Course Documents

(Click document’s image below to download or view.)

Catalog of Chords and Scales
Catalog of Chords and Scales (for Blues Piano Crash Course)

 

Recommended Listening
Recommended Listening (Blues)

The Complete Course (video pages w/ text intros)

Lesson One – “The Blues Scale”

Supplemental (optional) from “A Study in Blues Piano” – Licks #1 and #2

Lesson Two – “A Left-hand Groove”

Lesson Three – “Five Must-know Riffing Devices”

Lesson Four – “The Classic 12-bar Blues Progression”

  • Attention visitors: Lesson #4 is available as a full lesson preview.

Lesson Five – “Put Your Hands Together”

Lesson Six – More tips and practice for the Two Fisted Jammer

Lesson Seven – A Walking Bass Line & More Coordination

Lesson Eight – Blue Notes and pitch-bending

Lesson Nine – The Melody Machine

Lesson Ten – Turn-arounds and Endings

Lesson Eleven – Playing Blues in Any Key

end of list (all core lessons)

 

Eastern Scales, Relative Minor, and The Educated Guess

Fellow Theory Geeks,

Even among some good musicians, music theory is occasionally regarded as more of a “nice to know” thing.  Interesting place to visit, but they don’t want to hang around too long.

By contrast, I am shameless enough – dare I say, proud enough – to put forth that I am a music theory GEEK. I like staying “all up in theory land,” and often.

Music theory teaches us WHAT works, and also what CAN WORK.  And, if it AIN’T WORKING, it’s usually easier to know WHY, because you possess a systematic command of how rhythm, melody, and harmony work together.

Notice I put rhythm first. Too often neglected — but I put it first in my musical thinking. More on that in other posts.

OK…If you’ve read this far, I guess we have a quorum! Two geeks is always a quorum in my experience. Partly because it’s so hard to find a third geek, on short notice. Anyway welcome, can I get you some coffee? Orange Julius?*

Continue reading “Eastern Scales, Relative Minor, and The Educated Guess”

New! Optional Sheet Music for “A Study in Blues Piano” (Blues Licks)

Hey!

In response to student requests for sheet music illustrating licks from my video course, A Study in Blues Piano: Focusing on 12 Licks, I have so far created notation for several of the licks.

Today, I have another sheet for you, which I hope will also be helpful.

Remember, sheet music materials are completely OPTIONAL for this class. Blues is an improvisational art form!

Continue reading “New! Optional Sheet Music for “A Study in Blues Piano” (Blues Licks)”

Learn all 12 Major & all 12 Maj7 Chords by Pattern (not by rote)

Today I’m happy to present the next lesson in my ongoing series, Piano Chords 108.

Class Audience: Any musician who’s struggling to memorize the individual notes to all those dang chords on piano or keyboards, and looking for a solution.

Lesson Description: Learn how to immediately call up the notes to any of the twelve major chords — without having to rely on rote memory.  This lesson applies to all twelve major seventh chords as well.

Coming next: The minor and minor seventh chords.

Continue reading “Learn all 12 Major & all 12 Maj7 Chords by Pattern (not by rote)”

Sheet Music: Lick #10 from “A Study in Blues Piano”

I’m just churning out these little sheets…by request…

Here’s a downloadable PDF file of sheet music covering Blues Piano Lick #10, for optional use with my course “A Study in Blues Piano” (all on this site).

Continue reading “Sheet Music: Lick #10 from “A Study in Blues Piano””

Sheet Music: Lick #2 from “A Study in Blues Piano”

 

Here’s a downloadable PDF file of sheet music for Blues Piano Lick #2, for optional use with “A Study in Blues Piano.”

This is entirely optional material, as far as completing the above course is concerned. As I said yesterday, this is a supplement I’m putting together, in response to recent requests that  I’ve had from students who can read music.

Non-music readers:  This course was designed to require ZERO reading of music.  Fear not!

Sheet Music: Lick #1 from A Study in Blues Piano

 

Blues/Improv Students:

How’s yo blues?

I’ve had requests for piano notation covering the blues licks in my course, A Study in Blues Piano.

That course is video-based, and teaches from a chord-based improvisation point of view.

I sometimes resist providing notation for improvisation-focused courses, because it can almost promote blind imitation, rather than creative playing.

That said, I’ve had a couple of convincing requests lately from students who wanted to have sheet music to supplement this class. As a result, I’ve decided to provided some helpful notation for each of the licks. Ain’t no thing man, I feel you. (Wah?)

Okay! Here’s a downloadable PDF file for Lick #1, “Energy.”

After I finish the notation for all twelve licks, I plan to come back and add tutorial text to support the process of playing from each of these sheets.

FYI: All of these upcoming sheets will be directly downloadable from within A Study in Blues Piano – Focusing on 12 Licks.