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

Hello friends!

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.

First, the following links are sponsored ads. When you buy anything on Amazon via any of the ads on my site, I get a small amount for the referral. This helps me keep this site alive, and free to the public. Thank you!

The keyboards in this list are personally recommended by me. They are Yamaha keyboards, which I swear by (no affiliation there).

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

Here’s a nice jazz 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.

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Announcing Kent’s New ‘Piano Chords 108’ Series

I’m excited to announce a new online lesson series, in progress here at Piano With Kent, called Piano Chords 108.

Since my site is blog-like, this course will be published in installments. (That’s also how we did things this summer with “The Blues Piano Crash Course” and “A Study in Blues Piano.”)

Piano Chords 108 (the series introduction  is further below)

Here’s the first few lessons I’ve posted for Piano Chords 108.  As with all full courses on this site, most of this material is premium content (accessible only to supporting members).


Here’s a complete catalog of 108+ chords for checking your understanding:

Companion Piano Chord Reference


THE FIRST FOUR VIDEO LESSONS (MORE TO COME):


Half-Step, Whole-Steps, and Thirds on the Piano

Learn all 12 Major and Major Seventh Chords Together (24 chords)

Learn all 12 Minor and Minor Seventh Chords Together (24 more chords)

Learn all 12 Dominant Seventh Chords Together (12 more chords)


COURSE INTRODUCTION: 

Welcome to Piano Chords 108!

Kent Smith here, your instructor.

This course provides a simple system for memorizing the “108 Essential Piano Chords.”

See the chord symbol, or hear the chord name, and you will know all the notes, with certainty!

Altered and Extended Chords

You’ll also acquire enough knowledge in this class to alter or extend any of those 108 chords. (Jazz students will need this additional skill, for sure.)

In the end, you’ll be able to determine the unique set of notes that define any one of HUNDREDS of chords, on the spot. This impressive accomplishment requires zero rote memorization of any chord. (What?)

Because of the above, my focus on “108” as being the number of chords you will acquire is an understatement. One can see (in the second, more optional part of this course) that the rest of the “standard chord universe” opens right up — as soon as you know how to alter and extend any member of the “Big 108” group.

When it comes to these 108 chords — by far the most common and useful chords in both popular and classical music — you will never again need a chord catalog, chord poster, or web search.

Even though this course has the goal of weaning students off chord catalogs, so to speak, I will definitely include a downloadable picture-based catalog for these 108 chords. Such a reference will no doubt prove useful for checking your understanding of this system. But ultimately, I don’t want you to need any such piano chord reference…

…Because that’s the whole theme and purpose of Piano Chords 108: Lose the catalog (so to speak)!

Here’s the scoop.

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Music Theory “Trivia” Time

Which interval is pictured above?

(a) Diminished Seventh.

(b) Minor Sixth.

(c) Augmented Fifth.

(d) Both A and C are correct, with name depending on the implied key center. They sound the same, by either name.

(e) Both B and C are correct, with name depending on the implied key center. They sound the same, by either name.

(f) The famous “Lost Interval of Egypt.”

THE CORRECT ANSWER  is….

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