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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.”

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

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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.

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

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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!

Continue reading The 7#9 Chord: Possibly the Funkiest Chord Ever

Visual Catalog of 108+ Piano Chords

108 Piano Chords

Here’s an interactive  eBook that I put together as a reference for my Piano Chords 108 series.

 

IMPORTANT:

This book can serve as a stand-alone reference for checking your piano chords.

However:

The sole purpose of my Piano Chords 108 series is to teach piano students how to memorize all 108 of these chords as they appear on the piano keyboard.

Therefore, this catalog should be used, ideally, only to check your understanding of the memorization system taught here.

MORE ABOUT THIS BOOK

Chords are listed alphabetically. Each chord is spelled out by using a simple image (consisting of dots on a keyboard, indicating which keys/notes make up the chord in question).

 


In a nutshell, all the standard three and four-note chords are illustrated.

 


LIST OF ALL CHORD TYPES ILLUSTRATED IN THIS BOOK

 

Major triads (all)

Minor triads (all)

Major 7th chords (all)

Minor 7th chords (all)

Dominant 7th chords (all)

Diminished triads (all)

Diminished 7th chords (all)

Half-diminished 7th chords (‘Minor-7 flat-5’) (all)

Augmented triads (all) Continue reading Visual Catalog of 108+ Piano Chords

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The Blues Piano Crash Course – Lesson #6: More practice & help with two-handed coordination

PREMIUM CONTENT (Lesson #3 is a free sample).

From The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson Six (video) “Put Your Hands Together – Again…”

More tips and practice on two-handed coordination for piano, using notes from the blues.

Continue reading The Blues Piano Crash Course – Lesson #6: More practice & help with two-handed coordination

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Getting All Lydian on the IV Chord

Hello from Kent!

Here’s a scale-related concept that works very well for dressing up the ‘IV’ chord of a major key.

In the key of C major, the IV chord is F; it’s called the ‘IV’ because its root note is the fourth step of the scale.

You might also experiment with this approach over any major chord, such as the ‘I’ (that would be C Major, in the key of C) — depending on the type of sound you’re after.

The scale being used today is called Lydian, which is very closely related to the major scale: only one tone (specifically, the fourth step) is different. My video lesson below goes into depth regarding this intriguing aspect of the Lydian scale (vis-a-vis the Major), and shows you various ways to take advantage of its unique sound.

 


There is a transcription of this lecture, including video timestamps, just below the video itself (edited for easier reading).


VIDEO LESSON


VIDEO TRANSCRIPT

NOTE #1: SOME SECTIONS OF THIS TRANSCRIPT HAVE BEEN REDACTED, IN THE INTEREST OF NATIONAL SECURITY.

NOTE #2: HA HA HA.


0:22
Hi this is Kent, I wanted to give you some raw material for playing some nice fills, when playing the IV chord, such as the F chord in the key of C.

0:38
And in this lesson. The fills that I’m going to be talking about will be based on a scale called the Lydian scale.

0:50

We’ll be talking about the Lydian scale as we go along. And the context of this using this Lydian scale in this lesson would be when you go to the IV chord in a song.

1:06

The I chord in C is C major (the chord).

1:11
The IV chord would be F.

1:15

Okay, so if I’m going from C…to F… (piano playing).
1:37
That’s an extremely common progression, but you don’t necessarily have to be going back and forth between F and C. In this case, in this particular imaginary tune, the sound we’re going to go for is to sort of spice up the IV chord.
1:53
Using the Lydian scale and the Lydian scale fits in this case if I go from F.2:10
Since I’m in the key of C, I can keep this B-natural, and stay consistent with the C major scale.2:22
Accordingly, a scale starting on the note F, which has the fourth step of the standard F major scale raised by 1/2 step, has the sound of Lydian mode. Again, F major has B flat, F Lydian has a raised fourth step…in this case it’s a B here.
2:43
And that B note fits right in the C major scale.
2:50
That means that “F Lydian”is one of the “MODES” of C Major.3:36
We can take advantage of that raised fourth in order get some interesting “motion” inside our F4:10
Notice, if I take a G major chord, which is actually the five chord of C, and I superimpose it over the F chord…
4:20 (wow man)
…kind of wants to move back down to F.
4:24
However, if I did, let’s say an F chord in some other context…
4:29
That’s also a nice spacey jazzy or sounding chord by itself, in many other contexts…..
5:17
And let’s say I covered the F chord down here on my left hand.
5:30
All right, thanks for listening. Have fun with that, and I’ll see you next time!
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FREE Blues Piano Lessons @ Piano With Kent | “The Blues Piano Crash Course” Main Page

A FREE VIDEO-BASED COURSE on the ESSENTIALS of BLUES PIANO IMPROVISATION : ‘The Blues Piano Crash Course’ with Kent D. Smith

‘Piano With Kent’ is a US registered trademark. Although this course is currently free to the public, as published on this site alone, be advised that this entire website, pianowithent.com, and all of its original content is Copyrighted Material. By Kent. D. Smith of Piano with Kent. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

 


Curriculum


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”

 

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)

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.

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)

Free to all, from Kent of Piano With Kent (this site).

 

‘Piano With Kent’ is a US registered trademark. Although this course is currently free to the public, as published on this site alone, be advised that this entire website, pianowithent.com, and all of its original content is Copyrighted Material. By Kent. D. Smith of Piano with Kent. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

Cheers!


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”

 

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)

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Learn all 12 DOMINANT-7th Chords Today

Hello Friends,

Today I’m happy to present the next lesson in my ongoing course, 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.

Today: Learn how to immediately call up the notes to any of the twelve DOMINANT-7th chords on a keyboard — without having to rely on rote memory.  

Coming nextDiminished chords.

THE VIDEO

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Steps to Memorizing Chords: Half-Steps, Whole-Steps, and Thirds

CHORDS 108  | Lesson One: Background Material


Course Reference:

Piano Chord Catalog

 

Welcome to Piano Chords 108!

In this first lecture of the series, students will learn how to visualize and play half-steps, whole-steps, minor thirds, and major thirds on the piano.

Continue reading Steps to Memorizing Chords: Half-Steps, Whole-Steps, and Thirds