4 hours of practice: No Grinding.
Top 5 tips for practicing any musical instrument
General and Jazz Specific Theory
If you would like some help, call me.
Who know hundreds of tunes, in the right keys, at the correct tempo? He never complains, is ready day and night? Doesn't drag or get lost?
Mr. Sunny Bass
Someday I hope to buy him lunch, a small gesture for all the get help he has been to my students.
Poland is a long way to travel to learn with American Jazz Masters Dena DeRose, Miguel Zenon, Aaron Goldberg, Mike Moreno, Ali Jackson, and Luques Curtis.
It was worth every penny for such a transformational experience. Bonus, a beautiful country and people too.
Aaron Goldberg, pianist, was our ensemble leader for the week.
About seven years ago I first attended the Jamie Aebersold Jazz Workshop in Louisville Kentucky as a drummer. I was green but pumped. I was pulled out of the workshop on day one and sent to a room where two instructors waited. Bassist Bob Sinicrope started drilling me with questions. Who are you? Why are you here? Very direct.
I explained I was a piano teacher and musician from Toronto who now played the drums. I had attended Berklee College of Music back in the day… He cut me off. “Who did you study with?”
Ah, Ray Santisi.
“Ray Santisi, I’m his bass player!” We were instant friends.
Which brings me back to Poland and Aaron Goldberg.
After hearing us all play we were put into groups and assigned rooms to report to. A bunch of us showed up, nervously eying each other. Language was an issue. There were 5 Poles, 2 Russian teenager wunderkinds, 1 Chinese Rock Star, and 1 Canadian old guy. We all noticed the room was devoid of music stands.
Aaron walks in. He was a student of Bob Sinicrope! He calls the first tune: Body and Soul. No music. We sing as a group the bass line of the song after much discussion and negotiation. We get it. Then the singer, in halting English, explains it’s in the wrong key. Aaron gives us a new tonic note and low and behold we sing the bass line in a new key. He counts us in. Away we go. I’m glad I’m a drummer that day.
At the concerts during the week, we are the only group playing without music. We play with intensity and conviction born from pure terror. We nail it.
Aaron buys us a bottle of Bison Vodka at weeks end and salutes us all.
Thank you Aaron for valuable insights and the vodka.
Memorize these tunes as your first priority using the method below. This method is based on the wise words of Louis Armstrong and experience of Lenny Tristano. I credit the singing of the chord roots to my week of study with Aaron Goldberg of Yes Trio. What a great insight Aaron presented.
Autumn Leaves https://youtu.be/tguu4m38U78 Key of Gm
Take the A train https://youtu.be/D6mFGy4g_n8 Key of C
Blue Monk https://youtu.be/_40V2lcxM7k Key of Bb
Satin Doll https://youtu.be/Gj42JotNUko Key of C
Blue Bossa https://youtu.be/U7eOs5lERww Key of C minor
C jam Blues https://youtu.be/16UIKglJ56w Key of C
How do I become a great pianist?
An honest question if a tiny bit naïve.
If you are in a great hurry, it is going to be difficult. If you are looking for a “hack” or some shortcut, I don’t know any.
But musicians for centuries have followed a pretty standard set of practices on the road to proficiency.
I'm available to help and encourage you on your journey. Just call me.
"A landmark in jazz studies, 'Thinking in Jazz' reveals as never before how musicians, both individually and collectively, learn to improvise. Chronicling leading musicians from their first encounters with jazz to the development of a unique improvisatory voice." Amazon description.
A worthwhile read for every jazz student for the first hand recounting from master jazz musicians on how they learned to improvise.
If you are feeling stale, try the following exercises.
Have Fun, see you in September.
An Ideal Practice Session
Ear training gives you the ability to conceptualise what you hear, nothing more. There are countless phone apps, YouTube videos, and social media hustlers, and books promising results in short order. Unless you are in possession of perfect pitch and deep prior experiences listening to music, this will take some time. I am 48 years in. I am still working on it.
Ear Training for Jazz Musicians
1. Listen attentively to music. A lot. Ask yourself, "what is going on here?"
2. Listen to a particular solo or piece of a solo until you can sing it. Then find it on your instrument.
3. Sing intervals.
4. Sing broken chords
5. Sing the bass roots of your pieces in time and on pitch.
6. Listen to more music.
7. Record yourself, listen back.
8. Record yourself playing scales with the metronome. Listen back.
9. Record your next band practice, listen back.
10. Sing everything you learn in your theory studies.
This is just a start for pianists. The bass lines created by professional bassists will be more sophisticated that what I've given you here. But this is a start.
These techniques will create a simple left hand walking bass line in Blues. The principals can be used in Jazz standards.
To discover how these lines were created, do the following.
If I can help you further, please call me.
Here is how it works. Swing jazz at slow and moderate tempi plays 8th pair long short with the accent on the short side or upbeat side.
The four videos below can be used various ways. Namely scales and jazz melodic patterns as found in the music of the Bebop era. Swing melodies work well too.
If you need help, contact me, I consult video Skype or Zoom.
My go to podcasts. I listen in the car on my way to classes. One reason I bounce through the door on arrival.
Found on pages 77 & 78
I highly recommend this book to all my Jazz students.
Many Students learn to play blues scales in the normal course of learning an instrument. The question often arises: What do I do with them?
Nothing, unless you want to learn to play the blues. To use the blues scales a student needs to listen to and enjoy blues music! Otherwise they have just learned some interesting sounds from an unknown language! Similar to learning a few words in a language you have never heard or will ever experience. A wasted exercise.
On the other hand let's explore some options on learning a new type of music.
Gary Burton, jazz musician extraordinaire and master teacher is giving a free course on line this month.
I'm taking it. I've watched the introductory videos tonight. Tomorrow I will submit the assignments for peer review. I will also have an opportunity to assess fellow students as they will have of me. It should be interesting.
First main points:
Improvisation is like language. It has a vocabulary which is sounds (chords and scales). A grammar, which is a harmonic progression and your ability to follow it in a logical fashion. And finally, a there is the content. Namely your ability to develop a story, in sound, in real time.
Second main point:
Sounding like a jazz musician through memorising licks is similar to memorising French phrases and heading to Paris. You may sound temporarily like a Frenchman, but it won't take long before your inability to converse becomes obvious.
I look forward to taking this up tomorrow in class with my students.
In honour of Sonny Stitt who showed me this as a kid I present the following. Sonny learned them from Bud Powell.
1. Right hand plays the melody
2. Left hand comps the Be-bop shells of Root/7th, or Root/3rd. Select the more dissonant choice.
3. For a complete PDF file of the left hand chords, click on this sentence.
Check this out.
Bud Powell's Anthropology He plays the head in two hands an octave apart. One of my Berklee teachers, Dean Earl, had me play Charlie Parker Solos like that. During the solo Powell comps lightly in the left hand using what appears to be Sonny's thumbs.
Here is a modest short piece of boogie woogie fun.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted student and teacher of the drums.
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