Vanilla chords for Jazz students
So many beautiful pieces to learn and so many chords to master. It's a real problem for beginning jazz students. Lester Young, the legendary sax player of the 1940's, is known to have requested or demanded that the pianist play the "vanilla chords." "Forgot the fancy reharmonizations, just give me the vanilla chords; I'll decorate the harmony." Or something to that effect. It was a story told to me many decades ago. So, here are the vanilla chords for hundreds of jazz standards. Let it be your guide to taking the harmony back to a more manageable level.
Me: What was Lester Young referring to when he said play the vanilla chords?
ChatGPT: Lester Young was known for his distinctive and influential saxophone playing style in jazz music. There are a few different stories and interpretations of what he meant when he referred to "vanilla chords."
One interpretation is that Young was encouraging his fellow musicians to stick to the basic, fundamental chords in a song, rather than adding too many complicated or unusual harmonies. In this sense, "vanilla chords" could be understood as simple and straightforward chords that provide a solid harmonic foundation for improvisation and soloing.
Another interpretation is that Young was referring to the use of the basic major and minor chords in a blues progression. In this context, "vanilla" could be seen as a metaphor for the basic, essential ingredients of a blues song, and Young was emphasizing the importance of staying true to that traditional form.
However, it's worth noting that the exact phrase "vanilla chords" does not appear in any known recordings or transcripts of Young's performances or interviews. So the meaning of the phrase remains somewhat elusive and subject to interpretation.
Seven steps to learning a new piece of piano music.
If I can help you further, call me.
There are sixty jazz chords that you will need to recognize by ear. The ability to hear them, sing them, and play them will form the cornerstone of your jazz improvisation and aural recognition of jazz chord progressions.
1. Major 7th
2. Dominant 7th
3. Minor 7th
4. Minor 7th b5
5. Diminished 7th
Five types, 12 keys = 60 chords.
These exercises will help you get there. If I can help you, call me.
Aural Skills, Musical Rudiments, and Sightreading--The overlooked elements of Musicianship
The elements of musicianship, namely aural skills, musical rudiments (“theory”), and sightreading are often neglected in musical study because students are busy grinding away on their instruments. However, musicianship skills facilitate the learning of new music and instrumental mastering. Aural skills help the students hear internally what they are reading, rudiments help them see the musical patterns within the composition, and sightreading skills make learning a piece of music much quicker. Therefore, when students spend equal time on musicianship studies, they perform with greater insight, security, and finesse in a shorter amount of time.
When musicians perform prepared memorized pieces, they play by ear, even if they learned the piece by reading. The primary elements of aural training are recognizing: intervals, chords, scales, rhythmic and melodic dictation, and playing back short melodies by ear. These aural skills allow the musician to, among other things, connect what they hear with what they are playing, and thus greatly increase the accuracy of their performance.
Musicians who understand the structural elements of their pieces and the relationship of these elements to the sound they are making have a firm grasp of musical rudiments because understanding how tonality, rhythm, form, dynamics, and articulations interact in a score will inform the student’s ability to play idiomatically. Furthermore, a student who understands rudiments can make musical sense of the score in a shorter time.
Students are always keen on learning a piece quickly and skilled sight readers can do this, whereas unskilled sight readers grind away endlessly to learn their music. Skilled sight readers use their aural skills and strong rudimental knowledge to make sense of the music “on the fly,” allowing them to learn quickly and/or play with others in group settings.
Students love to play; they mostly hate to study. They signed up for the fun of making sounds they recognize, so they often must be convinced that the shortest route from A to B is not in grinding, but in mastering these “boring” elements of musicianship: aural skills, musical rudiments, and sightreading.
If I can help you on your musical journey, call me.
This blog was written by a human.
FYI: Page two contains the diminished 7th chord.
What should a Royal Conservatory of Music piano student practice each week according to Shakespear?
A Royal Conservatory piano student's goal,
Is mastering the art of playing with control.
Begin with scales and arpeggios in hand,
To warm up fingers and help you understand.
Next, pieces chosen with purpose and care,
Played often, so the music's easy to bear.
Technical studies such as Hanon or Czerny,
Can help you play with dexterity so cleanly.
Sight-reading and ear training are quite a treat,
To build essential skills and make progress sweet.
Choose challenging repertoire to extend,
Your capabilities, and become a true friend.
Lastly, review and refine what you've learned,
So your piano skills will be well-earned.
A Royal Conservatory piano student's way,
Is to practice each week, with dedication and play.
Listening is pracitcing
Coming up on March 4, 2023, I will be performing with the Toronto Concert Band as a pianist and percussionist. I practice every day in preparation for, and anticipation of, an exciting evening of music making. The piano part of Cait Nishimua's "Pukaskwa" is challenging. The piano part enters after a tricky rest. My confidence needs a boost. So, I've transcribed the melody that plays in the rest, which, I hope, will make my entrance stronger.
I'll let you know how it turns out.
How to spend an hour practicing for your Royal Conservatory of Music exam. Part 2
Listening (5 minutes) Listen to professional recordings of the piece(s) you will be practicing today and then play your "party piece" or your "goto" piece.
Warm-up (10 minutes) Play your assigned scales, arpeggios, and technical exercises. Multiple repetitions are recommended.
Repertoire (20 minutes) Play your piece(s) focusing on sound quality, phrasing, dynamics, and rhythm. I suggest working on small chunks Later, when you are close to the exam, you should run your program, without stopping, to build endurance.
Sightreading (5 minutes)
Theory (10 minutes)
Ear Training (5 minutes) Review the requirements of the grade.
Conclusion (5 minutes) Review an old favorite
If I can help you, call me.
Question: What are the elements I need to consider, as a musician, to improve my aural skills?
Answer: To improve your aural skills as a musician, you should consider the following elements:
Sounds like the Royal Conservatory of Music curriculum to me.
PIano Practice Guide ChatGPT
Piano Practice Guide
What should I practice to learn piano?
Here are some suggestions to help you learn piano:
Once again good specific advice.
What should a Royal Conservatory of Music piano student practice each week? Please answer in rhyming couplets.
A Royal Conservatory student, practicing piano,
Should aim for consistency, not just a one-time show.
First, warm up those fingers with scales and arpeggios,
Then move on to pieces, to let the music flow.
Technical studies like Hanon or Czerny,
Can help to build dexterity and avoid any injury.
Sight-reading and ear training, don't forget to include,
These skills are crucial and can't be misconstrued.
Challenging repertoire, should be in the mix,
To push your abilities, and you're playing to fix.
Lastly, review and refine, what you've learned so far,
Take your time, be patient, it will take you far.
So Royal Conservatory piano student, keep in mind,
Practice regularly, and you'll see yourself shine.
I may lose my mind.
How should I practice piano?
To practice piano effectively, here are some steps you can follow:
Have fun: Finally, make sure to enjoy the process! Playing the piano should be a source of joy and fulfillment, not stress and frustration.
Not bad. However, recording yourself is missing.
How should I practice jazz piano?
ChatGPT Jan 30 Version. Free Research Preview. Our goal is to make AI systems more natural and safe to interact with. Your feedback will help us improve.
Jazz students are often looking for new chords for the standards they are playing. This blog offers you some suggestions if you are unable to transcribe.
1. The iReal Pro app is a useful source. It doesn't always have the most exciting chords, but it does help you move on from the fakebook.
2. YouTube transcriptions, though not always reliable, will help you explore new harmonic ideas.
3. The Real jazz Solos Book by Hal Leonard is a reliable book to consult.
My wife is preparing for your Grade 3 violin exam. She asked ChatGPT about preparing for the big event. Here are the results.
Hi ChatGPT. What are your recommendations about preparing for a practical violin exam?
ChatGPT. Here are some general recommendations for preparing for a practical violin exam:
Wow, the advice is solid. However, a few things are missing.
10. Listen to professional recordings of your music. This is a proven method employed in the Suzuki music methods. Students need to be able to recognize an incorrect note(s) in their playing.
The advice is all old school except for step five.
BTW, my wife is a professor of education who writes on Ai.
Why be conventional?
This performance of Kansas City by Wilbert Harrison is a fine example of blues boogie woogie accompaniment and soloing. It features a simple rhythmic pattern between the hands and an easy riff-based solo. The one unusual aspect is his choice of key: Db major. (I've provided two written versions for you in Db and C)
4. To create a strong mental impression of how the music will be played follow the score while listening to the video. Notice he plays a heavy accent on beats 2 and 4 in the left hand and aggressively accented chords in the right.
5. Start practicing the score by playing slowly while keeping your attention on the correct fingering of the chords.
6. To get the swing of the music, play along with the video. If necessary, slow the video down.
7. Have fun.
Harrison plays a remarkably similar piano part in his video of Stagger Lee. Can you hear the similarities? The link is below.
If you would like some help with this, call me.
The teacher practices Jazz
Last weekend I went to my first jazz jam with my Vibraphone aka my Malletkat GS Grand. We were a quartet of Tenor Sax/Flute, Vibes, Bass, and Drums. I survived with my dignity intact, but I’ve a few discoveries and confessions to share.
On the plus side, I knew all the tunes from years of playing and teaching jazz piano plus my jazz time and feel is strong.
Here is the practice regime I began to follow to improve my jazz experience.
Tune: Satin Doll by Ellington/Strayhorn
If I can help you with your jazz piano journey, call me.
BTW: In the era of Ai content generation, a human wrote this blog.
Without desire you have nothing" Madame Boulanger
It is a good day to revisit the elements of musicianship. These are the areas of practice and/or reflection that successful musicians and earnest students consider, do, and follow.
1. They listen to professional recordings and mark up their scores in response to what they hear. This is the shortest way to develop stylistic awareness in your playing.
2. Theory helps musicians understand what they are listening to, communicate with their colleagues and teachers, and see the structural patterns within the music.
3. A fine sight reader takes less time to learn a new piece. Furthermore, a fine sight reader can play music for fun, without preparation.
4. Technique is the pillar of success; nothing is worse than hearing music in your head that you cannot execute.
5. Aural skills are ear skills connected with theory skills.
6. Historical awareness is the depth of knowledge and experience a musician/student brings to a project. If you want to play country music you have to know the players, repertoire, and historical styles of the genre, or your performances will always lack insight and finesse. Ditto for jazz and classical music.
7. However, your emotional commitment to the project is the most crucial element of musicianship. You must have faith that, with time, your goals are reachable. Students who follow the curriculum, practice correctly, attend concerts, listen to music, hang with other adults on the same path, seek additional information to support what they learn in lessons, ask questions, and persevere will win.
If I can help, call me.
New Year, New Goals
The real estate coach Tom Ferry, says if you have three or more goals for your business this year, you have no goals. Ditto for piano.
Here are some realistic goals for my students.
Call me, I can help.
There are no secrets to discover as the steps to becoming a jazz musician have already been mapped out by previous generations of musicians and educators. My first suggestion? Don't waste your time online looking for "the secret."
Here are my top five non-secrets to learning to play jazz.
Project suggestion. Investigate the jazz curriculum outlines of jazz colleges and compare. Here is a start.
Jazz in America Lesson Plans through the National Jazz Curriculum - Hancock Institute of Jazz
TRADITIONAL JAZZ CURRICULUM - Jazz Education Network (jazzednet.org)
Yearly Program Study Plan; B.Mus. Jazz | Music - McGill University
Bachelor of Music in Jazz Studies - Education - Capilano University
Jazz Studies (BJazz) | Explore UM | University of Manitoba (umanitoba.ca)
You will note the following areas are common: lessons, theory, ear training, ensemble playing, history, and improvisation.
If I can help you call me, I teach piano, and jazz.
A week in pictures
I wrote this for an adult student preparing for her Royal Conservatory of Music Grade 3 exam. She is working on Clowns by Kabalevsky and needed a short etude to practice her mixed articulations. Passages with mixed articulations are common throughout piano literature.
To utilize this etude for yourself, start very slowly. Eighth note = 60 BPM and work up from there. The video will help you along.
Less stress in piano lessons
This week an adult student came to class in a state of agitation. They were frustrated that they didn't have time this week to practice, and they felt embarrassed.
Five things to consider.
I said, "John, think of this hour as an oasis without responsibilities". That worked, he had a fun lesson. He even sent a thank you email after class.
December 15th, 2022
Learning Blue Bossa in 6 Keys
Lesson to play in 6 keys:
3. Play the melody in the following keys: Cm, Am, Em, Dm, and Gm. Follow the instructions in step 1 after you review the natural minor scales and the major scales ½ step above these minor scales.
4. Now add the chords. To transpose the chords, you must do the following steps. Write out the c natural minor scale: C D Eb F G Ab Bb C. Directly below these letters write the scale of the new key, say f minor: F G Ab Bb C Db Eb F. Be sure the letters line up. C is directly above F and so on. Then, C minor chord becomes F minor chord, F minor chord becomes Bb minor and so on. Write out the scale of Db: Db Eb F Gb Ab Bb C Db and then the scale ½ step above f minor, in this case Gb: Gb Ab Bb Cb Db Eb F Gb. The chord qualities, of course, remain the same.
5. What do we learn?
What to listen for.
Yesterday my student and I listened to the first two measures of each recording. What a revelation. The differences in the performances became more obvious with each listening and these differences were large. I invite you to try the same.
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted percussionist and drum teacher.