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.
This week's artwork
From whiteboard notes and exercises I sent to students this week.
Super video demonstration but...
Let's consider the assumptions he is making about you the student/listener.
What is my job?
I prepare students to understand and execute what he is talking about. The first thing we will do is assess your situation and then we'll draw up a logical plan.
BTW: in 2017, I studied with Peter Martin in Rome Italy. He's a great guy and a very skilled musician. When I grow up, I want to play piano like him. FYI. I was in Rome studying jazz drumming with Greg Hutchinson. Greg played in Ray Brown’s last group.
Learning 10 pieces music in 20 hours
Tonight, in concert band we will sightreading 8 to 10 new pieces of music that arrived last night and this morning. I am following this protocol to be ready.
1. I immediately printed the music.
2. I created a new YouTube playlist of the pieces.
3. I studied the scores while listening to the musical recordings. I made note of the tricky bits. I did not necessarily listen all the way through, just enough to get a sense of the part.
4. I put aside all the music I can easily sightread. It will be read for the first time tonight.
5. I have made note of the tricky bits in the three remaining pieces: one measure in one piece, one section in another, and then put the third on the music rack for immediate attention later this morning.
6. I wrote in the stickings on the two easier pieces in the trickly passages.
7. I am preparing to practice the one tricky piece with my pencil, eraser, recording, drumkit, music ready at hand.
I will let you know how it turns out tonight.
Sight Singing Week 2
If you are curious about this, click here.
Creating a "Roadmap"
Creating a "roadmap" gives you a visual representation of the form or structure of a performance. You will discover the: who, what, when, and how much in the recording. This is valuable information. You will learn to count, recognize the instrumentation and more. You will begin to develop an awareness of how musicians organize their performances and recordings.
1. Pick a favorite piece
2. With a pop song listen for the following sections and their order; introduction, verse, chorus, bridge, ending (tag). With a jazz piece, notice how many times they play the "head" or main melody and then note the order of solos. How many times do they play the head after the solos?
1. Make a note on your "map" of dynamics.
2. In a jazz piece, count how many times each musician solos on the form.
3. Do they trade "fours" with the drummer? If you are unsure what this means, click here.
1. Make a note on your "map" of anything interesting you pick up or hear.
Here is a more detailed roadmap that includes a guide to my drum part.
Beginner Blues Solos in Ab major
What is the Blues?
Broken Chord Etude RCM 1 and 2
This etude will help you practice the correct finger patterns for Royal Conservatory Level 1 and 2 techniques. I would play them slooooooowly; hands separately. A metronome is recommended.
Things to notice:
1. The accents
2. The slurs
3. The dynamics
4. The fingering
In the video I demonstrate the hand motions required.
Sight singing is fun when we sing along with something great like the fifth symphony of Beethoven. We might call this tympani karaoke.
Trivia question: What does C jam blues and the Tympani part for Beethoven's 5th symphony have in common?
Arm Weight Etude
This etude will help you to create a beautiful singing line in pieces with slow moving melodies. None of the notes are played with the fingers going up and down in the usual way, it is played all with the arm.
Real Book Blues Party
Chorale Harmony: First Steps
Harmonizing chords using the strict rules of chorale writing (SATB) is a time-honored way to get started with harmony. I'd be happy to help you, just call me.
1. Spacing between SA and AT cannot exceed an octave
2. Range of SATB should be reviewed before starting.
3. Double the root, but never in consecutive voices.
4. No voice crossing within a measure.
5. All chords must have a 3rd.
6. Common tones repeat, most of the time.
Computer realization of the exercises.
How amateurs might up their game in rehearsals
Jazz jamming is fun. Sight reading tunes each week is ok, but it is often difficult for the ensemble to improve because there will not be enough week to week repetition. So, I’m putting forth these suggestions.
The idea is that with weekly repetition, improvements can be heard. Bonus: folks will know what to practice between “jams” while flipping over two pieces each week will keep it fresh.
Look what I found tucked away. You can hear examples in the Bill Evans YouTube video below.
Louis Armstrong key of Ab
Doreen Ketchens, Preservation Hall Dr. John, Rebirth, Al Hirt, Wynton, Tuba Skinny key of F
Fats Domino key of Eb
A fine tutorial for students.
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.