LearnJazzPiano.com archives: Playing evenly in all 12 keys
dr1keyz -- 05/04/2005, 16:53:25 -- #13542
As a pianist, sometimes I find it difficult to play the same thing, the same way in all 12 keys. I find myself playing variations. Is there a specific way to practice playing everything evenly throughout all 12 keyz?..

Billy -- 05/05/2005, 13:07:42 -- #13565
i think its impossible.  The way i play some chords prohibits me from using the same voicing in a different key. For example, for a Cmaj9, i would play it like this:
CGB/DEGBD, but i play the D and E both with my right hand thumb.

Now say i  were to move it up a half step to a Dbmaj9. I would be unable to play the Eb and F both with my thumb, and my hands arent large enough to comfertably play each note with its own finger, so i have to drop out a note from the voicing.

Although, if you just want to convey the same musical idea throughout all 12 keys without playing exactly the same thing, that is possible, What i do is learn something cool in one key, and then move it up through all the keys, making minor adjustments as needed.

steve w -- 05/05/2005, 14:20:12 -- #13567
I agree with Billy, but I'd take it even further and say that making adjustments in different keys is not only convenient, it's often necessary - musically speaking.

You might find, for instance, that a particular voincing sounds awesome in  one key, but move it to another key and oops, it sounds dense and clanky.

As we all know, key has its own color or shade (some might even say character), as well as a different range on the keyboard (which also influences the ring of a given voicing).

Scot -- 05/05/2005, 14:30:44 -- #13569
Regardless of the differences between keys, we should strive to be able to anything that we do in all keys.  I know a lot of jazzers who will call tunes in strange keys just to throw people off.  Jam/Cutting sessions like that can be stressful unless you've got the personal tools to deal with all keys.

Dr. Whack -- 05/05/2005, 15:17:28 -- #13571
"Regardless of the differences between keys, we should strive to be able to anything that we do in all keys"

Amen.

Barry_UK -- 05/06/2005, 08:23:43 -- #13594
I heard a story that Chris Botti walked out of a NY jam session 'cos some pianist called a tune in B major - not because he couldn't play, rather because he wanted to play, but not with wankers.  I take his point...

CynBad -- 05/06/2005, 11:46:43 -- #13597
Good for him!

Scot -- 05/06/2005, 11:58:52 -- #13599
After listening to some of his music, I'd have to say that the "wankers" comment was to cover up the fact that he probably can't play well in B.  He's sort of a Herb Alpert clone, but not as melodic.  If he ever puts out a jazz recording, I'd be interested in hearing him play something that's not so white-washed.

CynBad -- 05/06/2005, 12:29:52 -- #13603
Well, I guess there are more than 2 sides to every story.
I've actually never heard the guy play.
I do remember a story about Kenny G, I think, who walked out of a jam session because he couldn't keep up.

However, I do think there's a point at which calling tunes in weird keys becomes counterproductive.  Making music should always take precedence over a pissing contest.

dr1keyz -- 05/06/2005, 13:34:44 -- #13605
That is so true...although here in Pittsburgh, we tunes in all 12 ..like cherokee; we start it in B  and every time there is a new soloist, the key goes up and I think it is something that stretches your musically.

Jazz+ -- 05/07/2005, 01:27:32 -- #13610
Chris Botti is a master jazz player, period. These hear-say stories are most likely made up to bash successful players by less successful players, in my opinion.

Regarding playing the same thing, the same way in all 12 keys.
Due to the geography of the black and white keys some shapes are much more ergonomic in certain keys than in others. Some cannot even be reached in some keys by many people. For example many people can reach major 10ths in only some of the 12 positions. Ex: They can reach an F 10th but not a Db 10th. Solo piano voicings in the key of F are often too high or too low in the key of C. A player is more prone to slip playing an Eb blues than a F blues scale dues to their phyiscal pathways on the black and  white keys. Therefore you won't play the same thing the same way in all 12 keys. Also, who divides their time exactly and evenly between all 12 keys when 90% of the standards are usually played in jazz musician's favorite keys of C, F, Bb, G and Eb. I think it's sort of macho thinking that believes something is wrong with you if you are not totaly technicaly equal in every key. Don't get me wrong, I can think and play very well in all 12 keys, I can burn on Rhyuthm changes in all 12 keys, but some keys are more familar and ergonomic than others.
I would rather play an up tempo stride of Sweet Gerogia Brown with the first chord being F7 than B7!  


By the way, the C major scale has to be the least ergonomic of the 12 major scales b ecause it is flat and our thumbs are shorter than the other four fingers.

Dr. Whack -- 05/07/2005, 11:05:50 -- #13614
I'd love to hear you burn.  Are there any recordings we can hear?  CDs? mp3s?

garyinthailand -- 05/10/2005, 08:27:19 -- #13674
I drill in Band-in-a-Box with the same tune or exercise saved in a folder in all 12 keys (only takes a couple minutes). Then I use the "Jukebox" feature to randomly select them one after the other. It's been very good for making me more key-independent.

But, no, I don't think I do the same thing in every key.

Dr. Whack -- 05/10/2005, 12:58:53 -- #13681
I try not to do the same thing everytime I play - but sometimes it I just fall back on my old sh**  - hehe

sdm -- 05/10/2005, 16:46:39 -- #13689
I was interested to note that Bill Evans, in an interview with Marian McPartland (who can play anything in any key – or as she says, “any old key”) when asked if he can play any tune in any key said definitely not.  Now my guess is he could go from key to key any time he wanted but he said with most things it only felt right in 2 or 3 keys.  

That’s no excuse for not learning key-independence of course.

Dr. Whack -- 05/10/2005, 19:00:27 -- #13700
Yeah, I'm sure Bill Evans, as good as he was, wasn't finished getting better when he died:)

Scot -- 05/10/2005, 20:58:58 -- #13701
Obviously there are keys that work better for certain songs, keys that fall into the fingers easier, etc etc etc etc.

That doesn't mean one shouldn't try to do stuff in all keys.

I mean, don't you feel like something is missing if say, you take a song like April In Paris, and you only learn it in five keys?  I like the challenge of learning a tune and playing over it in all the keys.

I don't call blues in B or try out strange keys on the band stand just because I want to throw someone off. I want to sound good so I'm going to play what I know I can play well. But when practicing, I'm going to try and stretch myself as thin as I can get.

Chris Botti- if anyone has a name of a recording where he doesn't sound like a Herb Alpert wannabee, let me know, I'd love to change my opinion about his playing.  When it comes to musicians, I can only comment on the stuff I've heard them play, so I'm always open to hearing new stuff.

joost italianer -- 05/18/2005, 18:20:56 -- #13952
having more time to practice by myself than go out and play with others, are there any files, cd' s or whatever that have bass & drums so I can practice in different keys. I ask this because garyinthailand mentions something like band-in -a box. What is it ? Anybody any idea ? Is there such a thing as music minus one for jazz pianists and is it any good ?

Scot -- 05/18/2005, 19:18:51 -- #13954
Band in teh Box is great. Go to pgmusic.com and buy it- it's cheap and one of the more useful software applications out there for jazzers.

You can also, of course, buy Jamey Aebersold stuff as jazzbooks.com

Copyright © 2005 by Scot Ranney. All rights reserved.
Click Here for more information about performances and clinics. Click Here to sign up for Scot's music announcements.