here is a discussion about brad mehldau's amazing skill at playing two hands so independantly rather than in  unsion.  
what do you think brad's secret is?

an example is brad's solo piano intro on all the things you are
There are 18 comments, leave a comment.
honestly i don't see what all the fuss is about...
also note that mehldau often writes out complete arrangements and practices them over and over again. i bet the intro on "all the things.." is a written out fugue, which he has practiced over and over again. my experience is, that hand independence becomes difficult when you improvise with both hands. of course mehldau is als a master at this :)
lol, i don't see what all the fuss is about either!
sounds like pretty typical piano playing to me.
i humbly beg to differ. i watched him on tv. he was improvising on both his left hand and his right hand. it was mind boggling. it was like a texture of complex sound.

we're not talking about a simple walking bass pattern on the lh here. he would hit bass notes, jump to do some complex and varying phrases in the middle, while the rh is also doing complex phrases. some contrapuntal. some completely different but doing rhythmic interplay.

this is not a classical piano piece with a memorized music piece. this is like having two jazz musicians playing solo at the same time (one musician in each hand).

jazz+, it was funny what he said in the interview. he said he was in awe of musicians that he saw in new york when he first got there. he then said something about how reaching the pinnacle of one's skill is a goal he realizes is unreachable. and that musicians should be humbled by what they cannot do (he was referring to himself being humbled).

well, i tell you, it truly was a humbling experience watching him. and i apply this not just to music but to anything else that requires supreme skill.
he's a great player, no question about it.  walter norris is better at two handed improvisation, though.

now, how do you get there so you can do something like that?

easy answer: practice it.

analyze preludes and fugues by bach and his comtemporaries (get a book that helps you analyze them) and learn the patterns and rules of that kind of music.  then take those patterns and harmonic rules and apply them to jazz.

remember, bach, mozart, and most of those cats improvised all the time, so to see people getting into doing that stuff again is pretty cool.

the problem is that we are taught, as jazz pianists, that the left hand is for chords and the right hand is for melody.

break out of that mindset as fast as possible!  think about your hands as one big 10 fingered hand.

as an exercise, try playing a melody with your thumbs only.  in your fingers laydown chord tones.  keep the melody inside your fingers.  you'll be amazed at the interesting sounds you get.  

another exercise is to play melodies in the left hand and comp in the right.

do the two exercises above for a few months and you'll be as independant minded as brad mehldau.  

i often enjoy playing with both hands. play an idea in the left, answer it in the right, vice versa, play them together in unison, play them together in harmony, and also try to do more counterpoint melodic stuff within the jazz idiom.

it's a lot of fun, but it takes some work to get there.
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thanks, scot. good advise.

yes the problem is that this kind of playing is not typical of the idiom so there's no easy way to figure it out. there are both harmonic rules and rhythmic rules too.

you know how you all say "listen to the record"? in this case, the sheets of sound require a very well honed ear to even digest. this would be a transcription nightmare.

but your advice is great to just even put some variation on some typical tunes.  

so do you know of specific books that theoretically discuss the harmonic rules of bach, etc. that is applicable to jazz?
what you're really talking about here is contrapuntal improvisation, which i agree is not typical of the idiom, but there are people who do it.  dave peck, for one, as i mentioned in another thread.

i don't think there is anything so magical about it -- just the ability to hear, and then play what you hear, and this depends on having a lot of things (patterns, melodic & rhythmic ideas) under your fingers.  
scot is absolutely right -- you practice it.  you practice the same things in your right hand that you practice in your left hand, and vice versa.  you practice putting things together.
i don't believe you need to go so far as studying counterpoint -- you're not trying to imitate bach.  but yes, there are plenty of textbooks on counterpoint  -- the styles of various centuries.
hmm... "imho, of much more value is studying bach" and other such quotes stand out to me (reflecting on an earlier thread).  maybe not such a “distraction for jazz?”

i've always thought the term "hand independence" was a misnomer as if the hands were truly independent, i'm not sure it would be music.  rather, they are coordinated, either simply, as in shells on 1 and 3 or intricately as in the kind of playing that started this thread.

i too was curious about suggesting hannon as helpful given that from what i’ve seen of hannon the hands are in complete lockstep.  doesn’t seem like that would help much.

i’ve been doing a lot more concentrated left-hand only simply because it is technically so far behind my right.  it both holds back my “big hand” playing (what there is of it) and slows the technical progression of my right.

the “big hand” reference is of course a nod to scot.  i’ve always liked the though of a single, 10-fingered hand (and then you can forget hand independence and work only on finger independence – another misnomer).  the very few times i’ve actually felt this has been great and i think it’s a good way to think of all of this.
i too think of it as a misnomer, imo if the hands were truly independent one hand would be playing one song or piece, and the other another one, say in a different key & tempo, not to mention meter! now, that would truly be hand independence, but distracting!

also people, i probably shouldn't say this but i wish more care would be taken in spelling. i keep a dictionary by my pc & look up words i'm not sure of & guess what? this builds up your "correct spelling vocabulary". of course understandably this doesn't apply to non-native speakers, & typos can occur as well. but it's better for us all to read correctly spelled words!
get into a sax, keyboard and drums type of trio where you have to provide the bass part along with chords and solos.  that will force you to learn hand independence in a hurry.  and it will help you with your solo piano over the years.
"get into a sax, keyboard and drums type of trio where you have to provide the bass part along with chords and solos.  that will force you to learn hand independence in a hurry.  and it will help you with your solo piano over the years."

well, that is not the same as what brad does, though.  playing basslines is a lot different than playing counter-melodies.  yes, basslines are countermelodies, but.......their structure tends to be more constant, and less rhythmically varied(specifically talking about walking basslines).

as far as brad's playing, well, what amazes me the most about him is his sound.  he has created a very original, and contagious sound.  he really epitomizes the evolution and advancement of jazz music.  while he is steeped in tradition, he is constantly pushing forward(although......i would like to hear him go for even more..........i'm craving something really fresh from brad, and i haven't really seen anything lately).  his contrapuntal stuff is great........and it's part of what makes his sound stand out, but, really, it's his sense of timing and melody that create the greatest interest to me.  then again............isn't that what makes so many jazz musicians great?  i think brad's secret to the contrapuntal stuff is what scot said...............practice.  he sheds the stuff, therefore it comes out in his playing.  i also agree that he works some stuff out ahead of, not exact stuff........but, a palette of ideas.  it is amazing, nonetheless, and it's hilarious how it has caught on in the jazz piano world.  to be honest.............if you have listened to brad for a decent amount of time at some point in your's hard to not bring elements of his style into your playing(at least for me).  anyone check out brad with lee konitz?  killin.  brad is so swingin.............
hi,scot because i,m beginner i don,t understand what you mean about your explanation :as an exercise,try playing a melody with your thumbs your finger laydown chord tones.keep the melody inside your finger etc.can you please give little example.thank you !
i have only been playing piano for the last 7 months, and although my desire is to play jazz i've only managed to find a classical teacher... so take my thoughts with that in mind.

i got a couple of cd's lately that i've listened to alot; the new one by brad mehldau and the new one by mike ladonne. i put them both in an mp3 player so i'm not sure who played what i'm about to describe.
"he" was playing a break and did a run up the keyboard that sounded very strange , it was like a scale that flatted itself as it went. (not a very good description) it sounded strange, but worked. it sort of gave and released tension with every note played. i started trying to figure this out, and came up with this.  

i started playing two different major scales at the same time. one in each hand. some sound better than others. try playing the "c" major and the "e" major simultaneously and you'll get the idea. i guess they probably harmonize each other or something. i think this might be useful in the quest for independence, but like i said i'm green.

what you've just experimented with, and 'dicovered', it bitonality! (playing in two keys at once). if you play the same scale in both hands (i.e. a major scale). the interval between the two notes will never change...c and e will always have a minor 6th / major 3rd interval so naturally sound harmonious. play a minor 9th or major 7th and see what you think of that ;)

see if you can locate a time / track and definite recording for the run you described...maybe someone can have a listen and tell you what he's doing.
zram: what you're doing when plaing a c major and e major scale simultaneously is playing major thirds spelled out as tenths. this gives a harmonically rich sound which is often used in stride style.
bitonality! cool i liked what he did and will look tonight and see if i can pin-point the spot. i've just begun messing with it and find it very interesting. i'll try some other combinations of scales. i know bb was interesting against a d. i have a long way to go.
when you're playing bb against d, you will do exactly the same thing :)
ultimately, bb against a d (major 3rd, minor 6th, major 10th, however you play it) is the same as c against e and will give much the same 'colour', which is why you liked both of those combos.

have fun experimenting!
[we posted at the same time :) ]
i've recently been working a tiny bit on the version of "countdown" from the vv date of "art of the trio" (vol. 2, i think).

even though it's not super-technical, it's truly a fascinating piece of music -- the lh is really making some statements.  even though it's slightly difficult to notate, it's pretty easy to hear where the lh is "speaking up."  

part of a great tradition in jazz, including (for lh) phineas newborn jr's blues for the lh, johnny smith's contrapuntal (sort of) version of "how about you," and lennie tristano's stuff.  a lot of fun.

i think the early bob james (on the album from 1963 or thereabouts with the great trio version of "moment's notice") might have dipped into this territory as well, but maybe not.
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