just wondering if any of you cats can give me some advice on practicing through fast tunes.
i was at a jam the other night and they called out mr. pc. i said to myself "well alright, its just a minor blues....but once we started going.....i found myself trying to tap my foot along each beat....and while i was improvising, i started getting stiff, couldn't get any good lines happening, and nothing was in the pocket.......in terms of practicing, some ppl tell me to put the metronome click on beat 3, some tell me to put it on beat 1 and 3, or just on beat 1....do any of you tap your foot during fast tempos???..........any advice????

There are 12 comments, leave a comment.
the best way to practice fast tunes is to play them slow!

if you can't execute stuff on the tune at a slower tempo then you don't stand a chance when it's really quick.  also, if you're not used to playing at high tempo, even relatively simple changes like blues can catch you out.

i would advise that you take mr pc as an example, put it in band-in-a-box if you have it (or just work with your metronome if not) and start at about 180 bpm.  if you aren't comfortable at this tempo then slow it down until you get a speed you feel happy with.  

when you feel comfortable with playing over the changes at that tempo, crank it up another 10bpm and do the same again.  don't increase the tempo though until you are comfortable.  eventually you should be able to build up to somewhere around the recorded tempo (around 240bpm if memory serves).

there aren't that many tunes that are played really quickly, but there are some, like mr. pc, tune up and ladybird that will crop up from time to time.  you'll find that at these tempos, you don't have as much time to contemplate ideas so you'll find yourself relying more on licks and tricks that you can play without thinking than you would in a medium swing tune.  

if you don't have a bag of licks that you can fall back on then you may want to start developing one.  they don't have to be licks you've transcribed necessarily, you can invent your own if you wish but they sure as hell will buy you some time on an up-tempo number.

hope this helps.
going over the problem spots slowly, i seem to have figured out a trick for learning fast tunes that works great for me.

no matter how you want to learn a fast tune, the first step is having the discipline to learn it very slowly at first.  without that discipline, not only will it be more difficult to play fast tunes, you'll probably learn bad habits if y ou don't practice slow, and bad habits are very difficult to get rid of (fingerings, wrong notes, bad phrasing, etc).

that same discipline is how the great pianists learn tunes, harmonic patterns, and virtually everything else they do.
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

Scot is available for skype jazz piano lessons (and google hangouts, phone call, etc...)
Use the contact link at the top of the page.
don't tap on all four beats at fast tempos, tap fast tempos in cut time: tap on 1 and 3

also play with a light touch while keeping the fingers very close to the keys. don't think you have to play all eighth notes, combinations of longer note values works well too. you don't need to play every chord either.
play your solo at half time. so if the tune is at 200bpm, playing half time at 100 is very relaxing. no panic. you can burst occasionally but no need to go full blast all the time. you will find you will be more melodic when playing at half time and just remember that playing something fast doesn't make it necessarily more musical. at 200+bpm you'll just be on autopilot following chord changes. basing your solo on half time will generate more ideas. and don't forget to breathe (being a fast tune, you can breathe a little longer than on a slow tune).
although i usually play half fast (couldn't resist) i find that once i know a tune, learing to play it quickly is just a matter of doing it.  i  set the metronome where i want it and go - slop and all.  it's usually just a matter of learning how to think quickly.  after a little while, a tempo that seemed ridiculously fast will seem quite ordinary and my playing adjusts itself.  

i also noticed this when i went to the batting cages with my son.  he was teeing of an 80 mph pitching machine - so i thought i'd give it a try.  ther frist several pitches hit the backstop before i even knoew they were coming.  after a minute or two i was actually hitting the ball - the pitches seemed to have slowed down.  

i think the same happens with playing quickly - don't get hung up on it, just do it.  it's not nessecarily more challening, it's just different.  once your used to it, it's a piece of cake...(providing you've done your homework and practiced your butt off - as scot mentioned)

i'll also second jazz+ in that playing lighter and not thinking of every beat are really the key.
(damn typos)
at fast tempos i don't even really think about the 1 of every bar at all, i think more about the 1 of every fourth bar. for a blues like mr. p.c. i would think of it, or rather try to feel it, as three 4-bar sections.
did you mean to say the 1 of the first measure of each new four bar phrase?
yes, i didn't word that quite right, but that is what i meant.
often when i have trouble finding the pocket on a fast tune, i find it's because my left hand is getting in the way. if i drop the left hand for a while i can concentrate better on my solo. when it starts to come together, then i can start adding chords again gradually. or sometimes i don't. it's not always necessary to play chords.
play the melody slowly with no harmonic accompaniment, and no left hand.  play it just like that over a period of several days, or maybe a week.  even if you are not a good singer, you should feel that you can "sing" the melody.

then, play a bass line for the tune.

play a bass line for the tune over a period of several days, or maybe a week.  realize that even though you are not yet adding in harmonic accompaniment, when you add in a bass line, you are defining the simplest harmony.

put the two together.  forget about harmony (forget about the "chords")  

see if you can make something beautiful from just the melody and the bass.

go very slow.

when it starts feeling good and sounding cool, add in some harmony chords.

resist the temptation to play fast.

the goal is not to be able to play the thing fast, but to play it good and nice even if you play only the melody, or only the melody and harmony.

try to avoid playing any note without first knowing why you are playing it.

after a while, your brain will start to suggest to you how easy it will be for you to expand your technique and art so that you start to play the thing like a jazz pianist.

then, you'll be able to play a simple version beautifully, and you'll never fall into the trap of playing the same thing the same way twice.

then, when it is time to speed it up, you will experience a kind of freedom where even though you are playing faster than you ever played before, you are not hemmed in by the bad habits you always had before, and you will enjoy a bit of extasy about what it might feel like to be a "true jazz pianist".  (because you are a jazz pianist at this point, even though your technique limits you somewhat).

in all of this technique, the key is that when you are just starting out with a tune (very, very slowly), you never ever give in to the temptation to put your finger on a key without first understanding why you put your finger there.

eliminate the temptation to add in notes just for sound, or "just because".

then, after all, you will see that you have learned how to incorporate the fundamentals of a tune accurately.

when you can play the fundamentals accurately, you are already ahead of most, and probably even ahead of yourself, even if you don't yet know it.

play accurately at slow speed.

if you can play accurately, then you will eventually be able to play at very high speed, even if you can't yet see how you will end up being able to play at very high speed.

there are a million ways to arrange your harmony, and all of that will come naturally to you if you study even just a bit about chord theory.

but if you don't understand where your tune is going harmonically (as expressed in your playing of a simple bass line), and if you don't know your melody, but if you still play the tune hoping to somehow make it sound good, then you are doing nothing more than wasting your practice time at the instrument.

hope this helps.

sorry, replace :

"the goal is not to be able to play the thing fast, but to play it good and nice even if you play only the melody, or only the melody and harmony."

with :

"the goal is not to be able to play the thing fast, but to play it good and nice even if you play only the melody, or only the melody and bass, realizing that it is the combination of the melody against the bass that begins to express the harmony."
Please sign in to post.

Jazz Piano Notebook Series
Scot Ranney's Jazz Piano Notebook, Volume 1 - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 1 of this educational jazz piano book contains 15 jazz piano exercises, tricks, and other interesting jazz piano techniques, voicings, grooves, and ideas Scot Ranney enjoys playing.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version - videos

Scot Ranney's Jazz Piano Notebook, Volume 2 - jazz piano tricks of the trade you can use today

Volume 2 has 14 jazz piano exercises and tricks of the trade, and quite a bit of it is Calypso jazz piano related material, including some Monty Alexander and Michel Camilo style grooves. Jazz piano education is through the ears, but books like this can help.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Tim Richards' Jazz Piano Notebook - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 3 contains 12 jazz piano exercises and explorations by the acclaimed jazz piano educator, pianist, author, and recording artist Tim Richards.

Tim wrote the well known "Exploring Jazz Piano" and "Improvising Blues Piano" books and has several others to his name.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Jeff Brent's Jazz Piano Notebook - jazz piano tricks of the trade

Volume 4 is by Jeff Brent, a jazz pianist, composer, teacher, and author of "Modalogy" and other acclaimed jazz theory and education books. In this book Jeff shares detailed analysis of transcriptions of live performances. He covers everything from the shape of the songs to the tricks and licks he uses in improvised lines to the ideas behind his lush chord voicings.

buy pdf version - buy coil binding version

Most Recent Discussions
Volume 5 of Scot Ranney's "Jazz Piano Notebook Series" is up and running!
How to Develop Your Improvisation from Beginner to Advanced
Big Chief
How to Play Bossa Nova
Best Pianos for Beginners
How to Reharmonise a song

Volume 5 of the "Jazz Piano Notebook Series" is Available!
LearnJazzPiano.com File Downloads News
One Hour of Relaxing Piano Music
Jeff Brent's Jazz Piano Notebook
Fundamentos Físicos del Sonido
Aprendiendo a tocar PIANO gratis con partitura

Top Sheetmusic Picks

Jazzy Christmas Arrangements
Cocktail Piano
Best Songs Ever, 6th Edition
Christmas Medley
Moana Songbook
Late Night Jazz Piano

Jazz piano education is cool.

be the main character in your own story

Rock on. Follow your passion.

Sign In

privacy policyterms of serviceabout • 50,656 messages 63,069 accounts 53,776 logins
LearnJazzPiano.com Copyright © 1995-2019 by Scot Ranney • website software and design by scot's scripts
LearnJazzPiano.com is For Sale - Serious Inquiries Only