recently, i have learned a phrase that was played by oscar peterson in a video on the youtube website. i do not recall which video that i transcribed off but i have searched many oscar peterson videos and haven't found any with the particular phrase i am talking about. i use it all the time for introductions to my songs. the only problem with it is that it uses tenths. so that's why i went directly to my stride & swing piano book.

i went straight to my stride and swing piano book called "stride & swing piano", by john valerio, and looked up tenths under the left hand techniques of stride piano 2 on pg. 46. it states that "minor tenths are possible for most players; major tenths can be more problematic. if a tenth is out of reach, the player can 'roll it'. although it's a workable solution to the large span problem, you should be careful not to overdo the effect. instead, one can avoid a tenth if necessary and play a single note, octave, or fifth."

i tried all the solutions that my book gave me. i tried rolling the tenths. i tried playing a single note, an octave, and a fifth with the left hand. what happened? all the solutions that the book gave me made the little phrase sound like crap! the best idea that i could come up with to make it sound good was to use tenths. i would either use the tenths or forget it. if i wasn't going to use the tenths, i was never going to play the phrase again and i would get it out of my jazz vocabulary.

i've heard that whenever the term "tenths" is discussed in ljp forums, scot replies with, "whenever i cannot reach a tenth, my cool left hand makes up for my lack of big hands."

what other left hand techniques do you use when you aren't able to play a tenth simultaneously? what the heck do you people (including scot) do with your left hand when you can't reach a tenth? do you play a boogie woogie pattern or a walking base line? how the heck do you make a little phrase sound so good when you aren't able to reach a tenth?
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i just don't believe you.  the phrase just simply cannot sound like crap if you don't use the tenth.  play a third instead.

an octave won't sound like a tenth, but in the context of a tune, who cares?  what is this phrase, anyway?  maybe you're just not playing the phrase very well in your right hand?
a "root b7" shell should work fine.

another possiblity is to split the tenth between the two hands (ie play the tenth with the thumb of the rh).

remember that stretching works (although it can take years). if you start stretching now in a year or so, you might be able to get to that tenth.
say i want to play a d7 with an f# 10th.  i can't, the size of my hands and fingers won't let me.

so i do what the guys above say- play a fifth, play an octave, play a 7th.

or i'll just play one note and then on the next beat play the c-f# and maybe a b to make it sound hip (13th chord).

the other thing i do is play the 10th with my right hand while i'm playing melody.  obviously sometimes you can't do this, but if the melody is within range, i can use my right hand thumb to play the 10th.  all those years of bach and moving inside voices paid off.

another thing you can do is play the 10th, the f#, on the first beat then play the d on the second beat while sustaining the f# (if sustain works with the melody).  it's an interesting sound and kind of cool. walter norris does that sort of thing a lot and does it well.

the bottom line is that you want to make things musical. so listen to a lot of stride and you'll get the idea of what makes it musical, regardless if you are playing 7ths or 10ths.

sure, being able to reach a 12th is nice but there are plenty of huge names who can't reach the big 10ths out there who play just fine.
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boy, i feel your pain.  

seven made a good point though:

it took me two years of strechting my hands every day to reach the tenths. i wanted it really badly so i did the work. its was well worth it too!

if you watch dr. john play (in his videos or elsewhere) he can just barely reach the minor and major-white-key tenths and plays them on the outside edge of the keys.  it's seems like he's just gotten good at being able to stretch and hit them on command.  

i swear that a book i read once (it was interviews with classical pianists) or something had an interview with a female pianist who talked about having to alter select passages in the repertoire because her hands were too small.  

when oscar was on "jazz piano", he suggested playing the tenths with two hands (if you can't do it with one) during points in a tune and that the sound would remain in the listener's ear afterwards.
really, i can only reach just the minor tenths (except d & f, e & g, a & c, and b & d. if i positioned my two thumbs in the normal position as you would when you hit a key, i could not reach a tenth. but awhile back when i first used tenths, i discovered that if i positioned my two thumbs on the outer edges of the white keys, i was able to reach a tenth. this gives you access to many tenths. but there are disadvantages to doing this. doing this works for some tenths (c & e, d & f, e & g, f & a, g & b, a & c, b & d) but it does not work for tenths such as db & f, d & f#, eb & g, e & g#, f# and a#, ab & c, a & c#, bb & d, and b & eb. another disadvantage is that when you're doing really fast walking tenths, you may lose your grip of the keys as you hit the tenths.
for tenths that are too difficult for me to play, i have to roll them. but in this case, rolling a tenth does not sound good at all. i just sounds out of time.
that's funny, about the dr. john -- i actually managed to learn to stretch to the d-f# tenth by learning his version of "iko" in d.  even there, i don't think he ever quite hits it dead on -- it's more of a walking-up pattern from the octave to the tenth.  could be wrong about that.

i agree, loveforjazz that rolling tenths is not the magic tool.  i think people say "just roll 'em" as more of a shorthand for "work on the feeling and don't worry so much."  but if you really want to do "fast walking tenths" and can't hit tenths easily, i'd think about a different musical project, personally -- unless you're committed to either:

(a) adapting the concept to your own abilities (gee, that sounds like a pretty good idea!)


(b) committing yourself to a year or so of stretching your finger reach -- and praying you don't hurt yourself.

or both.

just play an inversion of the tenths you can't reach.  that's the obvious answer i can't believe i didn't think of sooner.  it works perfectly, or at least close enough.
listen, if you really want to see what can be done with 7ths, octaves, and different bass notes (for a c7 try g-e as an intermediate chord) work up some scott joplin rags or some other rags.  that's where all the stride stuff came from and most of it is not 10ths at all, just very nice uses of 7ths, 5ths, and inverted chords (c7 with e or g or bb in the bass).
If I'm not back in 24 hours, call the president.

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alright scot, i'll try that!
often 9ths can add more harmonic interest to a voicing than a "simple" third raised an octave.

9ths are easier to reach, too.

powell shell examples:

1 7 9

1 6 9

1 5 9

1 b7 9

b3 b7 11

b3 8 11

5 10 13

5 b10 13

5 8 13

b7 12 15

2 b7 10

2 6 10 (trippy)

there are certainly other possibilities with intervals of a 9th too.  

10ths have their charm for sure, but 9th voicings are definitely worth exploring.
and when you play 10ths alot .... you want to hit an octave and you screw it up!

i do love my walking 10ths though!

this is a really interesting discussion. i've been playing jazz & stride for years, and i have smaller than average hands. i can reach all the minor tenths but only the white-key major tenths and (just) f# major tenth.

i've developed a number of techniques:

1. i stretch unbroken tenths often, interspersed with other substitutions and/or techniques.
2. rather than "rolling" tenths, which really only works in the classical music idiom, i often syncopate tenths. subtle difference, but really important. you can syncopate by hitting the bottom note first or the top note first, on the immediately preceding off-swing-beat. fats waller sometimes did this, obviously through choice not necessity.
3. downward syncopation is possible at high speed without pedal for those tenths i can stretch unbroken at low speed, where the thumb doesn't need to leave the top note. but it takes practice!
4. another way of breaking tenths is to play the bass note on the on-beat and the tenth note on the off-beat. this can be mixed and matched with unbroken tenths. for example take this sequence played at equal time intervals:
g(10th higher)
f + ab(10th higher)
f# + a(10th higher)
g + bb(10th higher)
in the right context this is a good way of walking tenths. teddy wilson did this kind of thing a lot, again through choice not necessity.
5. i use the pedal sparingly to sustain the tenth note for downward-syncopated tenths when i can't keep my thumb on it.
6. i sometimes play unbroken inversions of tenths i can't reach. for example instead of db+f play f+ab. but always be conscious of the smooth flow of melodic line of the inner voice created by the tenth notes.
7. i sometimes add in tenth notes with my right hand.
8. i use other styles for variety that don't rely so much on tenths.

in short i have a 'toolkit', which when used together create really nice music, that doesn't sound small-handed. it has taken me years of practice, though!

rolling tenths works great in stride, and it's an extremely common technique.
here's an example of an authentic rendition of waller's "ain't misbehavin'".

you'll notice that almost all the tenths are rolled.
beautiful playing of ain't misbehavin! where did you get the audio of that?
oh sorry, i didn't bother to pay attention to the "7playswaller" part of the url adress. i just felt like clicking the link.
thanks for the compliment.

fats made a lot of different versions of this tune. i don't remember which album i transcribed this version was off of (it was over twenty five years ago).
i can't stretch most major tenths, but often get a 'pseudo-stride' effect by playing a deep bass note followed by 5 and 3 together. a d7 chord would therefore be a d bass note, followed by a and f#, which are played as a chord with f# on top (just below middle c). this is an open triad and the top two notes are a sixth apart - a sweet sound very similar to the tenth.

you could also play 7 and 3 as the top two notes (c and f#), making the chord a tritone (augmented 4th), also a very sweet sound.

if you follow either of these with a first inversion d7, by playing f# as the bass note, and 7 and 5 as the chord above (c and a), you've created another sixth interval in your voicing. joining the two voicings together (alternating r and 3 on the bottom) makes one bar of 4/4 (if played in 1/4 notes).

another example of this 'reduction' is to play those classic walking tenth 1/4 notes as sixths instead.  

so for c - dm - ebdim - c/e tenths would be:
ce - df - eb gb - eg (quite a stretch)

but played as sixths would be:
ec - fd - gb eb - ge (an inversion of the above),

or alternatively:
ge - abf - af# - bbg (more chromatic, ends up as a c7 chord).

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