how do you guys create a spontaneous left-hand part in solo piano that blends both a  
bassline and chords without using the old "oom-pah" stride stuff?  

stride seems to limit the amount of sounds i can create  for example, it's very difficult to play music that sounds modern.  

it also tends to sound bland and contrived.

mark levine doesn't cover this aspect of solo piano in his book, i was wondering what you guys thought

irish marine
There are 18 comments, leave a comment.
well, it depends on what kind of music, but if you're coming from bebop, there are lots of solo piano recordings that can show you what to do.

bud powell has a number of classic solo piano sides which use tenths and shell voicings.  sonny clark also has some solo tracks on "the sonny clark memorial album."  in general, if you transcribe the left hand of the trio or (larger groups) of people like the above and barry harris, elmo hope, and frank hewitt -- these last two are famous for having exceptional left hands in bop context -- it will translate *directly* into a legitimate, authentic bebop solo piano style.  i could hear those shells all day long -- provided something fine was happening melodically on top.  

you could also walk, but i wouldn't want to hear it on every tune on acoustic piano.  in my opinion, it just doesn't sound as good as the traditional technique used by the players cited above. it's a more legitimate technique on the rhodes, where it's pretty common to walk (ask jazz+, i think he does this regularly), and, hammond, where lh bass is the standard way of playing jazz organ.  herbie hancock, hampton hawes, dave mckenna (the master), and bill evans all have exemplary recorded examples of single-note walking pass on acoustic piano.
oh, and here are some suggestions of tunes to look for:

bebop lh:
"the fruit," by bud powell
"improvisation no 1" by sonny clark
"all the things you are" by elmo hope
"i didn't know what time it was" by barry harris

walking bass:
"summertime" by hampton hawes (on the album "the challenge")
"keep loose" by jimmy mcgriff (from "the worm")
"my funny valentine" by bill evans (alt tk from "undercurrent")
ideas still come from your right hand. like i was saying about bill evans, he'd play whole tunes with just lh chord comping, hardly ever touching a bass note.  



never mind. you answered me before i posted.
guess i'll have to check out "my funny valentine" by bill evans
left hand rootless voicings were the first system of left hand voicings i completely had under my belt. it's debatable whether that's the best way to start out, but when i first started learning piano i was a lot more interested in playing as part of a band than i was in playing solo. so i sounded good when i played with a bass player, but on my own there was no bottom end, not a very well rounded sound. the easiest thing to do to fill out my sound was kind of like what jh murray was talking about, but i wasn't that systematic about it. i would just occasionally, usually on beat one but not always, drop a big fat bass note and then play the rootless voicing, or the other way around, play the chord and then the bass. this really could be considered a derivative of stride playing. it doesn't have to be oompah oompah.  

after learning closed-position rootless voicings i started learning shell voicings. at first they sounded even emptier and less full sounding, on their own they're sparse and  minimalist, but if you are clearly defining the harmony with your ideas in the right hand, either by outlining the chords with your lines or harmonizing your melody note with another chord tone, the shell voicings are all you need in the left hand.

just recently i've started getting my walking bass lines together with my left hand. what i've decided already is that i do not like the sound of a walking bass line on a tune all the way throughout from start to finish, after a chorus or two of improvising it just feels way too predictable. it sounds best to walk for a little while, then do some other stuff for a little while, then walk again, etc.

so i think the best approach is to have a few different tricks in your bag. you don't need to have a zillion tricks up your sleeve, but you definitely need to have more than one, and mix them up a little bit.
"nouveau stride" puts the rootless chords on the down beats and any bass movement on the 2nd and the 4th beats.

this gives a much hipper sound that having bass notes on the 1 and 3 and vanilla chords on the upbeats.

rootless chords were "invented" after stride's heyday. while stride may contain some innovative lh chord voicings, the majority of stride pianists (except tatum) used little more than 6, 7 and m7 standard chord voicings (with the occasional 9th and things like 7#5 and dim7's thrown in).

long story short, the chords that fall on the upbeats of the typical stride style tended to be pretty humdrum in comparison to the much hipper voicings of the later rootless system.

these "less hip" voicings also help to clunkify the strict historical stride style.

playing rootles chords on the downbeats and the occasional bass notes on the upbeats completely changes the character of the music (and imho for the better).

try it, you might be able to make good use of it.

for more on the history of the jazz pianist's left hand, please visit:
or better yet, hook up with a bass player. that really frees you up.
"it also tends to sound bland and contrived."

watch it, now!
"rootless chords were "invented" after stride's heyday. while stride may contain some innovative lh chord voicings, the majority of stride pianists (except tatum) used little more than 6, 7 and m7 standard chord voicings (with the occasional 9th and things like 7#5 and dim7's thrown in)."

you must remember, though, that the chord voicings in stride are usually not played in root position, therefore, they are actually the basis of the more modern rootless voicings.  in fact, they are the exact same thing...........the modern ones just have substitutions(i.e. the 9th for the root and the 13 for the 5th,  etc)

who plays this "nouveau stride" you are talking about?  i am not familiar with honestly sounds whack to me.  now traditional stride pianists would turn the lh around for a bit by playing two bass notes in a row....but, this thing you are talking about sounds a little extreme.

i never understand how people could view stride as boring, contrived, simple, etc, etc.  plus, you can play stride and make it sound modern..........ever listened to any chick?  stride is more about the rhythmic feel that you get from can do anything harmonically with that feel, you just have to step outside the box.  you can't argue wtih the stride feel, is killin!  nothing simple about it!

this is a ballad style technique. more simply stated, it relies on rhythmic chord comping in the lh low-mid register punctuated by bass notes here and there.

what is whack about that?

doug mckenzie had a post here a million years ago that addressed this.

the ability to accurately jump the lh back and forth between chords and low notes is certainly a stride technique, but needn't always have an oompah feel.
why would buying this book be better than learning what people actually do on records?

not trying to be harsh, and for all i know, it's a great book, but if you're just starting out, you need the straight dope from the very beginning, not some watered-down "method."  

imo, save your money for buying *great* records/cds/mp3s/whatever.  that's what you need to hear to develop.  it's simple, but it's true.
i second what jaledin said.  there are zero books that can teach you how to play solo  books should only serve to supplement material that is learned from records......not the other way around.
- james p. johnson(i know you want to avoid stride, but have to learn at least one track from this..........)
whoops.  i'm guilty of not having the hank jones album on your list -- need to fix that, pronto.  is it okay if i hand in my transcriptions a few weeks late, teach?  

on a brighter note, i do have george shearing's "the piano."  can i get partial credit for mentioning that one?
hahaha.......yah dawg.
i'm sure you did get useful ideas from the book.  if you wanted to learn about christopher columbus and his journey to the new world, would you learn more by talking directly to christopher himself, or by reading a book by someone who writes about columbus' voyage?  both sources would prove to be useful..........but, which one would be more useful?  recordings are a primary source( could go even further to say that live concerts are the real primary source), while books are secondary.  in my opinion, when learning something, one should always start with the primary source of information, if possible, and use everything else to supplement the information from the primary source.

basically, the point jaledin and i are getting at is that, if one is to spend time and money to learn jazz, he or she should first spend time and money on the recordings, then maybe pick up a book and see someone else's take on the theory, rhythms, and everything else.
time by not forcing you to re-invent the wheel in order to gain a deep knowledge of this field.

due to the internet it is easier now than ever before for people to become virtuouso musicians! there are many ways to accelerate your learning curve. use them!
who said books are not useful?
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