i am working through the jazz piano book at the moment and one of the things mark levine seems big on is practicing everything in every key.

given that this takes a very long amount of time, do people think this is worthwhile?
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depends on what you mean by "everything"...i certainly wouldn't practice all the chopin etudes in every key.

i do think you should take a tune or two or several and play them in all 12 on a regular basis...and certainly scales, licks, blues, rhythm changes, etc...should be practiced in all keys regularly.  

i used to practice playing tunes by closing my eyes and playing a random key on the piano. - that would be my staring note for whatever tune i was going to play - really helped
like pinning the circle of fifths on the wall, and throwing a dart.
just like anything else, transposing gets easier the more you do it. i'm nowhere near as intimidated by transposing as i used to be. pretty much every thing i've ever decided to learn in all twelve keys has gone the same way. the second key i learned it in was every bit as rough  as the first. the next couple keys after that, pretty much the same. but after that, something happens. you start to really hear the relationships between every note you're playing, it's no longer an intellectual exercise. it's   not like doing long division in your   head, it's just about how it sounds when you start on this note instead of that note. really i think transposition should be treated like an ear-training exercise, not a theory exercise.
one of my goals is to be able to play everything in every key. i will get there. but with mark levine you could learn every exercise in every key or you could have some fun! (the day i stopped using it as a method book to be worked through was liberating!)

i play solo piano for fun and for those who care to listen and i love the fact that levine shows all his stuff in c. it means you can dive into the book in all sorts of places and learn some great stuff - such as the quartel voicings and pentatonics. i am finding that the 'play in all keys' things is comming. you play something in c like moon river - there is e7 in there - so you want to play the e dominant scale (e mixolydian) over the e7...you are learning about the e scale! songs in a selection of the easier keys c, f, bb, g, eb have transitions to many other keys during the bridge...you are getting the feel of those other keys in your fingers whilst using a familiar key as the home key.

i do practice my major scales in all keys regularly - but being able to play all tunes in all keys is years away -  and i am happy with that!

take it easy and have fun - dip in and out of levine and listen listen listen.

of course the time and effort are worth it.

the deal is this: after a while, you don't have to practice playing everything in every key, after a while of doing that, putting songs you know into another key is as easy as getting a glass of water.

here's a twist on practicing in every key.  this is what did it for me.

take six of your favorite tunes. i remember using green dolphin street, confirmation, pure imagination, i thought about you, ... can't recall the other two, oh yeah, blues and rhythm changes.  

anyway, it's nice that there are 12 months and 12 keys.   what you do is play those selected tunes/changes in a different key for an entire month.  i started in august several years ago, so everything was in the key of a.  in september, i moved to the next key (down half step) and played that stuff in ab.

by the time i was to the key of f, i didn't need to look at any other keys.

the reason this is good: you probably know how to play a dm7b5 without thinking about it.  is it just as easy to play an ab7b5, or every other key?  if you learn tunes in 12 keys, all these chords that might not be solid in your fingers become solid, and then after a few months, anything can be played in any key because you know the feelings of all those chords you don't play all the time, plus you've expanded your mind to see the form of songs instead of just thinking about chords and melody.

once you see the form and can play all the chords without thinking, going into different keys is as easy as playing blues in f.
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i like this approach. when you 'move to the next key' do you write out the new changes or just go ahead and play? this is the tricky bit for me - getting the changes in the new key - the actual playing i think i could do.

thank you

out of curiosity, scot, why half steps rather than the circle?  i do a set of exercises (almost) every day in a different key around the circle.  was there anything special about the half step?

i know you didn't ask me, but i say don't write em, just play em

bro, i don't write anything down. i just work the tunes out.  if i'm going to work on, say, "speak low", i know for a fact that in the key of f it's going to start out with gm-c7 gm-c7, a 2-5 2-5 in f.  so no matter what key i'm in, it's easy to play the 2-5 in it.  as for melody, if i know it, i can work it out.

it takes time this way, but your mind grows so much more rather than writing it down. writing  music down is a crutch and the less of it we do the better, unless you're composing originals of course :)

sdm- when i play around with all the keys, i move around them differently for everything.

for example, if you always practice scales starting with the key of c and move around in the circle of fifths, then after a while, it actually can be a little tiny bit of a problem doing the scales in a different pattern.

so for all my 12 key exercises, i try to change it up. sometimes the circles, sometimes half steps, sometimes minor thirds, whatever it takes.  some intervals won't take the whole 12 keys, so i have to adjust the interval.  

i just like changing things up is the simple answer.
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thanks for the advice!

when people hear i play piano they always say "do you read music" and i say i sometimes, but i'm trying to stop!
the 12 keys are all inter-related to far more of a degree than most can imagine . transposition and the ability to do so instantly, whether a song, a melody, a riff, a chord progression, etc., is the key to unlocking creative limitation and becoming a superior musician. technically, playing pieces like transcendental etudes in all keys will improve and hone your technique and control to unimagined heights.
i can't exactly play comfortably in every key (yet) but i've found it's a big advantage to play things in a variety of keys because it opens up new ideas and ways of approaching the tune. for example i've played stella by starlight for years in bb. it got to be one of my best tunes, but it was getting to be stale because i played it nearly the same way everytime, the same chords, voicings, fills, and solo ideas. then one day i tried it in db. it was not so smooth at first but it sounded and felt so fresh just because db just led me to different ideas i never would have thought of in bb.  

another advantage is that it's pretty hip if you can change keys in the middle of a tune in unexpected places like bill evans.
most jazz tunes have 2 or 3 "standard" keys.  make sure that as a minimum you can move back and forth between these if you are going to play with a new group or a new singer.  i spent some time playing with guitar players who do a lot of tunes in d, e and a.  this really helps you get over the fear of playing old tunes in new keys and i always have something new to say in a new key.
virtuosic 1. where can i locate transcendental etudes? i am an advanced beginner and would like to stretch out a bit.
levine is not saying to parctice every tune in all 12 keys, he means practice each chapter of his book in all 12 keys.
i think it´s a very powerful practising technique to play tunes in every key. i have done it on many tunes such as stella by starlight , have you met ms jones. on donna lee i did the head in both hands in every key and improvised over it (left hand) i find it very useful if you use a lot of  material fro melodic minor. the same pattern in melodic minor on a minor chord will work in an other key on the dominant. for me it has been probably the best way of aquiring technique and precision when learning to play my licks in every key...i remember that i used to play a tune where there was a e7. this  place felt very difficult a few years ago... after playing many different tunes with the e7,, it doesn´t feel difficult anymore...
working through it) for an hour or so, harmonic doors opened up in my mind. it was a nice gate to my next world of jazz at the time.
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actually jazz+ i think he does reckon you should practice tunes in every key - he says it in the "practice" section of the book

yeah i think it does take a lot of time at first but you do get better at it.

also yes its funny how when you play a song thats been getting a bit stale in a new key suddenly the changes can sound really good.
the transcendental etudes i know of are by franz liszt and they are advanced classical reportoire.
you can download them for free from (near the bottom of the page):

you can only get 2 per day but the one i downloaded looked hard enough that shouldn't be any real problem.

when in doubt google!
sheetmusicarchive.net is a great place to get free public domain music.  sometimes though, there are errors in the music, which might be why it's public domain??? hmmm... anyway, it's always a good idea to check against some other publications if your serious about a particular piece.
the bach chromatic fugue and fantasy looks pretty advanced.
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