hi,

i have learned notes to choose for improvising a different way than i read in jazz books. i think the way i learned is simpler, but i'm afraid it might hamper me as i get more experienced. i'd very much like to hear opinions from some experienced jazz players.

the method in see in jazz books
-------------------------------
a chord suggests a scale to use. e.g. i have a piece in cmaj. somewhere is an em7b5 chord. em7b5 suggests e locrian, so e-f-g-a-bb-c-d-e. (this method requires me to learn which chords suggest which scales, and also requires me to learn many scales.)

the method i learned
--------------------
the piece is in cmaj, so you would use c-d-e-f-g-a-b-c. when you get to the em7b5, you notice that one of the chord notes is a bb which is not in the c major scale. therefore you replace the b by the bb, so you get c-d-e-f-g-a-bb-c. the e is tonal center during that chord, so you start and end on e: e-f-g-a-bb-c-d-e.

what do you think?

tia,

frank
There are 61 comments, leave a comment.
frank,

i have found that as i get more experienced , i play more by ear and rely less on knowledge of scales.  i am not a professional, but that has been my experience.  there were older jazz players who didn't know a thing about fancy scale names but could sure blow their horns.  

i think scales are a useful tool for developing a repertoire of jazz in your head, but what ultimately comes out on the keys is what you hear in your head.  i think a real danger in terms of thinking about scales is that you think you are doing things technically correct without making good music.  

also, remember that it is often much more important when you place your notes rather than what notes you play ( meaning groove, rhythm, etc...).  i believe it was dizzy gillespie who said something like "i may not always play the right notes, but i always play them at the right time."
both ways are a means to the same end. there might be an advantage to the scale method in that you could recognize you have a diatonic ii chord in your example.
correction: meant to type " diatonic iii chord" rather than "diatonic ii chord"
. notice how it gives the music an entirely different character?


you cannot look at the chord/scale relationships as isolated entities. when making decisions about note choices, the chord progressions always have to be taken in context.
good point, 7 :

"you cannot look at the chord/scale relationships as isolated entities. when making decisions about note choices, the chord progressions always have to be taken in context."
i think there's often too much emphasis on playing scales across chords. for someone starting out, it's important to learn to improvise using the arpeggios of the chords, an approach which is often wrongly dismissed as 'boring'. because arpeggios only contain chord notes, it's impossible to play a wrong note. how you link one arpeggio to another determines whether you will make a musical line or not. experienced players often use chromatic passing notes to connect one arpeggio to the next, and encircle target notes. this style works really well with bebop-type tunes with frequent chord changes.

the opposite approach to this is play more 'horizontally', that is to say, 'in the key'. if you see dm7-g7-cmaj7, you can play a c major pentatonic scale over all three chords, as the chords are ii-v-i in the key of c. this often sounds better than using the complete scale of c major (or worse - thinking of it as three modes, dorian, mixolydian etc, all of which have the same notes).  

if the chords are dm7b5-g7-cm, then that's a ii-v-i in c minor and you can use the c minor pentatonic or blues scale. try it - it's not the obvious choice of notes over dm7b5, but it works!

beginner often have problems using regular scales over chords because they fail to realise that some of the notes will clash (eg: the fourth of the scale over a major or dominant chord) and that in order to sound convincing, it's important to play the notes of the chord (r, 3, 5 or 7) on the downbeat.

for instance, if playing a descending scale of c in eighth-notes (going down from the root) over c major or c6 you immediately come unstuck as you're stressing the wrong notes (a, f and d will be on the beat). successful scale playing requires constant awareness of the notes in the chords, which comes from playing the arpeggios as above.  

methods of adjusting, should you get on the 'wrong foot', include adding an extra passing note (as in bebop scales), playing a quarter note in place of one of the eighth-notes, or just inserting a rest to straighten things out. good improvisers often use these devices instinctively.

hope that helps.
tim
" for someone starting out, it's important to learn to improvise using the arpeggios of the chords"

i agree with this.  you should try thinking as the chord tones being your goal and other notes being the medium through which you reach your goal.  so, like.......to me, a c major scale is c,e,g,a(or b) with d, f, b(or a), eb, gb, db, etc being approach notes into the main chord tones.  thinking like this frees your mind from a scale that contains more than you actually need and allows you to focus on what is most important while leaving the rest up to experimentation.  so, i could also choose to play eb, instead of d, as an approach to e, or gb, instead of f, as an approach to g, etc.  the point is, scales cause people to:

a. not focus on the important notes
b. forget that there are other notes not in the scale that you can use to approach the important notes

i'm not saying that scales are a bad thing, but if i had a choice over whether to focus on arpeggios or scales, i would choose arpeggios anyday.  once you start adding interesting approach tones to your arpeggios, you'll find that you're playing scales, but you won't be limited to one or two scales for a chord type, and your focus will be on what is important.
arpeggios are a good approach to be "safe" and don't forget that much of jazz improv is rythmic.  don't play safe when it comes to arpeggios - in other words play the 5 - 1- 3 or 3-1-5 in a syncopated manner to give more freedom of movement.  when working on a simple imrprov you can try mixing in the 6th here and there and once you can do this for every chord - major, minor, dim etc - then you are a long way down the road to a good sounding improv over any chord changes.
just remember with all these fancy theory terms, what duke ellington said, "if it sounds good it is good!"

sorry i love learning theory, but sometimes it gets in the way.  

just my thoughts,  
nate
it seems to me that dalty is right on the money.  
the chord tones ( = arpeggio) and especially the triad (1st,3rd,5th), are at the top of a hierarchy of possible note choices. they are the notes to always keep in mind as possible targets to end a phrase - or perhaps to rest on for a time - or to accent - or to deliberately place on or off a beat. their wise placement within a musical phrase, to a large extent, is what gives the phrase its musical integrity.
for the last two years i have been struggling with finding answers to my questions.  i consider myself an intermediate level jazz player.  i have practiced and played jazz in a rather undisciplined, yet passionate, manner for the past 6 years.

my desire and goal is to play jazz in the style of oscar peterson, gene harris.  not monk, keith jarrett, bill evans, or anyone else that is predominantly bop.  swinging the great american songbook, and playing like a big band player is my goal.

i have found that there are very few jazz musicians who really are into this style.  a lot of players are very good and are able to play the style, but they don't like it as much as the bebop and modern stuff that is prevalent.  because of this, i find it very, very difficult to find helpful advice or lessons from anyone or books.

i need someone who knows what they're talking about to advise me on how to come up with a practice routine that will help me be a good, swing piano player.  i've read several books about jazz theory including the popular mark levine books, but they really don't help, partly because most of them deal predominantly with bebop and more modern jazz.

when good swing players are playing, what are they thinking about in their heads?  is it chords, is it scales?  for the right hand, i can understand how they become so good at some point, that it ceases to be about scales, and they can just "sing" it out.  i understand this.  i have trouble with the left hand comping.  how do i know what notes to rhythmically stomp out in the left hand as i'm doing the melody in the right?  should i be thinking about chords here?

i have a really hard time with songs that are not typical 1-4-5, or 1-6-2-5.  stuff like "cry me a river" with a lot of chord changes like twice per measure.  when i play these tunes, i get stressed out about memorizing all the chord changes or making sure i am playing the right notes on the dim chords and such.  however, i listen to a recording of pros playing these songs, and it almost sounds like they are somehow ignoring all those quick changes and fluidly going through the song as if there were no chord changes at all.  how do i get to be like that?  what is it that i have to learn?

and it has more to do than just practicing and playing, because i've been doing that for years now.  i feel like that i am being unproductive in my practice because i am still not "getting" what is happening.  i remember when i first learned 1-4-5 blues.  i would really be thinking about the chords, but after playing it a lot, i stopped thinking about the chords, and now it just sort of comes out.  but, initially, there was that academic phase.  for the jazz now, i feel like i don't know what that acadmeic content is for me to practice and internalize.  i need specifics, and i need people who like to play the swing stuff to explain it.

thanks.  great site! (my first post here.)
learning material on the old styles.  it isn't out there.  i'm going to try these john mehegan books, since i haven't actually seen them yet.

basically, i want to know how to play like gene harris, if i can simplify all this.


i'm a simple guy.  my answer is simple too - listen to him night and day.

we all tend to play like what we've heard the most.  that's why country musicians sound "country" and jazz musicians sound "jazz", etc...nothing worse than a rock n' roller trying to "swing"  or a jazz player trying to "rock out"

use the books as a reference, but you have to listen, listen, listen, then you'll get it :)
superboy - i know what you mean about gene harris & oscar peterson. everyone loves them, but they are not considered hip by modern jazz musicians. what dalty says is on the button - if you hear what you like, transcribe it. that way you get to find out what they're doing...

these two pianists are both very horizontal players. by that i mean they often play in the key rather than focusing on each individual chord. see my post above where i describe the use of major and minor pentatonic (blues) scales for improvising over ii-v-i sequences.  that's what they're doing a lot of the time.

however, they are also both masters at improvising vertically when they want to, so they can create contrast by playing these two styles off against each other. at the simplest level, vertical improv means playing arpeggio patterns related to each chord. switching to this style at key moments saves the bluesy pentatonic appoach from getting too samey and predictable.

the other thing they both have in common, apart from the bluesy feel, is a great sense of swing. also check out hampton hawes, another master at contrasting horizontal, bluesy playing with crisp vertical lines, and a similar sense of driving swing.

btw, there is a good book about older piano styles - swing & stride piano, by john valerio, published by hal leonard.

tim
incidentally, hampton hawes was self-taught which makes me wonder who he  hung with when he was coming up?
many bebop masters, such as bud powell, monk, parker, coltrane, etc. did not like oscar peterson's playing, they called his playing typewriter music. they said they didn't want to hear the same blues licks over and over.
i don't know...it seems that if one relies too heavily upon, say, a pentatonic scale across a bunch of changes, they're going to miss a lot of harmonic nuances that way.  
many chords have a number of scales that can be played over them; one can substitute a lot of chords for other chords and achieve a unique and personal approach to a song.  
like dave brubeck said on "jazz casual", you can play an altered chord on the piano so the bass player still has his normal patterns but the soloist can play different notes without (and i quote) "breaking the rules of jazz".  not that you have to obey the scales without exception, of course, but you should have a working understanding of them.  
the advantage of frank's method that he described above is that he doesn't have to memorize each scale separately but he still gets his chord tones straight.
just my two cents.
i'm a mehegan schooled guy, but those books cover a lot of the more "modern" stuff too.

swing piano is basically stride. and more specifically waller stride.

if you want to play swing, go straight to fats waller. that will take you directly to basie.

my first jazz piano teacher was a guy who played with big bands in the 1930's.  

big fat lh 10ths, vertical comping, rh shearing blocks, and a lot more vertical soloing than most people assume.
thanks for all the great advice.  what is this business about veritcal and horizontal?  i'm not familiar with those terms.

i'm working with some oscar peterson transcriptions, and occasionally i'll try to go note for note with gene harris.  however, transcriptions don't explain how and why those notes work for them.  i was wondering if there was an academic explanation for it (and you guys have helped a lot already in these posts).

i can't do lh 10ths, the most i can reach is a white-to-white 10th (c-e) on the edge of the keys.  i'm annoyed by it because i'm 6'3" and my hands should be much larger than they are.  anyway, there's got to be away around that right?

what's a good book on learning the shearing blocks and locked hands method?


ps i love this site, but how the hell do you navigate this place?  how do you find a list of threads?  i see rooms and halls, but i can't for the life of me figure out how this place is organized!
superboy,  

i'm in the same boat. a few months back i could not do c-d.  
i have been told repeatedly that give it time, it will stretch. i have noticed my teacher does not have big hands, but it seems he can place his fingers in any position. he has no issues playing stride.  
what was recommended to me is to stretch my fingers as often as possible. gently. 2 fingers by 2 fingers. not in a v sign, but instead, if your thumb is pointing up, have the index go left while the medium goes right. push gently against a flat vertical surface (your piano for example). then inverse and repeat for each finger.  
at this point, it's not about 10ths for me. being able to play c to c with any 2 notes in between would be sweet, especially on latin stuff.  

i'm learning a stride tune from sheet right now (i'm a beginner). whenever i can, i try to play tenths with the right hand. when it doesn't seem convenient, i try to roll the tenths. it's hard, but then again, what isn't ?  

as for navigating the site, each section contains a list of threads. piano lounge is the popular place for general piano talk, then you have more specific rooms, like software, videos, cd reviews etc...


i have always suspected that they were jealous of him.  oscar said that when he first met bud powell  that bud had a bad attitude and wasn't very friendly in fact he said that bud growled at him.

i mean think about it just because you don't like someone's playing doesnt mean you should be rude to them.

i started another thread based on this topic.

jv'
the term "bebop" is used a lot in this thread but mostly i don't think what's being written about is bebop at all, at least not in the original sense of 1940s post-swing style as practiced by people like al haig, john lewis and dodo marmarosa.  bebop actually pre-dates oscar peterson and in fact i don't think it would be easy to play in a peterson-like style without a working understanding of classic bebop.  i found that the experience of listening to recordings of the pianists from the 1940s as they worked out a way of keeping up with people like gillespie and parker was very instructive in my own journey towards enlightenment, or whatever you call it.  if you think bud powell's too booply-boop, try john lewis - it's all there and as open and crisp as count basie.

sid

ps bud powell was a sick man for a lot of his playing career.  he growled at everybody, even parker.
sick or not sick, oscar himself said that he and bud weren't the best
of buddies.

btw, i agree with most of your post.
don't forget eliington along with waller and basie if you really want to swing out.
it's a little bit ot and maybe old news, but i just came across a bbc feature on youtube with dick hyman explaining and demonstrating the jazz piano history. great stuff (and hyman *is* a piano monster).






when i say "bebop" i just use the term as a shortcut to mean all of that post-swing stuff that made jazz a very academic and "hip" thing.  whatever happened in the 60's because of miles and coltrane is what i really mean.

as you can tell, i'm not a huge fan of that stuff, but i respect it.  in my opinion, guys like oscar peterson and gene harris are very underrated as jazz musicians.  i know that sounds funny because everyone loves them, but in the end, it's all lip service.  actually, if it wasn't so obvious that oscar's physical skills were so much better than anyone else, even he wouldn't be talked about that much.  who's trying to be like oscar peterson or gene now that's in the pro circuit?  most of the big names have their influences in bill evans much more so than oscar or the swingers.  they'll give them the lip service, but that's it.  i'm not criticizing any of the styles, i'm just saying there is less interest in the swinging stuff.

anyway, i'm off topic...

someone here mentioned something about playing vertical and horizontal.  what does that mean exactly?
on the musical staff, a triad of notes played at the same time (a chord) for instance would be vertical.

single notes played across measures e.g. melody, arpeggio, scales would be horizontal.
i think i understand vertical/horizontal now.  i was thinking it meant something different.

drjazz (tim), i reread your posts and they make a lot of sense to me.  since my primary goal is to play like gene harris, i find that learning all this scale theory doesn't help me that much.  on the other hand, i feel like i've hit a wall as far as progressing beyond what i know.  i can play blues, 1-4-5, 1-6-2-5 songs pretty decently.  my stumbling point is when i try to play the bebop tunes in the style of gene harris or oscar peterson.  that is, take a more modern tune, with bop chord progressions, but still apply that bluesy style to it.  that's where i get hung up.

take a song like cry me a river with almost two chord changes per measure, and they are not always in the 1-6-2-5 vein.  what is theory behind those tunes?  you can stay pretty bluesy in the root key for the most part, but what happens when it starts to move off that key for a while in the bridge sections?  i run into this a lot with these types of songs with a bunch of minor, diminished, and flat-13th chords and such all over the place.

i really like it when players can take a song like a showtune, a bop standard, or something else that is not the usual 1-6-2-5, and turn it into a swing song.  john pizzarelli (and ray kennedy, the pianist) are experts at doing this.  that's a goal of mine, to be able to play like that.  but beyond the physically demanding aspect of it, i think i am not grasping the theory behind it.  when they are flying around the keyboard rapid-fire style, what are all those notes they are playing coming from?  are they from the chords?  are they from the scales that the chords imply?  are they just passing notes to get to the next chord?  i realize that when you get good, you're not even thinking about it, but at some point, there was something academic there.  right?

there was an album called "shoeless john jackson" by ken peplowski that was a tribute to benny goodman.  the piano player on there, johnny varro, just kicks butt on this style.  on the album, the piano playing is just an excellent example of fast, swing piano.  his website also shows examples of this style:
https://johnnyvarro.tripod.com/

anyway, i hope i'm not too off-topic.  i was going to start another thread, but i still think it applies to this topic.
drjazz, thanks for the advice.  before i start getting into your books and a new studying regiment, i just want to make a couple of things clear about my goals.  i'm quite different than most jazz pianists you will encounter.  honestly, my desire is to play music exactly in the style of gene and oscar, especially in their trios with ray brown.  i really can care less if people think it's boring, not creative, old-fashioned, not harmonically complex.  i don't even care if i'm not respected as a musician and if all people think is that i am only using the pentatonic scale.  none of that affects me.  i simply want to swing and swing hard.  i am not into miles davis, coltrane, bill evans, even art tatum.  definitely not into mccoy tyner, keith jarret.  i respect them tremendously and appreciate their complexity and cerebral nature, i just don't want to listen to it too much nor strive to play like them.

now, i know that oscar and gene incorporate the contemporary styles into their playing, so if i still have to learn it to be able to play like them, then i will.  just understand that i am not doing it in order to be harmonically advanced.  i'm doing it so i can swing like gene.  do you see the difference?

most of the teachers and books i have turned to do not think like me at all, so they are not able to really direct me effectively.  my kind of thinking is very much in the minority and people don't relate to it.  the books i've read and used to practice don't address swing much at all and heavily emphasize the thinking of "this scale can be played over this chord", etc.  what i'm looking for is something that teaches me specifically how to swing and how to come up with all those notes people are playing, especially when it's not the normal 1-6-2-5 structure.

so, knowing that, will your books address these issues?  i'm sorry if i offended people, i know i don't think like the typical jazz musician.  i've just become frustrated with the fact that i can't find people or books to answer the questions that i have.
superboy, i hate to sound like a broken record, but you cannot learn to swing by reading books.  it is not a quantitative thing.  i think it was jazz+ that cited some research that for example shows how the ratios of swing eighths vary according to various tempi.  while that is interesting to read, it will probably not help you swing.  you gotta feel it without thinking about it.

swing occurs naturally amongst folks who swing - just as  a dialect occurs naturally to folks of certain geographical areas...ya really gotta listen - constantly.

~good luck and groove on:)
it's not the rhythmic aspect of the swing i'm trying to get better at.  i'm fine with it and i do listen to it constantly.  trust me, that part is already in me.

it's the notes that i am talking about here.  i want to know how the masters come up with their stuff.  is it scales, chords,, arpeggios, etc?  (i know, it's a combo of everything, but if it could be broken down at all, that's what i'm looking for).
so are you looking for some shortcuts, like a transcription book or something??  if so, sorry i've babbled on :)
drjazz, i couldn't agree more with what you said about a combination of vertical and horizontal approaches in a solo.  rollins' solo in st. thomas is one of his best, i think, and it's a great tension builder when, like you said, he plays the same note for 8 bars, and then breaks loose after that.  i totally agree.  and his melodic motifs tend to make the solo very tight and natural, but that hardly needs saying.
i also agree that not enough has been said about ellington's piano skills and contributions.  let's face it - he introduced such chords as the major 7th, the suspended, and the suspended b9.  harmonically very advanced indeed, even today, it would seem he could hold his own with the best of them in terms of harmonic creativity and improvisation.
make nice melodies out of the notes. chord tones are good.
hmmm...no, dr. whack, i don't think i'm looking for shortcuts.  i just want effective methods or material that efficiently answers questions that i have.  i don't want to practice something for a while and find out that it didn't really help me do what i thought it was going to help me with.

for example, i need to work on practicing rootless chord voicings for my left hand to comp with.  well, if left up to me, i would just fiddle around with the voicings randomly until i hit some chords that worked right for my ear.  but the seasoned vets out there might already know of a better way to train and practice this stuff, and i won't have to waste my time reinventing the wheel.  that's the kind of things i'm looking for.  specific and proven lessons for achieving very particular goals.  not just very basic, general lessons like learning which scales go with what chords.

by the way, i found tons of great stuff on this site in the files section.  i haven't tried them yet, but they seem like it's just the sort of thing i'm looking for.
superboy,  you have specifically said that you want to sound like gene harris and oscar peterson.  since gene doesn't often play extended flowery runs then i'm guessing that you are talking about what they have in common, which to my ear would be a blues/gospel style of swing.  gene in particular has a heavy gospel/blues influence in his piano playing.  do you have experience playing gospel and/or blues and are looking to add a jazz flavor to your playing or are you starting from scratch?  i don't think you will be able to get advice regarding all the note choices and nuances of their playing in general but maybe if you were to specify a particular track from one of their albums you might get some useful advice or analysis.

i am right now listening to a gene harris/ray brown cd that also has stanley turrentine called "the gene harris trio plus one".  tracks 4 & 5 show very different styles of genes playing.
yes, flapjack, you are absolutely right.  i'm looking for the really bluesy/gospel style of swing gene plays.  i'm also interested in oscar's flowery runs, but i can already see that that has a level of physical difficulty that may be nearly impossible for most people.  so, for now, i'll stick to trying to learn gene's method.

as for a specific track, i know the "plpus one" album you're talking about, but i can't seem to find it at the moment.  but one of my favorite gene harris tracks is on the ray brown trio album "live at the loa (summer wind)", track 7, "can't help lovin' that man".

i feel like with a lot of practice on my technique, i can actually learn the gene method because i understand it fairly well.  what i don't understand as well is how to make those really long, rapid-fire, single-note flowing lines.  i always have to stop after several notes to mentally catch up or phsyically reset myself.  but often, ray kennedy (the pianist for john pizzarelli) will go on for a couple of minutes playing super fast runs without ever pausing.  i can't even close to doing something like that, nor do i know what to practice to get there.  here's a specific track, just amazing:
john pizzarelli, "live at birdland" album, track 2 (disc 1), "just you, just me"
for what it's worth, i've known ray kennedy for years and he played like that when he was 16 - he's now around 50...
sorry...had to go...

i guess my point is (again) to spend some time listening.  ray has spent a lifetime doing that - and he has amazing ears

don't compare yourself, just  enjoy the process
you've set the bar too high. try the vince guaraldi book and forward motion by hal galper.
haha, thanks dr.whack.  yeah, ray's the man.  the first time i heard him i was blown away.  the music that he recorded with john pizzarelli is some of my favorite piano playing ever.  i'll try not to compare myself to him, but that is the goal i am striving for.  do you think ray would be willing to talk on the phone for a few minutes?  he'll probably tell me the same stuff you guys are telling me, but you never know.

john pizzarelli seems to have a knack for finding these pianists.  i recently met them at the newport beach jazz party, but ray wasn't playing with them anymore.  now, it's larry fuller, who seems to be holding his own.  i haven't heard him enough so i can't compare the two yet, but he seems to be able to play those tunes as well as ray.  but i have a feeling ray was a little better.  but both of them are just whizzes with those fast swing tunes.
ray's hard to catch by phone and i wouldn't feel comfortable giving out his phone number anyway:)

he does have a website.  maybe you could catch him there:
https://www.raykennedy.com/

...and yes, he'd probably tell you the same thing:)  he's a great guy and a great hang.

i haven't talked to him in a while.  (he lives in ny and i live in st, louis) i didn't know he's no longer touring with john - perhaps ray just didn't do that tour??  hmmm....
yeah, ray stopped playing with john a couple of years ago.  it didn't sound like anything dramatic happened, though.

ray's great, i'd love to learn from him if i ever had the chance.  his performance on pizzarelli's birdland cd is amazing.
wow, this is getting to be a long thread! maybe we should start  another - 'how to play like gene harris' ?!

superboy, you are right that swing is as much to do with note choices as much as rhythm. as jazz + said, check out hal galper stuff on forward motion, that will help you construct lines that have the correct tension and resolution. if your quaver lines don't swing, you may not not getting the chord tones (r,3,5,7) on the downbeats. i've outlined this procedure in my first post in this thread, near the top of the page, where i mention playing the descending scale of c major...  

the bebop scale (as described by david baker, hal galper, and also in my books) is one way to ensure your notes are on the right 'foot'. when used correctly it swings automatically!  

i understand that you're not interested in more modern styles such as mccoy tyner, keith jarrett, etc, but i think you could certainly explore a wider range of pianists rather than just oscar and gene. do you know the playing of ray bryant, billy taylor, hampton hawes, cyrus chestnut, wynton kelly, bobby timmons, horace silver? they all have a strong blues and gospel influence and swing really hard. maybe check out dave mckenna as well. phineas newborn is another great pianist who combined blues and bebop (and also influenced oscar p)...

i think there may be a danger you'e focusing over much on the blues and gospel side, whereas the two pianists you like have a lot more than that going for them. both could improvise with ease over bebop-type chord sequences, as could all the pianists mentioned above. if anyone doubts this, let them check out gene harris' cd 'live at otter crest', which is full of driving, fluent playing and fast swinging lines at cracking tempos.

the blues and gospel elements colour the basic jazz language, they are not necessarily the main component. if you know how you want to sound, play what you hear in your head! as others have said above, transcribing solos by pianists you like is the best way to get better at this.

hope that helps...
drjazz, i guess you are saying there's no real shortcut to it.  i was afraid of that, darn!  no, seriously, i'm willing to put in the work.  i like what you said about the arpeggios in the top post...that's something i haven't tried, maybe it will be good to practice it that way for while.

i know that oscar and gene and everyone else could play the bebop stuff very well, i just felt like i wasn't progressing enough when i was studying it.  but i am transcribing some of their stuff and it is opening my eyes.  live at the otter crest is a great album.

here's a specific question i enocuntered yesterday and didn't really know how to work with it.  i understand how when you have a ii-v-i, you can usually play the root pentatonic over it and it will sound fine.  i was playing "i'm beginning to see the light" yesterday, and in the bridge, there's a progression of chords where it chromatically moves down from e7-eb7-d7.  i really don't know how to play this using notes other than the arpeggiated chord notes.  what if i want to play scales on top of it?  i tried using the respective bebop scale on it (like a major to ab major to db major) but it sounds all wrong.  what do people do in cases like this?
i am playing "i'm beginnig to see the light" in g. what keys is yours in?
when dominant 7th chords move down chromaticly, every 2 beats, i tend to use a lot of arpeggio shapes. if i include passing tones with the arpeggios (this makes it into scale fragments), some of those dominant 7th chords are going to have at least a #11 in their scale and maybe b9 and or #9. in other words they are not going to sound very good using a straight mixolydian on each one. i also take advantage of chromatic passing tones that are technically not in their scales.
i see.  that's pretty much what i was doing also, it's the only way it sounded decent to my ears.  i was playing it in c, not too much different.
superboy,etc...check out transcriptions #1,2 and 5....
https://www.jazzcenter.org/index.htm?https://www.jazzcenter.org/cw-jrc/transcriptions
here's the correct link for that-https://www.jazzcenter.org/
(you can access the transcriptions from there)
thanks smg.  very cool links.  benny green is possibly one of the best jazz pianists out there right now.  i met him a few months ago, he's nice and polite to a fault, very cool guy.  man, he can play.
benny green - yes! i meant to include him in my list earlier. a lot of blues influence in there... he's very influenced by phineas newborn jr too (as was oscar p) - you can hear it in those fast two-handed lines where each hand plays the same notes, one or two octaves apart, often at lightning speed. if you haven'l already checked it out, you gotta listen to phineas' album "a world of piano" - it's all in there, including the blues...

concerning those descending dominant chords, e7-eb7-d7, it seems to me that the eb7 is just a passing chord on the way to d7. so the main target notes you might want to aim for on the first beat of the d7 bar could be d, f#, a or c (any note of the d7 chord).  

you can play virtually anything in the beats leading up to this providing you hit these notes in the right place. any tension (or 'incorrect' notes) you might create over the eb7 will be resolved when you reach d7.  

also, just because it says eb7 on your chart doesn't mean you have to play this chord in the lh - or notes relating to it in the rh. like i say, it's just a linking chord between e7 and d7... sometimes it sounds best not to treat the chords too literally (ie: vertically... which brings us back to horizontal improvisation)...
thanks drjazz, i will check out the phineas album.

i understand what you are saying about horizontal playing.  i really should practice that a little more along with focusing on arpeggios.  i'm getting ready for a big gig coming up, i was practicing "our love is here to stay" which has a lot of chord changes.  these are the tunes that give me a hard time.  if i read off of the chord charts, i get all disoriented and confused because there are so many diminished, augmented, b5, etc. chords which.  but if i listen to recordings of my favorite artists playing these, they play them very horizontally, almost like they ignore the chord changes.  i also find that if i just don't read the chords and play by my knowledge of the song, it flows much better.  however, i get worried because i feel like i'll miss a juicy chord somewhere.

am i right in understanding that when the masters play the standards, inside of their head, their not thinking about chord changes they've memorized...they are probably just remembering the melody and putting in the chords that they know will form that melody.  i mean, it's not like all these guys have memorized hundreds of chord charts int heir head, right?
so, on friday, i went to see john pizzarelli play at the catalina bar and grill in hollywood (10:30pm show).  not many people there, i want to say that there were less than 20 people, and my band was 5 of them.  we were right in front of the band, like less than 5 feet away, best seats ever.

i got a chance to talk to larry fuller, the great pianist that plays with them.  i think he was a little too tired to talk too much and i felt like i annoyed by asking one question too many.  anyway, about this chords vs. scales stuff, he basically said he thinks about the chords while he is playing and he learned mostly by doing a lot of transcriptions.

we also got a chance to see that both john and fuller used chord charts, especially on the songs that john's wife jessica was singing (i'm guessing it's not part of their usual set).  so it's good to see that even the pros need to use chord charts sometimes.
of course you think about the chord changes as you play, most songs has different chord changes. the scales are a given. the scales have to be so well known by your fingers, and the associations they have to the chords have to be automatic, to the point that you are beyond "thinking" about during improvisation. there is no time for pausing to think. it's not an either or situation. you have to master both.
i'm not sure how you could memorize scales instead of chords. that would be limiting yourself it seems. often you can play a whole list of scales on any given chord, no?
so it easier to learn:
d7 g7 c7 f7
than to try and remember all those scales you could play on those changes.
so do you end up spending time with the chord (in some form) in your left hand while you simply run the various scales in the right hand?  i've done this a little but haven't convinced myself it's a good use of time.  is there a better way to build the associations you speak of jazz+?
here's a quote from reed kotler, the developer of the transkriber software.  it's about mark levine's jazz theory book, and he mentions a couple of points related to this thread:

"there is an extensive treatment of chord scale theory. for me the treatment explains alot about the harmonic implications, in terms of chord voicings, of chord scale theory but completely misses the mark in terms how  mainstream players such as bill evans,  oscar peterson and others approach approach the right hand in improvisation. there is alot of information about certain specific techniques that can be used for right hand improvisation but these techniques are generally a spice in the pallet of a more or less mainstream player and not the diet staple. as such, you'll be unable to adequately explain an oscar peterson or bill evans improvisation using the theory as outlined in this book.  for example, such players make extensive use of chromatic approach notes to make their playing work and there is essentially no explanation of how this works.in addition, their approach to alterations on dominant seventh chords does not fall so simply into scale categories such as mixolydian, diminished, altered or lydian b7 scales as the book implies. these players in general have a more global view of sections of tunes and explanations such as contained in this book that map each chord to a different scale miss the point here."
superboy,

levine's book is presenting the basic most obvious scale chord associations. he is giving the abcs not a detailed account of bill evans actual melodic inventions. of course chromatic passing tones and approach notes are available. i think levine failed to mention it much because he assumed it was obvious.  

sdm,
yes, spend time with the chord in your left hand while you simply run the various scales in the right hand. it's like learning your abcs. the associations need to become instinctive for your hands across the geography of the keyboard and for your ears.
superboy,

it's true, ignoring chromatic passing tomes and approach notes that are not "scale tones" it is a huge blind spot in the levine method.
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
"Latinesque"

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
more...
Articles

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
more...

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 53,817 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