Music Techniques

Beginning major scales Book Review

A look at Paul D. Sayre's Beginning major scales Technique & Theory Workbook. Smart design and text, I can see it meeting the needs of certain groups of students and look forward to the release of the next book in the series.

Jazz Music and Improvisation Guide Books

As I mentioned earlier, I recently presented to the Piano Pedagogy Group. The piano teachers in this group are currently working on their Grade 10 or their Piano Pedagogy certification through Royal Conservatory of Music, Conservatory Canada or London College of Music . They are all classically trained (translation: improvisation, lead sheets and chord charts are scary). This is a list of the "How To" books that I use whenever I teach and play contemporary music (e.g. pop, rock, Latin, jazz, ragtime) that I shared with them:

Conservatory Canada Contemporary Idioms Syllabus

How To Play From A Fake Book look inside How To Play From A Fake Book By Blake Neely. For Guitar, Piano/Keyboard. Piano. Instructional. Instructional book. Standard notation and instructional text. 88 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.220019)Smp_stars40 (1) ...more info
Lead Lines and Chord Changes look inside Lead Lines and Chord Changes By Ann Collins. For Piano. Piano Collection; Piano Supplemental. Early Advanced; Late Intermediate. Book. 80 pages. Published by Alfred Music Publishing (AP.199)...more info
Volume 1 - How To Play Jazz & Improvise look insideListen! Volume 1 - How To Play Jazz & Improvise By Jamey Aebersold. For any C, Eb, Bb, bass instrument or voice. Play-Along series with accompaniment CD. Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long series. Beginner, intermediate. Book & CD. 104 pages. Published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz (JA.V01DS)Smp_stars30 (22) ...more info
Volume 3 - The II/V7/I Progression look insideListen! Volume 3 - The II/V7/I Progression By Jamey Aebersold. For any C, Eb, Bb, bass instrument or voice. Play-Along series with accompaniment CD. Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long series. Beginner, intermediate. Book & CD. 100 pages. Published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz (JA.V03DS)Smp_stars40 (6) ...more info
Boogie Woogie for Beginners look inside Boogie Woogie for Beginners Arranged by Frank Paparelli. For Piano/Keyboard. Keyboard Instruction. 48 pages. Published by Hal Leonard (HL.120517)Smp_stars40 (2) ...more info

There are a few more in my "To Check Out" pile. I'll add them once I've had a chance to go through them a bit.

Practicing Piano Technique by the Root

This is more for the advanced students, music teachers and anyone who wants to learn jazz chords and scales. Instead of practicing your technical exercises by key, practice them by their shared root. For example, play through:

  • C major Scale
  • C major Modes
  • C minor Scales (natural, harmonic, melodic, jazz minor)
  • C minor Modes
  • C Penatonic Scale
  • C Blues Scale
  • C Whole Tone Scale
  • C Octatonic Scale
  • C major tonic chord/triad
  • C minor tonic chord/triad
  • C7 (dominant 7th of F major)
  • Cm7 (ii7 of B-flat major)
  • Cm7(♭5) (viiø7 of D-flat major)
  • Cdim7, A.K.A. B#dim (viio7 of D-flat/c# minor)
  • and so on.

This was one of the first things I learned when I took jazz piano lessons with jazz pianist, clinician, adjudicator and examiner Derek Stoll.

Yes There IS a Point to Practicing Scales

A rather humorous and informative post by a young musician about when he had a dramatic revelation about the usefulness of scales (and arpeggios) when faced with learning a piece for a gig with very little time. Thanks to my colleague LaDona Ahenda (and her son Mark) for sharing this on her blog.

Aebersold's Scale Syllabus a Lifesaver for Classical Geeks learning Jazz

Practicing has been frustrating as of late. On a theoretical level, I know what I'd like my jazz pieces to sound like. However, I've been stuck in a rut as the old practicing techniques applied in learning a Beethoven sonata does not fully apply. Studying the form helps as does studying the harmonic structure, but that's where the similarities end. How on earth am I supposed to figure out what fills, comping patterns and modes I should use in All the Things You Are? More specifically, how am I supposed to practice? I've dutifully listened to recordings for ideas but after listening to recordings of Vince Guaraldi and Keith Jarrett, my mind becomes stuck in "Yikes! I'll NEVER get this!" mode. I'm starting to sort out what inversions I want for the chords, gradually getting used to playing rootless chords. And that's where I've been stuck. My solos haven't been sounding much better and figuring out my comping patterns is haphazard.

With a colleague/friend's wedding coming up next month, I need to buckle down and finalize my plan for the jazz pieces. Derek's got it easy - he knows all the songs we're playing and has played them on piano and bass, while our other friend/colleague Melodie has sung them all. But our little trio will be in sad shape unless I get out of my rut quickly.

Derek has mentioned using a "scale syllabus" at my last two lessons. He's also dropped hints here and there that I should really start using my How to Play Jazz and Improvise book by Jamey Aebersold (so many books, so little time). Tonight, I finally added 2 + 2 together and got it! There in black in white on page 53 IS the scale syllabus!

Volume 1 - How To Play Jazz & Improvise look insideListen! Volume 1 - How To Play Jazz & Improvise By Jamey Aebersold. For any C, Eb, Bb, bass instrument or voice. Play-Along series with accompaniment CD. Jamey Aebersold Play-A-Long series. Beginner, intermediate. Book & CD. 104 pages. Published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz (JA.V01DS)Smp_stars30 (22) ...more info

Now I don't need to think so hard about which modes/scales will work on a G#7b5 chord or a C7b6 chord. What a beautiful chart it is to behold. I just need to add scale degrees so I can get the patterns more quickly. The Whole & Half Step Construction is nice, but my classically-trained mind understands 1 b3 4 5 b7 8 for the Minor Pentatonic scale more quickly than -3 W W -3 W. Practicing tonight went much more smoothly. I'm fast becoming a fan of the Minor Pentatonic ad Bebop minor scales.

Jamey has come up with a whole series of books on how to play jazz. You can find them on his website, along with a free download of the scale syllabus. Now you too can have what I'm now calling my Lifesaver Cheat Sheet.

(c) 2009 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB. All rights reserved.

15 Reasons Why Practicing Technique Can Improve Your Time at the Piano

Once again, Chris Foley posts another musical gem titled 15 Reasons Why Practicing Technique Can Improve Your Time at the Piano.

So folks, keep up with your scales, chords and arpeggios - they're important!

(c) 2008 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.

Piano Technique Links

With exams coming up, is it any wonder us teachers are asking to hear those pesky scales, chords and arpeggios more often?

Here are some useful links/articles to help improve your piano technique:

Feel free to suggest other sites as well.

(c) 2008 by Musespeak(tm), Calgary, AB, Canada. All rights reserved.