This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the classic jazz standard by Milt Jackson "Bags' Groove". Explore Form, Key, Melody, Chord Changes, Harmonic Function, Voicings, and Improvisation. A jazz piano lesson taught by professional jazz pianist and educator Dr. Bob Lawrence.
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Every JazzPianoSkills weekly podcast episode introduces aspiring jazz pianists to essential Jazz Piano Skills. Each Podcast episode explores a specific Jazz Piano Skill in depth. Today you will discover, learn, play Milt Jackson's Bags' Groove. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
Milt Jackson's Bags' Groove
How to the Minor Blues Scale when playing Bags' Groove
Various regions of the Minor Blues Scale for developing improvisational skills when playing Bags' Groove
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today is tune Tuesday, and I am totally pumped, because we are going to take a look at one of my all time favorite tunes. Plus, it's the perfect follow up to our last tune Tuesday, which was last month, October 20. To be precise, when we explored the classic Duke Ellington Standard C jam blues. I am also totally pumped today, because it is officially officially the one year anniversary of the jazz piano skills podcast. Wow, an entire year of jazz piano lessons, and accompanying educational materials, illustration guides, lead sheet guides play along tracks an entire year of all that being produced and delivered every week, for an entire year. That is a ton of great educational content that is at your fingertips. And the best part. The very best part is year two is on its way. So I just want to extend I want to just take a moment and extend a huge thank you to you. And all of my jazz piano skills listeners. It has been a thrill getting to know many of you over the past year and helping helping you discover, learn and play jazz piano. Okay, let's let's move on before I get all choked up and I begin crying. Alright, so today we are going to explore another great blues to melt Jackson's bags groove. Love this tune. Basically, the exact same chord progression, a standard 12 bar blues as C jam blues. However, we will be in the key of F major today. And not in the key of C major like C jam blues right in the name. I mentioned it during the C jam blues podcast episode that the blues and rhythm changes are without doubt the most common and popular chord progressions in all objects. So it's best that we all get familiar. We all get comfy. With both of these iconic progressions. It's interesting. The Blues is often used by jazz educators as the form of choice for trying to teach someone how to play jazz, how to improvise. And I would have to say that the reason for the overwhelming popularity of the blues as a teaching tool is that number one, the form is short. It's only 12 measures, right significantly shorter than the typical 30 to measure a BA or aibee aibee format used by so many of the Great American Songbook composers, right like Gershwin and Porter and Kern and Arlen and Berlin and so on. And number two, the sixth note, blues scale or blues pattern as I like to refer to it can be used for improvising over the entire progression. We did that with C jam blues. And we're going to do that today with bags groove. But before we discovered learn and play bags groove, I want to take a second and personally invite all new first time listeners and all old time listeners who are not yet members. I want to invite you all to join jazz panel skills. Simply go to jazz piano skills comm select a membership plan, click on the join link and you're good to go. That's that Easy. You may be asking, why should I become a jazz piano skills member? What benefits to jazz piano skills members enjoy? Well, I'm so glad you asked. Once you are an official jazz piano skills member, you will have instant and full access to all of the educational content and resources, educational content and resources that are continually growing each and every week. And each and every year as we begin here too. Here's what you can immediately access and begin using to maximize your musical growth as a jazz piano skills member. Number one, you'll have access to all of the educational podcast guides. These are the illustrations in the lead sheets in the play along tracks that go along with each and every podcast episode, and valuable educational tools. Number two, you'll have access to the interactive jazz piano courses, which make up a sequential piano curriculum and a self using a self paced format. You have access to all the courses. Number three, you have access to the weekly masterclass held each and every week for one hour, hosted by me online. Basically, it's a one hour lesson. So one hour jazz piano lesson that you have access to access to each and every week. You also have access to the private community, which hosts skills specific and podcast specific forums to get to engage and interact with other members of jazz piano skills. In number four, where's that number five, number five number ones the educational guides. Number two the interactive courses number three, the weekly masterclasses for the private community. And number five as a jazz piano skills member, you get personal and professional support 24 seven, literally, you have access to me 24 seven, each and every day of each and every week to get assistance and help and guidance with your jazz piano skills studies. So without a doubt, many benefits to becoming a jazz piano skills member. You know, I say this every week because it's so important, and I simply cannot stress it enough. If you are indeed serious about developing the jazz piano skills needed for you to become an accomplished jazz pianist, then you should absolutely without a doubt, become a jazz piano skills member. And begin taking advantage of all of the educational content, materials, resources and professional support. There are several membership plans to choose from. So you can definitely find one that is going to be a great fit for you. You can become a member for a month and just simply try it out. You can also do a quarterly membership plan and of course there is an annual membership plan. All three plans regardless of which one you choose, you will have full access to all of the educational content, materials, resources, and professional support. check everything out at jazz piano skills.com. If you have any questions, let me know. I'm happy to spend some time with you by phone through speakpipe or email to help you determine which jazz piano skills membership plan is best for you. Okay. All right. Let's dive in to tune Tuesday. Today you are going to discover Milt Jackson's bags groove you're going to learn how to use the minor blues scale with bags groove and you are going to play various regions of the minor blues scale for developing improvisational skills. So regardless of where you are, in your jazz journey, a beginner and intermediate player, an advanced player or even if you are an experienced professional, you're going to find this jazz piano skills podcast lesson, exploring bags groove to be very beneficial. To begin I want to briefly talk about what I can To be the most important aspect of playing music that every aspiring jazz musician must come to realize. And this is especially true when it comes to playing jazz. Right. I've mentioned this in the past. It's a lesson that Duke Ellington teaches so beautifully through C jam blues that we looked at last month. And it's a lesson that Milt Jackson teaches teaches us today, as we explore bags groove. This fact is so important that I want you to grab a piece of paper and a pencil to write it down. Especially if you did not write it down. The last time I brought it up, and here it is. Musical excitement is created rhythmically and not melodically. I'm going to say that again, musical excitement is created rhythmically and not melodically. In other words, the bottom line, the fact is, the truth is, rhythm is exciting. notes are not deucalion Ellington prove this point by composing entire melody of C jam blues using only two notes. And two notes only write the note G and the notes C. Milt Jackson proves this point today, as well right by using a simple five note pentatonic pattern. And if you don't know what Pentatonix are, don't worry about it. Right? It's just a little five note pattern that simply repeats itself three times. That's it. Both tunes c jam blues that we looked at last month, and bags groove that we're looking at today. Use melodic simplicity, repetition and captivating rhythmic motifs. To produce what to produce greatness. Seriously to produce greatness. Both of these are just great tunes. So bottom line, at least in my book, rhythm is king, not notes. I asked the following questions in our last tune Tuesday. And they're certainly worth asking again today. How in the world can a note be exciting? How can a note be hip? or How can a note be beautiful? How can a note be anything other than a sound? That's it. That's a note. And how in the world is that note any different than another note? Or this note? This note my point notes are basically sine waves. Right? So the answer is simply this notes cannot be anything other than just sound. No one hears a note and says Wow, I absolutely love that note. No one. No one hears a note and says Wow, how beautiful is that note? No one. I can tell you However, with the utmost conviction, again, based upon 35 years of teaching and countless hours of empirical evidence that most jazz students are in search of notes and not rhythm. They're in search of notes and not rhythmic ideas. Jazz students are always looking for licks and lines. So it's like the old recording right? looking for love in all the wrong places. Well, they're looking for hipness and excitement and all the wrong places when you're looking for notes instead of rhythmic ideas. So even if you have a melodic pattern like the minor blues scale, you have to do something rhythmically with it. If you want to play melodic ideas that pack some excitement. In addition to the importance of rhythm, both tunes c jam, blues and bags groove teach us two other very important essential elements of plain exciting jazz. repetition and space. Right repetition and space. So let's check out the melody of bags groove let's check out Milt Jackson's masterful use of repetition and space. Okay, so I'm going to bring in the ensemble right now. I want to Just play for you. Bags groove and just play the melody. I want to play it out three times through, right? I'm just gonna play the melody. Check out the repetition. Check out the space. Check out the rhythm. Alright, here we go. Let's check it out. Did I tell you right, great tune right? Set such a lesson for all of us how to create great music, keep it simple. Make it rhythmic. Remember, if you have something worth saying, then it's worth repeating. Mel Jackson just proved that right. Same melodic, same rhythmic motif and melodic idea repeated three times. So if you have something worth saying, then it's worth repeating. And if you say something that's not worth repeating, then it probably was not worth saying the first time. Just great advice to live by as you develop your jazz skills. Now with regards to space, don't ever forget. Music is made of made up of what sound and silence. So music without space is like listening to someone continuously speak with no pauses, no brakes, just non stop talking. Right? We have all encountered people like this and our natural instinct is to do what? strangle them, right? Yeah, so our natural instinct is to, we've stopped listening number first and foremost, we just stop listening. We tune them out. Or we number two, we strangle them. Yeah, we tell them that, hey, stop talking. Right. So we do not want our music to initiate these very same emotional instincts in people right, listening to our music. So we we don't want people to tune us out. And we don't want people to tell us to stop playing. So be sure to use space when composing or improvising, like Milt Jackson beautifully demonstrated with bags groove. So as we embark upon bags group today, you you know, using various regions of the minor blues scale to improvise, you will, I guarantee it, you will have many questions pop up. And that is why I am committed to providing all jazz piano skills members with immediate personal and professional support. So if you are listening to this podcast through the jazz piano skills website, you can use the extremely convenient speakpipe widget that is nestled directly beneath the podcast player to send me a voicemail message. It's that easy. It's that simple. Right one click, and the two of us are interacting and engaging with with each other. So send me a voice message with your questions and I will send you one back with answers. It's very cool technology and I encourage you to utilize it. And if you're listening on I Heart Radio, Spotify, apple, Pandora, amazon music or any of the other popular podcast directories that are out there. If you're a jazz piano skills member, just you can use the URL speakpipe comm forward slash jazz piano skills to send me your questions. Okay, if you are a scaredy cat, and then we have some scaredy cats out there. If you're a scaredy cat and are afraid to send me a voice message, then you can post your question in the private jazz panel skills forum. And let the community help you. Right. So if you look directly beneath the podcast player again, you will see. You will see the icon for the community for the private to access to private community, click on it and you're good to go. Or if you are free on Thursday evenings, join us online Thursday evenings 8pm Central Time for the jazz panel skills masterclass that I host every week, right. So join us online and get your questions answered face to face. And we use the Zoom platform for our masterclass for the jazz panel skills masterclass. And the link is at is posted on the jazz piano skills.com website. I provide you I provide all jazz panel skills members with so many ways to get professional help. So definitely take advantage of the opportunities. As you know, my entire goal is to provide you with the very best jazz piano lessons, the very best jazz piano educational materials, and the very best jazz piano support that's available anywhere today. Okay, bags grew, composed 1954, which just absolutely blows my mind, right? Still sounds just as hip, just as fresh, just as good today, as it did in 1954. It uses the classic 12 bar blues form, right simply 12 measures. It's 12 measures long and the standard key is F major. And like most basic blues progression, progressive progression progressions it uses primarily dominant chords. So let's just take a second and go through the form real quick right measure one f seven, measure two, B flat seven, measure three and for F seven goes back to that EFSA, measure five and six B flat seven. Measure seven, back to the F seven. Measure eight D seven measure nine G minor measure 10 c dominant and then measure 11 f seven. And then for a little turnaround I use the C seven which takes us back to the beginning to the seven very simple, classic 12 bar blues progression. So let's get after this right there's tons to do tons to do today, as we discover, learn and play bags groove. And if you are jazz piano skills member hit the pause button right now. take a couple of minutes to open and print the illustrations and the lead sheets. The illustrations are going to provide you with the detailed diagrams of the blues scale. As a relates to each chord in bags, groove chord construction and basic arpeggio movement. The lead sheets include the core progression, the harmonic function, shell voicings for the left hand two handed voicings plus minor blues exercises from the root, the third, the fifth and the seventh of the pattern. You're gonna find having the illustrations and the lead sheets in front of you. As we go through this podcast lesson today exploring bags groove to be extremely beneficial. So hit the pause button right now. Get those materials then come back. Okay, now that you have the illustrations and the lead sheets in front of you, let's bring in the ensemble. We've already listened to bags grew the melody. But let's bring the ensemble in now and what I want to do, I just want to play those left handed shell voicings that I'm using. So you have the lead sheet in front of you with those left handed shell voicings. Take a look at that and follow along as I as I play. That's all I'm going to do. I'm going to play the left handed the left hand shell voicings we're playing at a tempo of 144, which I think is the stand. I think that's the tempo, miles recorded. Bags groove. It's in that area 141 44. Now you can always practice it much slower, which I encourage you to do. And I also encourage you played at a snappier tempo as well. But for today, everything I'm doing is at 144. So let's listen to these left hand shells first. Okay, so let's bring the ensemble in Let's go through bags groove a few times. And let's check out the left hand shells. Here we go. Nice, right, just three notes shell voicings in the left hand, I'm building those shells. As you can see on the lead sheet there, I'm building those shells based off of the seventh of the sound, or the third. And that's it. I'm not doing anything fancy. I'm just playing those basic shells underneath the melody and underneath the improvisation that I'm going to do, okay, so, take a look at those practice those get familiar with those shapes and those sounds. Now Likewise, the next thing I want to do play the two handed voicings. So if I were playing behind a saxophonist, or, you know, an instrumentalist who's soloing, these would be the type of voicings these would be the type of shapes I would use to come behind a soloist. So these are two handed shelf, two handed voicings, okay, so you got the lead sheet in front of you with these shapes mapped out for you. So I want you to follow along, I want to bring the ensemble back in and we're going to play through bags groove again, several times, and I'm just going to comp using these two handed voicings. So follow along with the lead sheet as I do this, okay, then we'll talk about it. So here we go. Let's check out these shapes and sounds. Wow, very nice, right? very clean, very transparent, very much out of the way. They get the job done, and they stay out of the way of any instrumentalists that I may be backing up. Okay, so you can see those shapes, those voicings I'm using five note, five note shapes to the left three in the right. And by the way, I have several podcast episodes this past year that I've dealt with voicings shell voicings as well as two handed voicing. So if you haven't checked out those episodes, I encourage you to take a listen to those as well. Okay, so next, I want to introduce the F minor blues scale. Now we're going to bring that into our mix here, right. So the minor blues is a six note pattern. So the minor F minor blues scale starts on F, right, then to the flat three, which is a flat, then to the fourth, B flat, sharp for B natural, the fifth C and the seventh flat seven E flat. So it sounds like this. What a great sound right? So F, A flat, B flat, B natural, C, E flat. And again, if you want to explore the minor blues scale in great detail, I did an entire podcast episode exploring the minor blues scale back on June 2. So check it out for a deeper dive into this very essential jazz sound. Okay, before we begin playing minor blues scale is important to know that the blues scale is played over the entire blues progression. So the F minor blues scale is going to be used, it's going to be played over all of the chord changes in bags groove over the F seven, the B flat seven, the D seven, G minor seven and the C seven. So here's a good way to begin getting use to these relationships and sound. Number one, play the minor blues scale ascending and descending on measures one and two. Okay, number two, I want you to rest on measures three and four. Then we're going to play the minor blues scale ascending and descending on measures five and six. We're going to rest on measures seven and eight. We're going to play the minor blues scale ascending and descending on measures nine and 10. And we're going to rest on 11 and 12. So because what we're doing we're building in space right wherever ascending and descending line followed by space. Okay, so let's bring the ensemble in. And now I'm going to play bags groove, I'm going to use my shell voicings in my left hand, I'm going to play the minor blues pattern in my right hand ascending and descending from the root to the flat seven and back, and then build in space with followed by two measures of space after each ascend ascending and descending of the minor blues pattern. So okay, so let's bring the ensemble Len, let's check it out and see what we think. Pretty cool. It's an easy way to begin getting used to playing and hearing the minor blues scale in relationship to the blues progression. So now that we have taken a look at at the bags groove progression, the progression of bags grew. And we've taken a look at the F minor blues scale. It's time to use both of them to bring them together to develop jazz vocabulary and improvisational skills. So here's how we're we are going to do it today. Okay, we are going to use the F minor blues scale over the entire Baggs groove progression. Okay, we are going to use various entry points of the F minor blues scale, we're going to start from the root we're going to start from the flat third, we're going to start from the fifth. We're going to start from the flat seventh. We are going to limit the range of the F minor blues scale to just under one octave just to the six notes of the scale itself, right. So we're going to limit our playground right here. Granted, this is what I tell students all the time. If you want to be creative, you limit your choices, you don't expand them. So we're going to stick to just the six notes of the blues scale. We're not even going to go the entire octave and then before we're going to focus on rhythmic ideas, repetition, and space. Okay, so first thing, we're going to play our F minor blues scale from the root to the flat seven. All right, and then I'm going to improvise using just those six notes. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's improvise from the root to the, to the flat seventh, and only from the root of last seventh. And let's see what we can come up with. Here we go, let's check it out. Wow, see, a lot can be done right with just six notes. And staying within a very limited geographical region, you can create a whole lot of music, you can create and develop a whole lot of jazz vocabulary. So now, we're going to use the exact same approach. But this time, we're shifting everything of the minor blues scale, we're going to launch off the flat third, or the a flat and travel up to the root. So the very first thing I want to do is I just want to play that pattern that shape that geographical region, as we did earlier, when we played the pattern for two measures, rest for two measures, play it for two more measures, ascending, descending, rest for two measures, played again for two measures, ascending, descending, and then rest for two measures. So let's check it out. I'm just going to practice that pattern, launching from the flat thirds the seventh through bags groove, I'm not going to improvise, I'm just going to play that sound. So here we go. Let's check it out. Nice. Now that I'm familiar with that geographical region, right and the shapes under my fingers there, right. Now I'm going to use that geographical region to improvise. And again, the rules of the game. I'm not going to go below that a flat, and I'm not going to go above that F. I'm going to work on my melodic ideas from the flat third, up to the root. That's it. Okay, again, to be creative. We limited we limit our possibilities. Got it. So here we go. Let's check it out. Let's bring the ensemble in and let's improvise Very, very cool, right by shifting the region of the minor blues scale, our focus instead of being from the root to the flat seventh now we go from the flat third up to the root, it presents to us various new patterns, new ideas underneath the fingers. So now we're going to do the exact same thing, we're going to shift it again, the very first thing I'm going to do is I'm going to get used to playing that minor blues scale starting from the fifth to C. And we're going to go up to that sharp for that sharp 11 create sound. So I'm going to bring the ensemble in and again, I'm just going to practice that pattern no improvisation. I'm just going to practice from the fifth up to the sharp for the sharp 11th and back down. I'm going to play for to rest for to play for to rest for to play for to rest for to get it going to work on feel articulation and get used to the pattern. So let's bring the ensemble and let's listen to it. Let's check it out and see what we think. Here we go. Nice, right? It's the same minor blue scale but it's not. Alright, same notes, but takes on a whole different sound a whole different tambor. So now we're going to use that geographical region to improvise. And again, I'm not going to go below. I'm not going to go below the fifth the C and I'm not going to go beyond the sharp four or the sharp 11 everything I do has to stay within that geographical region. That's it. So let's see what kind of improvisational ideas what rhythmic ideas I can come up with using those notes in that order. Okay, so let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out. See what we think. Here we go. Pretty darn cool. Man. Such a great way to methodically study the minor blues scale and bags groove So now we're going to complete the cycle right, we're going to shift one more time, this time, we're going to launch off the flat seven, which is the E flat. And we're going to travel up to the fifth. Right so now that's our geographical region. So let's bring the ensemble in and let's just play that pattern from the flat seven the E flat, up to the fifth up to the C. And we're just going to play for to rest for to play for to rest for to play for to rest, for to no improvisation, just getting the shape and the sound in our ears and under our fingers with good feel good articulation, right. So here we got, let's check it out. Nice. Now you know what comes next right? Now that we got comfortable with that geographical region, the fingerings that the shape the sound, right, now it's time to improvise with it. So again, the rules of the game, I'm not going to go below my seventh flat seventh, the E flat, and I'm not going to wander above my fifth, my See, I'm going to stay within that geographical region, when improvising, right, so I'm going to force myself to create rhythmic ideas, space and repetition with in that geographical region. So let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out and see what we think. Wow, we have thoroughly dissected this right we've taken the F minor blue scale, we've explored it from the root from the flat third, from the fifth from the flat seven. We've got the geographical region under our fingers first, each geographical region and then we use each one of those geographical region region as our blueprint as our form that we're going to use to improvise with right within. So before we bring everything together, because now I'm going to once you get comfortable with all the different regions, it's time to open the floodgates and have a little fun, where you can shift from region the region, the region, the region, while improvising but before we do that, I want to make a point to mention that the play along tracks, jazz piano skills members, there's player long tracks available for you to utilize as well. Various tempos to utilize in learning bags, grooves, pegs, grooves, bags groove and doing so not just with the minor blues scale, but the voicings right the shells, the two handed voicings, the mouth Melody, and then of course the minor blues scale. So I know you have the illustration guidance is in front of you in the lead sheets, but don't forget about the play along tracks as well. So okay, so here we go now that we've worked methodically worked through our minor blues pattern, our minor blues scale from the root from the flat third, and the fifth the flat seventh. Now it's time to have a little fun and open the floodgates so to speak, and allow myself to, to roam from one region to the next region to the next region, and so forth, right. So now let's bring the ensemble in. We're going to have a little fun with bags groove. I'm going to state the melody first the head, and then I'm going to improvise a few courses and then state the melody again for the last course, okay, so here we go. Classic Milt Jackson, Standard Jazz blues standard bags group. Let's check it out. What a great tune. Was it line was I to great tune. A couple things. You know, when I was improvising there, I only use the notes of the minor blues scales and minor blues scale F minor blues scale, I did not use any approach tones. I didn't use any enclosures. I didn't do anything fancy schmancy right, I just use the notes of that blues pattern that blues scale. That was it. And look what can be created. Right so the mystery doesn't lie within the notes. If you know the F minor blues pattern or the F minor blue scale, you know the notes. The mystery lies in the rhythm. You have to come up with rhythmic ideas utilizing those notes. We have covered a ton of ground today in a very short period of time. So again, if you have any questions or need any assistance, please let me know. Well, I hope you have found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring melt Jackson's bags groove to be insightful and of course beneficial don't forget if you're a jazz piano skills member I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz piano skills masterclass. 8pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode lesson exploring bags groove in greater detail in to answer any questions that you may have about the study of jazz piano in general. Awesome. As a jazz piano skills member. Be sure to use the educational podcast guides for this podcast lesson and the jazz piano skills courses to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant In the jazz piano skills forums, get involved make some new friends. Right. And as always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com that's Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe, right, the handy little widget found beneath each podcast player at the jazz piano skills website. So that's it for now. And until next week, enjoy bags grew. Enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano