This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the classic jazz standard by Duke Ellington"C-Jam Blues". 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 Duke Ellington's C-Jam Blues. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
Duke Ellington's C-Jam Blues
How to the Minor Blues Scale when playing Duke Ellington's C-Jam Blues
Various regions of the Minor Blues Scale for developing improvisational skills when playing Duke Ellington's C-Jam Blues
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. And it's time to discover, learn and play. jazz piano. Last week was technique Tuesday, the week before that transcription Tuesday, the week before that theory Tuesday, and today, it's tune Tuesday. Bottom line, there is always something exciting happening every Tuesday at jazz piano skills. So today we are going to explore a classic by Duke Ellington. C jam blues. The last couple of tune Tuesdays, we studied George Gershwin's, I got rhythm, and Lester Young's Lester leaps in, which of course uses the exact same chord progression, exact same chord changes as I got rhythm, and is probably the second most common, most popular chord progression in all of jazz. second only to you got it the blues. It makes sense then, that we take a look at the blues, and no better tune to use than the Dukes. C jam blues. It's interesting. The Blues is often used by jazz educators as the, I guess you could say 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 long. It's significantly shorter than the 32 measure, a BA or ABA B format used by so many of the Great American Songbook composers, Gershwin Porter, Kern, Arlen Berlin, and the list goes on and on. Number two, the six note blues scale, or the blues pattern as I like to refer to it can be used for improvising over the entire progression, which is exactly what we are going to be doing today. But before we discover, learn and play C jam blues, I want to take just a second and personally invite all new first time listeners to join jazz piano skills. You know what? I want to invite all of the jazz piano skills old timers to all you old listeners who have not yet joined jazz panel skills to do so as well. What the heck? What are you waiting for? Seriously, if you are not a jazz piano skills member, go to jazz piano skills.com select the membership plan and click on the join link. It's that easy. And once you are in 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. Here is what you can immediately access and begin using to maximize your musical growth once you are a member number one all of the educational podcast guides the illustrations the lead sheets the play alongs all of the interactive courses which are makeup a sequential jazz piano curriculum, you have access to attend the weekly masterclass a live master class one hour master class every week online with me. You also will have access to the private community skills specific forums, the social Facebook group plus you will have access to personal and professional educational support 24 seven Literally, I'm available all of the time. I will of course be sharing more details about each of these amazing benefits throughout today's episode. 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 become a jazz panel skills a member and begin taking advantage of all the educational content, materials, resources and professional support that I just walk you through. Right, begin taking advantage of them. There are several membership plans to choose from, so you can definitely find one that is going to be a good fit for you. You can become a member for a month if you just simply want to try it out. There is also a quarterly membership plan and of course, there is an annual membership plan as well. All three plans regardless of which one you choose, will grant you 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 am happy to spend time with you. I'm serious by phone through speakpipe email, I want to spend time with you to help you determine which jazz panel skills membership plan is best for you. Alright, let's dive in. Let's dive into tune Tuesday. Today you are going to discover Duke Ellington's cjm blues, you are going to learn how to use the minor blues scale with C jam blues. And you're going to play various regions sections of the minor blues scale for developing improvisational skills. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, again, I say this every week as well whether you're a beginner or an intermediate player, an advanced player, an experienced professional. You will find this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring Duke Ellington c jam blues to be very beneficial. To begin, I want to briefly talk about what I consider 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. It's a lesson that Duke Ellington teaches so beautifully through C jam blues. This fact is so important that I want you to grab a piece of paper, a pencil to write it down. If you're driving a car, just listen very, very carefully and write it down later. But here it is. Okay, you ready? 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 is the fact is the truth is rhythm is exciting. notes are not. And to prove this point, Duke Ellington composed c jam blues using two notes and two notes. Only. The note G and the note C. And guess what? It's not the two notes that make c jam blues. So exciting to listen to, and to play. It's not the notes. It's the rhythm. Let's think about this for a second. How in the world can a note be exciting? How can a note be here? How can a note be beautiful? How can a note be any other adjectives that you want or would like to attach to it? How can a note be anything other than a sound? a sine wave? It can't. It simply cannot. No one hears the note G. And says, Wow, I absolutely love that note. Wow, how beautiful is the note G? Beautiful. The note C? Not so much. doesn't do anything for me. But Gee, Wow, I can't get enough of GE. I love ge. How ridiculous. Does that sound? It sounds ridiculous because it is ridiculous. Yet, I can tell you with the utmost conviction based upon 35 years of teaching, and countless hours of empirical evidence that most jazz students are in search of notes, and not rhythmic ideas. Jazz students are always looking for licks for life. So I guess you could say, instead of looking for love in all the wrong places, jazz students are looking for hipness in all the wrong places. So even if you have a melodic pattern, like the minor blues scale that we are about to explore, you have to do something with it rhythmically. If you want to play melodic ideas that are packed with some excitement, right, you're gonna have to do something rhythmically with that minor blue scale. If you want it to be exciting. In addition to the importance of rhythm, Duke also teaches us two other very important essential elements of playing exciting jazz. You're going to want to write these down to number one. Duke teaches us the importance of repetition. Number two do teaches us the importance of space. Do takes two notes, G and C. And he plays the G's as repetitive eighth notes, followed by a dotted quarter eighth note rhythm with the note C as the climax. He takes this motif. And he does what? He repeats it. Not once. Not twice, but three times. Right. So check it out. Here's CGM blues. That's it. That's c jam blues. How crazy is that? Right? two notes, G and C. Tons of repetition. Right? How many times? Right. And then a couple measures of rest space. And then let's do it again. Let's repeat that. Then a couple measures of arrest silence again. And then let's repeat that. Right. It's such a lesson for all of us on how to create great music, how to keep it simple, and make it rhythmic. It's funny, I had a teacher that used to say, if you have something worth saying, then it's worth repeating. He would then follow it up with and if you say something that's not worth repeating, then it was probably not worth saying the first time. I think Duke Ellington would emphatically agree with his sentiment. Now, with regards to space, don't ever forget music is made made up of sound and silence. Music without space is like listening to someone continuously speak with no pauses, no brakes, just non stop talking. We have all encountered people like this. And our natural instinct. When we when we encounter someone like this, our natural instinct is number one, to stop listening altogether, just tuned them out. Or, number two, if we don't have much restraint, we want to shout at the top of our law at the top of our lungs, shut up. Okay, so we do not want our music to initiate these very same emotional instincts in the people listening to our music. So be sure to use space, like Duke so beautifully demonstrates, with C jam, blues. It's funny. My dad always used to say to me, Robert, he always called me Robert, when he was about to teach me something. It was it was my cue to pay attention. Dad would say, Robert, I wonder why the good Lord gave us two ears, and only one mouth. Which, of course, was his way of telling me to zip it. He was gently trying to tell me to use some space. So as we embark upon c jam blues today, using various regions of the minor blues scale to improvise, you will more than likely have many questions pop up. And that is precisely why I am committed to providing all jazz piano skills members with personal and professional and immediate support. 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 voice message. It's that easy. It's that simple. And those of you who have been using it know how easy it is just one click. And the two of us are interacting with each other. Send me a voice message and I will send you one back. Right so send me your questions, I will send you back answers. It's a very cool technology. If you're listening on iHeartRadio, amazon music Spotify, Apple Pandora, or any of the other popular podcast directories, you can just simply use the link speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills to send me a message and again that that link is speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills. And I always say if you're a scaredy cat, which I know some of you are scaredy cats. If you're afraid to send me a voice message then you can post your question in the private jazz piano skills forum or the private jazz piano skills Facebook group and let the jazz piano scales community help you. And if you look directly beneath the speakpipe widget, you will see the links for each of these platforms. Or if you are are free on Thursday evenings, you can as a jazz panel skills member attend the Thursday evening jazz panel skills masterclass that I host every week. Join me online 8pm Central time using the zoom link posted on the jazz piano skills website and get all of your questions answered face to face. Bottom line, I provide you with so many ways to get help. So definitely please take advantage of the opportunities. As you know, my entire goal is to provide each of you with the very best jazz piano lessons. The very best jazz piano skills, jazz piano educational materials, and the very best jazz piano support that's available anywhere today. Okay, C jam blues composed in 1940 One uses the classic 12 bar blues form 12 bars simply meaning 12 measures, right? c jam blues is 12 measures long. And the standard key is C major. Hence the title c jam blues. And like most basic blues progression, it uses primarily dominant chords. So let's go through this form together. Okay. So measure one, C seven c dominant measure to F dominant measures three and four, back to C dominant measures five and six, back to F dominant. Measure seven c dominant measure eight, a seven eight dominant measure nine, D minor, D minor seven measure 10 g dominant and measures 11 and 12 c dominant. Okay, the turnaround that I'm going to use to get back to the beginning of the form in measures 11 and 12. All right, I'm going to actually be using C dominant going to a dominant going to a flat dominant, which is a tritone sub for the two chord and then the G dominant. Right. So that little turnaround in measures 11 and 12 c seven to a seven to a flat seven to G seven will get me back to the beginning of a blues form. Back to my C seven. Okay. So let's listen to this progression. Just the changes, right no melody, I'm not gonna play any melody. Just want to listen to the blues form the chord changes that we just went through. And if you are a jazz piano skills member hit the pause button right now and open the educational lead sheet guide and print the lead sheets, you will see a lead sheet outlining the changes a lead sheet outlining the harmonic function and a lead sheet displaying chord scale relationships. And you will also have the lead sheet well the chord scale relationships with that minor blue scale in there. So you'll find these lead sheets to be very beneficial to have in front of you as we go through the demonstrations today. So take a moment right now hit the pause button and print those out so you have them in front of you. Okay, now that you have the lead sheets in front of you, let's bring in the ensemble and let's listen to see jam blues, just the changes no melody. Okay, we're just going to listen to the form and listen to the changes. So here we go. Let's check it out. Nice, as you can see on the lead sheets, and as you can hear right c jam blues is exactly that. It's a classic blues. Now, let's take a look at the C minor blues scale that we are going to use that we will use over c jam blues to begin developing some jazz vocabulary. While improvising over the chord changes the minor blues is a Six note pattern. Okay, using the root. So for instance C minor blues, it's going to use the root, flat three, E flat for F sharp for F sharp, five, G, and flat seven, B flat, six notes, C minor blue scale, or pattern, again, as I like to call it. So if you want to explore the minor blues scale in more detail, I did an entire podcast episode breaking apart the minor blues scale back on June June 2 of this year June 2, so be sure to check it out for a deeper dive into this very essential jazz sound. Okay, before we begin playing the minor blues scale, it is important to know that the blues scale, the blues pattern is played over the entire blues progression. So the C minor blues scale is going to be used, it's going to be played over all of the chord changes over the C seven f seven, a seven, the D minor, the G seven. And even over the entire turnaround that includes the a flat seven. So here's a good way to begin getting use to these relationships into the sound right. Play the minor blues scale ascending and descending on measures one into rest on three and four, just like Duke did with the melody, play the minor blues scale ascending and descending on measures five and six and rest on seven and eight. Just like I did and then play the minor blues scale ascending and descending on measures nine and 10 and rest on measures 11 and 12. Yes, just like Duke did. So let me bring in the ensemble and demonstrate this exercise. Okay, so you're going to hear me just play the minor blues scale ascending and descending not going to be doing anything fancy. Just gonna play that minor blues scale to get used to the sound being played over the blues form being played over c jam blues. So Okay, here we go. Let's check it out. Pretty cool. Sounds great. Just Just like that right? It's an easy way to begin getting used to plain and hearing the minor blues scale in rich in relationship to the blues progression in relationship to C jam blues. So okay, now that we have taken a look at the C jam blues progression and the C minor blues scale, it's time to use both of them to begin developing jazz vocabulary and improvisational skills. So here is how we are going to do it. Number one, we are going to use the C minor blues scale over the entire c jam blues progression. Number two, we are going to use various entry points of the C minor blues. scale, we're going to utilize the entry point of a route, the flat Third, the fifth, and the flat seventh. Number three, we are going to limit the range of the minor blues scale to be within one octave, we're going to limit our boundaries, while improvising. Okay? In number four, and by the way, the reason we do that, if you want to practice creativity, let limit your choices. Okay, number four, we are going to focus on rhythmic ideas, repetition and space. The very three things, the very three essential elements that Duke Ellington actually teaches us through C jam, blues, rhythmic ideas, repetition, and space. So as you can see, we have a very organized a very structured plan of attack. That is going to be a ton of fun. But before the fun begins, I want all jazz piano skills members again to hit that pause button once again, please and download and print the podcast illustration guide, you're going to want each of these guides the illustration guide the lead sheets to be in front of you as we go through the remainder of this lesson. The illustration guide diagrams each of the C minor blues scales that the C minor blues scales and arpeggios for each of the chords used in C jam blues, right. So both guides, the illustration guide have in front of you the the lead sheet guide, they are invaluable. As you know, they're invaluable and that will help you maximize your musical growth both conceptually and physically. Okay, in the demonstrations, today, I'm going to be playing c jam blues, at least for the first several demonstrations at a tempo of 140. So not too slow, not too fast, right 140 I am going to play Are you going to use the C minor blues scale to improvise, I'm going to play the melody, we're going to state the melody that the head then I'm going to improvise a couple courses using the C minor blues scale with the entry point of the root. And I'm only going to stay within that one octave. So right there, I'm not going to go beyond my boundaries, right from C to C. That's it one octave. And I'm going to take a couple courses. Then trumpet is going to take a couple courses as well. And both piano solos and the trumpet Solo is going to stay within the boundaries, the one octave with the entry point being the root. Okay, so let's bring the ensemble in. And let's listen to C jam blues using the C minor blues scale. improvising within one octave from C to C. Okay, here we go. Let's check it out. Very cool, right. Here's what's neat about that, right? I mentioned earlier that when you want to when you practice creativity, right limit your possibilities. Alright, so we're not, I'm not giving myself free rein of the keyboard where I can just move at will up and down the keys. I'm limiting myself to a very specific geographical region, and then forcing myself to create melodic ideas rhythmically create rock rhythmic ideas using the notes of the C minor blues scale. Now, I am also playing Just so you know, I am playing the trumpet part as well. And I like to do this you know, when I practice improvisation, I like to think as an instrumentalist, as a trumpet player as a sax player, right? I want I kind of try to put myself into that mindset. So I think, melodically and rhythmically, like a horn player would. So anyway, I'm actually demonstrating, you know, using the roads, the beautiful roads sound and a trumpet sound, so that I can kind of get into the right mindset. Okay, so Okay, now with that being said, let's go on to the very next demonstration, we're going to play C jam blues again. Okay, this time, we're going to use our entry point, the flat third. So I'm starting on E flat. I'm going to give myself a one octave range. Now I've shifted the region that I'm going to utilize when improvising. I'm going to be focusing on playing from the third to the third, flat Three, two, flat three, not going to go outside those boundaries I'm going to stay with in within the boundaries and create melodic ideas using the C minor blues scale and really thinking rhythmically. Okay. So here we go. Let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out. Then we'll talk about it. Here we go. Very nice. It's amazing right how much you can create how much you can do musically with n within a limited range. After all, look, C jam blues again, going back to the melody of C jam blues. at Duke Ellington isn't even going in Octave, he's traveling a fourth for heaven's sakes, right, from G to C. So again, another great lesson there, you do not have to use 88 notes. In order to be creative, you just do not. So this whole exercise of taking the minor blue scale, and creating various entry points, and then limiting ourselves to a very specific geographical region of the minor blue scale based on that entry point. That's just smart practice, right, that's just a great way to kind of kickstart your creativity. Okay, so let's, let's move on, let's do the exact same thing. Except now we shift the the, our attention to the minor blues scales launching, with our entry point being the fifth piano G. So I'm going to be traveling one octave. That's it g to g. by shifting the region, right, the scale takes on a whole, to me, at least it takes on a different sound is a different dimension to it when when you start looking at it regionally. And, and as a result, my ideas are, are spawn differently as a result of that. So let's bring the ensemble back in. Let's go through the same process, we're going to play C jam blues, when a state the melody the head, then a couple courses of piano solo, using the great roads sound, and then a couple courses of trumpet. And again, staying within our boundaries from G to G using the C minor blues scale. So here we go. Let's check it out. Then we'll talk about it. Alright. Pretty darn cool. It's awesome. You know I already mentioned earlier the educational guides, the illustration, guides, and also the lead sheet guides. But I also want to take just a second and encourage you jazz panel skills members to use the play along guide as well in the play along guide. Play along tracks are perfect for helping you success successfully play. The Jazz panel skill being taught in the podcast episode today help you learn C jam blues, right. And so the play along tracks help you develop a strong sense of internal time plus proper jazz feel and articulation. And as I've mentioned a million times, you must experience that experience these essential jazz piano skills elements if you're going to properly develop them. And there's no better way to do to do this than to use quality play along tracks. So I cannot stress enough how beneficial in educational. All of the podcast guides are the illustrations, the lead sheets and the play along tracks. And I got some great play along tracks included in there for you at various tempos, for C jam blues so that you can utilize the techniques that I'm demonstrating today, you can do that right there at home as well. Okay, so now we have taken c jam blues, we've applied the C minor blues scale use the C minor blues scales to to work on some improvisational development, jazz vocabulary, launching from the root of the scale, launching from the third flat third, and then using the fifth as our entry point. So now we're going to shift our region one more time. And we're going to use the entry point of the flat seven, the B flat. So now our scale sounds like this. Right, that's totally different. So now we're going to bring the ensemble back in, we're going to play the the head and then two courses again of piano solo using this geographical region only. And then two courses of trumpet solo, using this geographical region, only focusing on rhythmic ideas, right using the C minor blues scale. So let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out. And then we'll talk about it here we go. What a great way. What a great way to practice right to practice creativity to practice improvisation to take Minor blues scale, establish various regions, right by shifting our entry points to different parts of the scale from the root to the flat third to the fifth to the flat seventh, and then forcing ourselves to stay with in the boundaries the play with in the boundaries. Just a great way to practice it. You know, I'm again, I'm demonstrating everything today at 140. I have play along tracks at 100 I encourage you to play much slower so you can process things not just physically and orally but conceptually as well. So experiment at home with various temples when utilizing the technique today that I'm demonstrating for developing improvisational skills and sharpening your creative skills. So now, what I want to do is I'm going to kick the tempo up from 140 to 180. A little faster tempo and I am going to I am going to give myself the freedom to move in and out of these various regions of the minor blues scale. Okay. So again, we're going to state them the head the melody of C jam, blues, a couple courses of piano solo, a couple courses of trumpet solo, and then the head to the end. Okay at 180. So little snappier tempo. So let's check it out. See what we think. Here we go. What a great town right? I could do that all day long. How much fun. So C jam blues Duke Ellington c jam blues is a great tune to utilize a great form to use for practicing your improvisational skills and your creativity. You utilizing the C minor blues scale, just a fabulous, fabulous tune fabulous teaching tool that I encourage you to utilize incorporate into your practicing. Well, I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcast lesson, exploring Duke Ellington's c jam blues to be insightful and of course, very beneficial. Don't forget if you are 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, exploring cjm blues in greater detail, and to answer any questions that you may have about the study of jazz in general. Also, as a jazz piano skills member, be sure to utilize the educational podcast guides for this podcast lesson and the jazz piano skills courses. It's incredible curriculum. Use all those educational resources and materials to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant in the jazz piano skills forums and active member with the private Facebook jazz piano skills Facebook group, get involved make some new jazz piano friends. 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 found throughout the jazz piano skills website, in the educational podcast guides and the jazz piano skills courses. So that's it for now. And until next week, enjoy c jam blues. Enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano