This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores how to practice contemporary shell voicings using diatonic chords.
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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 you are going to discover diatonic harmonic exercises. You're going to learn how to use diatonic harmonic exercises to practice voicings and you are going to play left hand shell voicings using for diatonic harmonic exercises. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner an intermediate player, an advanced player, or even if you are an experienced professional, you are going to find this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring diatonic harmonic exercises to be very beneficial. If you are new to jazz piano skills, I want to take a minute at the beginning of this podcast episode to invite you to become a member. jazz piano skills members have access to the entire library of educational content found at jazz piano skills.com educational content by the way, which grows on a weekly basis. This material includes all of the educational podcast packets that I developed for every weekly podcast episode, the illustrations, the lead sheets and the playlists. The podcast packets help you thoroughly study and master the jazz piano skills explored in the weekly podcast. They are simply invaluable. jazz piano skills members also have access to the interactive courses, which make up a sequential jazz piano curriculum. Using a self paced learning format. The educational talks, engaging media and video demonstrations in each course provide you a stimulating, effective and efficient educational experience. members also enjoy a weekly one hour online masterclass, hosted by me every Thursday evening. This is basically a one hour jazz piano lesson that is included in your membership that you simply do not want to miss. Access to the jazz panel skills private community podcast in core specific forums is also included in your membership. And last but certainly not least, as a jazz panel skills member. You have access to personal and unlimited professional educational support. jazz piano help, anytime, as often as you need it. Visit jazz piano skills.com to learn more about becoming an active jazz piano skills member. If you have any questions, please let me know. Well, today we begin looking at some diatonic harmonic exercises. And of course, if there are diatonic harmonic exercises, there must be diatonic melodic exercises as well. And there are indeed diatonic melodic exercise. However, we will save those for another day. diatonic harmonic, pretty fancy words they sound pretty impressive, especially to anyone not involved with music. For example, when your neighbor happens to ask you, when you're standing in your front yard, minding your own business when your neighbor says Hey, what are you working on in your piano lessons? Of course, your neighbor is expecting to hear you rattle off some song titles because that is what typical piano lessons are always thought to be the learning of songs, which of course, as you already know, legitimate piano lessons are so much more than simply learning a song. But anyway, your nosy neighbor is expecting you to say Oh, hey, I'm working on Elton. John's your song are Billy Joel's Piano Man. Well, now you can throw your neighbor's serious curveball. And say, I'm working on diatonic harmonic exercises. I promise you, that will be the immediate end of that conversation because your neighbor will be like what? So what do we mean? When we use the word diatonic? It simply means that we are going to stick with only the notes found within the scale. No chromaticism, no notes outside of the scale. So the notes, C, D, E, F, G, A and B are the diatonic notes of the C major scale. That's it. That's what the word diatonic is referencing the seven notes of any given major or minor scale. Now, the word harmonic is simply implying the use of more than one note, for example, a chord or voicing. So today, when we tackle diatonic harmonic exercises, we are looking at exercises that will help us specifically gain command of chords are voicing using patterns constructed from the notes of the scale only. So what initially sounds pretty fancy schmancy diatonic harmonic exercises, actually ends up being pretty basic, pretty fundamental and pretty down to earth sort of speed. And I have to be honest with you, the best exercises are always basic and fundamental and are always down to earth. So today, I am going to share with you some diatonic harmonica exercises that I use when practicing and that you can use to help you get any harmonic structures, chord voicings sorted out conceptually orally and of course physically. Today, I am going to be using three note lefthand contemporary shell voicings with all of the diatonic harmonic exercises that I introduce to you. Actually, we are studying to jazz piano skills today, diatonic harmonic exercises, and contemporary shell voicings. It's basically another twofer episode right. We are being incredibly efficient by getting familiar with some standard diatonic harmonica exercises, while at the same time tackling contemporary shell voicings. Very cool. If you are unfamiliar with the contemporary left hand shell voicings, be sure to check out jazz piano skills podcast episode I did on December 16 2019. Dealing specifically with these very popular and without question, essential voicings, it's well worth your time to check out that episode, again December 16 2019. The first thing I want to do is to introduce the diatonic harmonic exercises that I am going to be using today. And there are four of them. diatonic harmonic exercise number one, I simply call the major scale diatonic harmonic exercise number two, split major scale variation one, diatonic harmonic exercise number three, split major scale variation to and diatonic harmonic exercise number four, to five one progression, I am going to be playing everything today in the key of C major. Of course, this is the most visually friendly key of the 12 and it is precisely why is always used to introduce musical concepts. So the first diatonic harmonic exercise will ascend through all seven chords of the key of C major or the C major scale those chords C major, D minor, E minor, F major, g dominant, a minor and B half diminished. The second diatonic harmonic exercise, we'll ascend through the first four chords of the key of C major or the C major scale. So those chords B and C major, D minor, E minor, and F major. The third diatonic harmonic exercise will be send through the last four chords of the key of C major, or the C major scale starting with the C major chord, then descending to B half diminished, then to a minor, and then to G dominant. The fourth diatonic harmonic exercise uses the most common corporate chord progression in all jazz, the 251 progression, which in the key of C is D minor, g dominant, and C major for very basic, very fundamental, and very effective diatonic harmonica exercises that we can now use to practice our contemporary shell voicings. So now let's talk about our contemporary left hand shell voicings, these voicings, use three notes in the left hand, with all three notes being spaced a fourth apart, you will hear these type of structures being referred to as quarter voicings or fourth the voicings, and even some folks refer to them as miracle voicings. Yes, miracle voicings interesting, so why use the word miracle because as you will soon see, the same shapes can be used to play the five primary sounds of music, Major, dominant, minor, half diminished and diminished. In other words, we can use the exact same voicings not only for different chords, but for different chord types as well. It's a miracle. Here's a quick review of the two standard voicing options of the contemporary left hand shells. And these are the two voicing options that I am going to be using today. four major chords option 1369 option 2736 dominant chords, option 1369 option 2736 for minor chords, option 1147 option 2514, half diminished option 1147 option 2514. And for the diminished voicings option 1369 option 2736. I want to point out quickly that the major dominant and diminished voicings all utilize 369 for option one, and 736. For option two, the minor and half diminished voicings, use one for seven for option one, and 514 for option two. The numbers of course refer to the scale degree of the scale from which the voicings are taken from the podcast pack. It's that you can download the illustrations the lead sheets have these contemporary left hand shell voicings mapped out for you in all 12 keys, along with the four diatonic harmonica exercises that I am going to be using today when playing these voicings and valuable reference material that I hope you will download and utilize the podcast packets, the illustrations the lead sheets in the play alongs will indeed maximize your musical growth. Okay, well let's put these diatonic harmonic exercises to work exploring our contemporary shell voicings diatonic harmonic exercise number one requires us to play The seven chords of the key in sequential order. So, in the key of C major, we will be playing the following sequence we will be playing the one chord, C major, the two chord, D minor, three chord, E minor, four chord, F major, five chord, g dominant six chord a minor and seven chord B half diminished. I am going to begin this sequence with my C major chord using voicing option 1369. So, in other words E, A and D. With this serving as my launching point, the goal is to move from chord to chord. With this little movement as possible, I am going to play through the progression the first time with my left hand only. So you can hear just how little my voicings are moving. If you're following along with the lead sheets, you will see that I'm only moving an interval of a second up or down as I play all seven chords Now that's what I call minimal motion, or what is oftentimes is referred to as economy emotion. Once I played through the exercise once, I will begin to improvise in my right hand and like the diatonic harmonic exercises, I'm only going to use scale and chord tones only. So in essence diatonic melody. Now, with that being said, I do not want you to focus on what I am doing in my right hand with my improvisation. No, I want you to focus on how in conspicuous the voicings become when I am playing melody or improvising over the top of them. And why is this important? Because most aspiring jazz pianist when playing when improvising, play too heavily with the left hand. This typically occurs because either the voicings they're using in the left hand are too dense. Too many notes are the voice leading between the chords is not optimal. In other words, they're jumping around way too much big leaps. They are not utilizing minimal motion to move from one chord to the next chord. Sometimes, both situations are occurring, dense chords and poor voice leading, which creates kind of a frantic or a banging lefthand sound which definitely distracts from what is happening in the right hand. Bottom line, your left hand should be felt and not heard. And that is what I want you to focus on when listening to these demonstrations today. Okay, let's check out diatonic harmonic exercise number one key of C major using a traditional swing jazz grew at a temple of one. Okay, so let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out. And then we'll talk about it. Here we go. Wow, what a great diatonic harmonic exercise. It requires you to think in a key you have to know the harmonic structures the chords produced by the scale. It requires you to utilize some type of voicing structure like the contemporary shells that we are using today. And it demands that you use minimal motion when moving from chord to chord within the key to develop proper voice leading and it quickly illuminates the balance between your hands between melody and harmony. diatonic harmonic exercises certainly cover a ton of ground. When it comes to developing jazz piano skill, they pack a serious punch. So let's stay with the same the exact same diatonic harmonic exercise However, this time, we are going to begin with our one chord our C major using the 736 contemporary shell voicing. Our objective however remains the same to move from chord to chord with as little movement as possible. Once again, I am going to play through the progression the first time with my left hand only. So you can hear just how little my voicings are moving. And once again, if you're following along with the lead sheets, you can see that I am playing all seven chords using only two alternating shapes to alternating voicings. That is very, very cool. You simply cannot play with less minimal motion than that when moving from chord to chord. Once I play through the exercise one time, I will begin to improvise in my right hand. So you can hear how nicely the shapes the voicings support the melodic ideas that I am playing in my right hand. So let's bring the ensemble back in again. And let's play diatonic harmonica exercise number one again and see what we think. Okay, here we go. Let's check it out. diatonic harmonic exercise number one, starting with the C major voicing using option number 2736. Here we go. Very nice. Again, the melody, the improvisation in my right hand was the focal point and the contemporary shell voicings in my left hand were felt and not heard. Okay, at this point, it is important for me to point out that I actually started with the end goal in mind the ability to play all seven chords of a key using contemporary three note shell voicings while maintaining the correct balance between my right hand and left hand between my melody and harmony. Now let's make things a little easier by splitting the major scale in half, diatonic harmonic exercise number two uses the first four chords at the key of the scale. So when playing in the key of C as I am doing today, I will be using the one chord C major, the two chord D minor, the three chord, E minor, and the four chord F major as I did with diatonic harmonic exercise one, I am starting with my one chord C major using the first shell voicing option 369 the first time through voicings only followed by some diatonic improvisation, so I'm utilizing the same format. The same objective remains intact to move from chord to chord with as little movement as possible, while maintaining the proper balance between my hands between melody and harmony. So Okay, here we go. Let's check it out diatonic exercise. Number two. Pretty cool. Again, if you are following along with the podcast illustrations and lead sheets, you can easily see how little movement is being used to move from one chord to the next chord. Another revelation you should be having as you follow along is how the same shapes are being used for different chords for different sounds. Again, miracle voicings. Let's play the same diatonic harmonic exercise. But now start on our one chord our C major with voicing option number 2736. By now, I hope you can recite the exercise objectives along with me. Here we go number one, minimum motion from chord to chord. Number two, balanced between our hands between melody and harmony. Let's bring in the ensemble check it out. First time through voicings only followed with some diatonic improvisation. All right. Okay, here we go. Very nice. Now, let's explore our second split scale diatonic harmonic exercise. As you can see, on your lead sheets, we begin with the one chord C major. But now we use descending motion and progress to the seven chord B half diminished. Then the six chord a minor and then to the five chord g dominant. Once again, we will begin with the one chord C major using the first voicing option 369 our objective dubs, are you ready? recite them along with me. Number one, minimum motion from one chord to the next number to balance between hands between melody and harmony. You got it. Let's bring in the ensemble, first time through again, voicings only, and then followed with some diatonic improvisation. Let's check it out. Here we go. Amazing right? To shapes to play major, half diminished, minor and dominant chords. Let me say that again. Right, two shapes two voicings to play four chords and four different sounds major, half diminished, minor and dominant. I have been playing these voicings for many years, and I am still blown away by their versatility. I marvel daily at how the sophistication and diversity of music works so beautifully together. So what happens when we play the same diatonic harmonic exercise and start with our one chord or C major, using the second voicing option 736. Let's find out Oh, by the way, our objectives recite along with me please. Number one minimum motion from one chord to the next number to balance between hands between melody and harmony. Going to use the exact same format first time through chords only. The remaining cycles include some diatonic improvisation. So Okay, here we go. Let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out. More amazement, once again, two shapes, two voicings to handle four chords and four different sounds major, half diminished, minor and dominant. And on top of that, one voicing handles three of the chords, study or lead sheets carefully and you'll see that the major voicing is the same as the half diminished voicing is the same as the dominant voicing, you simply cannot have less minimal motion than that. All right. Now let's simplify a little more. We have gone from a diatonic harmonica exercise that included seven chords to a diatonic exercise with four chords and now to a diatonic harmonic exercise with three chords using the most Important progression in all of jazz, the 251 progression. So grab your podcast illustrations and lead sheets for the 251 progression and follow along. I am going to start with the two chord the D minor using the 147 voicing option, option one. This is a two major exercise with the two and five chords being played for two counts each in one measure, and then followed with the one chord being played for an entire measure four counts, the objectives remain the same, right? minimum motion from one chord to the next, and balance between our hands between melody and harmony. The format remains the same first time through chords only. Then the remaining cycles includes some diatonic improvisation. Okay, so let's have a little fun here. Let's check it out. diatonic harmonic exercise, utilizing the 251 progression, here we go. Really, really nice. At this point, it is important to mention that even though I am calling this a diatonic harmonic exercise, it is really in essence, every jazz tune that exists in the entire world. The 251 progression is laced throughout all of jazz literature. I cannot think of any other progression more important to practice other than the 251 progression. So on one hand, yes, it's a diatonic harmonic exercise. On the other hand, it captures the very essence of jazz and jazz literature in general. So bottom line, practicing the 251 progression, using these contemporary shell voicings is big time stuff that is going to pay big time dividends for you with regards to the development of your sound, and your overall development as a jazz pianist. So with that being said, let's play the 251 diatonic harmonic exercise once again. This time let's start with the two chord the D minor using the second voicing option 514 reside along with me one last time. The objectives number one, minimum motion from one chord to the next. And number two, balance between our hands between melody and harmony. Again, the format is going to remain the same. First time through I'm going to play chords only. And then the remaining cycles. I'll include some diatonic improvisation. So here we go. Let's check it out. diatonic harmonic exercise 251 starting with the D minor using voicing option number 2514 Here we go. Wow, you know as we always do, we covered a ton of ground in a very short period of time. I cannot stress to you enough how important it is to have a set of diatonic harmonic exercises at your fingertips to utilize when practicing various harmonica shapes, various voicings makes no difference whether they are left hand shell voicings like we use today, or two handed voicings like we have studied in previous podcast episodes. Regardless of the harmonic shapes regardless of the voicings, it is important to practice them using various diatonic harmonic exercises. Well, I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcast lesson, exploring diatonic harmonic exercises and contemporary shell voicings to be insightful and of course, to be 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 lesson, exploring the diatonic harmonica exercises and contemporary shell voicings 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 use the educational podcast packets for this podcast lesson and the jazz panel skills courses to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant of the jazz piano skills community. Get involved and contribute to the various forums make some new jazz piano friends. As always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 my extension is 211 by email, Dr. Lawrence Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe found throughout the jazz piano skills website. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy the diatonic harmonica exercises and the contemporary shell voicings. Enjoy the journey and most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano