This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the Harmonic Minor Modes. You will discover, learn, and play the various altered sounds commonly used by professional jazz musicians. 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 the Harmonic Minor Modes. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play. jazz piano. Here we go. Another Tuesday. Is it me or do these weeks? I buy? Man. I mean, I was always told as a kid that the older you get the faster time passes? Well, I'm here to say that I must be incredibly old because Tuesdays seem to roll around at lightning speed. Wow. Well, if you are a regular listener to jazz piano skills, you know that every Tuesday, we take a dive into a specific and essential aspect of playing jazz piano technique, transcriptions tunes. And today, today it's theory. Yes, today is theory Tuesday. So, today, we are going to explore the harmonic minor modes. I cannot begin to tell you how many times I have been asked if I was planning on doing some episodes on modes. And likewise, I cannot begin to tell you how many times over the past 35 years of teaching that I have been asked if I teach modes. modes are always at least in my experience mentioned and discussed, as if they are some form of Egyptian hieroglyphics that if successfully and properly decoded, unlock the keys, the mysteries of what it takes to become an accomplished jazz musician, which totally cracks me up because modes are simply an explanation of the origin of musical sound, which I will discuss in more detail a little later. The other the other attraction for students to the study of modes is that it makes us sound smart, right? We love thrown around language that sound smart. So in jazz circles, you will you will hear terms like you know tritone substitutions, poly chords, pentatonic scales and of course, mode's fancy schmancy. names that are indeed very impressive sounding right? Especially when you're asked by family and friends. What are you studying in your music lessons, thrown out any one of those terms, right, especially modes will quickly quiet any doubters questioning the seriousness of your jazz pursuit. So regardless of the reasoning behind your attraction to modes, whether you think of them as some kind of lofty musical hieroglyphics, or if you just like to throw the term around to sound musically smart, take comfort in knowing that today, you will gain an accurate conceptual understanding of the harmonic minor modes. In addition to that, you'll actually gain a productive practice approach to the harmonic minor modes as well. But before we discover, learn and play the harmonic minor modes, I want to as I always do at the beginning of every jazz piano skills episode, take just a second to personally invite all new first time listeners, plus all old timers. To join jazz piano skills. Simply go to jazz piano skills.com, select a membership plan that's right for you and click on the join link. Easy. Once you're a jazz piano skills member, you will have instant and full access to all all of the evergrowing and evergreen educational content and resources. Here's what you can immediately access As a jazz piano skills member and begin using to maximize your musical growth, you will have immediate access to all of the educational podcast guides, the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play along tracks, you will have access to the interactive curriculum courses right it's a sequential jazz piano curriculum you have access to all the courses you have access to the weekly masterclass the live one hour masterclass that I host every Thursday evening, you can join every week, you will also have access to the private jazz panel skills community, the skills specific forums plus the social Facebook group. And of course, you have access to personal and professional support 24 seven, provided by me, literally. I'm available 24 seven, it feels like that right? I'm serious. 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Sincerely, I am happy to spend time with you by phone through speakpipe or email to help you determine which jazz panel skills membership plan is best for you. Alright, let's dive in to theory Tuesday. Today, you're going to discover the harmonic minor modes, you're going to learn how to study and practice the harmonic minor modes and you are going to play the harmonic minor modes from the root to the seventh of each sound. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, whether you're a beginner, an intermediate player, an advanced player or even experienced professional, you will find this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring the harmonic minor modes to be very insightful to be very beneficial. Okay, if you take away one thing, and one thing only, from this podcast episode, let it be this that modes all modes, major modes, melodic minor modes, harmonic minor modes, all modes are ways to explain the origin of musical sound. modes explain where the pure musical sounds come from, major dominant minor, half diminished and diminished and modes explain where the variants of those musical sounds, alterations of the musical sounds like flat nine sharp nine sharp 11, flat five sharp five flat 13 and so on. Where do all those sounds come from? So, I want to say this again. All modes, major modes, melodic minor modes, harmonic minor modes are ways to simply explain the origin of musical sound. modes are not. They are not in advanced, improvisational approach. Like so many novice jazz musicians are led to believe if this has been or currently is your impression or understanding of modes that I want you to right now, right now and forevermore. flush it from you thinking, I have good news for you, today is going to be a musically liberating day. Very exciting, indeed. So now that I have established that modes, again, all modes are ways to explain the origin of musical sound. I want to ask you a very important question, a classic chicken or the egg question. Are you ready? Here's my question. Is it best to learn the musical sounds first, and then study their origin, the modes? Or? Is it better to study modes first, in order to discover the musical sounds? Right? Quite a good question. Let me ask that again. Is it best to learn the musical sounds first, and then study their origin the modes? Or is it better to study modes first, in order to discover the musical sounds? Well, before I tell you what I believe, which I will do a little later in this podcast episode, let me tell you, the process the path that most aspiring jazz musicians are led down. Most aspiring jazz musicians are introduced to the modes first, without having a conceptual and or functional understanding of what the musical sounds are, or what musical sounds even exist. In other words, they experience a modes first sounds second approach, rather than a sounds first modes. second approach. Here are a few more questions, important questions for you to answer. How many musical sounds are there in music? What are the primary sounds of music? Are there any variants to the major sound? Are there any variants to the dominant sound? What about the minor sounds? any alterations or variants there? What about the altered? have too many sounds? Do those exist? Are there any variants are altered the many sounds? These are pretty important questions that every aspiring jazz musician should be in search of the answers. Unfortunately, most aspiring jazz musicians are not even aware of the right questions to ask. Sad, right? Because if you do not know the questions, the right questions. You there's no way you're going to get the right answers. How is it that an aspiring jazz musician does not know the correct questions to ask? The explanation is simple. It's because they begin their journey to becoming an accomplished musician with the incorrect understanding of what the study of music is all about. In fact, when I ask a student, what is music the study of they go speechless. I find this to be incredibly fascinating. Because how can you possibly want to study music? While at the same time, you are uncertain as to what music is the study of? Right? How do you want to study anything if you don't know what it's the study of? So, so many questions to answer today, and we certainly will. And when it's all said and done, you will probably more than likely have even more questions to needing needing to be answered. And that is precisely why I am so committed to providing all jazz piano skills members, immediate and professional educational support. If you are listening to this podcast through the jazz panel skills website, you can use the incredibly convenient speakpipe widget nestled directly beneath the podcast player to send me a voicemail message. It's that easy. It's that simple. One click, and the two of us are interacting with one another. Send me a voicemail message with your questions, and I will send you one back with the answers. Very cool technology. And if you're listening to this podcast to the jazz piano skills podcast on I Heart Radio or Spotify, apple, Pandora, amazon music, or any of the other popular podcast directories that are out there, you can just simply use the link speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills to send me a quick message. And as I always say, if you are a scaredy cat and are afraid to send me a voicemail 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 panel skills community help you look directly beneath the speakpipe widget and you will see the links for easy access to each of these platforms. Or if you are free on Thursday evening, every week, Thursday evening, attend the jazz panel skills masterclass that I host every Thursday evening, join me online, eight o'clock it's through zoom. I know you are familiar with zoom. Join me online 8pm Central time using the zoom link that is posted on the jazz panel skills website and get your questions answered face to face, not only by me, but by all the participants in the masterclass as well. So I provide you with so many ways to get help jazz piano skills members, I provide you so many ways to get help. So please 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 is available anywhere today. Okay, so let's answer those all important questions that I just asked. Question one. What is music? The study of answer? Music is the study of sound. Question two? How many sounds are there in music? Answer There are five primary sounds in music. They are major, dominant, minor, half diminished, and diminished. Question three, how many variants of the major sounds are there in music? Answer, five, two produced by the major modes to produce by the harmonic minor modes and one from the melodic minor modes. Question four. How many variants of the dominant sounds are there in music? Answer five. One from major modes. One from harmonic minor modes. Three from melodic minor modes. Question five. How many variants of the minor sounds are there in music? Answer seven, three from the major modes. Two from the harmonic minor modes. Two from the melodic minor modes. Question six. How many variants of the half diminished sounds are there in music? Answer three. One from major modes. One from harmonic minor modes. One from melodic minor modes. Question seven. How many variants of the many sounds are there in music? Answer one zero from major modes. One from harmonic minor modes and zero from melodic minor modes. These are all great questions with very precise and direct answers. As all answers to questions should be great questions, coupled with precise and direct answers are always liberating. See, having the correct understanding of music of what music is the state The above leads to asking essential questions and searching for transformational answers, answers that actually transform your musicianship. Now that you know that music is the study of sound. And now that you know there are five primary sounds major dominant minor, half diminished and diminished. And now that you know there are variants or alterations to these sounds, you are ready to study modes. To understand where the sounds and their variants alterations come from. Remember what I said at the beginning of this podcast episode, modes are simply an explanation of the origin of musical sound. So now we are ready to take a look at some modes, we are ready to see what sounds and variants to those sounds that are generated by the harmonic minor scale. To do this, we are going to use the C Harmonic Minor Scale today. But before the fun begins, I want all jazz panel skills members to hit the pause button right now and download and print the podcast illustration guide that you have access to, you're going to want this guide in front of you. As we go through this lesson as we go through the harmonic minor modes, right the illustration guide guide diagrams, not only the harmonic minor modes for C that we're going to be going through today, but but the harmonic minor modes for all 12 keys for all 12 keys. It's an invaluable, invaluable illustrations to have at your fingertips as you study and practice the harmonic minor modes, right? So no doubt, the illustrations are going to help you maximize your musical growth both conceptually and physically. Okay. All right, so here we go. First, the harmonic minor scale is simply the major scale with the third and the six flat. So you construct the C harmonic minor scale by simply taking the C major scale C, D, and B, and flattening the third and the six. So now we get C, D, E flat, F, G, A flat, B. That's it. That's it. Now, to create the modes of this scale of the C harmonic minor scale, we are going to play the scale starting from each note of the scale. In other words, we are going to play the seven notes of the scale the mode, launching from the notes C, then from the note D, and then from the note E, and so on. So mode one starts with the note C, right? We just played it right. So now, that sound, the sound that that mode produces is what we call a C minor, major seven are sharp seven. So the chord C, flat, G, B natural. Great sound, right? So it's kind of like a hybrid. It's a minor triad on the top, I mean, on the bottom, with a major seven from the top. We play that mode on top of that. So when you run across, in a piece of music, you see a chord symbol for C minor sharp seven, or C minor, major seven, right? You know where that sound comes from. It's the first mode of the harmonic minor scale. So What I want to do is bring the ensemble in right now. And I'm going to practice that mode. And you're going to see that I want to just practice it from the root to this seventh, ascending and descending. Nothing fancy. What I'm simply wanting to do is to process and digest that musical sound, the minor, major seven sound. So I'm going to use a simple fusion groove. Right, nothing fancy there either. In fact, I use this groove because it's a straight eighth note feel as opposed to a classic jazz swing, eighth note feel, I don't know, it's just my preference, I like using a straight eighth note feel whenever I'm in in processing mode, when I want to just play the scale, I'm trying to get a sound under my fingers in my ears, and processed conceptually as well. So let's bring the ensemble and let's check, check it out. C minor, C minor, major seven, mode one of the harmonic minor scale mode one, here we go. Let's check it out. Create sound, a sound that is rarely used, quite honestly, it's you're not going to run across that often, right? But you are kind of run across that. So when you do, you now are familiar with that sound. And you also know its origin. Right? Okay, so now let's go to mode two. Right. So now we're going to play that same scale to see harmonic minor scale, but we're going to play that scale starting now on the note D. If we take every other note of that mode, we get d, f, a flat, C, D half diminished chord, so I'm gonna play D half diminished in my left hand, I'm going to play that mode in my right hand. fits like a glove. Listen again. Great sound. Now this one you will use quite a bit, especially when we play minor two, five ones, okay, this minor seven, flat five, or is very common. So let's bring the ensemble in. And again, I'm going to keep things very simple. I'm going to just practice the sound from the root to the seventh, and back down, digesting that half diminish that minor seven, flat five sound getting used to that mode, conceptually, physically, and orally. Nothing fancy. So here we go. Let's bring the ensemble in. And let's listen to the second mode of the harmonic minor scale. Here we go. Classic, great sound, a mode that you will need to become very familiar with, you're going to run across this often, again, especially when you're playing a minor 251 progression. So now let's go on to the third mode of the harmonic minor scale. So we're going to start our play our scale starting on the third note, which is the E flat. So now our Harmonic Minor Scale sounds like this. If we take every other note of that mode, we get the E flat, G, B natural, and a de natural. Right. So we have in our hands now an E flat major, sharp five, sound or augmented sound. So I'm going to play that chord in my left hand. And I'm going to play that mode. Again. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's listen to E flat major sharp five, the third mode of the C harmonic minor scale. Let's check it out and see what we think. Here we go. Very nice. Now you will run into major sharp, five chords quite often, they exist. So you need to know how to handle them. Now, you can immediately kind of go to the academic route, like we're doing today and go Okay, what mode is that? You know, again, the, the street musician, if you will, will simply take the major scale the E flat major scale, and go, Oh, I have the sharp the five. Right? Same results. But without jumping through all the hoops, the academic hoops of understanding modes, both sides, say the same thing, right, the sweet musician, the academic musician, both get to the same result, they may come at it differently. But they get to the same result because they're dealing with musical sound. Okay, so either way, the major sharp five sound very common, need to know how to handle that when you come across that in plain jazz literature. So now, let's go on to the fourth mode of the harmonic minor scale. So now we're going to start on the fourth on the note F. So our mode if we take every other note, F, A flat, C, E flat, pretty straightforward, F minor seven chord in the left hand mode in the right hand. Gotta be honest, never use it. Never use this mode. I never used this sound. Because I'm always treating that minor as, as a Dorian or a Phrygian, or Aeolian as a two, three or six within a key. But nevertheless, it's a different little twist on a minor seven, you may find it to be very beneficial. So either way, let's bring in the ensemble. Let's listen to the fourth mode of the harmonic minor scale and see what we think. Here we go. Go check it out. Nice. Again, not sure if you're going to use it. Often, I, like I said, I never do. But you may find that you like that sound and find very situations that you enjoy using it. So let's move on to the fifth mode. And now this mode I use all the time, it's one of my favorite sounds in all of music. It's the dominant flat nine flat, 13 sound. So if we take our C harmonic minor scale, we start on the fifth on the G. And now play that mode. The first, third, fifth and seventh of that mode, create the G dominant seven chord. So I'm going to play that my left hand I'm going to play the mode in my right hand. Love this mode. I use that all the time. And again, you know, the street musician may just think of that as the G dominant scale. And I'm going to flap my nine flat my 13. Right, it's just another way quick way of thinking about it, as opposed to trying to go through the mode to get the bat sound. Either way, doesn't matter how you get there, just get there, this is a great sound that you will use often an altered dominant sound with the flat nine, flat 13. So let's bring the ensemble in. And let's check out this gorgeous sound. Here we go. For a great sound write spend some time with this one because you're going to use it a lot. A just a reminder, if you are a jazz piano skills member, you can access and download the educational guides all three of the educational guides for this episode devoted to exploring the harmonic minor modes. And for those of you that are new to jazz piano skills, I design in the I create three educational podcast guides for every jazz panel skill skills podcast episode to help you maximize your musical growth, the illustration guide which I already mentioned earlier, there's also the lead sheet guide in the play along guide and the illustration guide. As I mentioned, arm arms you with detailed diagrams of the jazz panel skill that we are studying, right and does so in all 12 keys when necessary. As the old saying goes a picture is worth 1000 words. The lead sheet guide uses traditional musical notation to present the jazz piano skill. Again, typically at all 12 keys, so you can have them sitting on your panel to read when practicing. If you love having sheet music in front of you, then you'll love the lead sheet guide. And then finally, the play along Guide, which are play along tracks are backing tracks that are perfect for helping you to successfully play the jazz piano skills being taught in the podcast episode. For example, harmonic minor modes. So if you want to develop a strong sense of internal time and proper jazz, feel, and articulation, then use the jazz piano skills play alongs. And again, when needed. I provide play long tracks for all 12 keys. For example, there are a total of 84 play along tracks for this podcasts podcast episode alone, right 84 play long tracks for this podcast episode alone, I cannot stress enough how beneficial the educational podcast guides are for expediting your musical growth. Okay, on to the sixth mode of a harmonic minor scale starts on the a flat we take every other note of that mode, a flat C, E flat G, we have an A flat major seven, when we apply the mode to that kind of get a sharp nine sound with that be natural tension and then a sharp 11 sound right there with that D natural. That's a great sound. Again, I rarely use that mode or that sound. But I may need to reconsider that that's a that's a really pretty sound. Typically when I'm playing a sharp 11 sound, I'm using the Lydian mode from the major, major scales. But anyway, let's bring the ensemble in. And let's let's listen to the six mode of the harmonic minor scale, which presents us with a major sharp 11 sound and a little sharp nine sound in there as well. So let's check it out. Let's see what we think. Nice. I'm, like I said I'm gonna have to reconsider that mode. Play around with that sound a little bit. Okay, now the seventh mode of the harmonic minor scales. So important, so important, because here is where we finally discover the diminished sound. The major scales do not produce a diminished sound. The Harmonic Minor Scale does. And this is where it comes from. Okay, the seventh mode. So if we start our C harmonic minor scale on the note, be the seventh note. If we take every other note of that of that mode, we get a B, D, F, A flat. There's our diminished chord. Wow. Now play the mode with that. So awesome, right? So many times people ask, students will ask, Hey, wait a minute, you know, in the major the major scale producers major dominant minor have too many. Where's the diminished chord? Where's the diminish sound? Well, now we know the harmonic minor scale gives us our diminished sound. So let's bring in our ensemble. Let's check it out. Let's do the same thing. Let's play this sound from the root to the seventh and back down. Keeping It very, very simple as we digest this beautiful diminished sound that we digest that conceptually, orally and physically. Here we go. Let's check it out. Pretty cool right? diminished, you know all the modes of the harmonic minor scale. They present us with major variants of our major of our minor sounds of our dominant sound, right and a half diminished. And now we finally get our demanding sound with the seventh mode of the harmonic minor scale. Spend some time with these modes, you're going to find them to be very invaluable. I hope you have found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring harmonic minor modes to be insightful. And of course, I hope you find it to be very beneficial for your musical growth. And don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills member, I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz panel skills master class 8pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode lesson exploring harmonic minor modes in much 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 guides for this podcast lesson. And also check out the jazz piano skills courses, right a sequential curriculum that you have access to as well to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant of the jazz piano skills forums, and the private 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 Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe found on the jazz piano website, jazz piano skills website. It's an educational podcast guys to jazz piano skills courses, the widgets all over the place. So that's it. That's it for now. Until next week. Enjoy the harmonic minor modes. Enjoy the journey. Most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano