This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores a Key of Ab Major Harmonic Workout (Block Chords, Traditional and Contemporary Shells, Two-Handed Voicings) + Rhythmic Comping Patterns
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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, and play a Key of Eb Major Melodic Workout. In this Jazz Piano Lesson, you will:
A Key of Ab Major Harmonic Workout
How to "think" within the Key of Ab Major, Harmonically
Block Chords, Traditional and Contemporary Shells, Two-Handed Voicings using common harmonic motion AND various Rhythmic Comping Patterns
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Dr. Bob Lawrence
President, The Dallas School of Music
Dr. Bob Lawrence 0:32
Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today you're going to discover a key of A flat major harmonic workout. And you're going to learn how to think within the key of A flat major harmonically. And you are going to play essential jazz piano voicings, block chords traditional and contemporary shows, two handed shapes, all of them using common harmonic motion, and various rhythmic comping patterns. So as I always like to say, regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner and intermediate player, advanced player or even if you consider yourself an experienced and seasoned professional, you will find this jazz panel skills podcast, exploring a key of A flat major harmonic workout to be very beneficial. If you are new to jazz piano skills. If you are a new jazz piano skills podcast listener, I want to welcome you and personally invite you to become a jazz piano skills member. All you have to do to become a member is to visit jazz piano skills.com And once you arrive at the homepage, you can begin to explore the abundance of jazz educational resources, materials and services that are available for you to use to help you significantly improve your jazz piano skills. For example, as a jazz piano skills member you have access to all of the educational podcast packets, the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play alongs that I develop, I produce and publish for every weekly podcast lesson. You should absolutely have these in your hands as you listen to the podcast episode and you should absolutely have them sitting on the piano when practicing. You also as a jazz panel skills member have access to the online sequential jazz piano curriculum, which is loaded with comprehensive courses all of them using a self paced format. There are educational talks, interactive media, video demonstrations and all 12 keys, play alongs and much more. You also as a jazz panel skills member have a reserved seat and the online weekly master classes, which are in essence a one hour online lesson with me each and every week. And as an online as an online. As a jazz piano skills member, you have access to the online interactive Fakebook which gives you access to jazz standards from the Great American Songbook enjoy chord changes lead sheets, harmonic function, lead sheets play along files, historical insights, inspirational recordings, and much more. It's an ever growing collection. It's an ever growing library of tunes that you should absolutely discovered learn and play. You also as a jazz panel skills member have access to the private jazz piano community hosting a variety of engaging forums there are podcasts specific forums, core specific forums, and of course general jazz panel forums as well. You'll have access to all of the forums and you will have the ability to contribute to them as well which I encourage you to do, share, engage and grow. The Jazz Piano community is a great place to do exactly that. And last but certainly not least, as a jazz panel skills member you have access to unlimited, private, personal and professional educational support with me whenever and as often as you need it. Again, just visit jazz piano skills.com To learn more about all of these wonderful educational opportunities that await you and how to easily activate your membership. Now there are several membership plans to choose from and I am certain there is one perfect for you. But if you have any questions if you look everything over if you have any questions at all, please let me know. I'm always happy to help in any way that I can. Okay, let's Let's discover, learn and play jazz piano. Let's get after the key of A flat major harmonically, there's a flat major harmonic workout. Here we go. Okay, the key of C major over the key of F major over key, a B flat major, over key of E flat major over
Dr. Bob Lawrence 5:30
today, we begin tackling the key of A flat major. So as I have stressed over and over again, once we move on, we move on. In other words, we do not try to sneak back to the previous keys without anyone looking to simply check out how well we remember the voicings or how well we remember the scales or the arpeggios. Forget it, it's time to move on. I mentioned this point last month, I want to bring it to your attention once again, if you are truly serious about wanting to improvise, if you're serious about wanting to improve your jazz piano playing period, which I know you are, then your goal should be to experience as much data as possible. In other words, you have to have a plan in place that allows you to cycle through essential jazz piano skills in all 12 keys. Your jazz journey must always listen to this, your jazz journey must always be experiencing forward motion. As I like to say, forward motion. In other words, you cannot allow grass to grow under your feet. It's funny, you know, the number one reason after 30 years of teaching experience, I'm going to tell you the number one reason why people find it difficult to improve their jazz playing. It's because they always practice the same things. They are like a hamster on a wheel. They practice the same things over and over and over and over again and end up simply riding in place. They are never pushing forward and moving through the keys as we have set out to do in 2020 to 12 months 12 keys. Now that would be another great t shirt right 12 months 12 keys. So today, today, we close the books on the key of E flat major and move on to the key of A flat major. And as we have done with the previous keys that we have explored this year, keep C key of F B flat E flat. We're going to begin harmonically and we're going to explore the seven chords of the key of A flat major, which are A flat major, B flat minor, C minor, D flat major E flat dominant, F minor and G half diminished. We're going to explore those chords using four specific approaches to voicing each of those quartz blocks, traditional shells contemporary shells and two handed shapes. And we will then as we did in the keys of F B flat and E flat apply those voicings to various rhythmic copying patterns, which become increasingly more and more challenging each month. Now, I will say this, you can take the various rhythmic comping patterns that we studied in the keys of F B flat E flat and play them using the voicings we are about to get under our fingers for the key of A flat. And not only is that okay? It's a great idea. And you should absolutely be carrying these rhythmic comping patterns forward again forward throughout the year as we move through all 12 keys. Now why is this important? Well, let me tell you, because the rhythmic copying patterns are Not only invaluable when it comes to developing your internal sense of time by being able to play various rhythmic ideas within time, but believe it or not, developing a strong understanding and sense of rhythm is crucial for developing your melodic improvisational skills.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 10:31
So applying the voicings, we are about to discover learn and play is not only about learning the voicings, it's also about the development of time, our ability to play rhythm harmonically, which is the precursor to being able to play rhythm melodically. See, just as melodic notes flow from our understanding of harmonic structure. In other words, our harmonic vision, as I like to call it, just as melodic notes flow from our understanding of harmonic structure, our ability to see the entire structure of the sound from the root to the 13th, which then allows us to easily recognize the notes outside of the harmony, which are then used to create melodic interest, which is often referred to as tension. And likewise, melodic phrases. Rhythm applied to our harmonic vision flow from our understanding of harmonic rhythm comping, which is precisely why we use our voicings to develop various rhythmic ideas. Now, that's a lot to mentally digest. But if you take the time to really think through what I just said, then it will transform how you approach what you are trying to do. Become an accomplished jazz pianist, and how you execute your approach to accomplish the goal. Think about it. And of course, if you have any questions, let me know. So today, we tackle the key of A flat major, and the educational agenda for today is as follows. Number one, we begin our key of A flat major harmonic workout for the month of May. Number two, we are going to play essential harmonic voicings that you need to discover learn and play block shapes, traditional shells, contemporary shells and two handed shapes. Number three, we are going to utilize a swing groove with a variety of temples at 101 2140. Number four, we're going to explore 12 comping rhythms, focusing on three specific rhythmic patterns, and those rhythmic patterns, our eighth quarter eighth patterns, dotted quarter eighth patterns and eighth dotted quarter patterns. In total, I'm going to introduce you to 12 new rhythmic copying patterns. And we are going to play number five we are going to play our rhythmic comping patterns to a classic 251 progression in the key of A flat major. Now if you are a jazz panel skills member, I want you to take a few minutes right now. Hit the pause button I want you to download and print your podcast packets, the illustrations, the lead sheets and the play lungs. Your membership grants you access to all of the educational podcast packets for every weekly podcast episode. And as I mentioned earlier,
Dr. Bob Lawrence 14:10
you should be using these packets when listening to this podcast episode and you should be using these podcast packets of course when you are practicing. Now if you're listening to this podcast on any of the popular podcast directories such as Apple or Google, Amazon, I Heart Radio, Spotify, Pandora, etc. Then be sure to go directly to jazz panel skills podcast.com To download your podcast packets, you will find the download links the active download links within the show notes. And one final but extremely important note. If you are thinking that the key of A flat major harmonic or count in the various skills that we are about to discover, learn and play our over your head, then I would say to you, no worries. Please continue to listen. Continue to grow your jazz piano skills intellectually by listening to this podcast episode. Every new skill is technically over our heads when first introduced, but this is exactly how we get better, right? We place ourselves smack dab in the middle of conversations where we are hearing things that we have never heard before. And as a result, we are forced to grow intellectually. I say it all the time, all musical growth begins upstairs mentally, conceptually, before it can come out downstairs physically in your hands. So listen to this podcast. Listen now to discover and learn, the play will come in time, I guarantee it. Okay, the very first thing I want to address is the very last page of your lead sheets packet. It's labeled skill 17. The title of the page is comping rhythms. Now, you will notice there are 12 rhythmic patterns labeled letter A through letter L. You will also notice that these rhythmic patterns primarily use three rhythmic combinations that I mentioned earlier, the eighth quarter eighth patterns, dotted quarter eighth patterns and eighth dotted quarter patterns. You will also notice that each of these rhythmic patterns is to be played with the 251 progression, which is exactly what we're going to do today. Now, do not bypass practicing skills one through 16 found in your lead sheets packet. Right all four voicing types are blocks or traditional shells. Contemporary shells and two handed shapes should be practiced first, without rhythm and as outlined in skills one through 16. before tackling skill 17 Awesome. Be sure to use the play alongs that are included in your podcast packets. Now obviously, I do not have time in this podcast episode to play through all 17 exercises, right and all 12 of the rhythmic patterns, so I'm going to trust that you do not get the cart ahead of the horse practice skills through one one skills one through 16 to make sure that you have a handle on each of the four voicings types. as applied to the chords found in the key of E flat major write A flat major seven B flat minor seven C minor seven, D flat major seven E flat dominant seven, F minor seven and G half diminish them and then once comfortable with your voicings, turn your attention to developing your comping skills using the voicings as you play the 251 progression in the key of A flat major, B flat minor seven to E flat dominant seven to A flat major seven. Okay, let's dig in to five one progression in the key of A flat major. So check out rhythmic pattern letter A. Okay, now I'm going to play through this rhythmic pattern as I'm going to do with all 12 Today, using two headed shapes now you can elect to use whatever voicing shape you prefer at this time, whether they're blocks or traditional shells, contemporary shells or the two handed shapes that I'm going to use. In fact, I would encourage you to play all four of those voicing types using these rhythmic patterns. But today, I'm just going to use the two handed shapes because I'm going to flow from one temple to the next temple to the next temple to the next temple, four different temples. We're going to start with the tempo of at, play it for two choruses nice and slow so you can digest this rhythmic idea comping idea, then the temple will switch to 100. Then for two more courses, then increase again to 120 for two more courses, and then finally increase one last time to 140 for the final two courses, and this is going to be the format that I use for all 12 rhythmic patterns, copying patterns, okay, so you'll get the idea here after you listen to the very first one so let's bring the ensemble in. Less listen to letter Ah Here we go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 21:20
Pretty nice right. Now a couple of things I want to point out. Now, I'm being a little silly, as you'll see as we go through all 12 of these patterns that some of these rhythmics rhythmic ideas played at 120 or 140 can be a little rough, right? A little tough. But, you know, exaggerating overkill when you're learning something is not a bad idea. So it's not a bad idea to take some rhythmic ideas, practice them at very slow tempos, and then practice them at ridiculous temples. Okay, so keep that in mind as we go through these, these, these rhythmic or these comping ideas are not necessarily what I would always be playing at 140 or 160, or 180, and so forth. It changes with the variations and tempos, but because we're trying to prove to ourselves that we can dissect these rhythms, conceptually and physically and play them and have a command of them, we are intentionally going through various tempos, even some ridiculous tempos to play some of these ideas. So with that in mind, let's go on to letter B. We'll bring the ensemble in check it out, we have some tied notes in there so count very carefully. Alright, so here we go. Let's let's see what this sounds like here we go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 24:05
Nice, so you can already tell from letter A and letter B. You can visually identify the quarter, I mean, I'm sorry, the eighth quarter eighth patterns that we are going to really pound hard through all 12 of these rhythmic lines and these comping ideas. And you can also tell that we have eighth notes that are going to be syncopated that we're going to come in on the off beat or the backside of the beat as we move through these exercises as well. And speaking of that, we do exactly that. In letter C, check out measure to check out measure three. We have a single eighth note on the backside of count two single eighth note and measure two and then measure three we have a single eighth note on the backside Have count for and the entire rhythmic idea that entire line begins with our eighth quarter eighth pattern. So let's bring ensemble in. Let's check this out again we have a tied note there and measure one so count carefully here we Go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 26:34
All right, on to letter D, again measures one and two, we deal with that eighth quarter eighth combination, measure three, check it out, we have the dotted quarter eighth combination. And in measure four, we have some eighth notes that fall on the back side of count one and the backside of count two. Right should be another fun rhythm. I also want to draw your attention to that a lot of times in copying, which is modeled here in letter D, you'll have a rhythmic idea on the two chord it's okay to repeat that exact same rhythmic idea on the five chord Why not anything worth stating once is worth stating again. So let's bring the ensemble in and check out letter D here we go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 28:41
Very nice, but now check out letter E is gonna get a little challenging here right. In letter E we have our dotted quarter eighth combinations followed immediately by the eighth quarter eighth combination then measures three leading the New Measure for Measure three we have a lot of syncopation there with eighth notes falling on the end of two and three and a four or as I like to say the backside of to the backside of three the backside of four. Once again, I take the same rhythmic idea over the two chord and I play the exact same thing over the five chord. So here we go. Let's bring the ensemble in. Check this one out.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 30:39
Love it. Absolutely love it. All right, check out letter F, things get a little hot here right now. Now we have a dotted quarter combination happening in measure one a couple of times, and then again repeating the same idea once again on our five chord and eight dotted cord data. An eighth dotted quarter note combination, right. And we do the same thing in measure three on count one, another eight dotted quarter combination repeated twice, followed by some syncopation and count for on the end of one, the end of two and the end of three. Wow, lots happening in letter F. So thank goodness, we're starting at 80 before we ratchet it up to 101 20 and 140. So let's bring the ensemble in and let's check it out here we go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 32:53
If you are finding these rhythms to be challenging, well, welcome to The Club. They're not easy rhythms, right? Anytime we start dealing with eighth notes split with a quarter note dropped between them. Most people find it to be challenging anytime we have dotted dotted notes like a dotted quarter followed by eighth notes and then reversing that we have an eighth note followed by a dotted quarter. Most people find it challenging when first introduced to them. So if you are indeed in that boat know that you are not in that boat alone, these are not. These are not basic, simple rhythms. Okay, so now look at letter G, we have again right there and measure one it's exactly what I'm talking about. We have a dotted quarter followed by an eighth and then it flips the eighth followed by a dotted quarter. Then we have some syncopation in measure two with an eighth note coming in on count on the backside of two tied to counts three and four. Over the one chord we we repeat the same rhythmic copying idea that we played over the two chord and then we end it in measure four with a pair of traditional eighth notes. Oh my gosh, how refreshing is that? So here we go. letter G. Check it out.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 35:35
All right, let's move on to letter H. And the letter H is a prime example of just by eyeballing it. You can look at that and say, Man, we're gonna play that at 140. Yes, we are. And is that a little bit of overkill? Yes, it is. Is it necessary? Yes, indeed. So, as you're learning these rhythms that are not so fundamental and not so easy, as I mentioned earlier, it is a good idea to challenge yourself with various tempos to see how well you track time and are able to execute various rhythmic ideas in time at faster temples. Even if you would not play that way in a real live situation. We are intentionally creating little etudes here that help us develop our comping skills are understanding of rhythm and placing those rhythms in the context of time. So letter H, you can see right away syncopation and measure one syncopation measure two syncopation and measure three syncopation and measure for a lot of stuff happening we have core eighth quarter eighth combinations dropped in there as well. So good luck, here we go. Let's have a little fun and see what happens check it out.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 38:16
See what I'm talking about. Not easy letter H is not easy. Well, none of none of them letter a quite honestly letter A through letter L. All of these ideas, all of these rhythmic lines and ideas are not easy. So now let's look at letter I. We have a couple quarter notes followed by our eighth quarter eighth combination. We'll have a really traditional pair of eighth notes on counts one and two and measure two. Check out measure three though we got some tied, tied stuff going on in there that's can be a little tricky to count in measures three leading into measures full measure for so here we go. Let's bring the ensemble in again. We're gonna start at a nice slow tempo of 80 for a couple courses then 101 20 and 140. Here we go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 40:25
Nice, very nice, you know, now look at letter J, it looks like wow, we're getting a break here, right? This is kind of easy. There's not a lot of a lot of activity going to hear in going on here and letter J But, but I think the challenge here letter J is plain silence is plain silence. You got silence on counts one and two. And measure one, silence counts one and two, measure to silence, measure three counts one and two. You know how hard it is to play nothing you're about to find out because our tendency is to want to anticipate and to come in early. And once we start coming in early, we begin rushing So silence can be more challenging to play than a lot of notes. So let's bring the ensemble in and check it out and see what happens here we go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 42:45
Right see what I'm talking about silence, hard to play. All right. Now look at letter K. This is more like it we got a lot of notes in here not a whole lot of silence. So enough of the silence stuff, but we do have a lot of syncopation you can see that right away and measures one measures two we got our core we had our eighth quarter eighth combinations happen combination happening in measure three we got some more syncopation and measure four followed by finally on count three we have a pair of simple eighth notes st thank goodness Alright, so here we go. Let's bring the ensemble back in and let's have some fun with letter K.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 44:46
Well we are down to our final copying rhythm line for today letter L. And of course why not? We have syncopation happening and measures one measures two measures three, right? We have our eighth quarter combinations and measure one we have a dotted quarter eighth combination and measure three and then we have our eighth quarter eighth combination in measure four, why not right? Let's bring the ensemble in and have some fun with letter L here we go.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 46:43
Well, we've done it again each and every week, right we unpack an amazing amount of information in one very short and very fast hour and do not. Again, do not underestimate the importance of being able to play rhythmic comping patterns in time using correct jazz voicings. So be completely totally honest with yourself. If you are unable to play these comping patterns using common rhythmic patterns, which these are common rhythmic patterns in jazz, that we just explored today, then, then you have no business trying to tackle more challenging rhythms that include more intricate ideas and advanced syncopation Believe me, we're getting to those as we move throughout the year. In fact, the rhythmic patterns we use today why playing our four voicing types, as I mentioned earlier, allow you to develop your ability to track and feel time. And so often when students struggle with playing jazz is because of their inability to successfully track time. In other words, being able to always know where count one is to know where count two is count three, count four, and not gas, no guessing, because the reality is you have a greater chance and I've said this before, many times you have a greater chance of winning the lottery, being struck by lightning or leaping tall buildings in a single bound than you do at correctly guessing rhythms in time when playing jazz, it's just not going to happen. So let that sink in and embrace the importance of rhythmic practice in time. And keep in mind, I mentioned this earlier in the podcast as well. Our understanding of harmony and rhythm leads to our ability to ultimately improvise melodically. So this is important stuff. Next week speaking of melodic next week, we jump into a key of A flat major melodic workout. And of course, I will be introducing some new rhythmic twist for that workout as well. So as I have been stressing every month, hang in there with me this year and you're going to experience a ton of jazz piano growth you will love I promise you will love where you are musically. A year from now, you will feel the difference. And most importantly, you will hear the difference in your plane. Once again, I want to encourage all jazz piano skills members to use the podcast packets, the illustrations the lead sheets in the play alongs to guide you as you study and practice. These are educational tools that will help you gain a mastery of the jazz piano skills conceptually physically and musically. And as always Be patient the Developing mature professional jazz piano skills takes time. So begin structuring your practice sessions after the plane demonstrations that I modeled for you today in this podcast episode, and you will begin to see feel and hear your progress I guarantee it. Well I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring the key of A flat major harmonic workout to be insightful and of course to be very beneficial. Don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills ensemble 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 key of A flat major harmonic workout in greater detail, and of course to answer any questions that you may have about the study of jazz in general. Again, be sure to use the educational podcast packets, the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play alongs for this podcast lesson and check out the jazz panel skills courses to maximize your musical growth. Also, make sure you are an active participant in the jazz panel skills community.
Dr. Bob Lawrence 51:20
It's growing every day. So get involved, contribute to the various forums and make some new jazz piano friends it's always a great thing to do. As always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 That's my office number here at the Dallas School of Music. You can always send me an email Dr. Lawrence, firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can send me a little SpeakPipe message which is a nifty little widget found throughout the jazz piano skills website. While there is my that's it for now. And until next week, enjoy the key of A flat major harmonic. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz Piano
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