This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores Linear Improvisation (Part 2). How to begin developing melodies horizontally and help you seamlessly connect harmony melodically
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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, playLinear Improvisation (part two). In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
How to begin developing melodies horizontally
Ten exercises designed to help you seamlessly connect harmony melodically
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Dr. Bob Lawrence
President, The Dallas School of Music
Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today we are going to discover, continue our discovery of linear improvisation, we're going to learn how to begin developing melodies horizontally. And we are going to play 10 exercises designed to help you seamlessly connect harmony, melodically. 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 are an old crotchety and seasoned experienced professional, you will find this jazz panel skills podcast lesson, continuing our exploration of linear improvisation to be very beneficial. I want to take just a couple of minutes as I do at the beginning of every podcast episode to welcome all new jazz piano skills listeners. If you are new to jazz piano skills, I want to personally invite you to become a jazz piano skills member. All you got to do is visit jazz piano skills.com To learn more about all of the abundance of jazz educational resources and materials and services that are available for you to use as a jazz piano skills member. And of course, all these educational materials are designed to help expedite and maximize your learning process. So as a jazz piano skills member, you have access to all of the educational podcast packets, the illustrations, the lead sheets, and the play alongs that I develop for each weekly podcast episode. Fantastic tools to have at your fingertips when studying the jazz piano skill being explored in the podcast episode, and fantastic tools to have sitting on your piano and practicing these jazz panel skills that I explore each and every week. Also, as a jazz panel skills member, you have access to the entire jazz piano curriculum. This is a sequential piano curriculum that is loaded with comprehensive courses using all the courses using a self-paced format educational talks, interactive media, video demonstrations, and all 12 keys, play along, and much much more. Also, as a jazz piano skills member, you have a reserved seat in the weekly masterclasses, online weekly masterclasses which are in essence at one hour online lesson with me each and every week. And you also have as a jazz panels skills member have access to the private jazz piano skills community. This is a community hosting a variety of engaging forums, podcast-specific forums, course-specific forums, and of course, just general jazz piano forums as well. All of that you get to enjoy as a jazz panel skills member. And on top of all that you have as a jazz panel skills member, unlimited, private, personal, and professional educational support whenever and as often as you need it. So again, take a couple of seconds couple minutes to visit jazz piano skills.com To learn more about all the educational opportunities that await you, and how you can easily activate your membership. If you have any questions once you get there. If you have any questions, please let me know I'm always happy to help. So send me an email or leave me a voicemail happy to interact with you and answer any questions that you may have and help you in any way that I possibly can. Okay, let's get down to business. Let's discover, learn and play jazz piano let's discover learn and play some linear improvisation. Last week, I started with a question and that question was what makes a melody a good melody. I then explained that a good melody is not dependent upon how it comes into existence. In other words, a good melody as a good melody whether it is strategically composed, or spontaneously improvised makes no difference. A good melody is a good melody, regardless of how it is derived. You know, I
also spent some time last week explaining that a good melody is not dependent upon the harmony or rhythm that supports it. Now my point is this, we may not like the harmony used with the melody, we may not even particularly care for the rhythm of the melody. But, but regardless, nevertheless, our personal preferences, do not alter whether or not a melody is good or bad. In fact, we may not even like the melody itself, and it has no impact on the goodness, if you will, of the melody. And again, I stressed this last week, I've listened to tons of music, that personally, I just simply do not care for. And, and that goes for jazz, right? I've listened to different styles of jazz I just personally do not care for but I have to openly admit if I'm being honest that even though I may not care for it, it's still musically very, very good. So we determined last week that if the way a melody comes into existence, whether it is composed or improvised, that makes no difference and does not determine the goodness of the melody and it and if the harmony and the rhythm do not determine the goodness of the melody, then what makes a melody a good melody? Well, the answer is this a good melody. It's a good melody because it has a good linear narrative. It seamlessly flows across bar lines, and through the harmony that supports it. In other words, its nature is horizontal, not vertical. Now in my 30 plus years of studying and teaching jazz piano, which I do not like to bring up because it reminds me that I am now considered old. In fact, just the other day, I got a free cup of coffee at a local diner here in Dallas, because I'm now a senior but hey, that's, that's another whole topic we can discuss at another time. At another time, so forgive me, forgive me for getting off track here. But let's get back to jazz piano and linear melodies. What I was trying to say before I got sidetracked was that in my 30 plus years of study, and teaching jazz, I have discovered that the biggest challenge without question, the biggest challenge for any young improviser is the learn how to play linearly horizontally through the bar lines and into seamlessly connect the harmony. So let me give you an example of what I'm talking about. Young improvisers play vertically. They, they're confronted with a chord, and then they react by playing something to go along with that court, typically a few chord tones. Then they take a breath. And they move on to the next measure where they are confronted with another court. And then they play a few more notes that are typically core tongue. So it ends up sounding something like this. Now, what I'm going to play, I'm going to play two chords a B flat major seventh for a measure followed by a B dominant seventh for a measure. You're going to hear me think, in each measure, and you're going to hear me breathe between each measure of it. This is vertical plane, vertical improvisation. So here we go. I'm going to do my best here to really exaggerate this and make this obvious. Okay, so here we go. Check this out. Take a listen. I think you're going to get it here we go.
See what I'm talking about, you hear what I'm talking about. That's vertical plant now. Don't get me wrong. If this is where you are, then I want to be the first to say to you, congrats, congratulations. This is a huge step. In your jazz improvisation development, being able to play vertically from chord to chord in time, is a monumental accomplishment. So congratulations, this is not a bad thing at all. So if you are thinking, this is how I sound when improvising, then I am thrilled for you because you have accomplished the very first and essential step for developing jazz improvisation skills. So how does one then begin transitioning from vertical improvisation that you just heard, to more of a horizontal or linear improvisation? Well, if you want to become comfortable with creating and playing linear lines, then you have to begin practicing linear lines. Now, I know it sounds so stinking obvious, but it's not right. Just an FYI, we always make things much more complicated than they really are. Especially when it comes to developing our musical skills. We all do it. Now, if you want to get good at playing melodic ideas that cross over the bar line, and seamlessly connect the harmony, then you should practice exercises that cross over the bar line, and seamlessly connect the harmony. The right guess what we did last week. And guess what we are going to do again today, we are going to play exercises that cross over the bar line and seamlessly connect the harmony. Now the idea with each of the exercises that I presented last week, and that I'm presenting today is that we want to completely fill two measures of music, no break, and our melodic idea. Two measures or eight beats of music must be filled. Whether we use quarter notes or eighth notes, quite honestly makes no difference. The objective is that we must fill two entire measures of music. We want to create a two-measure phrase that plays something on each of the eight beats. And ends on count one or the third measure. Right we do not want any space no rest. And why? Because our objective is to get used to the sound, the sensation, the feel of what it is like to play a melodic idea that stretches over two entire measures.
Linear playing now, we could use as I mentioned last week, we could use the 251 progression to begin developing this sensation, this feel, of what it is like to play linearly. But as I also explained last week, the problem with the 251 progression is that it uses the same major scale over all three chords. And as I explained last week, this is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing because you can begin to get a feel for and you can begin hearing what it is like to play linearly. Because only one scale is needed to play through all three chords. Kind of simplifies the process. It's a blessing. It's a curse, however, because you can easily and accurately assess your ability to play linearly because you are not forced To change your melodic line, your scale or your arpeggio to coincide with various harmonic demands, right, you're not confronted with a harmonic shape a chord that points you to a different key. And this is precisely what we did last week. And it's what we're going to do again, today, we are going to explore two different styles that point us to two different keys, two different scales. Our control group today will be once again as it was last week B flat major seven, our experimental group However, last week, we use C sharp minor, we used a minor sound, this week, we're gonna use a dominant sound, it's gonna be B seven, which of course, points us to the key of E major, B sevens five chord of the key V, be like the Mixolydian mode for all you academic folks. So we are going to be dealing with the key scale of B flat major. And the key, the scale of E major, very different keys, very different scales. Indeed, of course, you can swap out the B seven when you're practicing this weekend could swap out the B seven with other dominant chords, such as D flat seven, or E flat seven, E seven, F sharp seven, A flat seven, all of which are going to point you to different keys. But for today, I will be using the harmonic pair of B flat major seven, and be dominant seven so that once again, you can hear how I approach practicing linear improvisation. Your job of course, will be to take what you learned today and begin applying the approach to various major dominant dominant harmonic pairs. So the educational agenda for today is as follows. Number one, I am going to present 10 exercises designed to help you to begin developing linear improvisation to help you seamlessly connect harmony melodically. Number two, each exercise will focus on helping you successfully transition from two unrelated sounds. One sound being major, one sound being dominant. And both those sounds belonging two very different keys. Number three, each exercise will focus on developing linear improvisation techniques using ascending and descending arpeggio and scale motion. Arpeggios using inverted various inverted shapes and scale motion using various entry points such as the root, the third, fifth, and the seventh. Number four, I will be using one harmonic pair today for each exercise, B flat major seven, and B dominant seven, and number five I will be playing all demonstrations today all exercises, as I did last week using a temple of 140 which is pretty snappy, I must admit but I'm doing it for the sake of time. I always encourage you slower tempos in the beginning, right 60 7080 slower tempos are always recommended. If you are a jazz piano skills member, I
want you to take a few minutes right now hit the pause button. Take a few minutes right now to download and print the podcast packets for this episode, the illustrations, and the lead sheets. You have access to these podcast packs when you have access to all the podcast packets for every episode. And of course, you should be using them when listening to this podcast. And of course, you should be using them when practicing. So if you're you are listening to this podcast on any of the popular podcast directories such as Apple, Amazon, Google, Spotify, Pandora, iHeartRadio, so on and so on, then, be sure to go to jazz panels skills podcast.com To download your podcast packets and you'll find the active download links within the show notes. Okay, one final but extremely important note that I take the time to mention every week if you are thinking that linear improvisation. The linear improvisation that we are about to discover learn and play today is in some ways or even if you feel that it is all the way over your head, then I would say to you okay, so what? Continue to listen continue to grow your jazz piano skills intellectually by listening, listening to this podcast episode, because the fact is this all skills are over our heads when first introduced. And that is precisely why the first step forward with any new jazz panel skill is to just simply listen. You've heard me say this a million times that all musical growth begins upstairs conceptually mentally, before it can come out downstairs physically in your hands. So listen to this podcast lesson now exploring linear improvisation to discover and learn the play, as it always does, will come in time. Okay,
let's do some exercises. So, as I mentioned earlier, we're going to do I'm going to present 10 exercises today for you to utilize at home when practicing your linear improvisation. Now the first four are going to deal with arpeggio motion, ascending, and descending arpeggio motion. Second, forget to deal with ascending and descending scale motion. And then exercise nine and 10 Nine we'll deal with arpeggio motion only. But give me free rein to use all the various shapes in inverted shapes. And exercise 10 will be linear improvisation using scale motion only as well, kind of opening the floodgates in both of those exercises, from an arpeggio motion perspective, and from a scale motion perspective, right demonstrating to you how you should do the exact same at home when practicing after you've thoroughly exhausted exercises one through four using arpeggio motion and exercises five through eight using scale motion. One other quick note right, we know that we have two types of motion and music right scale motion arpeggio motion so this is why keep dropping every exercise into either one of those camps, right. And regardless of whether you're going scale motion arpeggio motion, there are only two directions on melodic line can travel up or down, ascending or descending. So just keep in mind, you can do any of the exercises that I presented last week, and any of the exercises that I'm presenting today can use any combination of ascending and descending scale or arpeggio motion. Last week I was using scale ascending and descending ascending and descending format today, with the arpeggios I'm going to use a descending ascending format. And then I'm going to go back to the scales ascending and descending format. You could practice ascending, ascending, descending descending, you can mix it up however you'd like. Right? The approach that I'm modeling today, as I did last week can be applied. Regardless of the directions you're you're heading the whether you're doing ascending, ascending, descending, descending, ascending, descending, descending, ascending, right. So anyway, so one other little modification I'm going to do today, as well as I'm going to with the arpeggios, I'm going to use quarter note movement first, followed by eighth note movement. Again, just trying to eliminate the fact that we need to feel two measures of music makes no difference whether you use quarter notes at first if it's easier, or to use eighth notes. If you feel more confident, right, either way, we accomplish a mission Mission accomplished, right, we fill two measures of music. So for example, in exercise one, I'm going to begin with descending scale of descending arpeggio motion on the B flat major, so it's going to go so going B flat, A F, then I'm going to ascend using quarter notes through the B seven sound, D sharp, F sharp. And then resolve it to my B flat back on count one of measure three. So measure one descending B flat major measure two, ascending B seven or B dominant, resolving it to count one, a measure three on the B flat, B flat major. So it sounds like this
that when I switch the eighth notes, I'm gonna have to play twice as many notes to fill that to measure phrase. So I'm going to do arpeggio descending from the B flat major. So my arpeggio starts on the root descending and then it starts on the seventh of the seventh. Now we're going to us in my arpeggio from root position on my B seven And then from my third D sharp and then finally resolved to my B flat. For measure three, count one of measure three. So in time it sounds like this
melodic line that feels the entire two measures. So let's bring the ensemble in, you'll get an idea how I'm going to format the format that I'm going to use with my descending ascending arpeggio motion not only for this exercise one, but for also exercise two, three and four. So let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out and see what we think here we go.
Pretty cool right. Again, mission accomplished, regardless of whether you use quarter notes or eighth notes. The mission The objective is to fill to complete two measures of music melodically flowing from one sound to another sound again playing across the bar line and seamlessly connecting two very different harmonic shapes, B flat major to be dominant. So now, let's do the same thing for Exercise number two, but instead of our entry point being the root for our B flat major, we're going to shift our entry point to the third of B flat major. So I'm going to start on the note D descend my arpeggio basically it's B flat major and second inversion and then I'm going to go up b dominant the result right back to my D where I started. So going up my B dominant is F sharp, D sharp. So my B flat major is in second inversion my be dominant in second inversion using quarter notes. Now, if we switch that to eighth notes so two descending arpeggios, right, B flat and second inversion, B flat in first inversion going up B seven first and version seven second version resolving it to my D my third right where I started, so I get this in time
nice again, filling to entire measures of music linear playing across the bar line through to Harmony very different harmonic shapes seamlessly connecting them so let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out see what we think here we go.
Okay, so now I think you got the idea of how we're going to unfold the next two exercises using arpeggio motion. So for Exercise number three, we are going to descend from the fifth of our B flat major, right and we're going to ascend from the fifth of our B seven. So you can use choose to use quarter notes initially if you'd like write, quarter note on each beat. Or you can use eighth notes if you're again if you're going to use eighth notes, you're connecting to inverted harmonic shapes for each chord for the B flat major and for the B seven. So I'm going to bring the ensemble back in and you're going to hear me follow the same format right I'm going to start by playing quarter notes first, descending, ascending through my B flat major and my B seven then I'm going to shift to eighth notes again descending through my B flat major sound and ascending through my B dominant sound so here we go. Let's check it out see what we think.
Nice right, so once again, as a jazz piano skills member, you should have your podcast packets in front of you, right the illustrations, as well as the lead sheets where all this is laid out for you. So you can get a visual as the old saying goes, a picture is worth 1000 words. So now for our last arpeggio exercise, exercise number four, we are going to descend from the seventh of the B flat major. And we will end up ascending from the seventh of the B seven, right. So again, you can use coordinates if you'd like to fill the two measures or you can use eighth notes makes no difference. Our objective is used to linear plane moving across the bar line, completing two measures of music on every beat and ending with count one of measure three. All right. So once again, let's bring the ensemble in let's check this out and see what we think here we go.
Fantastic, well, we now have thoroughly explored arpeggio motion using various entry points to ascend and descend, really forcing us to deal with the various inverted shapes of each of these harmonic structures, the B flat major seven and the B seven. So now it's time to turn our attention to scale motion and I'm going to use ascending descending motion for exercises 567 and eight. So the B flat major is going to use ascending scale motion. The B seven is always going to use descending scale motion and again, you can mix and match this however you wish when practicing in fact, I encourage you to do just that using various combinations of ascending and descending motion. Okay. So, and I'm going to use quarter notes and eighth notes as well. So like for instance, if I play for the first four notes of the B flat major scale, using quarter notes, and when it comes down for notes of the B dominant sound resulted to back to my B flat major. If I use eighth notes going all the way up and then coming down my B dominant sound. Resolving it the count one of measure three, back to my B flat, you'll hear it you'll hear exactly how this process is going to work with my exploration of ascending and descending scale motion through the B flat major and B seven sounds. So let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out and see what we think here we go.
Makes sense right, what a great way to practice. So now we're just going to shift to a different entry point. So I'm going to start on my B flat major scale, I'm going to start on the third the sound so it's going to be on the note D. And if I use quarter notes, I'm going to use for coordinates going up shift to my B seven sound coming down and then resolving it back to my B flat major sound. Kind of one of measure three if I use eighth notes
so you heard the shift there, right, you could hear the change in the line. Even though the line did not stop the melodic line did not stop, you can hear the change shifting from the B flat major to the B seven on the descent, right. So let's bring the ensemble back in let's practice. B flat major seven to be seven using scale motion, some quarter notes, some eighth notes, ascending, descending. So here we go. Let's check it out. See what we think.
Very nice love it. Absolutely love it. So now, again, the same process, but we shift our entry point to the fifth of B flat major. So if I'm using quarter notes, I'm good for four notes. Starting from F four coordinates in the B7 sound coming down. Right which would be G sharp, F sharp, E, D sharp, and then I'm going to resolve it back to my fifth. Here we go. So again if I'm using eighth notes
Wow. Love it. So same process, same format, just a different entry point. So let's bring the ensemble back in let's explore B flat major seven B seven using ascending descending scale motion entry point being the fifth of our B flat major sound. So here we go let's check it out see what we think.
Now we have successfully explored the B flat major seven sound B seven sound using ascending descending scale motion with the entry point being the root of the B flat major the third the fifth one left to do let's do the seventh. So four quarter notes ascending from the seventh four-chord notes descending from actually the second of B7 and then resolving it back to the seventh if I do eighth notes
nice once again let's bring the ensemble back in let's hear how this ascending descending scale motion with the entry point being a seventh of B flat major seven let's see what this sounds like. So here we go let's check it out.
Alright, so we have methodically now explored arpeggio and scale motion with using the B flat major and the B seven sound, with our objective of being able to play across the bar line filled two measures of music, create a to measure phrase that ends on count will count one of measure three, no space, right we're trying to develop this sensation, this feel of what it what it feels like to play a linear line through A to measure phrase. And we've been successfully doing that and that not only this week, but last week as well. Right. So now what I want to do is can open the floodgates as I mentioned earlier, and I'm gonna bring the ensemble back in and now I'm going to use just arpeggio motion only arpeggio motion, I'm going to restrict myself to being able to flow in and out of my B flat major sound to my B seven sound using ascending and descending arpeggio motion in using any of the inverted shapes, right, I'm going to just try to play nice elongated lines, using the shapes that I'm now very familiar with because I've methodically practiced them. Okay, so let's bring the out sample and let's hear what are strict arpeggio motion sounds like improvising, trying to create these nice two, or even three or four-measure phrases to give myself a nice linear sound. So here we go. Let's check it out. See what we think.
Nice is challenging, right? It's very challenging. Once when you put parameters on yourself when one plane, saying look, I'm just going to use all arpeggio motion, no scale motion, no chromaticism, no neighboring tones, no encircling target notes. Strictly using arpeggio motion, it's challenging, but I think this is how you sharpen your creative skills so well. So I want to do the same thing now open the floodgates again, but this time restrict myself to using only scale motion as I cross over bar lines. And I seamlessly connect my B flat major to my B seven sound. So here we go. Ensemble was gonna join me once again. And let's see what this sounds like here we go.
Very nice, again very challenging as well. So now one more exercise, right now let's open the floodgates all the way and allow ourselves to use arpeggio motion scale motion, ascending, descending directions, various entry points. Let's kind of experience the fruits of our labor here if you will, and have a little fun and see what this sounds like now so I'm going to bring the ensemble back and improvise using the B flat major B seven sound focusing on various harmonic inverted shapes arpeggios using various and herded shapes as well as ascending and descending scale motion so here we go let's check it out and see what we think.
Wow you know it's great. What a great blueprint that I've just laid out. Today. Well, last week as well as today. A great blueprint for you to utilize to begin using harmonic pairs whether it's major to minor, major to dominant, minor to half diminished half diminished to major, whatever harmonic pair you Want to use right? These harmonic pairs are going to force you to deal with different key centers, which guess what, that's what happens in songs. That's what, that's what happens in the progressions that we play jazz literature, jazz material weaves in and out of various key centers throughout the entire tail. So we have to get used to practice, we have to prepare ourselves to be able to do this within a song by practicing these harmonic pairs outside of songs. I hope that makes sense. So you know what, as always, we have unpacked a ton of information and have done so trying to cram it all within an hour, this, this process of linear improvisation part two. So once again, I want to encourage you to take some time to map out all of the arpeggio and scale motion that I presented today, not only for the B flat major seven to B7 combination, but for other major dominant combinations as well. B flat major two, B7, B flat major seven to D, flat seven, B flat major seven, the E flat seven, B flat major seven, the E seven, B flat major seven, F sharp, seven, or how about B flat major seven, A flat seven, all of these harmonic pairs are fantastic practice. And of course, do the same for other major dominant combinations. as well. As always, make sure you're using the podcast packets, the illustrations, and the lead sheets to guide you. The illustrations include a paper practice template that you can use for mapping out the various harmonic pairs, the major dominant combinations that I just mentioned. And you've heard me say this over and over and over and over and over and over again, conceptual understanding is what determines your physical development. So the time that you invest in studying and mapping out, creating the blueprint of these linear improvisation exercises is time very, very well spent. As as I say the return on your investment cannot be adequately expressed. And as always, I want to encourage you to be patient. Right! Most of us have a hard time with this because we want to improve in leaps and bounds but developing mature improvisational skills takes time and practicing linear improvisation using harmonic pairs takes a great deal of discipline and but yet is an essential component of the entire process of developing your improvisational skills. So begins directing your structuring your improvisational development after the plane demonstrations that I've modeled for you last week, as well as today and you will begin to see and you will begin to feel you will begin to hear your musical progress I absolutely guarantee it. Well, I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring linear improvisation part two 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 8 pm, central time to discuss this podcast episode lesson, exploring linear improvisation in greater detail, and answer any question that you may have about the study of jazz in general. And again, as a jazz panel skills member, be sure to use those educational podcast packets, the illustrations, the lead sheets, and the play alongs that I provide for you as well. And also, be sure to use the jazz piano skills curriculum, the courses, the sequential courses to maximize your musical growth. And likewise, be sure that you are an active participant in the jazz piano skills community, get involved, contribute to the various forums, and most importantly, make some new jazz piano friends always a great thing to do. Now you can always reach me by phone at 972-380-8050 My extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com, or by SpeakPipe, a handy little widget that is found throughout the JazzPianoSkills website.
Well, there is my cue. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy studying and playing and developing linear improvisation. Enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play Jazz
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