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Welcome to JazzPianoSkills; it's time to discover, learn, and play Jazz Piano!
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 Minor Blue Scale. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
The Minor Blues Scale
How to easily construct the Minor Blues Scale for all 12 Keys
The Minor Blues Scale using various entry and destination points
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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. We have spent the last three weeks discussing and exploring the importance of developing an authentic jazz, eighth note articulation. We took a very methodical approach using various quarters An eighth note combinations that started with playing and swinging four quarter notes and ended with playing and swinging eight eighth notes. I stressed several times throughout the past three weeks and in each podcast episode, that is your treatment, your articulation of the eighth note that ultimately determines whether or not you're playing jazz. And along the same lines. I also stressed that it is not what you play, but how you play it. that determines whether or not it is jazz. The point is the bottom line. Jazz is a FEEL it is not a series of notes lines, patterns, licks, or any of the countless number of nouns that you may hear musicians flinging around when talking about music. This reality, this musical fact that jazz is a feel along with the significance and the importance of your eighth note articulation. It will be made apparently obvious today, as we discover, learn, and play the minor blues scale. Yes, you heard that correctly. Today we are going to explore the blues sound. Over the past several months, I have received multiple requests to devote a podcast episode or two to the exploration of the blues. Well, for those of you who thought that this day would never come here wait is over. Today is all about the blues, and specifically the minor blues scale. Before jumping in, I want to remind everyone that every Thursday evening at 8 pm Central time, I am live online using the zoom platform, which I am sure many of you if not all of you are familiar with, especially since it seems to be everywhere today. Everything seems to be happening on zoom. This online masterclass is an open discussion and deeper dive into the current week's podcast episode. And of course, I always leave room within the hour-long class for some q&a as well. So mark it on your calendars, Thursday evenings 8 pm Central Time join me online. It's free and it's a definite value. Added educational opportunity that you do not want to miss. The Zoom link is posted on my Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook pages. So be sure to follow me if you are not already doing so. Plus it is posted on the homepage at jazz piano skills.com at the website. I'm looking forward to seeing you Thursday evening. So how important is it for you and me, aspiring jazz pianists to become familiar with the blues? Well, there are several ways to approach answering this question. But I want to share with you some specific thoughts from the Thelonious Monk Institute of jazz that I believe answers the question for us perfectly. In a paper, they published titled The influence of the blues On jazz. The Thelonious Monk Institute said this from the perspective of musical structure, jazz as we know it would not exist without the blues, the 12 bar blues chorus, with its familiar
harmonic structure, and narrative form, was the single most popular template for early jazz improvisation. As compact yet profound, in its way, as the sonnet proved to be in the realm of poetry. Early jazz giants including Jelly Roll Morton, King Oliver, and Louis Armstrong used blues songs as the foundation for many of their most important creations, while Duke Ellington despite a hat half-century of composing that led him to write extended suites and programs of sacred music continued to employ the blues as the primary template in his arsenal, as jazz evolved in jazz musicians applied more sophisticated ideas of rhythm and harmony, the blues remained a constant, the basis for such influential recordings, as count bases one o'clock jump in the 30s felonious monks a stereo so in the 40s Miles Davis is walking in the 50s and Herbie Hancock's watermelon man in the 60s, beautifully stated indeed. If you are interested in reading this document in full, it is available online simply search for the influence of blues on Jazz Thelonious Monk. It's a rather short document, a PDF file that you can download or print. Definitely worth checking out. There are a number of references that I can cite to illuminate the importance and influence of the blues on jazz. How the blues captures the very essence of jazz. So much so that I encourage you to devote some time doing historical jazz research. To learn more about the origins of the blues. Not only is it a fascinating study, it will have a profound impact on your approach to plan and even your approach to practicing jazz. I cannot stress this enough. Practicing away from the instrument away from the piano reading about jazz genres, periods, musicians Listening to classic recordings, analyzing theory illustrations, all of it will significantly contribute to your musical growth. In other words, the practice you do away from your instrument is in reality as important as the practice you do at the instrument before we jump in headfirst today with our exploration of the minor blues scale, I want to remind you that the educational guides for this jazz panel podcast episode devoted to the minor blues scale are available for immediate download at jazz piano skills calm. As my regular listeners know, I developed three educational guides for every jazz piano skills podcast episode, which can be downloaded individually or as a bundle or as a subscription.
The illustration Guide helps you discover the jazz piano skill conceptually, the minor blues scale. The imagery The graphics are fantastic. You've heard me say this 1000 times I'm going to say it every podcast episode, that your physical growth as a jazz pianist depends on 100% on your mastery of jazz piano skills, mentally, your conceptual understanding. Imagery graphics allow you to mentally visually digest the shapes and sounds of jazz, which in turn, fuels your physical and aural mastery of the skill. The lead sheet guide uses traditional music notation to help you successfully learn the jazz piano scale. The minor blues scale right? If you're a reader, and you're like seeing the concept placed upon the musical staff, the lead sheets are perfect. You want to have them sitting on your piano as a quick reference when you're getting the various harmonic shapes, the melodic lines, the blues scales under your fingers. There are 12 lead sheets, one for each of the 12 keys of music, simply invaluable. And the play longs guide, which are play long tracks and again, these are available for all 12 keys are the perfect tool to help you successfully play the jazz piano skill. Right the minor blues scales being taught in this podcast episode, and the play long tracks will help you develop a strong sense of internal time, plus proper jazz feel and articulation which you need. If you're going to successfully play the blues. A teacher cannot teach you these essential elements of playing jazz piano, you must experience them. And in order to properly develop them, there is no better way to experience them and to use quality play long tracks. Bottom line, I cannot stress enough how beneficial the educational podcast guides are. For expediting your discover, learn, and play process. Be sure to check them out at jazz piano skills comm go to the homepage, click on the podcast link in the menu bar that runs across the top of the page. And you're good to go. You'll find all the podcast episodes and the educational guides. There'll be right at your fingertips. And if you download the educational guides and have questions, you can always send me a quick voicemail using the speakpipe widget that is nestled directly beneath each podcast episode. Or you can post your question in the jazz piano skills forum and let the jazz panel skills community help you. Or you can attend the Thursday evening jazz piano skills masterclass at 8 pm. central time and get your questions answered face to face. So, so many ways to get help. And again, my entire goal here is to provide you with the best jazz piano lessons, the best jazz piano educational materials, and the best jazz piano support that's available anywhere today. Okay, this week, we are going to explore the minor blues scale. You're going to discover the classic minor blues scale. You're going to learn how to construct the minor blues scale You are going to play the minor blues scale from various entry points. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner, intermediate player, advanced player, or even an experienced professional, you will find this podcast this lesson on the minor blues scale to be beneficial. So let's get started. To begin, let's construct the minor blues scale. And to do this we are going to use the following numbers.
One, flat three, four, sharp four, five, flat seven. Let me say that again. One, flat three, four, sharp, four, five, flat seven now I want you to think of those numbers in relationship to a key, a scale. For example, the key of C major consists of seven notes, C, D, E, F, G, A, and B, or 1234567. With this as our base, the C minor blues scale can be successfully constructed. One equals C, flat-three equals E-flat, four equals F, sharp-four equals F sharp, five equals G, and flat seven equals B-flat. So let me play this and today I'm going to use a classic Fender Rhodes sound since we're doing blues, I thought what? What better sound right? So here we go that one equals C flat three flat. Four is F sharp four is F sharp. Five is G, and flat seven is B flat.
Coming down, going up, coming down. This will be the minor blues scale that we use today to explore this iconic sound. But before we do, there are a couple of points I want to make about the blues scale. Point One the minor blues scale Kale is actually not a scale. It's mislabeled, which can cause some confusion. If it's approached in the same way we study traditional scales. And why wouldn't it be right? It's called the minor blues scale. C, language is important and in music. Unfortunately, the same labels are often used to reference various musical elements or constructs which can cause great confusion for the student of music for you, for me, for example, we use the words major and minor to refer to scales, chords, intervals, keys, get my point. This can be difficult to keep track of when trying to sort out To organize make sense of music theory and the various musical skills needing to be practiced. So all of this to say that I wish we all of us in the musical world, especially teachers, referred to the minor, minor blues scale as a minor blues pattern. I say this because the minor blues scale does not function like a traditional scale that actually produces a harmonic system. It does not produce a set of chords. The minor blues scale is composed of six nodes. However, it does not produce six chords. That's this makes sense. For example, the C major scale is composed of seven notes And it produces seven chords, C major, D minor, E minor, F major g dominant, a minor, B half-diminished. This is what makes a scale a scale each note produces a chord. So we end up with chord scale relationships. If there is no chord scale relationship, there is no scale and this is the case. This is exactly what we have with the minor blues scale. Excuse me, the minor blues pattern. There is no chord scale relationship. This is why the minor blues pattern like all patterns can be played over many different types of chords, various majors, minors, pure dominance, altered dominance. Add in many different keys and over a single chord or entire progressions, so, do not run down a blind alley trying to extract chords from a minor blues scale. In an effort to establish modes, as we do with the major harmonic and melodic minor scales, it will be a waste of your time because there are no chord scale relationships to be found with the minor blues scale. So, as much as I would love to change the jazz world and have everyone begin referring to the minor blues scale as the minor blues pattern, I know it's not gonna happen. So I will refer, to it as the minor blues scale as is commonly used throughout the world and on Google. Okay. After all, if it's on Google right, it must be true. Okay, enough. Point Two the minor blues scale is not a lick that is intended to be played in a linear way up and down the piano. Instead, think of it as a framework that can be used to express a wide range of emotions when improvising a frame, right establishes boundaries, and has a top, sides a bottom. So when you use the minor blues scale, when improvising think within the frame, think of the minor blues scale as establishing a geographical region if you will, for you to explore and for you To be expressive within, we can alter the geographical region by shifting our entry points within the minor blues scale. And that is exactly what I'm going to demonstrate today. In each demonstration, I present the minor blues scale. Okay, now that we have our blues scale, housekeeping done, let's do some play to begin, as I always do when practicing a scale, a pattern align Alec anything. I always make sure that my entry and destination points are always different. In other words, I never play from the root to the root, or from the third to the third, or from the fifth to the fifth, etc. Why? Because I always want to fully engage To my ears, I want to be aware of the distance the interval and the sound major minor and the direction, ascending descending, that I'm wanting to musically digest when playing when practicing, I have found that if my entry and destination points are the same, my ears quickly become passive, which is not good in music and especially in jazz. So, it is in that spirit that I am going to escort you through the minor blues sound today, we are going to play and hear this iconic sound from the root from the third, the fifth and the seventh. So let's begin with the root. All right, we talked about earlier, the construction right? 1, b3, 4, sharp 4, 5, 7. Okay, so we're going to start from the root and we're going to practice I'm going to play going from the root to the seventh, ascending, and descending. And then I'm going to practice from the root descending, down to the flat third. back up to the root, so I get this.
Nice right, I'm going both directions ascending from the root and descending from the root. My entry point is the C. On the ascending side, my destination point is the flat seven. On the descending side. My destination point is The flat third. So, let's bring in the ensemble. Okay, let's bring in the group. And let's hear this in a musical context and then we'll talk about it. Okay, here we go.
Now that is good stuff. First thing I want to draw your attention to. Did you hear how relaxed how laid back my eighth notes were? Right? Now, do you see why I spent three weeks methodically addressing the importance of developing a proper jazz eighth note articulation? Man, I am telling you straight up. If you cannot play a relaxed swinging eighth note, you will not be able to play the blues. And you know how important the blues sound is to jazz. Again, the quote from the Thelonious Monk Institute, jazz as we know it would not exist without the blues. Again, spend time with way from your instrument thinking about the blues, reading about the blues, listening to jazz musicians playing the blues. I have used this example many times with students. If I wanted to learn how to speak French, the very first thing I would do is to get my hands on recordings of people speaking French. I would not care one bit about the conversation topic. I would not care one bit about what they were saying. I would be 100% focused on how they were speaking, their articulation, the sound of French Why? Because I would want to begin imitating that sound when I speak French. This is exactly how you should approach the study of jazz and the blues. Spend time listening to the sound so that you can begin to imitate it when playing. When I asked a student who they are listening to, and they cannot give me the names of jazz pianist, or any jazz musician, I know I have a lot of work to do as a teacher when teaching that student and of course, the first order of business will be to get them listening immediately. Okay, now let's explore the minor blues scale in the same way that we just did. But we're going to actually start on the third. So now I'm going to play from my E flat, up to the root, and back down. And then from my third my E flat down To the fourth to the F. So again, I get this.
Nice. So let's bring in our ensemble. Let's check this out and see what this sounds like. Okay, here we go.
Very nice, love it. Again, a nice relaxed eighth note feel. And by the way, I'm playing at a temple 85 with a classic jazz swing fill. The play-alongs that you can download utilizes this very same groove and the same field for all 12 keys. Definitely worth getting the play long tracks and practicing with them for sure. As I was playing, I could not help thinking about how important it is to be able to easily move in either direction, from any point of the sound. First of all, you do not want to be route dependent, only capable of playing a scale a pattern align, starting from the root only. So many students quickly fall into this trap, because they only practice starting from the route. Don't let that happen to you. Along the same lines don't fall into the trap of only playing from right to left, right like reading a book. That is why I am demonstrating how to practice ascending and descending from your entry point. Regardless of whether it is the root, the third, the fifth, and the seventh. Another reason I like this is that it gets you used to playing melodically in regions of the piano that are typically thought of being reserved for the left hand, which is actually crazy thinking when you begin practicing the minor blues scale Write, ascending and descending. From your set entry point, you will find you're going to have to move your left hand out of the way to allow your right hand to play through the sound in that region below middle C. It's fabulous. And the sooner you get comfy playing melodically in that region of the piano, the better. Alright, on to the minor blues scale starting from the fifth. And again, we're going to practice the exact same way. We're going to go from our fifth
descending from the fifth to the seventh to the fifth. Okay, so we're gonna go both directions ascending descending from the fifth. To the sharp 11 or sharp four, and then from the fifth down to the seventh, right. So let's bring in our sample. Let's check it out. Let's see what happens. Here we go.
Wow, without a doubt, my favorite entry point when playing the minor blues scale, you see, if we played with an entry and destination point being the same, we would totally miss that sharp for sound on top. Did you notice that where it was going?
Right, what a waste of some great tension. If we were to play from the fifth to the fifth, listen to this. We just blow right through that sharp for sound that tension and we totally miss it. We miss this beauty.
While and we don't want to miss it, we do not want to deny our ears have some awesome and quite honestly essential musical growth. Sad. In fact, it is that intentional intention that affords us the greatest opportunity for emotional expression. We do not want to miss it. So always make your entry points and your destination points different. I mentioned earlier the educational guides, the illustrations, the lead sheets, and the play alongs that are available for you to download immediately and I suggest that you do so they're invaluable. They will maximize your musical growth to help you successfully digest the minor blues scales. But I also want to I want you to check out the jazz panel skills courses that are also available This is a tremendous sequential jazz curriculum that utilizes a self-paced format packed with all kinds of goodies. Each lesson within each of the courses, and there are multiple lessons there. They're packed with detailed instruction illustrations in-depth educational talks, interactive learning media, traditional guides and worksheets, high definition video demonstrations of me performing the jazz panel skill in all 12 keys that are play-along tracks for you to utilize and of course lead sheets that you can download professional and personal educational support is easily and quickly available as well. And again, mobile access to all of my jazz panel skill courses, right whether you're on your computer, your laptop, your tablet, your phone, your TV, your watch, right makes no difference. You can access the materials and the courses in the lab. Lessons easily, so be sure to check out the courses at jazz piano skills.com. Alright, so now we're going to move to our seventh, the seventh of the minor blues scale. So now we're going to start on our B flat, ascend up to the fifth to the seventh, and then from the seventh, we're gonna descend down to the root and then back up to the seventh. Okay, just like we have done on the route, the third and the fifth, we're going to ascend and descend, right vertical both directions, starting with our entry point being the seventh. So let's bring our ensemble in. Let's check it out. Here we go.
Very, very nice. Isn't it amazing by shifting our entry point from the root to the third to the fifth into the seventh how the minor blues scale takes on an entirely different inflection. That is what I was speaking about earlier when I use the example of a frame, which consists of a top, two sides, and a bottom. And then using that frame to establish various various geographical regions for you to explore and for you to be expressive with it. Quite simply, it is a game-changer when you begin playing the minor blues scales from various entry points. Your ability to be emotionally expressive, has increased exponentially. With that being said, let's get to the final demonstration for today. I want to pull all of this together for you, and use the minor blues scale to improvise over the classic 12 bar blues form using dominant chords and the standard 145 progression. So I'm going to play and the key is C, which will use the C seven c dominant, the F seven f dominant, the G seven g dominant, right? I'm going to use the C minor blues scale over the entire progression over all three chords, C seven, f seven, and G seven. That is correct. We do not change the blues scale for each chord. And again, this is why we should refer to it as a pattern. But hey, I've already spoken my piece about this. So I'm going to let it go right. So I'm going to play through the form four times. And each time I am going to shift my framework, the geographical region that I'm going to focus on to express myself right. So the first chorus, my entry point, is going to be the root and I will explore ascending and descending. From the root in the second chorus, I will shift my entry point to the third. And again, improvise, ascending, and descending within this specific geographical region. The third chorus, my entry point will be the fifth and my fourth, the fourth chorus, my entry point will be the seventh. So let's have some fun. Let's play the classic 12 bar blues using the standard 145 chords and improvise using the C minor blues scale launching from various entry points. Okay. Alright, so here we go. Let's check this out. Let's have some fun. Here we go.
Way too much fun Wow, I could literally sit here all day and explore the blues the sound this feel and have a blast discovering new ideas to adopt into my jazz vocabulary and make available when playing my jazz repertoire. Well, I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcasts lesson on the minor blues scale to be insightful and of course, beneficial. Don't forget I will see you Thursday evening jazz piano skills masterclass at 8 pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode in greater detail and to answer any specific questions you may have about this lesson or the study of jazz in general. Also, download the educational guides for this podcast lesson at jazz panel skills guide.com. They're a tremendous resource that will expedite your discovered learn and play process. While you're there, check out the jazz panel skills courses, and the jazz piano skills forums, join the community, get involved, make some new jazz piano friends. And as always, as always, you can reach me by phone if you have any questions 972-380-8050 my extension is 211 you can reach out by email drlawrence@jazz pianoskills.com or use the speakpipe widget found on the JazzPianoSkills website in the Educational Guides and in the JazzPianoSkills Courses. So that's it for now. And until next week, enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano
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JazzPianoSkills Members: Links for Educational Podcast Packets are below. Discover, Learn, Play.