This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the form, melody, and harmony of the jazz standard "Mr. P.C." by John Coltrane.
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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 Mr. P.C. by jazz great John Coltrane. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
Mr. P.C. a classic jazz standard by the great John Coletrane
How to approach the Form, Ckey, Melody, Chord Changes, and Harmonic Function of John Coltrane’s Mr. P.C.
John Coltrane’s Mr. P.C. using contemporary voicings, melodic harmonization, and improvising using the standard minor blues scale
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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
you are going to discover Mr. PC, a classic jazz standard by the great John Coltrane. You're going to learn how to approach the form key melody, chord changes and harmonic function of john Coltrane's Mr. PC. And you are going to play John Coltrane's Mr. PC, using contemporary voicings, a lot of harmonization, and improvising using the standard minor blues scale. So as I always like to say, as my regular listeners know, regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner an intermediate player, an advanced player, or even if you are a seasoned and experienced professional, you will find this jazz panel skills podcast lesson, exploring john Coltrane's Mr. PC to be very insightful, and beneficial. If you are a new listener to the jazz piano skills podcast if you are new to jazz piano skills, I want to personally invite you to become a jazz piano skills member. Visit jazz piano skills comm to learn more about the abundance of jazz educational resources, materials, and services that are available for you to use. For example, the educational podcast packets that I develop and produce and publish for every podcast episode, the illustrations the lead sheets, the play logs are available for you to download and use while practicing the sequential jazz piano curriculum, which is a loaded curriculum with comprehensive courses jazz panel courses using a self-paced format, educational talks, interactive media video demonstrations play alongs and more. As a jazz panel skills member you also have access to the online weekly masterclasses which are, in essence, a one-hour online jazz piano lesson with me every week. And as a jazz piano skills member, you have access to the private jazz piano community, which hosts a variety of engaging forums, podcast-specific forms, course-specific forms, of course, General jazz piano forums as well. All of that for you to enjoy as often as you choose. And last but certainly not least, as a jazz piano skills member. You have unlimited, private, personal, and professional educational support with me whenever and as often as you need it. Again, visit jazz piano skills comm to learn more about all of the educational opportunities, and how to easily activate your membership. If you have any questions, any questions at all, please do not hesitate to reach out to me. Let me know I'm always happy to help you in any way that I can. I forgot to mention last week that I recently launched a jazz panel skills blog. It's one of those things that I realized that I probably should have been doing a blog all along but As the old saying goes better late than never right. So what I'm doing with the blog is taking some time at the end of each week after producing and publishing a new podcast episode and after the jazz piano skills masterclass, meets on Thursday evening, taking some time to sit down and jot down my final thoughts about the jazz piano skill explored in the podcast episode and discussed in the masterclass kind of a wrap up if you will, an opportunity to provide you with some additional insight to address any additional aspects about the jazz piano skill that I may have forgotten to mention during the podcast episode. And to provide you with some final words of encouragement and hopefully, some hands spiration as well. I have already published a couple of articles that you can check out. So go to jazz panel skills comm click on the podcast link and you will find the blog link in the menu bar running across the top of the page. Or you can just simply scroll to the bottom of the page, and you'll see a blog section. Pretty excited about it. So check it out, and let me know what you think. Okay, let's discover, learn and play jazz piano. Let's discover, learn and play. John Coltrane's Mr. PC. So the agenda for today is as follows. Number one, we're going to take a quick listen to John Coltrane's Mr. PC, not the entire recording, but just the head, the melody, so that all of us even if you were already familiar with the tune, all of us can get it into our ears and get us pumped up about tackling this iconic jazz standard. Number two, after we listened to Coltrane, play Mr. PC at a ridiculously fast tempo that always leaves our jaws hanging open, especially when hearing him play for the first time. I will then play Mr. PC for us at a human tempo that we will use for the duration of today's lesson. So bottom line, do not panic do not freak out when we listen to John Coltrane play Mr. PC, which before I forget the title of the tune Mr. PC is a tribute to jazz bassist Paul chambers, who accompanied Coltrane for years. Number three, we will then analyze the form melody chord changes and harmonic function of Mr. PC. Number four. After looking at the architectural structure of Mr. PC, we will discuss contemporary left-hand shell voicings and contemporary two-handed voicings that you can and should be using when you play this tune. And number five, once we complete our construction of the contemporary voicings, we're going to put them to work we will use them to harmonize the melody of Mr. PC. And you will see you will hear the fruits of our labor from the past month come to life. And in case you forgot, in the June 15 22nd and 29th podcast episodes, we took the major dominant and minor scales and played them harmonized using contemporary two-handed voicings. And finally number six we will conclude with improvising over the chord changes of John Coltrane's Mr. PC using the standard minor blues scale. And not only that, we will use our contemporary two-handed voicings to harmonize the minor blues scale and use the harmonization of the voicings while improvising. I think that's enough for one day. For one podcast episode for one hour of podcast episode. I think it's enough tons to do so we need to get busy. If you are a jazz piano skills member take a few minutes right now to download and print the illustrations and the lead sheets. I remind you every week because it's important, you have access to all the podcast packets, and you should absolutely be using them while listening to the episode. And of course when practicing. If you're listening to this podcast on any of the popular podcast directories like Apple or Google, Amazon, Spotify, I Heart Radio, Pandora, and on and on and on, then be sure to go to jazz piano skills.com to download the podcast packets, you will find the download links in the show notes. One final note, but an extremely important note. If you're thinking that the jazz piano skills that I just rattled off, that I just outlined in today's agenda that we are about to discover, learn and play. If you are thinking that in some ways or even if you are thinking that they are all the way over your head, then I would say to you okay, continue to listen. continue to grow your jazz piano skills intellectually by listening to this podcast episode The fact is, all scales are over our heads when first introduced. And that is precisely why the first step we need to tackle in order to improve our musicianship is always to simply listen. All musical growth begins upstairs begins mentally, before it can come out downstairs physically in your hands. So, listen, listen to this podcast lesson now to discover and learn, then worry about the play later.
Okay, here we go. With John Coltrane's Mr. PC, buckle your seatbelt because the first thing we are going to do is to check out John Coltrane plane, Mr. PC Now remember, he is playing at a superhuman tempo, something like 242 5260 Don't panic. We're just listening to John Coltrane play Mr. PC, we are not going to be playing at this template today. But nevertheless, let's check it out. And let's enjoy Mr. PC by John Coltrane. Here we go.
Oh, man, what did I tell you? Is that crazy? Or is that crazy. So again, we're not going to play it at john Coltrane's speed at john Coltrane's tempo. We're gonna play everything. Today I'm going to demonstrate everything today at 140 and 140. Quite honestly, even 140 is a snappy tempo, right? So in the play logs that I've included in the podcast packets, there, you have a variety of play logs at various temples, some slower than 140. And of course, some quicker than 140. But today, within this podcast episode, all temples from this moment on will be 140. Breathe in, breathe out. Everything's good. Here we go. So now the next thing I want to do is I'm going to play Mr. PC. And I'm going to play it at a human tempo 140. And so I want you to check out how it goes at a slower tempo. And you know what, and to be perfectly honest with you, I actually like it at a slower tempo. Anyway, I know Coltrane played it at an incredibly fast tempo. And it's typically played at fast tempos, but I'm just being honest with you. I kind of like it at the 140 tempo. I think it just sounds great. has a good feel. You'll see. Let's listen. Let's listen to Mr. PC as I play it at 140. Let's see what you think. So let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out. Here we go.
Much better and much more manageable. Right. But I hope you agree with me see, I think it sounds great at 140 I think it's just it's a nice groove. The melody line works on the piano at 140 keep in mind you know horn lines instrumental lines do not always translate together. candle lines and vice versa. This is why a lot of times when musicians are trying to take a transcription, like something from the Charlie Parker Omni book, and try to play it on the piano. Sounds great on alto saxophone. It works great on alto saxophone, it lays out great on the alto saxophone. But on the piano, you try playing some of those lines, and they're awkward, the fingerings awkward, the shapes are awkward. So just keep that in mind. Piano lines don't always translate transfer over to the instrumental side. instrumental lines don't always easily translate over to the piano side. And I think this is a good example of that. I think Mr. PC played at 242 50 to 60 with those ascending eighth notes, repetitive eighth notes, it's kind of clunky, it's much more difficult to play on the piano. So 140 feels really good, not only musically, but it also feels really good pin mystically as well. Okay, so now let's take a look at the form the key and the chord changes and harmonic function of john Coltrane's Mr. PC. So, first and foremost, Mr. PC is a minor blues progression. It's a minor blues form. So what that means it's 12 measures long. That's it 12 measures long that continue to loop if you will continue to repeat over and over and over again. So let's just walk through the core changes, it starts with a C minor chord
for four measures, then shifts to the F minor chord for two measures. Now back to the C minor chord for two measures.
Now, the A-flat dominant chord, which resolves down to the G dominant chord, back to C minor. For the last two measures, right, the A-flat dominant was for one measure, the G dominant was for one measure. So that's it, very simple form. Very simple chord changes. Now, when I start to learn a jazz standard, once I understand the form, once I have the changes the chord changes, then I turn my attention to the harmonic function. So what I like to do is think of it in terms of numbers, right? I was taught to think in Roman numerals, but you can think in just numbers, right? So it starts with the one chord.
That's going to go to the four core to the one chord, six chord, five chord, one chord. Right. So by thinking in terms of numbers, Roman numerals or numbers, what that does is establish a relationship, a harmonic relationship, a harmonic relationship that the ears can become familiar with and engage and interact with. If there's not a harmonic relationship established function, the ears really have nothing to retain, they really have nothing to hang on to. So if you do not think in terms of harmonic function, your ears if your ears could speak, your ears would say to you, what is it exactly that you want us to retain? What is it exactly that you want us to remember? Think about that. So I want you to get used to when you have the chord changes in front of you, I tell students all the time, I want you to think the opposite of what you see. So if you have the chord changes mapped out in front of you, I want you to see those chord changes, but I want you to think harmonic function. If you had the harmonic function laid out in front of you, I want you to see those numbers and think chord changes. And if you do that, then you could play any tune in any key and your ears will grow tremendously. And in your lead sheet packet, you'll notice I have both of those lead sheets laid out for you. I have the chord changes laid out for you on one lead sheet and I have the harmonic functionally Get out for you on another lead sheet. Work off both of those lead sheets when practicing, and always think the opposite of what you see. Okay, so now let's turn our attention to our left hand. And let's, let's look at the contemporary shell voicings that I recommend using when you're playing Mr. PC. I like to use in my left-hand corner shapes, voicings that are using the interval, the primary interval being the fourth, right, so for my C minor, I use C, F, and B flat. And I play that melody against them. Nice right now here on this B flat in the melody, kind of think like a, like a G minor chord. So I'm going
to create a little movement. Now for my F minor, I do the exact same voice in shape, but launching from the entry point being the app. So now my left-hand shell was F, B flat, and E flat. So I get back to my C minor CFB, flatten the left hand, slide into that kind of G minor shape. Come back to my C minor. Now my A-flat is interesting I use a two-note shell, just an interval, I have the I have the seventh and the third in my left hand I have a G flat and a C which then will slide down to my G dominant and I use two notes for my G dominant as well just the the seventh and the third. Very nice. Now back to my C minor c f B flat. Very simple voicings. So what I want to do is I want to play those shapes for you. I'm going to bring the ensemble in and I'm just going to play the shapes no melody, I just want you to hear the shapes in a musical setting in a musical context. So I bring the ensemble back in. And let's listen to a few courses of Mr. PC using these quartal voicings these contemporary left-hand shell voicings, Okay, here we go. Check it out.
Very nice, right. I love those sounds very transparent, very open. And they work beautifully on a tone like John Coltrane's Mr. PC. So now I want to shift our attention to art who handed voicings contemporary voicings. So these shapes will use both left hand and the right hand and as, as regular listeners know, I use five-note structures, I played two notes in my left hand, I play three notes in my right hand. So for my C minor, I might play E flat in a in my left hand and my right-hand D, G, and C. Right. I might also play G and C and my left hand. f B flat, E flat, my right hand for C minor. Right so listen to both of those voicings with C in the bass. Nice. Right? I might play C minor with C and In the left hand, and B flat, E flat, G, and my right hand. Nice. For my F minor, I like to use f B flat, my left hand, E flat, a flat, C, and my right hand. Very nice. Or you might hear me play the a flat D, in my left hand, GCF, and my right hand. Or you might hear me play C and F in my left hand, B flat, E flat, a flat and my right hand. I'm giving you a few options here, my eight flat dominant seven, I like to use a G flat and see in my left hand, my right-hand F, B flat, E. Fantastic. And then for my G dominant seven, I like to play the F and the B in my left hand. And in my right hand, this is interesting. I will naturally gravitate toward an E, A, and D. But my melody has an E flat in there, like a flat 13 sound. So I might play something like E flat, G, and C in my in my right hand. Something like that, to try to pick up that alteration that flat, 13 sound. So those are the voicings those are the two-handed voicings that I like to move around when I'm comping behind an instrumentalist. So what I want to do now is I want to bring the ensemble back in, and I'm going to play the melody of the tune using a trumpet sound, a muted trumpet sound kind of like Miles Davis, right. And I'm going to play these type of left-hand, two-handed quarter voicings with two in the left, two notes in the left three notes in the right. And I'm using the trumpet sound because I want to be able to, I want you to be able to hear the voicings in relationship to an instrumentalist. Okay, so let's bring the ensemble and let's listen to Mr. PC using two-handed contemporary voicings. Let's see what you think. Here we go. Check it out.
Wow, what can I say? Right. Very cool. Very hip. Very, very jazzy right very McCoy Tyner ish very Korea ish, very Herbie Hancock ish. Alright, these are great voicings. These are shapes and sounds that you need to get into your ears and under your hands. And this last month, we have done just that, right. We've looked at taking these contemporary two-handed voicings and harmonizing the major scale, the dominant scale, and the minor scale off seven notes of the scale. So our C minor scale. Now instead of sounding like this might sound something like this
thinking Dorian mode here, right? So why is that important? Well, because we might want to actually play the melody and Mr. PC harmonized. As opposed to just playing it as a single note. This is nice.
Right? But we might want to play it like this
bigger sound right? So what I want to do now is I want to illustrate this for you demonstrate this for you. I'm going to play through Mr. PC several time, several times using these contemporary two-handed voicings to harmonize the melody. So let's bring the ensemble back in. And let's listen to Mr. PC again. This time the melody being played entirely using these two-handed, five-note shapes, Korto contemporary voicings, right. Alright, so here we go. Let's check it out. Let's see what we think.
Wow, I like it. I like it a lot. So now Now let's turn our attention to the minor blues scale that we would use to improvise over the changes of John Coltrane's Mr. PC. So the minor blues scale, C, E flat, F, F sharp, G, B flat. Okay.
So now we're turning our attention to melodic development we've been focusing really up to this point, heavily on the harmonic side right with our, with our shell voicings left-hand shell voicings and then our contemporary two-handed voicings. Now let's, let's turn our attention over to the melody and use our minor blues scale as our blueprint as our format. So what I want to do right now is I want to play through Mr. PC again. And I'm going to practice my minor blue scale ascending and descending from the root through the form of Mr. PC. So you're going to hear me play the blue scale ascending and descending for two measures, resting for two measures, ascending for two measures, ascending, descending for two measures resting for two measures, ascending, descending again for another two measures, resting for two measures using the same scale over the entire farm. Okay, so let's let's do the exercise first. Then we'll go from there. So, bring out sample and let's check it out.
Fantastic. This is a great way to get the blues scale under your fingers, if you're not already familiar with that pattern to get that under your fingers and in your ears right? Just playing ascending and D Sending playing for two resting for two playing for two resting for two, what you're doing when you're doing that is you're actually building in silence, right, you're building in space, which you definitely need while improvising, especially over over the blues form. So now, what I want to do is use those exact same six notes, my C, E flat, F, F sharp, G and B flat. And I want to begin improvising over john Coltrane's Mr. PC, using that blues scale that blues pattern. And when you hear me improvised, now, I'm only going to use those notes. I'm not stepping outside of those six notes. I'm not using any approach tones, not using any neighboring tones. No, no gimmicks, no tricks, no notes outside the scale, just those six notes, and I'm going to practice improvising and incorporating space into my lines as well. So here we go. Let's bring the ensemble back in. And let's see what I can come up with using the six notes of the minor blues scale. Here we go check it out.
Pretty cool, right? It's amazing what you can do with just six notes. sticking to the six notes. So the pattern fact I've said this many times on previous podcast episodes if you really want to practice creativity, develop your creativity, limit your choices, the fewer notes, the more creative you must become. Right. So now, if the minor blues scale can be played as a single note line. Can't we also harmonize that minor blues scale? Of course, we can check this out.
How nice is that? And again, in your lead sheets packet, you have the minor blues scale notated for you using a single-note line. And you also have the minor blues scale laid out for you using these chordal two-handed contemporary voicings as well. So now what I want to do is I want to play Mr. PC again, I'm going to go back and I want to play my minor blues scale as an exercise again, but this time I'm not going to play the exercise using just a single-note line. I'm going to play the exercise harmonizing that minor blue scale, ascending and descending. Again playing for two measures resting for two measures playing for two measures resting for two measures with the minor blues pattern harmonized. Wow. Let's check this out and see what we think. Here we go.
I love it. I think it's fantastic, right. So just as we did with the minor blues scale earlier, using single notes, I improvise using just those six notes, I want to do the same thing again, I'm going to improvise using just the six notes at the minor blues scale of the minor blues pattern. But this time, each of those six notes is going to be harmonized. Again, I'm just going to stick with those six notes. But now they're harmonized. Wow, let's see what this sounds like. Right? Let's bring the ensemble back in. Let's check this out and see what we think. Here we go.
As my old teacher used to say, that is a fist full of notes, right. Sounds fantastic. What a great sound. So now, I'm going to do a combination, because realistically, realistically, when you improvise, you'll be doing a combination of single-note movement ascending and descending, bundled with harmonized movement, ascending and descending. But once again, I'm just going to stick with the six notes of the C minor blues pattern or the blues scale. But you'll hear me weave in and out of single-note lines and ideas with harmonized notes with a harmonized lines and ideas to give it a more realistic sound as to how I would actually really utilize both of these tools while improvising. So I want to bring the ensemble back in. And I want to play again through a few courses of john Coltrane's Mr. PC, using the minor blues scale, minor blues pattern as my six notes for improvisation. And I'm going to treat those six notes as a single, single musical line, single-note line, and also as a harmonized line using the contemporary voicings, and I'm going to improvise a kind of weaving in and out of those two sounds. So let's see what we think right let's bring the ensemble and let's give this a shot and see how this sounds. Here we go.
I've got to be honest, I got to be perfectly honest with you. Today was a very bold agenda. And I was not certain I could cover everything in one hour or less. But we did it. Wow, we did it. This episode, without a doubt is one that you can listen to several times, over and over again, and pick something up new each and every time. So make the time to do just that, to listen to this podcast episode, over and over again. The Jazz panel skills we explore today are as I like to say big-time skills. And big-time skills require big time, attention, and big time effort. And doing much more than keep this in mind. You're doing much more than just simply learning john Coltrane's Mr. PC, you will be thoroughly exploring the minor blues form that you should and you must have a command of especially if you find yourself playing with other jazz musicians on a gig or even at a jam session. If you want to dive in further with the minor blues scale, then be sure to check out the jazz piano skills, June 2, 2020, podcast episode that I devoted entirely to the minor blues scale. Most of all, I want you to hear this. This is the most important thing I'm going to say today. Be patient. Big-time jazz piano skills take time to digest mentally and physically. You can do it stay focused, stay organized, stay determined, stay committed. And keep listening to jazz piano skills. I am here to help you discover, learn and play jazz piano. Well, I hope you have found this jazz panel skills podcasts lesson exploring john Coltrane's Mr. PC to be beneficial to be insightful. 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 john Coltrane's Mr. PC in greater detail. And of course, to answer any question or questions that you may have about the study of jazz in general. Again, as a jazz panel skills member, be sure to use the educational podcast packets, the illustrations the lead sheets to play along just download them and print them. Have them sitting on your piano. Do that for this podcast lesson this podcast episode in all of my podcast episodes. Also, be sure to use the jazz piano skills courses to maximize your musical growth. They are sequential. Check them out if you haven't done so already. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant in the jazz panel skills community get involved, contribute to the various forums and most importantly, make some new jazz piano friends. Always a great thing to do. As always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 my office extension is 211 you can reach me by email Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com that's d r. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe found throughout the jazz piano skills website. Well, there is my cue. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy john Coltrane's Mr. PC, enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you do recover, learn and play jazz piano
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