This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the Form, Melody, Harmonic Structure, and Function of Charlie Parker's My Little Suede Shoes using contemporary voicings and improvisational approaches. A jazz piano lesson taught by professional jazz pianist and educator Dr. Bob Lawrence.
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Every JazzPianoSkills weekly podcast episode introduces aspiring jazz pianists to essential Jazz Piano Skills. Each Podcast episode explores a specific Jazz Piano Skill in depth. Today you will discover, learn, play Charlie Parker's My Little Suede Shoes. In this Jazz Piano Lesson you will:
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Welcome to jazz piano skills. I'm Dr. Bob Lawrence. It's time to discover, learn and play jazz piano. Today, you are going to discover a timeless classic by jazz legend Charlie Parker, my little suede shoes. You're going to learn the melody form, harmonic structure function and a whole lot more of this great tune. And you are going to play Charlie Parker's my little Suede Shoes using shells, voicings, arpeggios, scales, and even more. So as I always like to say regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, a beginner and intermediate player, an advanced player or even if you are an experienced professional, you will find this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring Charlie Parker's my little suede shoes to be very beneficial. If you are a new listener to the jazz piano skills podcast, I want to personally invite you to become a jazz piano skills member. 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I'm always happy to help in any way that I can. Okay, let's discover learn and play jazz piano let's discover learn and play Charlie Parker's my little suede shoes. So before we dig in, let's take a second. Let's listen to Mr. Parker play this incredibly fun tune. fun to listen to and of course fun to play. If you haven't done so already, download and print the lead sheet packet and then grab the transcription of Charlie Parker playing my little suede shoes. I've included a transcription in the lead sheet packet for you. So grab that lead, grab that transcription and follow along as we listen to the great Charlie Parker. Play my little suede shoes. Okay, here we go. Did I tell you it's a fun tune Now that we've listened to my little Suede Shoes, let's get underneath the hood, and learn how to play my little suede shoes. First things first, let's talk about form. I can't begin to tell you how common it is for students not to know the form of a piece that they are trying to learn. This is simply not good. It's, it's equivalent to a contractor attempting to build a home without blueprints. both scenarios are going to lead to disastrous results. My little Suede Shoes uses the standard ABA form which may possibly be the most common of all jazz forms. Each section of the form consists of eight measures for a total of 32 measures, the entire tune is 32 measures long. So important to know this information before attempting to figure out the melody and chord changes. Knowing that three of the four sections of a tune are the same, is quite liberating. It basically means that all we have to do is learn 16 measures of music, to learn a tune that uses the a be a form like my little suede shoes. Additionally, knowing the form provides us a much needed framework to guide us when figuring out the melody and chord progression. So now that we know the form of my little Suede Shoes, let's tackle the melody. Now, when learning the melody, it is very important that you do so through your ears and not through your eyes using sheet music. I know that is much easier, at least initially to find a lead sheet from a fake book and begin playing the melody. I know it's it's much easier, right? But excluding your ears, from learning from the learning process is a huge mistake. Don't let your ears get or remain lazy. Now with that being said, I also get that if you are new to trying to learn a melody from a recording, transcribing, it can be incredibly frustrating, especially with jazz, we're where the melodies tend to include quite a bit of ornamentation. I encourage you to always seek out a vocal rendition of a tune if possible, because vocalists tend to give you a pretty accurate representation of the melody. So today I'm going to play a basic no ornamentation version of my little suede shoes so that you have no excuse not to use your ears to learn the melody. To make it even easier, I'm going to tell you that I am playing in the key of E flat major and I am even going to give you the very first note of the melody, which is the note B flat which of course is the fifth note of the key. And here's even another big tip. The first three notes of the melody are pick up notes. Starting on the second half of count three. Bottom line, no excuse not to challenge your ears and begin exercising them right now to learn the melody of my little suede shoes. So here we go. My little Suede Shoes straight forward with no ornamentation. Let's check it out. See, not too bad at all, I think that if you have faith in your ears, and give learning the melody of my little Suede Shoes, by ear a sincere try, you're going to be pleasantly surprised and thrilled. At the success you're going to experience the musical payoff for learning melodies by ear is huge. And no better time than the present. To get started, after you have a handle on the melody, it's time to learn the chord changes the chord progression and the harmonic function of each chord. Now, you should learn the chord changes of a tune by ear as well. But this is a skill that you need to back into by first taking the progression of a tune, and then absorbing it conceptually and physically placing the harmonic function, front and center as the primary focal point. So to demonstrate what I'm talking about, I want I want you to grab the chord changes from the lead sheet packet and follow along as I demonstrate how you should practice learning the harmonic movement the harmonic function of a two. Alright, so here we go check this out. 512 by 12536251251251236251436251362512512512536251 How cool is that? So few. And I mean, so very few aspiring jazz pianist take the time to play through the changes of a tune and actually say out loud the harmonic function that they are hearing with your ears and are playing with their hands. If you do not take the time to learn the core changes of attune in this manner. How would you ever train your ears to hear and recognize essential harmonic relationships like 251? Well, I can answer that question quite easily. The harsh reality is you won't develop your ears to hear and recognize essential harmonic relationships. So don't skip this step. When learning a tune. If you do, you will never really learn a tune and your ears will never evolve, they will not grow they will never retain what you are hearing and playing. Okay, so let's move on after after you know the chord changes of tune it's time to give attention to voicing the chord changes. In other words, how are we going to play the chords? Are we going to use traditional shell voicings in the left hand or contemporary shell voicings or a combination of the two? How are we going to approach playing our two handed voicings? Today I am going to use contemporary choral shells when playing the melody or improvising in my right hand. And five note to hand voicings to notes in my left hand three in my right when backing an instrumentalist. Let's begin with the left hand. And shell voicings. Again in the lead sheet packet that you have downloaded and printed, you will find a lead sheet with the left hand shell voicings musically notated, grab it and follow along as I play the chord changes of my little suede shoes. Now I'm going to play the melody using a trumpet, a muted trumpet sound, so that it is easier to differentiate orally, between the melody and the harmony. So let's check this out. And then we'll talk about it. Here we go. Wow, I love contemporary coral shells. They are, as I like to say felt and not heard. They're very transparent, and on obtrusive. If you do not have a command of these shapes, then take some time. And check out my December 16 2019 podcast episode, which was dedicated entirely to these essential shapes and sounds. Likewise, jazz piano skills courses 21 through 26. Thoroughly explore these fabulous shapes. For each of the primary sounds of music major dominant minor, half diminished and diminished. Now, just as essential, as the three note left hand shell voicings are the five note two handed voicings needed when playing behind an instrumentalist or vocalist. Now let's listen to my little Suede Shoes again, but this time I'm going to play two handed shapes. And once again, I'm going to play the melody using a muted trumpet sound so that you can easily differentiate orally between the melody and the harmony. So Alright, let's check out these two handed voicings when applied to Charlie Parker's my little suede shoes. Let's check this out. Here we go. Very nice. Again, wonderful voicings that are definitely felt and not heard. If you are unfamiliar with these voicings or simply need a quick refresher then check out my March 3 and march 10 2020 podcast episodes. Alright, so So far, we have listened to the great Charlie Parker play my little suede shoes. We've discussed form, we've learned the melody studied the harmonic function and explored left hand in two handed voicings needed to play the tune. Now it's time to turn our attention to some improvisation development. And to do this, I want to draw your attention to four classic chord progressions found in my little suede shoes that are perfect for improvisation development. These four progressions are found in numerous standards, not just in my little Suede Shoes, but in numerous standards. So in essence, when practicing these progressions, you are not only learning my little Suede Shoes, you're actually learning hundreds of tunes as well. So what are these four progressions? Okay, you ready? Here they are. The first progression progression, of course, is 251. The second progression is 251. And then six, altered and altered six dominant. Right Parker References The altered dominant sound in his soul, check that out in the transcription, look at all the dominant chords, and look what he's playing over the top of those chords, look at those notes in relationship to the harmony and you're going to find a lot of altered sounds, the third progression to 536 and the fourth progression 4321. Okay, so those four progressions again, 2512516, altered 2536 and 4321. I am going to use two of them today to demonstrate some improvisation exercises, but the exercises can and should be applied to all four progressions. The two progressions that I'm going to use today for improv development are the 2516 altered and the 4321 progressions. Now the exercises are going to utilize the only two types of melodic motion that exists in music, arpeggio and scale motion. And the only two types of melodic direction that exists in music as well which are ascending and descending. If you haven't done so already, take a second to download and print the illustration packet. The scales and the arpeggios for each chord are illustrated for you so that you can study and use them. While at the piano practicing. A picture's worth 1000 words, so be sure to use the illustrations. They're invaluable tools indeed. Okay, so let's deal with the 2516 altered progression first. The first exercise is going to use alternating ascending and descending arpeggio motion. Starting from the root of the F minor seven chord, the two chord. I'm going to intentionally ascend the two chord descend on the five chord and ascend on the one chord and decent on the altered six dominant chord. So I am going up the F minor chord, f a flat, C, E flat. Then going down the B flat dominant chord d B flat, a flat half. Send the E flat major chord g B flat D flat and descend the altered dominant chord, D flat a flat E and then resolve that back to my F with my F minor chord. Yep, great sound. Then I simply play the progression for two measures using my two handed voicings to rest, assess and adjust what I just played. I will be alternating ascending or descending arpeggio motion several times, playing straight, playing the pattern straight like an exercise before I begin to experiment with rhythmic variation, as I would do when improvising. So let's bring the ensemble and let's check this out and see what we think then we'll talk about it. Here we go. Very cool, by the way, just in case, it hasn't registered with you quite yet, I want to mention that I was playing chord tones only no notes other than the root, third, fifth and seventh of the chords. I'm going to do the exact same when I play the exercise focusing on scale motion, just playing scale tones, my approach is the same, I'm going to use alternating scale motion ascending through the two and the five chord descending through the one and altered five chords, it's going to sound like this. Again, I'm ascending through the two and the five. And now I'm going to descend through the one and the altered dominant. resolve to the F minor. Again, I'm going to play the alternating ascending and descending scale motion straight, right, not getting fancy. I'm going to play it straight several times like an exercise before I begin experimenting rhythmically, as I would do when improvising. So let's bring the ensemble and let's check this out and see what we think. Here we go. I have said it 1000 times. And now I'm going to say it again. If you do not have a command of chord tones, arpeggios and scale tones, then it is going to be next to impossible. Let let me correct that it's going to be impossible to improvise. And this is precisely why you hear jazz musicians prescribing the practicing of scales and arpeggios to everyone wanting to become an accomplished jazz musician. And bottom line you you can run and you can hide but eventually eventually you will have to confront scales and arpeggios and spend time a lot of time practicing them. And just FYI jazz piano skills courses seven through 11 deal entirely with arpeggios and courses 12 through 16 deal entirely with scales. If you are a jazz piano skills member you have access to all of the online interactive courses so be sure to use them. Okay, now let's look at the next progression from my little suede shoes that I want us to put under the microscope. And that is the progression that runs through the entire bridge of the tune the B section of the form. It is a beautiful descending diatonic pattern starting on the four chord of the key starting on a flat A flat major, then it descends to the G minor. Then it descends to the F minor goes to the E flat major. Right. So we're going to A flat major, G minor, F minor, E flat major. Now, I know that Parker inserts a five chord after both of the minor chords, places the C dominant after the G minor and the B flat dominant after the F minor which create very strong 251 motion but I want us for the sake of the exercise to lock in on the descending diatonic movement. In fact, that is how I hear and think about it. When I am playing the bridge of my little Suede Shoes, even with the dominant chords inserted, I hear it as descending diatonic motion. So let's play the progression and apply alternating ascending and descending arpeggio motion. And just as I did with our first progression with the 2516 altered, I am going to play the arpeggios straight at first no rhythmic variation. Then after several repetitions, I will begin to manipulate the arpeggios rhythmically. This should be fun. So let's bring the ensemble back in and check it out. Here we go. Such a great way to begin developing jazz vocabulary. I could actually sit here and do this kind of practicing all day. And I'm not kidding all day. I can do it because I know the enormous payoff it is going to have on my playing on my improvisation when I play tunes. And not just when I'm playing my little suede shoes. In other words, I'm practicing hundreds of tunes. When I practice like this, the payoff is simply enormous. Now, let's apply alternating ascending and descending scale motion to this beautiful descending diatonic progression and see what we think the ensembles here the ensembles ready. So let's check it out. Here we go. Hey, did I did I happen to mention how important gaining a command of scales and arpeggios is for developing improvisational skills. Again, you can run but you can't hide even before applying arpeggios and scales to harmonic movement core progressions. practice them isolated, just good old fashioned arpeggio on scale practice, where you simply go up and down the scale and the arpeggio at various tempos. Just remember, you always want to practice scales, utilizing a different entry and exit point so that you are actively engaged In your ears, for example, you want to play the scale from the root to the seventh. So you are really locked in on the seventh sound, you do not. And I repeat, you do not want to play scales from the root to the root, your ears will disengage. And now you're simply playing a technique exercise that will eventually cause your mind to wander off as well. My very first jazz piano skills podcast November 18 2019, is titled practice scales correctly. Now I, I need to redo go back and redo that episode because I was a podcast newbie at that time, and I basically just turned on the microphone and started talking. But nevertheless, the content and message is very good. So be sure to check it out if you haven't done so, already. So speaking of the power of isolating the arpeggios and scales when practicing, it is also a very good idea to isolate a single chord, especially when applying arpeggio and scale motion, especially when you want to begin adding notes around a specific target note, say the root, the third, fifth, seventh, and or notes that fall outside of the key center. So let me demonstrate. Let's take the very first chord of my little Suede Shoes, the F minor seven. And let's practice adding an enclosure to each of the primary core tones. And by the way, just in case you do not know an enclosure is simply the addition of a lower and upper neighboring tone for that specific note. So I am going to add an enclosure to each note of the chord to the root to the third to the fifth and the seventh, followed by a simple arpeggio motion. Using only three notes. For example, I'm going to enclose my f a half step below the F diatonic note above the F that I'm going to come out of it with arpeggio motion, up to the fifth, so I get right and descending. Right so I'm not traveling great distance here, I'm trying to keep everything pretty compact. I'm going to play ascending from the root a couple of times, then descending from the root a couple of times, and then I'm going to move to the third and repeat the process of ascending and descending. And then on to the fifth ascending, descending and then on to the seventh ascending, descending. So let's check it out. Let's see what this sounds like. And then we'll talk about it. Here we go. So interesting that when practicing like this, you can actually begin to hear the formation of melodic ideas. Such a great, great way, it's a great way to begin getting used to thinking of target notes, ascending and descending movement, and arpeggio and scale motion. All three are needed when improvising. So if we can exit out of an enclosure using arpeggio motion, we can certainly do the same using scale motion and that is exactly what I'm going to demonstrate. Now. Once again, I am going to isolate the F minor chord applying and closer to each of the primary chord tones the root third, fifth seventh, followed by ascending scale motion, right so it's got Sound like this. Or I'm coming out of that enclosure with scale motion ascending, or coming out of the enclosure with scale motion descending. So let's bring the OS on. Let's check this out and see what we think. Here we go. Again, you can actually begin hearing the formation of melodic ideas that you hear jazz musicians using when they play such a great improvisation technique that should not only be applied to the first chord of any tune, but all the chords within the tune. So isolate each chord of my little suede shoes and apply this same approach. Again, the payoff is huge. So what we've done today, to successfully discover learn and play my little Suede Shoes, we have discussed form a BA, we learn the melody, without ornamentation, we learned the harmonic function of the chord progression. We applied three note left hand shells, we applied five note two handed voicings. We applied alternating arpeggio and scale motion to two standard progressions found within the tune, a 2516, all depression and the 4321 progression. We applied enclosure, enclosures followed by ascending and descending arpeggio and scale motion to F minor seven, the first chord of the tune which of course needs to be applied to all of the chords within the two. So that's a pretty amazing lineup. And I promise you if you begin to approach learning tunes in this manner, you will develop into an accomplished jazz pianist, and you will begin to hear a profound change in your ability to improvise. You know, I rarely, if ever take the time in a podcast episode to actually play an entire tune. But today, I want to take a couple minutes and play my little suede shoes and apply all the jazz piano skills that we discussed today. So that you can hear them in context. Within a finished product. I'm going to have a little fun and play the melody using that muted trumpet sound the sound that Miles Davis used to often which I absolutely love. And I am going to play my Fender Rhodes sound which again I absolutely love. Both sounds fit this great tune by Charlie Parker. So here we go. My little rendition of my little suede shoes. I hope you enjoy Well I hope you found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring Charlie Parker's my little suede shoes to be insightful and of course, 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 at 8pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode less than exploring Charlie Parker's my little suede shoes in greater detail, and to answer any 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 for this podcast lesson. And the jazz panel skills courses to maximize and ensure your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant within the jazz panel skills community get involved and contribute to the various forums and most importantly, make some new jazz piano friends. As always, you can reach me by phone at 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe found throughout the jazz piano skills website. Well, that's my cue. That's it for now. And until next week, enjoy Charlie Parker's my little suede shoes. Enjoy the journey. And most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano