This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the primary contemporary two-handed jazz piano voicings for the dominant chord using five effective and efficient exercises. 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 the primary Two-Handed Dominant Voicings. 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 is technique Tuesday. And as all of my regular listeners know, every jazz piano skills podcast episode, every week, every Tuesday, is dedicated to a specific jazz study. These studies include theory, tunes, study transcriptions, and of course technique. The objective of each study is to help you to help all of us become better jazz pianist. I mentioned a few podcast episodes ago that in music when we speak of technique, we tend to think of it melodically. In other words, we tend to think of it as our ability to easily move up and down the piano in a linear fashion, typically involving scales and arpeggios. And not only that, we tend to think that the faster we play, the better, right, the faster we play the better art technique. This understanding of technique is not only skewed, but it barely at best. As the old saying goes, it barely scrapes the tip of the iceberg as pianist technique, in addition to having a linear a melodic dimension, scales, arpeggios, it also has a harmonic dimension, chords, voicings progressions, and we have a rhythmic dimension to technique, right rhythmic patterns, time grooves. So if you are already practicing and improving your melodic technique, and have been doing so by practicing your scales and arpeggios Well, congratulations, that's fantastic. You have tackled 1/3 of the technique equation. Today, we will begin the process of incorporating an additional third of the technique equation for you. harmony, and we will in the near future it's coming, we will begin addressing the final third of the technique equation rhythm. But today, today, it's all about harmony. But before we get down to business, I want to take a second as I always do to personally invite all new first time listeners and all old time listeners to join jazz panel skills. To become an active member. Simply go to jazz piano skills.com select a membership plan, click the join link and join the family. It's that easy. Once you are an official member of jazz piano skills, you will have full access to all to all of the educational content and resources at jazz piano skills. This includes the podcast guides, the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play logs, the interactive courses, which make up a sequential jazz piano curriculum, a self paced curriculum, you'll have access to the weekly master classes, which are one hour online classes. Every week with me an online one hour session. You have access to the private community all the skills specific forums, plus unlimited personal and professional support 24 seven. Literally, I stress it all the time. In fact, Mike if you're listening, Mike is a student and frequent listener. He test he tested that claim last week he did a little speakpipe to see how quickly I would respond to his question. And I am so happy to say he got a response in less than one hour. So unlimited personal and professional No support. You know, I say this every week because it is so important and I simply cannot stress it enough. If you are indeed serious about developing the jazz piano skills needed for you to become an accomplished jazz pianist, then you should absolutely wait no longer become a jazz piano skills member and begin taking advantage of all of the educational content, the materials, the resources, and the professional support. There are several membership plans to choose from, so you can definitely find one that is going to be a good fit for you. You can become a member for just a month, if you just simply want to try it out for a while. There's also a quarterly membership plan and of course, there is an annual membership plan. There is also a lifetime membership plan. All plans all four plans regardless of which way you go grant you full access to all of the educational content, materials, resources and professional support. check everything out at jazz piano skills.com. And if you have any questions, let me know I'm happy to spend some time with you, either by phone or through speakpipe or email. To help you determine which jazz piano skills membership plan is best for you. Alright, let's improve our technique. Let's discover, learn and play the primary two handed dominant voicings. So today you're going to discover primary two handed dominant voicings, you're going to learn how to construct two primary two handed dominant voicings and you are going to play the primary two handed dominant voicings using five harmonic technique approaches. So regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, whether you are a beginner and intermediate player and advanced player or even if you are an experienced professional, you will find this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring harmonic technique, the primary two handed dominant voicings to be very beneficial. To begin, I want to take just a moment to try to as the simply as possible, answer a very important question. And in doing so, hopefully, illuminate the importance of studying voicings. So here we go. Here's the question. What is music? Right? What is music? It's a straightforward question, a logical question, one that all of us should be asking and should be taking seriously. And we should be able to answer it. Our answer ultimately determines how we practice and how we practice unequivocally determines our musical success. Sadly, few teachers help students answer this question. Heck, few teachers even asked the question, and if they do, it's more than likely phrased as a rhetorical question. This is very unfortunate, because it's a very real question needing a very real answer. And that is what I want to provide you today. So here we go. The question is, what is music? The answer is the study and application of sound. There you have it a straightforward question with a straightforward answer. That answer is what guides my entire approach to practicing. If I did not know that answer, my practicing would be all over the map. My practicing would be a map was journey leading me to a series of unknown destinations. How frustrating How can you even determine that you're getting anywhere? How can you even determine that you're making progress? If you don't even know where you are going? Impossible. It's literally flying by The CD your pants, and let's be honest, how many of you are doing just that? When it comes to the study of jazz, in jazz piano? So let's dissect my answer to reveal all of the important elements of music that we need to conceptually understand so that our physical development can occur. Did you catch that? We need to understand something conceptually First, if we ever hope to master it physically, this is why it is so important that we spend time thinking, thinking about music and answering questions like what is music? So with that being said, music is the study of sound. When the heck does that mean? my regular listeners know that there are five primary sounds and music major, dominant, minor, half diminished, and diminished. So now we can expand our answer. We can now say music is the study of major dominant minor half diminished and diminished sound. Very cool. My regular listeners also know that sound, major dominant minor have diminished and diminished can be played harmonically. And it can be played melodically. So now let's expand our answer even further. Music is the study of major dominant minor half diminished and diminished sound harmonically and melodically. Very, very cool. My regular listeners also know that a sound is harmonically produced using chords, which are voiced voicings and a sound is melodically produced using scales and arpeggios. So now let's expand our answer yet again. Music is the study of major dominant minor half diminished and diminished sound harmonically using voiced chords and melodically using scales and arpeggios. Very, very, very cool. So cool. That I want to say our expanded answer again. Music is the study of major dominant, minor, half diminished in diminished sound harmonically using voice to chords, and melodically using scales and arpeggios. So that is a lot of information packed in to our simple and succinct answer, which is, music is the study of sound. Armed with this understanding of music you're practicing should revolve around each of the musical elements. And if what you are practicing cannot be plugged into this answer. Then either your conceptual understanding of music is skewed or you are practicing something that is simply a waste of time, a waste of your time. Today, we are going to explore the primary two handed dominant voicings Do you see how this plugs into our answer to the question what is music? We are about to study a musical sound dominant and do so harmonically as voiced chords have very succinct practice objective derived from a very succinct understanding of what music is. It's the study of sound. So now that we know that music is the study and application of sound, spend time thinking about that. Spend time unpacking that answer that As we just did, and it will begin to transform how you practice, which in turn, will transform your musical results, it will produce significant musical results for you on the piano. Okay, let's attack these primary two handed dominant voicings. To begin all jazz piano skills members need to pause this episode right now. Take a few minutes if you haven't already done so. And print, print, the podcast guides, the illustration, the lead sheets always, always important to have these two guides in front of you the illustrations and the lead sheets as we go through the lesson. As the old saying goes, a picture's worth 1000 words. And the illustrations in the lead sheets will indeed illuminate various aspects of essential jazz piano skills that are often just too difficult to describe or explain by using words only. Okay, now that you have the podcast guides in front of you, I want to walk you through them. Let's begin with the illustrations of which you have 12 there are 12 illustrations one for each key. Take a look at the first illustration for C dominant. notice right away that I have five specific exercises notated and outlined. These are the exercises that I am going to be modeling today. Chord isolation, half step pairs, minor third rotation, whole step rotation and of course, circle of fifths. Now, before we go any further, grab the F dominant illustration, I want you to set the C dominant illustration the F dominant illustration side by side, I want you to notice that even though the exercises are the same, the patterns, the harmonic movement within the exercises are not. In other words, everything shifts and moves in a different order. For example, check out the circle of fifths exercise, and its starting point. On f dominant, it's not C. All right. So as you can see, it's so important to be consciously aware of incorporating various starting points within the exercises that you're that you are practicing. So each exercise in each illustration for each key is different. And by the way, the play alongs that you have access to through jazz piano scales, follow these differences. So be aware of these variations as you move from key to key illustration illustration. Now also included on each illustration for each dominant chord, our keyboard diagrams that I use to literally draw, if you will, the voicings on the keyboards using colored x's, the green X's representing the two notes you play in your left hand. While the orange X's represent the three notes you play in your right hand. It's very cool. I have created these illustrations that map out the exercises and the voicings for all 12 dominant chords. These illustrations are not only fantastic to have sitting on your piano, but they're also wonderful to study away from your instrument away from the piano. Okay, now let's look at the lead sheets. You have, you should have 16 lead sheets in your hands. 12 of the lead sheets are dedicated to each of the 12 dominant chords and their primary two handed voicings beautifully musically notated. I absolutely love these leaf sheets because they isolate each dominant sound keeping you mentally and physically focused on a specific chord and both of the primary two handed voicings for each. I love these leaf sheets because there is there is no additional data right to divert your attention from the single objective at hand. I cannot stress enough how important it is. To spend time with these individual lead sheets to help you thoroughly digest the voicings, their shapes and their sound. I'm telling you right now, call me Nostradamus, I am predicting that you will be tempted to blow right past these individual lead sheets and go right to the lead sheets. With the various exercises outlined, the dominant pairs the minor third rotations, Alton rotations, circle of fifths, I don't know. I've been teaching for 30 plus years. And after a while, you just know exactly what the student is going to do before they even know what they are going to do. It's funny how that works. So I predict that you're going to be tempted, but because you are a jazz piano skills member and you have been taught the importance of structure, focus and discipline when it comes to practicing, you will not and I repeat, you will not give in to this temptation. You will spend the time necessary with the individual lead sheets to gain a functional command of each dominant chord and the two primary voicings for each before tackling the various exercises outlined on the other included lead sheets. Finally, I mentioned them earlier. But I want to also stress the importance of using the play along tracks that I have produced and included in your membership for this jazz piano skills podcast lesson. Each dominant chord has five play alongs there is a play along for the isolated dominant chord voicing practice for the dominant pairs for the minor third rotation for the whole step rotations and for the circle of fifths. So all in all, you have 60 play along tracks at your fingertips. So be sure to use them. Again, I will be modeling each of these exercises today and using the play along tracks that you now have access to use when practicing at home. Okay, no doubt, a ton to cover today. And of course, even with the podcast guides in your hands, the illustrations, the lead sheets and the player logs, you will indeed have some questions. And that is precisely why I am committed to providing all jazz panel skills members immediate personal and professional support. If you're listening to this podcast through the jazz panel skills website, which I hope you are, you can use the extremely convenient speakpipe widget nestled directly beneath the podcast player to send me a voice mail message. It's that easy. It's that simple. One click and the two of us are interacting and engaging with each other. Send me a voice message with your questions. And I will send you one back with the answers. It's very cool technology. If you're listening on iheart radio or Spotify, Apple Pandora, amazon music or any of the other popular podcast directories, you can use the link speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills to send me a quick message if you are a scaredy cat. I say this every week if you are a scaredy cat, there are some scaredy cats out there and afraid to send me a voice message then you can post your question in the private jazz panel skills forum and let the jazz piano skills community help you or if you are free on Thursday evening, you can attend the Thursday evening jazz panel skills masterclass. I host this class every week. Join me online 8pm Central time using the zoom link I know you are familiar with zoom, using the zoom link that is posted on the jazz panel skills website. And you can get your questions answered face to face. I provide you all jazz panel skills members with so many ways to get help. So definitely take advantage of the opportunities. As you know, my entire goal is to provide you with the very best jazz piano lessons. The very best jazz piano, educational materials and the very best jazz piano support available. Level anywhere today. Okay, with every single practice session, it is important to establish a single practice objective. Our single practice objective for today is to gain a conceptual and physical command of the primary two handed dominant voicings. So we're going to be focusing on the primary voicings, two of them. For the dominant sound, not major, not minor, not half diminished, not diminished. And we're going to be focusing on two handed voicings, not left hand shells, not blocked, not locked hands, two handed voicings. So right away, we have established a practice criteria that prevents us from wandering off into jazz Never Never Land. Again, this is so important, your single practice objective should be established and set before you even sit down on the bench. If not, I guarantee it, you will be off to never never land in a matter of seconds. Okay, let's begin let's construct the two primary two handed dominant voicings. So using C dominant, for example, today, I want you to place E and B flat in your left hand, the third which is e, and B flat, which is the seventh. In your right hand, I want you to play the third E, A, the six and then D, the ninth or the second, right. So it sounds like this great voicing great sound, that's going to be option one, again, three and seven, the left hand 369 in the right hand. Now some folks like to voice that in the right hand with the farm plain D, the nine and then G, the fifth and then c upon top. The root right so you get this. It's nice. Nothing wrong with that voicing. But we're not using that we're using third and seventh on the left hand 369 in the right hand. Very specific reasons why I recommend that voicing one of which is that I will always take in my right hand, the sixth or the 13th and the ninth, right, I will always take that over the fifth and the root. I just think it's a better sound. Okay, now option two, you're going to have the seventh and the third in your left hand. So you're gonna have B flat right directly beneath middle C, then e directly above middle C. And then in your right hand a which is six or 13 D which is the nine or the second and then g with your little finger, the fifth. So it sounds like this. Great sound. So option one. Option two. Again, option one. Option two. Great sounds right. Either way, both voicings fabulous. A couple things I want to draw your attention to number one, each voicing consists of five notes, two notes in the left hand, three notes in the right hand. Number two, these are what we call quartal voicings or like I like to call them fourth e voicings because the primary interval used is a fourth. So if we can build primary two handed voicings, for each of the 12 notes of music, then there are 24 shapes that we need to get comfy with conceptually and physically. And this is where most people experience difficulty, right? It's interesting, the thought of getting 24 harmonic shapes under our fingers, two dominant shapes for each of the 12 notes of music initially sounds very doable, however. Ever trying to figure out a way to actually practice them so that they actually stick is somehow much more challenging, and not so doable, but not today. That's the whole point of this podcast episode. That's the whole point of this lesson. All of the exercises that I'm laying out today are going to help you conceptually and physically master the two primary dominant voicings. Today, I'm going to walk you through each of those five harmonic technique approaches that I strongly suggest you use when practicing these voicings. Okay, exercise number one, isolate the dominant chord, right, we're going to isolate today, the C dominant. And I'm going to practice both of my options, option one, option two, again, option one being with the third and seventh in the left hand. And then option two, being with the seventh and third in the left hand, right there just inverted, third, or seven, starting with the third, going to the seventh, or starting with the seventh and going up to the third in the left hand. In fact, that's how I, when I was learning these, that was very helpful for me to know that I was launching my voicing from either the third on the bottom, or I was launching my voicing with the seventh on the bottom. So I'm going to be playing today, a temple of 144, all exercises and of course, you can and I highly recommend that you do. Begin with much slower tempos when you start tackling these voicings or any jazz piano skill or technique, right, always begin with slower, more relaxed tempos. So what you're going to hear me do is you're going to hear me sit on option one for an extended period of time, then you'll hear me shift to option two, for an extended period of time. And what I'm doing during that extended period of time for each option is really digesting the sound orally. I'm digesting that sound physically in my hands. And conceptually, as well, I'm thinking through it, oh, that's the third, that's the seventh, or that's the third in my right hand. There's my 13th. There's my ninth, right, it gives me time to think through the voicing, because I want to really get a command of these voicings conceptually, visually, physically, and orally. Alright, so I'm going to bring the ensemble in, and you're going to hear me work on these two options. You're going to hear me spend an extended period of time on one, an extended period of time on the second one, and then you'll hear me shorten the time, right, forcing myself to move from option one to option two, with less time, okay, so here we go. Let's check it out. And then we'll talk about it. Here we go. Nice, great way to practice in fact, exercise one is where you should be spending most of your time. Going back to what I mentioned earlier, these isolated dominant lead sheets that you have in front of you and these isolated dominant illustrations. spend a lot of time on these for each of the dominant sounds all 12 before you jump into to the, to the pairs to the third rotations to the whole tone rotations to the circle of fifths, right. Don't cut these exercises short. Once you feel you have a command of the primary voicings for each dominant chord, option one and option two, and it's time to move on to the main match doing the pair's right, matching them up with another chord. So in what it does is now we've added another element of challenge, right, so now we're going to have C dominant going to D flat dominant. And then back to C dominant. That's option one for each right, then you're going to do option two for each c dominant. slide up the D flat dominant. Slide right back down to C dominant. Okay, so the idea with this exercise is that you're going to work on two dominant voicings simultaneously at the same time. And we're going to match up the each dominant chord, which is only a half step apart, right? So keeping things really tight, really close, and really tidy and neat, right? So C dominant, the D flat, option one, C dominant, the D flat, option two. So you're gonna hear me start off with option one for a while, you're gonna hear me then switch to option two. Okay, so let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out. And let's see what we think. Here we go. Definitely more challenging. Just adding an additional dominant chord changes the whole dimension of the game, right. That's why I'm saying keep them with half step apart. For now, you can create other pairs, but I would stick with half step pairs. For right now, I would stick with half step pairs, option one for a long time, half step pair, option two for a long time, right spend time. In other words, spend time with these, and it takes time. So we've gone now from one dominant chord isolated to now we've got our dominant pairs, half step pairs. Alright, feel you got those under your hands. Once you feel you have a command of those and, and they're fairly comfortable for you and easy, it's time to move on to exercise three, or now we're going to add four dominant chords to the pattern. And we're going to use minor third, the minor third interval as the basis of our rotation. So in other words, we're going to start with C dominant. We're going to move up a minor third to E flat dominant. We're going to move up another minor third to G flat dominant. We're gonna move up another minor third to a dominant. Pretty cool, right? It's really a diminished core. Right? So we're going C, E flat, G flat. Right. So there's actually three of those patterns that we can utilize. We can go D flat, B flat, and then D, F, A flat, right, three diminished chords. So again, we're going to go c dominant, E flat, dominant, G flat dominant and a dominant We're going to do that for option one. And option two, obviously much more challenging now, a bigger challenge. So let's bring the ensemble in, you're going to hear me play that minor third rotation, for dominant chords using primary voicing one, then you'll hear me shift to doing the exact same exercise with primary voicing dominant voicing number two, again, moving and minor thirds, C to E flat to G flat to A. So, here we go. Let's check it out, see what we think. No doubt, much more challenging. So be patient, be patient with this. And it's challenging as that was the go from, you know, isolated dominant, to dominant pairs to minor third rotation, it gets even more challenging as we attack the next exercise, which uses a whole tone scale, whole tone rotation. So now, we're literally going to start with our C dominant, we're going to move in whole steps. So then it's going to go to D dominant, then our E dominant, our G flat dominant, or a flat dominant, A, B flat dominant. Just like that, right, all option one. So it's the whole tone scale, C, D flat, a flat, B flat, okay, which means there are two of those patterns, we can also go D flat, E flat, F, G. By the time you practice both of those patterns, you've covered all 12 dominant chords, right? So but now we got six that we're dealing with in our exercise in the mix, right, so we've gone from isolate isolated dominance, to dominant pairs to a minor third rotation, which required us to deal with four dominant chords, to now we're going to a whole step rotation, which forces us to deal with six of our dominant chords. So let's bring the ensemble in, you're going to hear me play through option one, all six dominant chords with option primary dominant voicing one, and then you'll hear me shift and do the exact same exercise the exact same movement with option two with primary two handed dominant voicing option two. So let's bring the ensemble in. Let's check it out. Let's see what we think. Here we go. That is a challenge, right? So it's not getting any easier. Again, validating why it's so important to spend time with the dominant chords in isolation. Right? Don't jump over those isolated exercises, they're important. Alright, hey, before we look at the fifth, exercise the circle of fifths, I just want to remind all of the jazz piano skills members out there to tap into the jazz piano skills interactive courses, they are fantastic, and I'm about ready to release the course dealing with the 13th sound. The courses make up a sequential curriculum that uses a self paced format. To help you thoroughly study the essential jazz piano skills that you need to get a command of in order to become an accomplished jazz pianist. In each of the course. Each course is packed with detailed instructions, illustrations, in depth, educational talks, interactive learning media, traditional guides and worksheets, again that you can download and utilize they're in PDF format, high definition video demonstrations of me playing the scales and all 12 keys that are play along tracks and lead sheets to utilize as well and of course, professional and personal educational support. All of the courses are easily accessed through all of your mobile and smart devices, whether it be your phone or your tablet, your laptop, your your desktop, computer, your TV, or yes, even your watch for heaven's sakes. So check out the jazz piano skills courses. At jazz piano skills calm you have as a member, you have full access to all these courses and all the educational content with them. Okay, the last demonstration for today circle of fifths. So we've isolated our dominant chords, we've placed them into pairs, we've moved them into a minor third rotation with forced us to deal with four dominant chords at one time, we just did the whole step rotation which required us to deal with six dominant chords at one time. And now we're going to turn our attention to the circle of fifths, which is going to require us to do what to deal with all 12 dominant chords at one time. So now I'm going to go around the circle, right, so you're going to hear me play option one, going counter clockwise around the circle, I want to go with the way harmonic movement, I want to stress the way harmonic motion occurs within the jazz literature that we play, see, going to F going to be flat going the E flat, a flat, and so on. So we move counter clockwise, always around the circle of fifths. So you're gonna hear me play primary dominant voicing option one, two handed voicing option one moving counterclockwise around the circle, then you're gonna hear me shift to primary, two handed dominant voicing option two, moving around the circle, right? And then you're going to hear me combine them going around the circle where I play option one and option two for C. Then option one, option two for F, option one, option two for B flat and so on. Okay? Obviously, the most challenging exercise out of all of them. So here we go. Let's bring the ensemble and let's check it out. And let's see what we think. Wow fantastic write a challenge but you are going to feel so good when you are sailing around the circle of fifths playing your primary, two handed dominant voicings option one and option two you are going to feel so good when you are flying around that circle with ease and your hands are grabbing those shapes as if they're kind of on automatic pilot and you will get there you will certainly get there but use the five exercises in sequential order to accomplish that goal. And the most important exercise of them all you got it. Number one, isolate those dominant chords and practice moving back and forth from primary option. Option one for the primary to handed dominant voicing to option to spend time isolating those dominant chords, explore various tempos from slow to fast and everything in between. Use the play along tracks that you have at your fingertips. Do all that and I promise you these shapes and these sounds will become part of your jazz vocabulary part of the arsenal that you use when playing well, I hope you have found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring the primary two handed dominant voicings to be insightful and of course, I hope you have found it 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 8pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode lesson exploring harmonic technique exploring the primary two handed dominant voicings in greater detail and to answer any question that you may have about the study of jazz in general. Also, as a jazz piano skills member, be sure to use the educational podcast guides for this podcast lesson, and the jazz piano skills courses to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant in the jazz piano skills community. Right get involved, make some new friends. Always fun. As always, you can reach me by phone 972-380-8050 extension 211 by email Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Lawrence at jazz piano skills.com or by speakpipe found throughout the jazz panel skills website and all of the jazz panel skills materials. 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