This JazzPianoSkills Podcast Episode explores the primary contemporary two-handed jazz piano voicings for the minor 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 Minor 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 tech nique 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. Last week, we studied a bud pile transcription. The week before that we did a theory study examining the tritone substitution. And next week, we'll be doing a tune study, where we put a jazz standard under the microscope so to speak, to examine its historical relevance, its harmonic structure, its form, and much more. But today, today, we focus on technique, and specifically, harmonica technique. 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 our technique. This understanding of technique, to say the least, is a very shallow understanding of what technique is and what constitutes good technique as pianist technique, in addition to having any linear or melodic dimension scales, arpeggios, it also has a harmonic dimension, chords, voicings progressions and a rhythmic dimension time grooves patterns. So if you are already committed to practicing and improving your melodic technique, and have been doing so by practicing scales and arpeggios, Well, congratulations, you have tackled 1/3 of the technique equation. And today, we will begin the process of incorporating an additional third of the technique equation, harmony. And in the near future, we will begin addressing the final third of the technique equation for rhythm. But today, it's all about harmony. But before we get down to business, I want to take a second and personally invite all new first time listeners to jazz piano skills. To become an active member. Simply go to jazz piano skills.com select the membership plan and click the join link. It's that easy. Once you are an official member, you will have full access to all of the educational content and resources at jazz piano skills. You'll have access to the educational podcast guides, the illustrations, the lead sheets, the play alongs you'll have access to the interactive courses, which make up a sequential jazz piano curriculum. You'll have access to the weekly master classes, live one hour online classes with me every week. You also have access to the private community skills specific forums, social the social Facebook group plus you will have personal and professional support 24 seven, literally, I'm not kidding. 24 seven it seemed I'm available all the time. I never stopped doing this stuff. I need to get a life. Wow. Anyway, I will of course be sharing more details about each of these amazing benefits throughout today's episode. You know I say this every week because it's 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 become a jazz piano skills member and begin taking immediate advantage of all the educational content, materials, resources and professional support. There are several membership plans to choose from. So you can definitely find one that is going to be good a good fit for you. You can become a member for a month if you just simply want to try it out, you can become a member on a quarterly basis. Or you can become an annual member an annual membership plan. All three plans will grant you full access to all of the educational content, the materials, resources and professional support. Check it out at jazz piano skills.com. And if you have any questions, please let me know. I am more than happy to spend some time with you by phone through speakpipe or email. To help you determine which jazz piano skills membership plan is best for you. Alright, let's improve our technique of let's discover, learn and play some harmonic technique. So today, you're going to discover primary, two handed minor voicings, you're going to learn how to construct two primary, two handed minor voicings and you are going to play the primary two handed voicings using five harmonic technique approaches. So regardless, regardless of where you are in your jazz journey, whether you consider yourself a beginner, an intermediate player, advanced player, an experienced player, a professional makes no difference. You will find this jazz piano skills podcast episode, this jazz panel skills podcast lesson exploring harmonic technique to be very beneficial. To begin, I want to briefly talk about practicing. And why do I want to talk about practicing? Because most people do it incorrectly. That's right. Most people practice incorrectly. They have a confused objectives be random use of deficient materials, right tons of bad books, websites and videos. You know, like the old saying goes garbage in, garbage out. And see they have poor time management. They either practice too little, or they practice too much. Both ways. So between confused objective objectives, random use of deficient materials and poor time management, right? Just a bad formula. Let's start with confused objectives. Here's some questions I want you to answer. What are your musical objectives? What are they for the next year? What are they for the next month? What are you wanting to accomplish this week? when practicing? What are you wanting to accomplish today? when practicing? what and how are you going to practice to accomplish your objectives? Can you answer these questions? If not, or if you are struggling to do so. Then I can guarantee it that you are practicing incorrectly. And if you are practicing incorrectly, I can also guarantee it that you are not going to have the results that you're hoping to have. Now, what about materials? What method books are you using? Are you banking on a YouTube video to successfully guide you? Either way, you're basically searching for the proverbial needle in the haystack. And I have to be honest with you, I'm gonna be just totally honest. I would have to think long and hard about What jazz books I would recommend for you to purchase in use. In fact, I know it would be less than five. In fact, the more I think about it, probably less than three. It's funny. I never teach from a book ever. In fact, yesterday, I started a new adult jazz student here at the Dallas School of Music. He walks in with a stack of books, in his in his arms, right? I mean, a stack, he had to use both arms to carry them. My initial thought was, oh, boy, here we go. Here's the classic dude searching for the magic book that is going to unlock all the mysteries of playing jazz piano. Of course, he wanted me to look at his library, he wanted me to look at them. I did, and many of them I had never even heard of. And upon just a casual glance, I can tell you this. They are packed with so much fluff and very little substance. I told them to, I told him to put it put them away. And let's get down to business. He was confused. And then he asked, Well, what book do you use? him when I told him that I do not use books. He was shocked. He was visually and visibly visually stunned. And as a joke, I tried to make a joke to lighten up the moment as a joke. I said, No man, I said, I use napkins and pencils. He didn't while he didn't. He didn't find it funny. I I thought it was pretty funny. But in reality, I actually wasn't joking. I actually use paper and pencil when needed, right to sketch out an idea or a concept for a student. And that's it. Right? The rest of the time, we are actually playing. So what I'm saying to you, I'm saying that you need good information, not books, not videos, which are actually even worse. And that is why you are listening to the jazz piano skills Podcast. I am giving you really good information that you can take to the piano and have success. I'm giving you good information every week that you can take to the piano and have success. Now, let's talk about time management. If you have good information, right, good information, then you can invest a little bit of time and enjoy huge gains. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. If you have poor information, a bad book, bad video, you can invest a ton of time and experience very little return. So the idea here is to have clearly defined long term and short term objectives bundled with good information that helps you gain a conceptual command of essential jazz piano skills so that you can maximize your physical musical growth. Right? Does this make sense? All of my students here at the Dallas School of Music or through jazz piano skills. have heard me say this a million times. Your conceptual understanding of music of jazz drives your physical development. So if you have a skewed conceptual understanding of jazz, and understanding that is foggy or confused, disoriented, which by the way, is always visually apparent by the number of books. by the number of books you carry around, then your physical growth is going to be stunted. That's the truth. That's the bottom line. That's why you want to make sure that you are not suffering from the running rampant jazz garbage in jazz garbage out syndrome, that so many aspiring jazz pianist wrestle with day in and day out. So, confused objectives, deficient materials, poor time management, not a good formula for success. We are going to avoid each of these stumbling blocks today. As we discover, learn and play the primary two handed minor voicings to develop some solid harmonic technique. Hand without question, you will more than likely have many questions pop up as we unfold each of the five harmonic technique approaches I use when practicing. And that is precisely why I am committed to providing all jazz piano skills members immediate and personal educational support. If you are listening to this podcast through the jazz piano skills website, you can use the extremely convenient speakpipe widget nestled directly beneath the podcast player to send me a voicemail message. It's that easy. It's that simple. One click and the two of us are interacting with each other. Send me a voicemail message with your questions, and I will send you a voicemail message back with my answers. It's very cool technology take advantage of it. If you are listening on iheart radio or Spotify, apple, Pandora, amazon music, or any of the other popular podcast directories out there. You can use the link speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills to send me a quick message and again that that link is speakpipe.com forward slash jazz piano skills. And as I always say, if you're a scaredy cat and are afraid to send me a voice message, then you can post your question in the private jazz piano skills forum, or the private jazz piano skills Facebook group and let the jazz panel skills community help you. If you look directly beneath the speakpipe widget, you will see the links for easy access to each of these platforms. Or if you are free on Thursday evening, you can attend the Thursday evening jazz piano skills masterclass that I host every week. Join me online 8pm Central time using the Xoom link posted on the jazz piano skills website. And you will get your questions answered face to face every Thursday evening. 8pm Central Time, jazz piano skills masterclass. I provide all of you 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 that's available anywhere today. Okay, with every single practice session, it is important to establish a single practice objective I want to say that again, with every single practice session, it is important to establish a single practice objective. Our single practice objective for today is this to gain a physical command of the primary, two handed minor voicings. Do you notice how incredibly specific that objective is? Number one, we're going to be focusing on primary voicings two of them. Number two, there going to be minor voicings not major not dominant, not half diminish, not diminished. Minor two handed, not left hand shells not block locked hands, right. None of that two handed voicings. So right away, we established practice criteria that keeps us focused. That prevents us from wandering off into jazz never Neverland, 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. So, again, are very specific, single practice. objective for today is to gain a physical command of the primary, two handed minor voicings. Okay, let's begin, let's construct the two primary, two handed minor voicings. All of you jazz piano skills members hit the pause button right now. And go download and print, the podcast, illustration guide, and the podcast lead sheet guide. You are going to want each of these guides in front of you. As we go through this lesson. The illustration guide beautifully diagrams each of the primary two handed minor voicings and all 12 keys, you're gonna have this right in front of you. And again, a picture is indeed worth 1000 words. And the lead sheet guide contains all of the exercises all the approaches that I am going to be walking us through today laid out using musical notation. Both guides are invaluable and will help you maximize your musical growth conceptually and physically. Okay, so let's construct these two primary, two handed minor voicings and today I'm going to be doing all of this using C minor as the model for demonstrating illustrating and demonstrating these voicings. So to begin, I want you to play in your left hand, I want you to play the notes, see the note F. In your left hand, the octave below middle C, the Notes See the note F. In your right hand, I want you to play B flat that is directly below middle C, then E flat and then G. There you have it right there. We have C, F, B flat, E flat, and G one and four in your left hand 735 in your right hand. Okay, that's option one, option two in your left hand, I want you to play g below middle C. I want you to play middle C that's in your left hand, G and middle C. In your right hand, I want you to play f directly above middle C, B flat, E flat. There you have it. So on your left hand you have five and one in your right hand. You have four, seven, and three. Those are our two primary minor voicings that we are going to study today as we develop harmonic technique, so option one, option two. Okay, so 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. And number two, these are what we call chordal voicings or fourth the voicings right, the primary interval used in constructing these voicings is the interval of a fourth. So now that we have the formula needed to build to construct two primary two handed minor voicings for each of the 12 notes of music Then we realize we have 24 shapes that we need to get comfy with conceptually and physically 24 shapes. And this is where most people experience difficulty is inner interesting, the thought of getting 24 harmonic shapes under our fingers, to minor shapes for each one of the 12 notes of music. This initially sounds very doable 24 Come on. That's, that's doable. However, trying to figure out a way to actually practice them, so that they actually stick is somehow much more challenging, not quite as doable. So today, I am going to walk you through five harmonic technique approaches I use when practicing voicings when I practice harmonic technique. Okay, harmonic technique approach number one, I just simply isolate each minor chord, literally, a one chord at a time approach. And I practice literally alternating between each option, option one where the voicing begins on the root of the sound. So it's a C minor voicing starting with C in my left hand, and option to the C minor voicing starting with the fifth in my left hand. So I practice moving from voicing one two voicing to and how I'm going to demonstrate this, I'm going to bring the ensemble and you're going to hear me play this, you're gonna hear me start off with option one. And I just sit on option one for like four measures. Then I go to option two, for four measures. And then back to option one for four measures. And as the demonstration goes on, you're going to hear me shorten that distance between option one and option two. It will go down from four measures on each voicing to measures on each voicing. Then it will go down to one measure on each voicing, they will go down to like two beats on each voicing, where I'm now just moving the voice in around with ease from option one, option two, option one, option two. Okay, so let's, let's bring the ensemble in and let's listen to this first, and then we can talk about it a little bit more. Okay, so here we go check it out. Okay, did you hear that? Did you hear how I kept shortening the distance between option one and option two? So what am I doing? What am I thinking with all of this time? Right? When I sit on an when I sit on a voicing for four measures? What am I thinking what am I doing? Well, this is where the conceptual work starts to sit in right? I'm actually saying to myself C minor. I'm actually labeling the shape. I'm thinking that shape. I'm literally digesting the construction of that shape, the root, the fourth, the seventh, the third, the fifth, right? And I'm saying over to my over and over to myself C minor, C minor. Right. So I'm trying to sync up what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling under my hands and what I'm hearing in my ears. So for measures, if I need eight measures, if I need 16 measures, hit right, I'll take whatever time I need to play that shape. And to digest that conceptually, visually, and physically and orally. Then I'll move on to the next option and do the same process again, as I get comfortable with each of those voicing options. Conceptually, visually, physically, orally, I start shortening the distance between each of them moving from one to the other, with ease. So that is what's going through my mind as I isolate a minor sound and two voicings for that minor sound, working on them going back and forth. So there's much more to it than just engaging the hands, right? There's a lot more to successful practicing than just engaging the hands. And along those same lines, when you're doing harmonic technique work, you have to pay attention to more than just those notes. Write the notes you're playing, you know, are you playing with the proper jazz feel the proper articulation as well. And yes, this applies to playing chords and voicings and not just melodic lines, scales and arpeggios. Okay, harmonic technique, option two that I use when practicing. I use minor pairs. I'm going to pair up these chords, I say minor pairs because we're working with minor sound right now minor voicings right, but I use pairs chord parents. So I'll sync up my C minor, and C sharp minor. I'll do like a D minor, and an E flat minor. The idea is I'm now moving from one minor sound to another minor sound. And I work in half steps. So I'm always pairing them up and half step relationships. Okay. So now what you're going to hear me do is I'm going to bring the ensemble back in, and you're going to hear me work C minor, and C sharp minor. And I'm going to utilize the same same approach right, where I sit on my C minor voicing for a while, then I go to my C sharp minor voicing and I sit on that for a while. And then as the exercise goes on, you'll hear me shortening the distance between my minor voicings, my C minor voicings and my C sharp minor voicings, trying to prove to myself that I can easily move in and out of those shapes for C minor, and for C sharp minor. And I'll pair this up for all I'll create six minor pairs for practicing. Okay, let's bring the ensemble on. Let's listen to it. And then we can talk about it. So here we go. Check it out. Very nice, right? So you see what we've just done right? We've went from an isolated minor chord, an isolated minor chord, to now practicing two minor chords, creating those minor pairs, right? So we just made it a little bit more challenging than just isolating one chord. We got two chords now into the mix. So now let's take a look at harmonic technique, approach number three that I use. With this one, guess what we're going to increase the Number of chords again that I have to deal with. So I use a minor third rotation to do this. So, you're going to hear me playing this exercise, you're going to hear me go from C minor, to E flat minor, minor third up right to F sharp minor, another minor third up and to a minor. Now the idea is I have to be able to move from each one of those minor voicings. So if I'm playing a root, if I'm playing my root C minor voicing, I'm going to go to my root E flat minor voicing. And then I'm going to go to my root F sharp minor voicing. And then my root, a minor voicing. If I start my C minor voicing with the fifth on the bottom, now I'm going to go to my E flat minor voicing with the fifth on the bottom, then my F sharp minor voicings, with the fifth on the bottom, and then my a minor voicing with the fifth on the bottom. And then finally at the end, I'm just going to mix and match, I'm going to prove to myself that I can move in and out of either option voicing one or voicing two for my C minor, E flat minor, F sharp minor and a minor. Okay, so let's bring the ensemble and let's take a listen and see what we think then we'll talk about it. So here we go. Check it out. Pretty cool, right? Pretty cool. Now here's the deal. There are three sets of these minor third rotations. So they'll set I demonstrated today, C minor going to E flat minor going to F sharp minor going to a minor. But you also have a C sharp minor going to an E minor going to a G minor, going to a B flat minor set. And then you also have a third set that starts with D minor, goes the F minor goes to a flat minor and goes to B minor. And again, all of these are illustrated in the lead sheet guides that you have downloaded and printed out that are in front of you, you'll see all three minor third rotation exercises in front of you. So we have now gone from a single chord, isolating a chord as one harmonic technique to a second harmonic technique of pairing our minor chords, half step relationship creating six pairs to third harmonic technique using a minor third rotation, which now includes four minor chords, right, and there were three sets. So you can see what's going on here, right? We're slowly increasing the number of minor chords that we have to deal with. Right? We're methodically and strategically doing that. So with that in mind, we are going to go on to the next harmonic technique approach. And that is what I call a whole tone rotation. All right, so now with a whole tone rotation, I'm going to start with C minor. I'm using C minor in with the root and on the bottom. I'm going to go whole tone to D minor. I'm going to go up another whole tone or whole step to E minor. Another whole step. F sharp minor, another whole step. A flat minor, another whole step, B flat minor. So now I have to deal with six minor chords moving in whole steps, again, C minor, D minor, E minor, F sharp minor, a flat minor, B flat minor. Okay. So I'm going to do the same thing, right, I'm going to give myself some space between each of those voicings. And as the exercise goes on, I shorten that space, proving that I can move with ease from one voicing to the next voice into the next voicing for each of these chords, dealing with six of them now. So let's bring the ensemble in. Let's listen to this exercise. And then we can talk about it. So here we go. Check it out. Wow, Pretty cool, right? Pretty, pretty interesting. We've gone from a single isolated chord, two minor pairs to four chords, minor chords and grouping using minor thirds. And now our whole step, our whole tone, rotation, right whole step rotation. Now, there were six chords that we're dealing with there, which means there, there's another exercise that includes the other six. So that one, we start with C sharp minor, the E flat minor, to F minor, to G minor, the A minor, and to B minor. Sub between those two exercises, right, six in one set, six in another set, we've covered all 12 minor chords. And again, the idea is to be able to play our two primary minor, two handed voicings for each one of those chords, moving in and out with ease. Okay, so before we tackle the last demonstration, harmonic technique, approach, I just want to make all jazz piano skills member aware that the jazz piano skills courses are available for you to utilize. Right. They are a fantastic education, sequential curriculum that are at your fingertips, so you have more you have access to those courses. Not just all of the podcasts, educational guides, but you actually have access to the entire jazz piano skills curriculum that's available for you to utilize as well. And for those of you who have used them, I really appreciate all the feedback and kind words they are really they're packed with detailed instruction and illustrations and there's in depth educational talks within each of those courses, interactive learning media that you can utilize. Of course, there are traditional guides and worksheets as well. high definition video demonstrations of me performing the jazz panel skills in all 12 keys, play along tracks, lead sheets, and of course professional and personal educational support. So check out the jazz piano skills curriculum courses if you have not done so already. And you can access those very easily through any of your smartphone devices, whether it's your desktop or your laptop, your, your watch. I can't even believe I'm saying that right? Your watch your TV, your phone, right, all of your smart devices, you have access to the jazz piano skills courses. Okay, on to harmonic technique, approach number five, you know, you know it's coming right, the circle of fifths. So now we're going to go from six, we're going to throw, throw all our minor chords into the exercise, and we're going to use the circle of fifths to move around right, so now, you're going to hear me go from C minor, to F minor, the B flat minor, E flat minor, a flat minor, C sharp minor, F sharp minor, B minor, E minor, a minor, D minor, G minor, and back to C minor. And that was I just played all those minor voicings, with primary with option number one with the voicing, starting with the root in my left hand. And then I'm going to do the same thing in the demonstration with the voicings with the fifth. The second option with the fifth in the left hand, right. So now, we bring all 12 of our minor chords into the fold. So let's bring the ensemble and let's listen to the circle of fifths exercise, harmonic technique approach and play our two primary, two handed minor voicings. So here we go. Let's check it out. Pretty cool, right? So we went from the five harmonic technique exercises that I have presented today, approaches that I have presented to you today moved from an isolated minor chord to minor pairs to minors played in a minor third rotation, interval rotation to a whole step, rotation, whole tone rotation, which gave us six minor chords to deal with, and to finally the circle of fifths, or now we had to move through all 12 minor courts. pretty thorough, but I'm actually going to give you a six harmonic technique approach. a bonus, I'm thrown in a bonus. I like to take I like to take lead sheets. And you can use any fake book that you have. Golly, I remember when I was a kid I used to use my mom and dad's, they used to have these old reader digest. These old Reader's Digest music books, I used to use those because I had chord changes in them. So I used to use those as exercises. So I would encourage you to just take any book that you have, take lead sheet, and then look at those chord changes on that lead sheet and pretend, pretend that all of those chord changes are minor chords. So you're going to ignore, you're going to just flat out ignore the chord symbol, it makes no difference whether it's a major or a dominant half diminished, diminished. For us, we're going to pretend that they're all minor. So I have George Gershwin's foggy day in London town in front of me here. So I'm going to play these chords as all minors, so it's going to go F minor, I'm sorry. Started with major, it's gonna go F minor, F sharp minor, G minor, C minor, back to F minor, back to D minor, G minor, C minor, back to F minor, C minor, F minor, B flat minor, E flat minor, a minor, D minor, G minor, C minor, and so on. Right. I just played through the first half of foggy day in London time, but I use that progression as kind of a random set of chords coming at me and pretending that they were all minor voicings. I hope that makes sense. It's a great way to test how well you have your two primary, two handed minor voicings under your fingers. Well, I hope you have found this jazz piano skills podcast lesson exploring harmonic technique that to primary two handed minor voicings. I hope you found it to be very insightful and of course very beneficial. Don't forget if you are a jazz piano skills member I will see you online Thursday evening at the jazz panel skills masterclass at 8pm Central time to discuss this podcast episode lesson in exploring harmonic technique 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 that I mentioned earlier to maximize your musical growth. Likewise, make sure you are an active participant of the jazz panel skills forums and the private Facebook group. Get involved make some new jazz piano friends Introduce yourself. And 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 in the jazz piano skills courses, jazz piano skills website as well. So that's it for now. And until next week, joy, the journey and most of all, have fun as you discover, learn and play jazz piano