Chords & Voicings
Complex chords and rich progressions are hallmarks of jazz. This group of lessons teaches you basic chord types, one- and two-handed rootless and root-based voicings and comping techniques.
This lesson will get you playing lead sheets faster than any other method. There are five types of seventh chords that make up the chord progressions to most tunes. Learn these and you will be able to play the chords to virtually any tune. This method streamlines the process of learning the chords by starting with the first, third, fifth and seventh notes of the major scale and then adjusting these notes by half step to form the remaining chord types. In addition, you will learn how to read chord symbols and learn the chord changes to four tunes: "Solar," "Night and Day," "Softly as in a Morning Sunrise" and "There is No Greater Love."
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These standard one-handed voicings (often erroneously referred to as left hand voicings) are the bedrock of every jazz pianists' technique. From Wynton Kelly and Red Garland to Tommy Flanagan, Bill Evans and beyond, these rich sounding voicings, with their their smooth voice-leading and effective use of tension, pervade bop and post-bop jazz piano. Presented in twelve chapters, this lesson will introduce you to both forms of the major and minor ii-V-I progression voicings (major A and B and minor A and B forms) and discuss how to use them in tunes.
Two-handed voicings are an essential element of jazz piano. Most often used for comping, two handed voicings are integral to solo playing, improvising and arranging. Based on a transcription of Red Garland improvising over the title track of John Coltrane's 1957 album with the Red Garland Trio "Traneing In," Part 1 introduces the versatile open fifth voicing technique. Part 2 derives "So What" two-handed voicings from a transcription of the tune of the same name from the classic 1959 Miles Davis recording "Kind of Blue." Part 3 explores the rich, bitonal sounds of upper structure triads.
The word "comp" as it is used in jazz is probably derived from the word accompany. It may also come from the word complement. In either case, when you are asked to "comp" in an ensemble setting, rarely are you given more direction as to what to do than whatever vague meaning either of those words may imply: to accompany in a complementary way. In this lesson, a transcription of Wynton Kelly's comping behind the flute soloist Bobby Jasper over the changes to his Bb blues head "Kelly Blue," from his 1959 sextet album of the same name is used as a model for deriving and codifying the essential elements of good comping: voicings, voice leading and rhythmic placement, duration and activity. The application of each element is discussed in the context of standard tunes in common jazz styles such as mid tempo swing, up tempo swing, ballad, latin and 3/4 waltz time.
Solo Jazz Piano
The beauty of our chosen instrument is the ability to play alone -solo- without the accompaniment (or interference) of others. Anything you can dream up is fair game when you are on your own. Based on a transcription of Cedar Walton playing "Someday My Prince Will Come," from his 2005 High Note album "Underground Memoirs," Part 1 in this series gives you the tools to play solo jazz piano by demonstrating and explaining the fundamental technique to this style, spread voicings with independent lead. Part 2 shows you how to mix rootless voicings into your solo playing. Part 3 demonstrates how to accompany your own improvisation when playing solo.
Block-chord harmonization (also known as locked-hands playing) is the technique of harmonizing each note of a melody with a three- or four-note chord to create a lush, full-bodied sound reminiscent of the sax sections of the swing era big bands. Popularized by George Shearing in the 1950s and used extensively by Bill Evans, Oscar Peterson and all manner of straight-ahead jazz pianists since then, it remains a fundamental skill of the modern player. A transcription of Dave Brubeck's The Duke is used to introduce the concepts of this technique in this lesson, followed by the note-by-note block chord harmonization of excerpts of three tunes commonly played in this style (Polka Dots and Moonbeams, You Make Me Feel So Young, and What Am I Here For?) showing three ways to create standard block-chord harmonizations: four-way close, four-way close double lead, and drop 2. The accompanying PDF practice sessions will guide you further through the harmonization of these and other tunes.
What voicings do the pros use? How do they use them? How can I apply these voicing techniques to my own playing? These are some of the most common yet vexing questions from intermediate and early advanced jazz piano players that this series of lessons hopes to address. Each lesson in the series examines a transcription of a major jazz pianist (Danny Grissett and Taylor Eigsti) and looks at how they voice chords, the ways in which they use them and shows you strategies for applying them to tunes. Use the voicings to enrich and enliven your harmonic concept and inspire you to think out-of-the-box to create new sounds and colors. The Practice Sessions and Playalongs included with each lesson help you to learn the voicings in all keys and show you how to adapt them to your own playing.