Jazz Piano Improvisation Part 2 of 4 - Ingredients (Podcast Episode #31)

Posted by: JAZZEDGE on May 25, 2021

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00:06 Hey guys, Willie Myette, creator of jazz edge. Welcome to part two of my jazz piano improvisation series, The Confident improviser in four steps. So if you missed part one, let me just briefly remind you in this series, I'm going to give you real actionable material that you can use in practice. So this isn't just samples, this is real stuff that you can actually use. And this is great really, for all levels of player you're going to see that there's going to be some stuff that's going to be easy, some stuff that's going to be more intermediate, and stuff that some stuff that's going to be a little bit more advanced. All right. So obviously, wherever you are, and you're playing just, you know, focus on that stuff and look at the other stuff. As a, you know, something to strive towards. The emphasis is on piano for this. But remember that these ideas are really about improvisation on any instrument. Alright, so this is great for beginners, of any instrument that want to learn how to improvise, be sure to check out all of the other videos in the series just by going back to jazz edge, comm slash free. Alright, so today we are going to focus on ingredients. Last time we focused on the accompaniments. This time, we're focusing on ingredients. Now, if you want to get the sheet music to what it is that I'm demonstrating here in this video, just go ahead and click on the link in the description. If you're watching this video on YouTube or Facebook, if you're a member of the site, then you can just get it right in the podcast area. And you can grab that sheet music very easily. Alright, so first of all the from TCI. Exercise number one, remember we played that simple baseline before, right? And now our ingredient is this five finger minor scale in the key of C. So first of all, let's just back up for a little bit. And let's talk about what what are ingredients like. So why are we talking about the word ingredients? Why don't we just simply say scales? Well, the reason the reason for that is because we're not always going to utilize scales, sometimes we're going to use chord tones, sometimes we're going to do in closures. So it's not always going to be a scale based improvisation. And I don't want you to think that improvisation is only utilizing scales, right? You could be using utilizing clusters, you can use corals, you know, there's all different types of things that you can do in your improvisation. So it's best to think of it as ingredients, this is the stuff that I can use, put it together, and then come up with some interesting improvisation. Alright, so what I'm going to do here is let me just put up my cursor here so you can see. So the five finger minor scale is the same thing as the five finger major scale, we just flat the third or five finger my major scale is the first five notes of the C major scale. Now, don't worry, if you don't know your scales, I covered them in depth in my piano essentials course. So if you need help with your major scales, and the fingering and all of that, you can just take a look at piano essentials, it's right part of jazz edge core. So you can get all of that fingering and all the notes and all of that good stuff. Alright, so anyway, five finger scale for C majors C, D, E, F, and G, five finger minor is C, D, E flat, F, and G. All I'm doing is I'm flattening that. So the first thing you want to do, practice this scale, going up and down like this. You can do it with both hands as well. It's a great technical exercise. If you really want to work technique as well go opposite. So start with the pinkies and come in. 03:48 So you can have a lot of fun creating sounds with that five finger minor scale. And I'm going to show you in a little bit how you could practice this and some different ideas for practice. But let's go ahead and move on. That's our five finger minor scale. Alright, the next one, which is a little bit more intermediate is the full C major scale. So we have C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, all white notes from C to C, the fingering is this common see second finger on D, middle finger on E, cross underneath with the thumb on F, second finger on G, middle finger and a fourth finger and B and then finally pinky and see when you come down, crossover, middle finger back on he right? Want to make sure that when you're practicing the scale, you're utilizing that grab technique. And that is all found within that piano essentials course. Okay, so that's your C major five finger scales, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C. When learning your major scales, it's really really important that you know how to spell them. And I don't mean spell them like ma j o r SCA le No, I mean spell the notes of the scale. So the C major scale is what notes, C, D, E, F, G, A, B, C, and you really want to start to know what note of the scale that each of those notes are so that d is the second note, E is the third, f is the fourth, g is the fifth, A is the sixth, what's the seventh be? Alright, so you want to really get to know those scales. I'm not gonna dive into why that's super important. But I will tell you this, if you want to master improvisation, you want to be a good improviser, you have to know scales inside and out, right? And that major scale, so much theory is pulled off of the major scale, but it's really important that you really, really know it well. Okay, so now let's move on a little bit more advanced. The next two examples are from TCI, exercise number 21, and 22. Right? Alright, so the first one is my D major scale, which you see it says works over E minor, seven, and a seven, right? We'll talk about that in a second. All right. So D major scale is D, E, F sharp with the middle finger, cross underneath with the thumb, G, A, B, C sharp with the fourth finger, and then pinky on D, 06:15 D, F, sharp, G, A, B, C sharp, D, there are two sharps in the key of D, F sharp and C sharp, okay? So do not have to go that fast, you can go nice and slow. Now the other scale is the C major scale. Okay, so you could see how we will prepare things in one exercise, and then they'll come back again, right, so now you already know the C major scale. We've already talked about that just a few seconds ago, you can see that that was scale works over my D minor seven, g7, and C major seven. Okay, so now let's talk about what does that mean, he might like D major works over E minor and a seven. This is a 251 progression, okay, or part of a 251 progression. So if we take a look at our progression, number 21, from TCI, number 21. This is what we talked about in the last lesson, right? So this progression is that E minor seven, a seven, then D minor seven g7, C major seven, okay? So that E minor seven, 07:23 a seven, that is a two, five progression, okay? Meaning that it is a to b A to five in the key of D. Now here it's listed as a 357 of two because that's technically what the progression is. It's, it's operating as a three chord here, and I don't want to dive too deep into it, I do dive into it in exercise 21. But for this short lesson, just let's let's keep it top level for right now, just so you can kind of understand it quickly. So 251 progression is this, let's take a look at it in the key of C. So my one chord is C major by two chord is D minor, three is E minor four is F major seven, and in my five chord is G seven. So if I go from D minor seven, to G seven to C major seven, that is a 251 progression. These chords that I'm playing are called diatonic chords, right or diatonic seventh chords, again, fully explained inside of the members area. But your diatonic seventh chords, real quick explanation of it is forming a chord and each note of the scale utilizing only notes from that scale. So you see here, and C major, I'm only using the notes of C major. So it's all white notes. If I moved to the key of let's say, F, B, F major, G minor, because I have a B flat in the key of F, A minor, B flat major because it's B flat, C seven with the B flat, E minor seven, flat five with the B flat, F major. Again, that's called diatonic seventh chords. Alright, so anyway, back to that I want to get the right one here. Alright, so back to this. So D major scale works over E minor seven, and a seven. If I'm in the key of D, I play my D major scale, the two chord is a minor seven, the five chord is a seven, and the one chord is D major seven. So anytime I have that 251 progression, or even something that looks like a 251 progression, remember how I said it was operating as a 357 of two to two. And I know that analysis and might be a little over your head, don't worry about it, all you're looking for is that minor chord, going up a fourth to a dominant or going down a fifth to a dominant however you want to look at it. And then going up a fourth again, to another chord, it might be major, minor, dominant doesn't matter. But when you see that minor chord, moving up to a dominant chord up a fourth or down a fifth, that's a two, five progression in jazz, right? So E minor to a seven that's a two five F minor to B flat seven, that's a two, five, G minor to C seven, that's a two, five, and so on and so forth, D minor to g7. That would be a two, five. So anytime you have that two, five progression, you can utilize the major scale, which is the major scale of the one chord, right? So again, if I'm in the key of C, and I have 251, that means what I play the D minor seven, the G seven and the C major, I can improvise using just the notes of that C major scale. Now you might have heard if you've kind of been in jazz circles, oh, you use D Dorian g Mixolydian? c Ionian right. Those are the modes and the correct, you know, modes for those different chords. Well, guess what, my friends, D Dorian G, Mixolydian, and C Ionian are all the notes from the C major scale. So I remember when I was first learning, I learned that to the Dorian, the Mixolydian. All that. And then I teacher explained to me like what you realize that's all just note to the C major scale, I was like, dang. Oh, hello, thank you very much for that, it makes it so so much easier. Alright, so now let's get into some secret sauce of jazz enclosures. Now before we can talk about enclosures, I need to talk about target notes. So when we are creating an improvisation in jazz, oftentimes, we want to target certain notes. And many times we will target our guide tones. Again, all of this is explained fully in the confident improviser. But to give you a brief summary of it right now, guide tones are typically the third and the seventh of the chords, right? So typically the third and the seventh of the chord, those are our guide tones. Sometimes we'll also add in the flat five, if it's a diminished chord, or a minor seven flat five chord, but the third and the seventh are our guide tones. So that means if I was trying to find the guide tones for D minor seven, well, that would be F, and C, if I'm trying to find the guide tones for G seven, that would be B, and F. And if I'm trying to find the guide tones for C major seven, that would be what my friends, E and exactly, okay. All right. So the guide tones help to give us structure in our improvisation. Another way of thinking about it is, you know, pilots when you're going from, say, New York to Los Angeles, okay, they don't fly in one straight line, okay? Typically what they'll do is they'll do waypoints. And a waypoint is they might fly from New York to Philadelphia, and then Philadelphia to Chicago. And then Chicago to I don't know, Salt Lake City and in Salt Lake City to Los Angeles. So they hit these different waypoints. Sometimes they're stopping, but sometimes they're not even stopping, sometimes they just go to those different waypoints. Because they just don't necessarily always fly in a straight line. So those waypoints give that direction, right. And it makes it easy for them to know exactly where it is that they're going, they follow the different waypoints. So you can think of the guide tones in improvisation as being those waypoints. When we hit the guide tones, when we have the chord, you know, like when the chord strikes, right, then beat one or beat three or whatever, and we're hitting the guide tones, when that chord hits, it just helps to make our improvisation sound that much stronger. Some of this I'm going to get into in lesson three and four. So if you don't fully understand it right now, don't worry about it, I just want to present it to you so that you kind of have a understanding, or at least a basic understanding guide tones. Those are our target notes. For right now. We can target other notes, but it's best to start with targeting our guide tones. Now we have three different enclosures here, you see, I also say etc here because there's many more than three, right? And as a member, you can download all the music, and you can see all of the enclosures written out and listed for you. Anyway, though, here are three different enclosures. So I'm utilizing the note B, as just a example target note, again, I can target any note on the piano, any of my 12 chromatic notes can be a target note here, I'm just thinking about B. So I could go a half step above, half step below, and then target the beat. I could also do a half below, half above, target the beat, I could do a half above, double chromatic from below to the beat. And now you can see how 14:28 so now we start to get sounds like this. Can you hear how that's a lot different than just 14:49 I can hear when I hear that chromaticism in there. So here I'm utilizing my chord tones for D minor. 15:09 And I did I do that in closure there. That sounds really cool. Right versus just doing right, or rather than just rather than just running the scale up and down like that utilizing those enclosures, adds some chromaticism to my playing, and that chromaticism really sounds cool. Okay. Alright, so now, let's move on here. Let's talk about some different practice routines. Number one, practice each scale, along with its proper fingering. So just start by practicing that C minor finger by finger minor scale, right? What is proper fingering? Which is simple 12345. If you want to get a little bit, you know, advanced with this, try playing that five finger minor scale somewhere else on D. What about an e? g. So try figuring them out on some other keys. Okay, so practicing, you know, the five finger microscope, do the major scale, C major scale. I said D major. Practice your C major scale and your D major scale. Okay, so why should you practice these different scales, because in the next step, we're going to be talking about rhythm. And then we're going to talk about how we can add rhythm to these ingredients to create our improvisation. So just to kind of help you see the whole, you know how this all goes together, we start with accompaniment, then we talk about the ingredients. And then we add rhythm to those ingredients. And now we have an improvisation, right? So we want to make sure that we really have those ingredients down well, right, so the five finger minor scale, and the C major scale, and then also the D major scale. Okay, so practice each one of those scales with the proper fingering number to try changing up the order of the notes. Okay, so nothing says that you can't kind of move on if you want to. Now, if just playing the scale alone is more than enough for you to practice right now and find that just stay right there. But if you want to get a little bit more advanced, alright, so moving up and down on the scale at that. gc, I could take that five finger minor scale, and I'm just trying to play around with it. Here's the thing, when it comes to improvisation, usually what stands in a student's way of being able to improvise at the piano is their own mental garbage, okay, like hands down. It's not that they don't know how to play the notes, they don't have enough technique, they don't understand theory, you know, like, all of that stuff can be taught and learned, it's, it's pretty simple to understand the theory, you know, especially if it's broken down properly, the way I'm doing it in the confident improviser. If you follow the confident improviser, I guarantee you're going to understand the theory, it's broken down extremely well step by step for you, technique wise, I give you all the technique as well. So really, the only thing that stands in student's way is them thinking, Oh, I can't do this, or then making it more difficult than it needs to be. Don't do that to yourself. Like, I'd like to tell my students put the whip down or that little guy in your shoulder is like, you know, you're bad, you're bad, you can't play, just brush him off or her off and just say, you know what, I'm just gonna try this. And a great way of doing that, start with that five finger minor scale, and just play around with it. 19:14 Now, when doing that, remain patient with yourself and understand, this isn't gonna sound like some fabulous improvisation right away, okay, we're gonna, we're gonna build up to this. So just taking that five finger scale and moving around like that isn't going to, you know, somehow magically, you know, make you sound like Bill Evans, or Keith Jarrett, or whoever your favorite pianist is. But what it will do for you is it will start to break you outside of that mold of thinking like, I need to play the scale up and down. And if I don't do it exactly like that, then I can't do it. No, changing it around like that helps you to get a little bit more free when you're playing. Now you can do the same thing with the C major scale. So with that, C major scale, you can take that C major scale, and you can break that up as well. Okay, so Alright, so now to break up the C major scale, it's the same same rules apply, right? So I could start on my C. 20:47 Now, one thing you'll notice and one question that I get asked a lot when, you know telling students to break up a scale, especially like the C major scale is, do I need to keep the fingering consistent? No. So there is basically two ways of looking at fingering at the piano. You have your scale fingering for technique purposes, right. So C major scale, play that scale up and down, it's 123, I cross underneath 12345. I didn't create that fingering, I have no idea who created that fingering has been around for eons. All right. So people have been playing that, that that scale with that fingering for literally probably hundreds of years. The fingering works well for most players, okay. And that's why it's a very standardized fingering. And what you will notice is, when playing the scale up or down, you're probably going to want to use that fingering. But when you improvise, and you're now kind of moving that scale around, you're usually not going to improvise by playing like, right, you're usually just gonna play that scale up and down like that, normally, it's going to be more tough, like, 22:12 it's probably going to be something more like that, right? I'm kind of playing around with the scale, moving the notes around. So there's the second way of looking at fingerings. So I said there were two ways The first way is more for technique and learning the scale but the other way is improvisation. And when we are approaching improvisation, and we're thinking about utilizing our scale in a improvised, you know, improvisation manner, the fingering can be whatever we want, okay, so that means that I might literally put my fourth finger on F, I might go 4321, starting on F, then 4321. Starting on G, then 4321, starting, so 44323, right, that's what I should be saying. 432343234 right. So you see I'm playing this little pattern going up, but I'm using my fourth finger, middle finger and second finger, I that never hit my thumb in there. I'm not playing that fingering that I played when I played the scale. Okay, so the point is this, that when you improvise, you could change the fingering around, right? You do not have to keep your thumb always on see. And then when cross underneath and hit your thumb on app? No, no, you don't have to do that, right. In fact, you do most of the time, don't want to do that. You don't want to limit yourself like that. Okay, so now number three, practice the enclosures over different chord qualities. This is more for my advanced level players, okay, so just start by doing the half above half below. Okay, and then go half below half above, I'm going to show you a great exercise right here. This is a C seven chord, F, C, E, G, and B flat in the left hand. So I'm gonna start in my right hand, by targeting each one of these notes, I'm going to target the C, I'm going to target the E, I'm going to target the G I'm going to target the B flat with my enclosures, okay, so each one of these chord tones is going to become that target note, okay, so I start half above C, half below C to the target, and then half the half above half below to the E half above half below to the G half above half below to the B flat and then half above half below to the C, the notes here in case you're listening to this, it's D flat, B natural, to C, 24:34 F, E flat to E, A flat, F sharp, to G, B natural, 24:41 A to B flat, and then D flat, C sharp, whatever, be natural to see. Okay, so that was half above, half below to the target. And then you can go down by going half below, half above. 25:11 Feeling wise there is no set fingering for this. I don't use my pinky on it here I'm going 3214213213123123 let's say 321231242132132312312. All right, and then coming down, probably go 132 then 143 to get my second finger 243243132 but you can play around with that finger that is not a set fingering you know you can you can play around with that. These enclosures, though, are super cool. Alright, so now that was just over a C seven chord, I can then do this over d seven chord. 26:24 Right now where does this go? Where do we go with this? Well, now we can start to see how we can start to build these lines. Start to build these lines that bring in this chromaticism utilizing these enclosures, okay, and I'm going to show you more of that, like I said in part three, and part four of this series. But for right now just try practicing those enclosures over different chord qualities. Chord quality, what does that mean? It means is it major is it minor Is it a dominant so that means you could also do this over major chords, you don't mean your minor chord. 27:06 Oops. So you see, I can practice those enclosures over my minor chords over my major chords. Now, if you're doing the math here, right, you got three different major chord qualities, more main core qualities, your major dominant and minor chord 12 keys, it's 36 keys, right? It could be a lot, right? So don't you know, take it easy on yourself, you don't have to go crazy and try to do this in all 12 keys. If you got the time, the energy and you want to do it, trust me, it's it's only going to help. But if you don't have a lot of time, you're kind of pressed for time, just try doing it over just to C seven chord, just tried doing it over the C seven, C major seven, and the C minor seven, I didn't do the major seven. Let me do the major seven for you. You can see it. 28:04 And you could also just go Hold there for a minute. You don't have to go fast. It's not about speed. It's about accuracy. That's what you're looking for. Right? Finally, try playing these ingredients over the accompaniment patterns from lesson one. Like I said, we're going to be doing that in the next part of this. So if that's too much for you, then don't worry about it. But what you can do is you can kind of get started now if you want to. So let's rewind, let's just go through and let me remind you the different accompaniment patterns. So this was the easy one. Right? Just the simple baseline there. So now again, what you do is, in today's lesson right here, we take this five finger minor scale, right see how it says from TCI. Exercise number one, okay? So we take that five finger minor scale and we can improvise using that scale over this baseline. 29:22 All right. Now the next one is our simple route 373 route seven over a C major, a minor D minor seven g7. This is from TCI exercise number eight. And rather than skipping back I'll just tell you utilizing that C major scale so I can go 29:58 so here I was just playing C major scale just kind of played around with a pint trying to come up with a little bit of an improvisation on that. Okay, I could also just play the scale up and down 30:15 just to kind of get the feel of the scale while playing those chords. Okay. Now if that's a little too difficult for you hang with me for a second, because I'm going to explain something to you as to why that probably will be difficult. And the last one, of course, is the E minor, 787, D, G, C, this is the more advanced one. So on the E minor seven to a seven, you could use utilize that D major scale like I say. And over the D minor seven g seven, you can utilize your C major scale. Now again, it's a little bit advanced. So if that's a little bit difficult for you to be able to improvise over this, let me explain this to you and might make you feel better. Now, first of all, I have been teaching improvisation for decades, and I've been teaching improvisation I started, like literally decades ago with my jazz kids program. And this is where I was teaching kids as young as five years old, how to improvise. Okay, so if I could teach a five year old to improvise, I could definitely teach anyone older than five how to improvise younger than five. Now, it might be a little bit tough, but you're never too old to learn to improvise. And you can always learn to improvise, regardless of what skill you have. Okay? So if you go through the confident improviser, it's so simple. It's almost like cut, copy and paste, right? You just kind of fill in the blanks there. And it's all It's almost done for you. So here's the challenge that I have found in improvisation and what and how improvisation is typically taught, right? It's how I was taught. So what will happen is in improvisation, let's go back to this example here from TCI, eight, right? You got C major seven, a minor seven, D minor seven, g seven. So then, you know, a teacher in the past would tell me Okay, that's your Ionian scale, your Aeolian scale your Dorian scale, your mixolydian scale, whoa, four scales, I have to remember for all of this, right, so I'm trying to remember the scales and then they start to throw in there are avoid notes as well, there are notes that you don't want to hit in the scale. And I gotta be honest with you, it confused the heck out of me, right? Because I'm like, Wait a second, I'm trying to memorize all these scales, and memorize all of these avoid notes and all this, and I got it, I got to call bs on it, you don't have to learn that way. Right? There is a much better way of learning all of this. And that is by not overloading your brain with scales, right? You don't want to think about all of these other scales, what you really want to think about is you want to think about what are the key scales that you need to make this improvisation sound good, right? That's what we go through in TCI. So here's the other thing that I learned, okay. And I learned a lot of this, you know, through trial and error with teaching these young kids, right, and teaching teenagers and adults and young adults how to improvise. So I kind of started with that same approach decades ago. So I had some accompaniment, and I would teach a scale, and then I would, you know, for instance, I would teach this simple baseline, right? But then I would have like, maybe an entire, you know, I would take that whole five finger minor scale. And then I would say, Okay, well, I showed you the baseline, I showed you the five finger minor scale. Now go ahead and improvise. And this is what I would get. 33:44 I can't do it. You know, the student would be like, I can't do it. I don't know what to do. I'm like, we'll just play any notes from that five finger scale, right? And they'll be like, oh, okay, and it'd be like, 34:06 you can hear already that okay, that obviously doesn't work. Why doesn't it work? Well, let's not even get into the fact that I'm like playing those notes way too heavy and not like playing them very piano mystically. But the rhythm is garbage. Right? It's terrible. Nobody wants to listen to something like that. So then it dawned on me that that's the secrets. Okay? The secret is, you don't just teach accompaniment and ingredients together. Instead, you teach accompaniment, ingredients, and then rhythm, okay, that's what I've done in the confident improviser, right. So you learn these different parts and then learn how to put them together. Right? That's what we're going to be talking about in the next section of this. Okay, so in Lesson number three, I'm going to teach you the rhythm and I'm also going to show you how Do you start to put the rhythm together with these ingredients to make up your own improvisational lines, but if you want to try for right now, just to see if you can do it, then go ahead, right to take the simple baseline right? From exercise one and have your five finger scale. See if you could come up with something. 35:24 I will tell you this, that baseline has to be steady. 35:32 That's no good. Okay, nice and steady. Now, if you can't do that, while playing the right hand, don't worry. In Lesson number three, I'm going to show you exactly how to do it and you will be able to do it after lesson number three, but give it a go. Right? You can give it a try and see if you were able to do it. And then I just want to remind you, I love my students and every other Thursday for my students at jazz edge I go through and I answer questions on the confident improviser standards by the dozen. So students are able to join me live, they can play, they can upload their playing, I give them feedback, I get them practice ideas. Tell them what you know what to do, right, though? We'll talk theory, you know, so it's a great group of students. And if you're thinking about, hey, look, you know, I'd really like to learn how to improvise. I could tell you the covenant improviser program, you will be super excited and happy about it. So if you decide to join me at jazz edge, just know that you can also get on twice a month and ask me questions. And that's in addition to my weekly coaching that I do every Tuesday, right? So anyway, that's it for this lesson. I know thank you very much for hanging with me when we go 36 minutes. This was a long lesson. So thank you. I will see you in Lesson number three. I'm going to start putting all of this stuff together exciting stuff. Alright. By the way, if you're on YouTube, be sure to subscribe to the channel. Like the video turn on notifications that way you know when these other videos come out. If you remember the site and you happen to be watching this, you could go ahead and download the resources right in the members area. Alright guys, I'll see you soon.

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