Amazing jazz pianist Emmet Cohen knows how to make the piano sing during the tune “Where Is Love?” from Oliver! Let’s compare his 6 live performances of this beautiful ballad, to see what makes his takes so lovely.
Disappointed Don sat on my piano bench, looking perplexed as to why he couldn’t manage to take a decent solo on C Jam Blues. “Should I be learning the modes of the ascending melodic minor scales in all 12 keys – is that what I need to do?” he asked. Truth be told, after several lessons my sweet and studious adult student still struggled with swinging the 2 note melody to the tune. Don poured over every jazz piano and music theory book he could get his hands on, took weekly lessons from myself plus another piano teacher in town, attended jazz workshops/adult music camps whenever he could. I think he had too many masters to try to follow, too much theory to sort out, too many scales buzzing around inside his head, which in turn caused his fingers to freeze at the keys! (It didn’t help that he spent more time reading a stack of books about jazz instead of actually practicing the piano.) Continue reading “On a Scale of 1 to 1000: How Many Do You Need To Know?”
There are certain types of rich chord techniques the jazz pianist ought to have under their fingers in a piano/bass/drums or larger group setting. Both Block and Spread Chords may be used for a full sounding effect during the melody of certain tunes. Additionally, these styles may be used to build intensity during a piano solo, or culminating in impressive spread chords at the solo’s highpoint. Continue reading “Block Chords (Locked Hands Style) vs Spread Chords: How Pianists Create Them”
Fun Fact: The gorgeous Duke Ellington composition In A Sentimental Mood begins with an ascending melody formed from a pentatonic scale. These same pickup notes (F, G, A, C, D, F, G) could also lead into the Gershwin classic Someone To Watch Over Me, but would land on another starting chord and go into a whole different tune altogether. (See Idea #29 “Chromatic Pickups”, notated on page 44 of my book Amazing Phrasing-Keyboard, found here): https://www.amazon.com/author/debbiedenkemusicContinue reading “In A Sentimental Mood: Ways To Harmonize”
K-Pop, Early Classical Music, Contemporary Christian Praise Hymns, Folk Tunes, New Age Piano, Country & Western Music: When it comes to improvisation, what do these genres have in common? Hint: Musicians will often sound “right in the pocket” by creating solos made up of just 7 notes (using only 1 scale) over the entire tune!
For the above genres of music (including certain even eighth note Jazz & Gospel styles), the 7 notes of the major key center scale work well for improvising over the whole piece. It’s an easy concept to keep in mind that may enhance your solos (without having to think of too many confusing options), so you can focus on building nice melodic lines with rhythmic variety. When we build solos upon one scale it’s called playing diatonically – which can sound good, provided the tune’s harmony doesn’t stray far from the home key. Continue reading “12 Key Improvisation Ideas For Piano: Just 1 Scale 7 Notes!”
Piano Teachers: Want to play a fun new game that builds your student’s performance skills and practical knowledge of important music concepts? Try Music Game #3: Playtime For Traditional Piano Teacher/Student, designed for classical piano teachers with younger intermediate-level private students in mind. This game includes several practical ideas which pianists in the real world are expected to know, but often get overlooked during traditional music lessons. (The preceding 2 articles – Music Game #2 : “Happy Memories Retirement Home” andMusic Game #1: “TipJar” – are games geared for high school-aged through older adult music students who have acquired more of a jazz/pop repertoire.) Continue reading “Music Game #3: Playtime For Traditional Piano Teacher/Student”
Are you ready to play The “Home”Game? Truth be told, many music students, hobbyists, and professionals bring on the smiles playing for audiences in retirement homes. The power of music can be both healing and comforting. Famous singer Tony Bennett has been in the news of late as we witness him suffering Alzheimers disease, yet to see his face light up as he sings with amazing recall is incredibly inspiring. Aspiring musicians of all ages can test drive their upcoming concert material in front of receptive senior audiences. Teen piano students get not only performance experience, but may earn high school community service credit by playing in retirement homes. Continue reading “Music Game #2: Happy Memories Retirement Home (Playtime for Piano Teacher & Student)”
Feeling slightly “under the weather” but still wanting to teach, I asked 2 adult jazz piano students to meet online for lessons. Educators know that teaching over the internet requires extra energy to communicate, and I was a bit short of breath. What valuable lessons could I give my inquisitive students that would keep their fingers busy while I listened, hydrated, and encouraged them, with minimal talking on my part? I took a couple hits off my inhaler and came up with a “game plan” (modeled after real life situations I’ve had as a performer), and tested it out on my students. Together we had a good deal of fun playing these online socially safe music games. Continue reading “Music Game #1: “Tip Jar” (Playtime For Teacher & Piano Student)”
Let’s take the lovely ballad Skylark (by Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael), and learn how to enhance a ballad’s melody with beautiful chords and a foundational bass line. In this video observe how I took a chart from an old fakebook and updated some chords more to my liking, a process called reharmonization: