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?”
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!”
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)”
Memorial Weekend 2020 felt like a relevant time to revisit this recording of When The Saints Go Marching In, to honor the lives of heroes lost during both the past and most recent of days. The concept of my arrangement was similar to a New Orleans Funeral or Celebration of Life – a contemplative piano introduction, followed by a jubilant jazz band send off: Continue reading “When The Saints Go Marching In (Lesson in Jazz Harmony)”
Musicians who are also Educators have a burning desire to create, perform, and share ideas with others, which can be tough during these times of quarentine due to COVID-19. Fortunately for me, I’ve been self isolating along with my musician husband who happens to be a very fine jazz bassist. True Confession: We don’t normally practice together Continue reading “On A Clear Day: 3 Ways 2 Play 4 Piano”
Observe today’s music theory illustration pictured above. Notice the photo of these colorful Four O’clock Flowers – each bloom is unique, but they all are linked together as a family that grows from the same parent plant.
This week one of my newer adult piano students eagerly read ahead in my book Amazing Phrasing – Keyboard, and got a bit confused trying to understand the Greek modes/scales we refer to in both jazz & traditional music theory. During her first lesson this enthusiastic lady Continue reading “Explaining the Greek Modes”