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#1136851 - 12/13/08 05:38 PM HELP
doremifasolaSI Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/13/08
Posts: 21
I'm one of the two pianists in my school's jazz band, and I'm terrible! I had no idea until after the tryouts that jazz piano is almost a completely different instrument when you compare it to classical, not to mention the huge differences between the solo work I've been doing for seven years and playing in a band which is totally foreign to me.

Is there any tips you have to make keeping up with the band easier? I always get lost in the music and lose my place half way through. Should I just play treble and leave bass to the bass player? -tears out hair-
"Artists paint on canvas. Musicians paint on silence."
~Leopold Stokowski

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#1136852 - 12/14/08 03:45 PM Re: HELP
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4534
I regard classical and jazz/popular piano as
the same. The notation and technique
is the same. Jazz scores tend to be harder
to sight-read though, because of the
trickier rhythms. This is probably
where the problem lies. Classical pianists
tend to be notoriously bad sight-readers, but
now you've got to read capably when playing
with a group that makes its living by reading

Also, there is a tendency for some classical
pianists to look down on jazz as something
second-rate, but you've got to practice
it just as hard as you do your classical

#1136853 - 12/14/08 03:47 PM Re: HELP
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2749
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Does the band have a director? Do you play written-out arrangements? Depending on the kind of jazz band and the repertoire, your job as pianist is to be a part of the rhythm section. As such you mostly provide harmonic support. If you are playing from lead sheets (that is sheets with just melody and chord symbols) you need to just play the chord changes and play them at the right time. To cut through the din of the rest of the band the chords should be voiced so that the notes are distributed between the two hands. Leave the bass to the bass player. Also, most of the time the melody will be played by the saxophones or trumpets. Hence you really need to develop your facility with chords. A good book for learning jazz keyboard harmony is ... surprise, surprise, "Jazz Keyboard Harmony" by Phi DeGreg. I highly recommend you get a copy.
Good luck!
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

#1136854 - 12/14/08 04:01 PM Re: HELP
jazzyprof Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/30/04
Posts: 2749
Loc: Ann Arbor, MI
Another tip: initially, to make it easier to keep up with the band, just play a single chord per measure even if there are 4 chord changes indicated. Most jazz tunes are in 4/4 time so to keep your place just count 1-2-3-4 and play the indicated chord on the first beat of the measure. As you gain more facility with chords then you can play more changes per measure. Don't worry too much if you lose your place. Just listen until you recognize the harmonic progression and then plunk down an appropriate chord. You might want to practice comping along with some of the Jamey Aebersold play-along CD's.
"Playing the piano is my greatest joy...period."......JP

#1136855 - 12/14/08 08:30 PM Re: HELP
Sir Lurksalot Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/19/04
Posts: 1284
Many years ago I was just like you! A classically-trained pianist who joined a school jazz band that already had a good jazz pianist. It was hard at first to keep up with the band because I tried to play all the notes on the page. Follow jazzyprof's advice. When the arrangement has all the notes written out, play what's most important to the rhythm. When it's just a lead sheet, learn all the most common chords and their notations (7ths, minor 7ths, etc.) You'll be surprised how quickly your hands will learn what to play when those symbols appear. Good luck and have fun!

#1136856 - 12/14/08 09:41 PM Re: HELP
NancyM333 Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/06/06
Posts: 1550
Loc: Roswell, Georgia
My son has just had this same experience, only he's the only pianist. I was pulling my hair out trying to help him--the music all the sudden looked like it was written in Japanese!

The teacher said to concentrate on the chords only and play on every beat or every other beat. Also, it will help you to record the band when they play the piece all the way through so you can recognize where you are when you get lost. You will be able to practice with the recording at home when you can stop and restart without causing everyone else trouble. Your band teacher may even have a recording of this already; many publishers include a CD with the music or have it on their website.

This is just like being immersed in Japanese, and I promise it will advance your piano skills in more ways than you can imagine. Even if you never do this again (something I imagine you're vowing every minute!), you will get a lot out of this experience.

Good luck!


Estonia 168, Yamaha UX3


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