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#1187009 - 04/25/09 09:34 AM Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context?
Caz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/25/09
Posts: 6
This is my first post here, so hi everyone and thanks for reading my post - and sorry to dive straight in and ask a question! I'm actually a drummer and took up learning jazz standards on piano to improve my ability to play them more melodically on drums - but I started to really enjoy playing the piano and now my aim is to be able to be able to play piano in a band situation aswell.

My sight reading/theory is good enough that I've been able to learn the heads of tunes with my right hand, and play the chords suggested in the Real Book with my left hand (in root position). I got pretty good at doing that with heaps of tunes and then started playing the root note with my left hand and the 3rd/7th notes of the chords with my right hand, with the melody note on top (if the melody note wasn't already included in the chord). I was doing the inversions of the 3rd and 7th notes in such a way that they would move as easily as possible onto the 3rd/7th notes for the next chord. I just wanted to ask where I should be aiming to go if I'm practicing these tunes in such a systematic way - I've heard that pianists don't play root notes and leave that to the bass player, is there a systematic way I can practice these tunes that's more relevant to how jazz pianists play in trios/quartets?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated, and thanks again for reading!

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#1187081 - 04/25/09 11:27 AM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: Caz]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1457

yes pianists usually don't play roots when playing with rhythm section. I suggest you look up "left hand voicings" google.


you should get a copy of Mark Levine's "Jazz piano Book", its a very helpful book and it will cover wide range of stuff (chord voicings/scales.. etc) that jazz pianists commonly use.

#1187130 - 04/25/09 01:07 PM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: etcetra]
Cudo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 142
Loc: Heidelberg, Germany

you are doing right playing the giude tones.
The only things is, just place them now in your left hand.
With a good bassline from a bassplayer this is enough to establish the harmonies.
As you said before, just be shure to get a good voiceleading for the 2 guidetonelines. Be aware that, if the harmony walks in perfect fiths or fourth, the third moves torward the seventh and viceversa. If you have a sixth chord, the sixth is treaded like the seventh, tis means when there is fifth or fourth movement the third moves to the sixth and viceversa.

The next step to enrich your left hand voicing is to add a other tone. This tone can be the fifth or the fundamental of the chord.
If the chordscale/situation allows it, you can now substitute the 1 (fundamental) with the tension 9 (b9) and the fifth you can substitute with the tension 13.

A II-7 V7/I Ima7 VI-7 left hand progression in C would be:

e e d e
c b b c
f f e g

Here you can also easily observe the movement of tension 9 and 13. If the harmony walks in perfect fiths or fourth the Ninth (or fundamental) moves to the Thirteen (or fifth) and viceversa.

Try to get a good bass player or use a Sequencer program to practice this.

#1188467 - 04/27/09 04:04 PM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: Cudo]
Caz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/25/09
Posts: 6
Hey Etcetra, thanks for that link. I've actually been working from Levine's jazz piano book so far - that's how I ended up doing those guide tone notes with the root on the left hand.. I got a bit confused when it got to the section on Sus and Phrygian chords and kind of gave up a bit and started trying to find out the things that were actually relevant to what I wanted to do - which is how I ended up here! But I'm glad to know that the book will help me out if I go further into it.. I might just skip a couple of chapters for now and then go back once I feel a bit more confident about it.

Hi Cudo, thanks for your help - I'm about to go and have a bash at the stuff that you posted..

Thanks a lot smile

#1188674 - 04/27/09 09:20 PM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: Caz]
h2obuff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/29/05
Posts: 80
Loc: kansas city area
The SUS and PHRYG chapter of Mark Levine's book seems out of place to me as well. I really like his book but I would suggest just getting on to the Left Hand voicings chapter and beyond. There is a good thread that someone will probably chime in with that gave a great once over of the basic voicing ideas....... from 3-7 shells to left hand voicings to Bill Evans type etc.....
Charles Walter model 1500 upright

#1189557 - 04/29/09 01:36 AM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: h2obuff]
MonksDream Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/08/08
Posts: 101
Loc: Vancouver, BC
Don't fret if you don't "get" some of the material in the Levine book. You'll be going back to it for years as your understanding grows.

#1189913 - 04/29/09 03:19 PM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: MonksDream]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1457
I agree with Monks Dream.. that's the problem with the Levine Book, the book covers so much and for someone starting out its hard to figure out whats important and what isn't. Phrygian chords are quite rare unless you are playing modern stuff, and you don't really need to know it for know.

The basic left hand voicing in Mark Levine's book are very standard voicings..I learned that first and learned the upper structure next. Learning those should keep you busy for a while.

Don't worry about the 4th/so what and block chords for now. The Block Chords (esp soloing with them) are really difficult and its really advanced material, but you really wouldn't know that just from looking at the book. You really don't need to think about them for couple of years at least.

#1190024 - 04/29/09 06:06 PM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: etcetra]
Caz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/25/09
Posts: 6
Hehe, that's a relief that the Sus/Phrygian chapter seems a bit out of place to a few people. I did manage to make sense of how to use those chords when I previously tackled that chapter (after a few reads!) but it just seemed like quite a jump, and like something I wouldn't really want to do at the stage I'm at when I'm playing through standards.. Looking on all this stuff with fresh eyes I'm really just eager to get through the basics and play nicely voiced chords, the melody on the lead sheet, and get improvising over chords asap. I imagine after people get comfortable with that then they'll want to start getting more into voicing chords in different ways and trying different chords which sound good etc. To be honest I really don't know what the next step is - I've no idea where the aim lies after doing the basics I mentioned above! But I'm really looking forwards to finding out.. I've been playing piano all day today and hopefully I'll have the foundation stuff together relatively soon!

Can I ask what kind of stuff do you more advanced guys/girls put time into when you're practicing jazz? Does it become more about practicing 'lines', or getting really comfortable with different voicings, or just working through a tune at a time and trying out different ideas with it - or just a bit of everything?? It's really nice to get all your advice, I've played drums for around 10 years and I play full time now and teach drums - I'm finding it really inspiring to see how people function on the melodic side of things! Many thanks!!

#1190250 - 04/29/09 11:32 PM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: Caz]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1457

I can't say for everyone else, but I get most of my ideas from transcribing nowdays. Right now I am transcribing Brad Mehldau's solos from different CDs and trying to get idea on what he does. Books are great for starting out but if you really want to play like Chick Corea, McCoy Tyner or Herbie Hancock, you have to transcribe and steal ideas from them

I guess in general I am working on superimposing different ii-V's over what is happening, and metric modulation, playing odd time signature...etc

It will take some time to get through the basics, so don't worry about what's ahead of you, you'll get a better picture of that once you get there.. and most of all enjoy the learning process smile

Edited by etcetra (04/29/09 11:33 PM)

#1192418 - 05/03/09 10:39 AM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: etcetra]
Caz Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 04/25/09
Posts: 6
Yeah I'm definitely looking forwards to starting transcriptions in future - I'm not really at that level just yet though (for figuring out chords etc) so will need to start with simple melodies. I do a lot of transcribing drum pieces though, and am quite comfortable with working out most rhythms, odd timings and a lot of popular rhythmic modulations - it's just getting the melodic side of things together that's going to take a while.

The other thread on this for "tips for reading jazz chords" is pretty useful! I've started improvising over chord progressions in charts - that is seriously fun. Again, I'm not really sure where to start, but I don't really mind because it's just fun messing around and figuring stuff out!

#1192457 - 05/03/09 11:48 AM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: Caz]
etcetra Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/25/08
Posts: 1457

when you transcribe, start with something simple like Mile's solo from Kind of Blue album.. I still transcribe all the time to get ideas.. i know there are books out there, but i dont have patience for them, and i dont like them because i feel like i am using cheat sheet.. I'd rather get those things on my own from recordings.

I agree at this point its not that important not to over-think it and just enjoy the process..when i started it feel like I have million things i have to learn, i still do, but i just learn them one at a time.

#1192654 - 05/03/09 05:11 PM Re: Playing jazz standards in a trio/quartet context? [Re: etcetra]
Jazz+ Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/04
Posts: 838
Loc: Banned
A transcription of Coltane's solo on Giant Steps reveals just how simple and few the melodic devices were that he was using.


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