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Jazz...where to begin? #1491354
08/09/10 02:56 AM
08/09/10 02:56 AM
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Mermanof83 Offline OP
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Hey everyone.

I've been playing classical piano for a very long time, and I've always wanted to get into jazz. I love listening to Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and other 'rainy-day jazz' if you will, and I've got a good feel for the music and the timing of jazz, but I don't know where to begin learning some jazz. When I look up a piece, even something well known and cliche like 'Misty', I only find more advanced tutorials and lessons on youtube and other websites, full of complex chords that are slightly beyond me.

So, basically, I'm asking for SOMETHING to take a stab at. If someone could recommend me a good book or website to take a look at, or even throw me some relatively simple progressions of some well known songs, I'm sure I could make do and expand on those. But I need some direction. Everything helps!

Thanks in advance.

Brian


But you can call me Brian.
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Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Mermanof83] #1491355
08/09/10 02:59 AM
08/09/10 02:59 AM
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Real books!

Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Jeffrey Preston] #1491362
08/09/10 03:22 AM
08/09/10 03:22 AM
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charlessamuellang.com
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Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: charleslang] #1491370
08/09/10 03:39 AM
08/09/10 03:39 AM
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Wizard of Oz Offline
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Forget fake books and lead sheets for now. They won't help you understand the fundamentals of jazz and what makes it so.

Find a really good teacher who can explain things very simply. Too much info to start will just confuse you. Trust me, I say that from personal experience.

The core structure of jazz chord progressions is 2-5-1. Learn that in and out starting with 1 key, try C, it's the easiest.

Just learn the chords in root position at first. Forget any fancy extension notes or alterations, just play it plain vanilla.

So for C major, 2-5-1 is D-7, G7, C maj7.

Find some easy songs where you can transpose to C major, Over the Rainbow is one. Learn the melody first, then put the chords.

Go on youtube, 7notemode and jazz251 have some great videos showing you how to play. Some of the stuff gets pretty deep but perhaps you can ask them to put up a beginner video for people just starting.

Look up the video for "Piece Peace" by jazz251. It's a song by Bill Evans and a great one to start for jazz. Good luck!

Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Wizard of Oz] #1491371
08/09/10 03:43 AM
08/09/10 03:43 AM
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jotur Offline
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Right here on PW, in the ABF:

Autumn Leaves study group

The first post has an index to the topics. All the chords are spelled out, the theory behind them discussed, the LH comp patterns, the works. jazzwee started it, and many people have contributed. It's a gold mine smile

Cathy


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Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: jotur] #1491750
08/09/10 04:04 PM
08/09/10 04:04 PM
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Gyro Offline
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I'm also a lifelong classical player. I've always been interested in jazz, and
I tried to wade through several jazz method books, but soon gave up because
they were so tedious and took all the enjoyment out of jazz before I even got
started in it.

But I still wanted to play it, and so I just started to play it, that is, I sat down
and started pounding out stuff purely by ear. This was really a revelation,
because you never do anything like this in classical, where everything is note
perfect exactly as written on the score. This was pure, original creation, by ear,
without any consideration of music theory. This is now the last thing I do in
each practice session, after all the classical repertoire, sight-reading, exercises,
etc., and it's something I really look forward to, since I'm creating everything
from scratch, real original music, something you never do in classical.
You really learn about the instrument and what you can do on it when you
improvise like this. This is real piano playing, where you train your ear, something
you never really do in classical.

People who hesitate about doing this should consider that there are really
only 12 different tones on an 88-key keyboard: the 7 white keys (C D E F G A B)
surrounding each set of 2 and 3 black keys (C# D#; F# G# A#) are the same tones
all along the keyboard, just at a higher pitch as you go to the right. Thus, you're
essentially dealing with only 12 different tones, not 88, when you play by ear.

Like anything, improvising takes a lot of practice. With experience you should be
able to know what keys to hit in order to get the sound you want, all purely by
ear, without any knowledge of music theory.

To get you started, if you use just the white keys, you'll find that you can
instantly play all kinds of tunes, purely by ear, since when you use the white
keys, you are essentially playing in C maj./A min. After you get your feet wet
with the white keys, you can start adding the black keys.

When I started doing this, I had the intention of reaching the point where I could
recreate anything I heard on the radio or tv by ear. This still remains a goal, but
now I no longer really concern myself with this. When I improvise, I'm creating
stuff that no one has ever played before, which is quite amazing when you think
about it. I'm now more interested in this than in merely playing someone else's
music.




Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Gyro] #1491800
08/09/10 04:48 PM
08/09/10 04:48 PM
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Mermanof83 Offline OP
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Thanks everyone. This really helps, giving me plenty of approaches to try in learning some jazz. Much appreciated!


But you can call me Brian.
Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Mermanof83] #1491860
08/09/10 05:40 PM
08/09/10 05:40 PM
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AJF Offline
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Check out the Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine. It's laid out simply without being too verbose and he get's you playing right away. He also includes a vast discography of recordings to check out (which is essential because LISTENING is by far the most important aspect of capturing the jazz language). I've used this book as a reference manual for my college and university students for years and it has proven to be very useful. Also, GET A TEACHER. There is nothing more valuable than an experienced professional ear to evaluate and guide your progress.



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Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: AJF] #1491903
08/09/10 06:14 PM
08/09/10 06:14 PM
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etcetra Offline
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I think AJF's suggestions are great.

I just want to add that you should make a habit of learning by ear too (not the kind Gyro is talking about). For starters take Miles Davis's solos from Kind of Blue (So What, All Blues, Freddie Freeloader), and learn to play them on your instrument by ear, without writing any of it down. Learn it to the point where you can play along with the recording note by note.

It will be a very slow process and you might have to learn couple of notes at a time.. and you will probably forget some of it and have to re-learn it the next day. But if you do it for 2-3 weeks you should be able to play a big portion of it with the recording.

after that you can write the solo down(or you can write it down first as long as you don't use it). Analyze what's happening harmonically/rhythmically. And if you find something you like, work them in all 12 keys. This is going to help you build vocabulary for soloing.

Transcription/learning by ear is a huge part of learning jazz, and I think Miles Davis' Kind of Blue album is a great way to start because the harmony is relatively simple, and you'll learn a lot about consonance in improvisation. Books and teachers can help you, but for me this is one of the best way to really ingrain the vocabulary inside you, so that you can use these ideas at your disposal.

You might learn one solo every 1-2 months. But by the time you've learn like 60, you will have so much in your that soloing wouldn't be a problem for you.

Last edited by etcetra; 08/09/10 06:18 PM.
Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: etcetra] #1491977
08/09/10 07:29 PM
08/09/10 07:29 PM
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Wizard of Oz Offline
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I'm not a big fan of Levine's jazz piano book. I delved into that when I first started and it complicated things.

I would have rather started off learning the basics and mastering them well.

I found Levine's book to not have much of a practical application. It lists the scales, chords etc...but basically just tells you to use them for each corresponding chord on a fakebook. Very much the standard jazz pedagogy that's taught, but


Taylor Eigsti has a completely different approach, creating chords with hand shapes rather than notes.

You need to know the basic theory for it to work, but I like that method better. He said in many of the jazz workshops he does, he has to undo the "damage" done by Levine's book by students who use it.


Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Wizard of Oz] #1492012
08/09/10 08:07 PM
08/09/10 08:07 PM
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etcetra Offline
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Wizard of OZ

The LH voicing, Upper Structure, So what/4th voicing, block chord/drop 2 voicing... all these things are common vocabulary for all jazz pianists, and I don't see how anyone can not learn them. It's like playing classical music and not playing a single piece by Beethoven.

I know Taylor Eigsti has this idea of shape, but I am willing to bet he has learned most of, if not all the common voicing in Levine's books. Taylor's approach isn't "completely new", and I don't think he would encourage you not to learn those Levine voicings.

For me the Levine book is a great reference book, it's pretty helpful in that respect. I posted on another thread as to how you can practice each of those voicing. It's a great book to work out of if you have the patience. You can easily spend 3-4 months master a vocing they show you in each chapter

Last edited by etcetra; 08/09/10 08:09 PM.
Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Wizard of Oz] #1492054
08/09/10 08:37 PM
08/09/10 08:37 PM
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Originally Posted by Wizard of Oz
I'm not a big fan of Levine's jazz piano book. I delved into that when I first started and it complicated things.



I was just looking at the Levine piano book for the first time in about 15 years the other day and was pretty shocked.
Let me see ... example from giant steps on page 2, not exactly great start for a beginner. No mention of rhythm or how to develop it ANYWHERE I could find. Transcription, or any word on how to develop aural skills not mentioned until pg 239.
As a reference book it is good but for a beginner without a teacher it is not really suitable IMHO.

Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: beeboss] #1492071
08/09/10 09:00 PM
08/09/10 09:00 PM
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AJF Offline
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Originally Posted by beeboss
Originally Posted by Wizard of Oz
I'm not a big fan of Levine's jazz piano book. I delved into that when I first started and it complicated things.



I was just looking at the Levine piano book for the first time in about 15 years the other day and was pretty shocked.
Let me see ... example from giant steps on page 2, not exactly great start for a beginner. No mention of rhythm or how to develop it ANYWHERE I could find. Transcription, or any word on how to develop aural skills not mentioned until pg 239.
As a reference book it is good but for a beginner without a teacher it is not really suitable IMHO.



Good point about rhythmic content. I supplement Jim Blackely's "The Essence of Jazz drumming" with students for that realm.
As far as the Giant Steps example, that's just to illustrate basic intervals. He's not asking you to blow over it. I like that he uses song examples to illustrate the 'sound' of intervals in a musical context. True he doesn't talk about transcription. As far as a simply laid out book that conveys just about every practical tool a pianist needs to play jazz I still think it's a great book. I agree wholeheartedly though that a teacher is a necessity. Many of the jazz players here in Toronto who wear being self taught like some sort of badge of honour are just awful. Their swing feel is comparable to the guy in Monty Python's Holy Grail with the coconut shells smile



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Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Wizard of Oz] #1492076
08/09/10 09:03 PM
08/09/10 09:03 PM
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Originally Posted by Wizard of Oz
I'm not a big fan of Levine's jazz piano book. I delved into that when I first started and it complicated things.

I would have rather started off learning the basics and mastering them well.

I found Levine's book to not have much of a practical application.



I don't know how much more basic Levine's book could have started off. Intervals, triads, 3rd's and 7ths, modes of the major scale. That's about as basic as I think you need to get when beginning to learn jazz. But I can certainly accept that his approach isn't for everyone. I've just seen really good results with it over the years.



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Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: AJF] #1492184
08/09/10 10:51 PM
08/09/10 10:51 PM
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As a first book to learn jazz I would NOT recommend Levine's book. That was the book I picked up in high school and I was lost. As beeboss and AJF just said, it doesn't mention anything about rhythm and how to play in time.

Most of the example songs used are quite advanced, and if you know nothing about jazz it will confuse you even more.

I think there's Miles Davis' Tune-up and Wayne Shorter's Infant Eyes in the first few chapters. Now if you know nothing about modal jazz or non-functional harmony looking at those lead sheets will mess you up.

There's a sheet of Chick Corea's Mirror Mirror. I remember trying to play it when I first learned jazz, I had no clue how to approach it. It's all alt chords and changes keys every 2 bars.

etcetra, So what chords, Bill Evans voicings, upper structures etc... are all vocab that should be learned after you know the fundamentals. I mean, for a regular jazz standard, you're not going to use a McCoy Tyner quartal voicing anytime soon.

No one just starting to play jazz is going to delve into Maiden Voyage or Dolphin Dance.

For an intermediate or advanced player it can be a good reference, but I barely even use it as I find the layout too cluttered and not user friendly.

I've heard Metaphors for the Musician is a much better read.


Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: AJF] #1492198
08/09/10 11:15 PM
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Originally Posted by AJF


Many of the jazz players here in Toronto who wear being self taught like some sort of badge of honour are just awful. Their swing feel is comparable to the guy in Monty Python's Holy Grail with the coconut shells smile


Nice analogy! I am self taught and timing is my big weakness. If you don't play regularly with other people and do proper drills to work on timing then it shows in your playing.


It seems especially so for those who started out in classical then switched to jazz, like me.

There was a song I linked to called Intermezzo, and the difference between the jazz and classical players was startling. For the classical, I wouldn't even call it rubato. The timing was just all over the place.




Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Wizard of Oz] #1492210
08/09/10 11:23 PM
08/09/10 11:23 PM
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Mermanof83 Offline OP
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I wish I had the time and money for a teacher, but I sadly don't. If anything, I'm in search of a good way to learn the fundamentals and jump right into playing it and experimenting with it.

I'm not opposed to a good book to help me do that. There seems to be some debate, however, on what would be a good starting book. Is Levine's book inappropriate just because of the lack of instruction on rhythm and timing? And is that a big deal? If that book isn't a good starting place, what is? Real Books? Something by Taylor Eigsti? Metaphors for the Musician?


But you can call me Brian.
Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Mermanof83] #1492220
08/09/10 11:33 PM
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Mermanof83, I just found Levine's book too overwhelming in the beginning. If you know nothing of jazz then it will make it harder.

The best thing is to find jazz musicians that you like, and listen to them alot.

Why don't you name some players or jazz songs that you like? That's a good start. Then try playing the melody by ear.


Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Wizard of Oz] #1492237
08/09/10 11:56 PM
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Mermanof83 Offline OP
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I guess what the issue is, is that I don't know much about chords at all. I mean, I already listen to a lot of jazz and blues, and I'll often hear a nice little melody in my head, and I can get that melody on the piano easily enough, but I can't do anything else with it. It remains just a melody, and even when I hear other things accompanying it, I can't get those out of a piano. I don't know enough of chords or something.

I feel like I'm not being clear in this explanation, and I apologize...


But you can call me Brian.
Re: Jazz...where to begin? [Re: Mermanof83] #1492311
08/10/10 02:02 AM
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Mermanof83

If you are new to jazz the chapters on 3rds and 7ths, Left hand voicings, and some of the chord-scale theory will be helpfu. The problem is that the book doesn't really show you how to practice those things effectively. It's like an encyclopedia of good information, it's problem helpful if you had a teacher who could help you through it.

It's a book that you can spend 6 months mastering one chapter (It took me that much time to learn all the upper structure voicing in all keys). If you have it in you to grind through it it will help, but you might be better off getting a book that has more of a step-by-step approach.

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