Welcome to the Piano World Piano Forums Over 3 million posts about pianos, digital pianos, and all types of keyboard instruments
Join the World's Largest Community of Piano Lovers
It's Fun to Play the Piano ... Please Pass It On!
'Swinging' is another area to study, and in my view more difficult to play as a solo pianist.
"If I have to explain it, you haven't got it" is the famous quote I recall about swing. Not sure by whom. Don't want to go look it up now. Perhaps it was, Fats? Anyway, it was a harsh if not rude response but was clear to the point they were making. Anyone that generally agrees with the quote, would also probably agree thus, that it would be a difficult topic to study.
Swing is a feel, the way I think of it anyway, and it is best developed by playing with others. Improvisation and jazz styles can be taught, but not really how to swing. Some coaching could help a bit, but not a lot.
Very good, Goldman. Excellent in fact considering you don't know much about chords. For you I'd suggest keep working on the improv. You're good at it. I agree though, to add things that can swing. Autumn Leaves can surely swing, but I agree that as a ballad is great and does not need to. It is how I did it I think. For fun, you could try going into tempo with a verse and chorus, another treatment of rhythm and see if you can get it to swing. It's fine the way it is coming though if you would rather not with this piece. There are plenty others to choose from.
Last edited by Greener; 01/11/1710:50 AM. Reason: not sure if there is a chorus :)
Thank you - I do understand chords (e.g. what a sus4-7-b9 is etc) but I just can't think quick enough to link them at speed with melodies over the top. Probably just need a backing track or drumbeat to keep me disciplined, maybe something simple like I've Got Rhythm or some old big band tunes.
In Dave Frank's Introduction to Jazz Piano videos, he advises learning the chord progression for a given tune really well in your left hand first. Once you have that down, then start with improvising in your right hand over the comfortable left hand.
Actually, he breaks it down further than that, starting with practicing typical types of chord progressions first before getting to full tunes (and again, first left hand, then both hands).
Dave, if I've misstated your method, please do correct me! I listened to the videos this winter and they have inspired me.
I am compelled to give a shoutout to a website that is absolutely the best I have ever seen for someone to start at the beginning and work through a series of lessons and arrive at being a super skilled jazz improviser.
I'd recommend listening to Bill Evans playing solo. Particularly as some of the time he comps with his left hand as though he was playing with a bass player. Whilst being able to play like him is a fantasy for the vast majority of us, if he just played chords (admittedly very sophisticated ones) in his left hand when playing solos in a solo Piano situation then so can you.
Many decades ago when I first started playing seriously, I also played electric organ and started my jazz playing by just playing chords in the left hand as that's what I did on the organ. Like Bill Evans (how wonderful to compare myself to him - ha ha) I've managed to move onto other types of left hand playing...
That was a long-winded way of saying that I think the left-handed comp style is good way into improvising and swinging. Regarding backing tracks etc. Yes all good to use. A metronome is also good enough - it gives you the beat!
Even better find a bass player and/or a drummer. There is nothing like playing with other musicians to find out what works or doesn't work for you.
If you are lucky as I am to be able to count steady and not slow down or rush, speed up it is easy to keep time with nothing but your own count. My instructor taught me to count in 8th notes - 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 1 2 3.... He also said, as much as possible to look at the notes on the score as 8th notes. It does not work on all scores. However, on 4/4, or 2/4 meter it works great. In 2/4 time I look at 16th notes as 8th notes. 8th notes as quarter notes. I always start learning a song very slow. When I can play it up to speed I do not even count. I think this is the only thing in music I am good at. Maybe it is because I played clarinet since age 10.
Thanks for all the advice, really helped. I tried a Satin Doll backing track, and while the tempo was a bit too fast to do much with the left hand (hence the Charlie Brown-iness of it) and three rounds of solo sections was probably too much, it was fun playing over changes as I haven't done much of that. https://youtu.be/D2IQ5IDGhTU
Shows me how much I need to work on consistency of rhythm.
Hey GoldmanT, Nice playing! Thanks for sharing that video, it really gives the rest of us an idea of where you're coming from and what you already can do. Let me just start by saying you have great time and swing feel already! No worries there - you know where the song form is at all times and your right hand has a nice relaxed feel to it.
If you want to be able to play solo, you are going to have to stretch out that left hand a little. From your video, it looks to me like you have fairly large hands/long fingers, so playing 10ths in the L.H. shouldn't be an issue. The webbing between your thumb and index finger might have to stretch out a little, but this will happen naturally with daily practice and time. If Keith Jarrett can do it with his tiny little hands, we all can strive for it too!
Here's where you should go next. In the following video, Mulgrew Miller demonstrates how he comps for himself while playing solo. This is definitely in direct lineage from Bill Evans solo piano playing, which I also try to emulate when I have to solo and it's just me. Start watching his left hand at time mark 1:07.
Notice how he stretches on certain chords to get the 7th or 10th (or both ala Evans). You can use the exact same rhythms as you did on Satin Doll, doesn't have to be fancy or complicated, just a nice cloud bed for your R.H. melody to flow over. Maybe start with half notes and whole notes in the L.H. and when you're comfortable, stab the rhythm once in a while.
And by the way, here's the source of this style:
Good luck in your solo jazz piano endeavors! -Erich
Left hand bass for maybe 4 bars or 8 bars. Bill Evans, Monty Alexander, Oscar peterson have played a ton of solo piano gigs and they almost never play walking bass. These guys play a very modern stride, it's a syncopated more varied, stop and go, version of the old stride with a more bebop sensibility. Walking bass becomes a tedious almost corny sound that non jazz listeners don't care for. Although Dave McKenna and Oscar Peterson are known to have walked really well, they too quickly switch back to a more syncopated stride style and don't keep the walking going forever. And walking bass needs a piano with darn good bass notes which is quite rare at cocktail gigs.
We get short episodes of walking here: but never more than 16 bars, we also get syncopated stride, straight stride and walking boogie woogie octaves:
Frankly, I do not believe that one can learn from books meaningful improvisation ; just to improvise exercises - scales, arpeggios etc. This is not music! Smart teacher can pull out of you the real, albeit simple, improvisation already at the first lesson.