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When I began to play piano, my intentions as to play pop / rock. I soon found that unfulfilling, and frustrating as I lacked the basics. Under the direction of my first teacher, I began touching on a little jazz, then classical by year two. By years, 3-5 I have been studding primarily classical music. While I really enjoy this genre, my friends and family don't understand it, and keep asking why I don't play anything they know. Not much of an issue for me as I'm really learning for myself primarily, but in truth I like popular music also, so why not learn some popular songs?
While I intend to continue with my classical education, now that I am much more comfortable as a player, I feel it may be time to drift back towards popular music.I feel I will be more capable of having fun in this genre. My goal is to play popular music, play the song, and drift into some improvisation, almost lead sheet style. To this end, I have been playing with arranging some popular songs such as Mad World, The Way It Is, Killing Me Softly, and others of a similar style for this purpose. (Using MuseScore).
Where I need direction is in how to play the bass line, how to develop improvisation lines, how to lead from one chord to another, etc. My ideas for this are to play an arpeggio of the chord in the L hand, as something like 1-5-3-5 on beats 1-2-3-4, or just 1-5 on beats 1 and 3, I am trying to improvise using the character of the melody as a basic starting point. And as far as leading, I am trying to drift towards the next chord while playing. While I am comfortable with all major, minor, and 7th chords in both hands, I am not yet capable of quickly spreading the chords between the hands yet. I also know all the major and minor scales in each key, yet am not quick enough with the transitions from one chord to another while improvising on the melody line.
Any thoughts or suggestions? Am I headed in the proper direction?
You sound like you are pretty well informed about what you need to learn.
I'm assuming you are playing solo piano- in this case you should work on developing facility at spread voicings with independent lead.
This technique is pretty self explanatory: the notes of the chords are spread across the keyboard from bass to treble and the melody (lead) is rhythmically independent of the notes of the chords which follow the harmonic rhythm (usually one or two chords per measure).
Basically the LH plays shell voicings (1 and 7, 1 and 5, 1 and 3 (or 10). These are voice led from chord to chord.
The RH plays voice led guide tones (3 and 7) underneath the melody.
There is a lot of situational complexity to this technique but that is about the extent of it.
I have a complete series of courses on this technique here:
Would it be appropriate to use the techniques of Jazz Piano with spread voicing, improvisation, etc to the pop songs I listed above and others of a similar genre? Goal being play the head, improvise around the chord changes for a bit, and return to the melody.
Again, those brief examples of songs I've learned partially include Killing Me Softly, Mad World, The Way It Is. Those are just a few of my favorites.
Im similar to you. Know the basics of theory but want go beyond and be able to apply them in jazz. Just today i received a couple of books i bought online, one purely about chords, the other one about jazz. Lots of exercises tips and ideas to work develop and learn. I 've been digging them for hours and it's awesome. So my advice, get a good book and follow it.
I know your digging deep cmb13 and going about it right. For ballads the 1 5 3 5 broken chords lh will work nice for some things. Just try to add some harmony below the melody on the chord changes only in rh.
There are lots of jazz standards and pop too that this will work well with, but not all.
This is one style you can get the hang of for sure if you just keep working on it. For now i would forget about any improv with the melody as this is enough and jazz standards sound good without any improv.
What i think would work well for you now is stride LH. Take a piece like Georgia for example. You can start off with single bass note at the bottom of the stride and 3 note cluster at top of the stride. The trick here is when you play the top of the stride, try and stay in a similar area on the register as your last chord was. This will force you to play a different orientation of the chords on the top of the stride. This is a smoother sound then say always a root orientation on top. It will take some work but not as hard as it looks. Take it slow. As it gets easier you can play 1 5 or 1 6 or 1 7 at the bottom of the stride for a fuller sound and which ever will fit with the chord of course.
This is just another style that will work for many standards. Then you can try a walking bass. Once you get these styles working of course you can mix them up in a single piece to come up with effective arrangements.
Just a thought. Once you get the hang of stride it can be very useful in a lot of areas. It can also sound a little dated after too much of it so good to mix things up.
I'm going to throw in this video which shows an old Rock/Soul song/R&B "In The Midnight Hour" to illustrate a simple independent left hand bass part. When I play this sort of pop or rock material this is how I play the bass line. If I were to play "Killing Me Softly" I would play it in this fashion. However, I do a bit more of an elaborate bass part with more variety. The independence of the bass line can be developed and improved with very slow practice.
Playing with (what I understand to be) spread voicings would be more appropriate for jazz standards like "All The Things You Are" or "Someday My Prince Will Come".
The left hand bass, on the piano, will enable you to create a "groove" similar to what a band can pull off. Whether this is something you want to work at, I don't know. If not you can stick with playing the spread voicings etc. I perform using left had bass, right hand rhythm chords (similar to what a rhythm guitar plays), and voice.