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36251 Offline OP
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Practicing in every key is a mantra for playing jazz. Everyone will agree and I do make sure I'm working on this during practicing.

At the same time, I notice, at least in the case of Bill Evans solo playing, that he often starts in difficult keys but modulates when he improvises. I know, we know, etc., about certain keys falling under the fingers better, but I'd love to hear what other people think of this.



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Bill Evans was free to change the key of his piano arrangements: I saw a printed transcription of his Waltz for Debby in B major. In addition, I had a little discussion before the joint concert with Eddie Daniels about the correct key for B.E. You Must Believe In Spring, which they both played together. Eddie stated categorically that the initial correct key was C minor. Since I had transcribed it several years before, I knew for sure that the beginning was in Bm( C#halfdim- G13- F#13 - Bm) . In other words: B.E. adapted the key to the clarinet .

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Originally Posted by 36251
I know, we know, etc., about certain keys falling under the fingers better

I wonder about this. Obviously we all find rhythm changes is easier in Bb rather than E but isn't it just because we have played it in Bb a thousand times? I don't think there is anything intrinsically harder about the lesser used keys on the piano.

I love the way Bill often changes key in the middle of tunes, or transposes half the sequence up a minor 3rd or whatever. It makes for a tasty arrangement.

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Originally Posted by beeboss
Originally Posted by 36251
I know, we know, etc., about certain keys falling under the fingers better

I wonder about this. Obviously we all find rhythm changes is easier in Bb rather than E but isn't it just because we have played it in Bb a thousand times? I don't think there is anything intrinsically harder about the lesser used keys on the piano.

It's not that certain keys are easier, certain things are easier to play in certain keys.

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Anyone who has studied bebop properly knows that the combinations II -V - I and sub II-sub V - sub I practically cover the entire fifth circle in any key. It is precisely the tonalities with more black keys that are more comfortable for the pianist's hands.

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Originally Posted by beeboss
I love the way Bill often changes key in the middle of tunes, or transposes half the sequence up a minor 3rd or whatever. It makes for a tasty arrangement.

+1


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I recently watched on YouTube an interview to Bill Evans by a lady pianist, and she asked him if he was able to play en every key. He said no. He told he preferred certain keys, A, E, i think he said. Anyway he probably was referring to comfort playimg. I doubt there was any key Bill couldn't play, if he wanted to.

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I do agree with beeboss that we think certain keys are easier because we play them in those keys so often.

There should be nothing intellectually more difficult about one key versus another but for sure there are technical differences.


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Well, certainly it is harder to read from a score for some keys than say C or Am smile.

But if you are playing from a lead sheet, as much of jazz is, it doesn't matter as much as all the chords have the same structure, regardless of where they start. Though, it could still be harder to play some things with mostly black notes simply because they are smaller and you spend more time close to the fall board. For that matter, it can be harder to play all white notes when things get too fast.

I suppose it is important to learn to play in all keys. But, I don't think you need to go too far out of your way to work this in to part of regular practice. Some things will have key changes in them which is great. Others, if you really want to work on this, you can transcribe to another key and re-note the chords. But wouldn't suggest, if it is major that you do all of the other major keys. There's is usually only one or two keys you'll want to play it in anyway. The next tune will be in another key and you can cover another two keys, at least on that one. Eventually you'll get all of them. Or not. Tbh, I am not even sure if I can play in all keys, but if the chords are presented, that is the key I will learn it in and maybe one other too. Not usually though for me unless going for a key change in the piece. For solo, you don't otherwise need it really.

If playing with others, still I think, not everyone is going to want to play in any key. One or two is enough I think. By then, you'll be ahead of everyone else anyway cool.

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I have been trying to play turnarounds, blues, rhythm changes, autumn leaves and a few other standards in all the keys. It takes me a long time to get really happy playing in an unusual key but I can feel it is always worthwhile work. This week I was doing Green Dolphin street in E (in 7/4) - what fun.

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UBu: The interview you're referring to is the Piano Jazz episode with Bill Evans. Marian McPartland was the long time host of that show. I could be wrong, but my recollection is that they started talking about favorite keys, from a tonal point, and Bill said he likes A and E because of the sound. Marian then asked him if he could play tunes in any key, meaning that, on the spot, if someone called a tune, he could immediately transpose it into any key, which he said he couldn't. He'd need some time to work it out in a new key. Marian, on other hand, said she can usually play any tune she knows in any key.

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I read somewhere that the bassist of Erroll Garner, going on stage with him, was in constant tension: it was impossible to know in advance in what key the next song would be played.

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"Wait! What key is it in?"



Only in men's imagination does every truth find an effective and undeniable existence. Imagination, not invention, is the supreme master of art as of life. -Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski

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