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jazz piano improvising improvisation

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#1 hammer action

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 16:45

Out of curiosity i ordered a copy of the Jazz piano exams (Grade 1) and it arrived this morning.  I've always taught mainly classical but have had a few students of late, both kids and adults, asking about more jazzy pieces plus i feel i'd personally like to branch out a little into something different.  My knowledge of jazz is pretty limited and it's something i've just never delved in to.  However..... i absolutely love the pieces!  It's kind of given me a new enthusiasm and i have a couple of students in mind who i'm sure would love the tunes.  I've spent most of the afternoon playing them, and the scales are interesting too.  I was quite surprised at how difficult the pieces are for Grade 1 in comparison to the standard Grade 1 exam pieces.

 

I guess i'm just looking for opinions on the Jazz exams from those who have experience.  The improvisation in the tunes is something i'll have to work on.  They give some notes, but are you limited to only those or can you add extra ones?  If so, how do you know which notes will sound ok?  I'm assuming it's in relation to the given chord, but what about passing notes?  Jazz has always been a bit of a mystery to me i'm afraid, but i'm really impressed with this book.


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#2 BannerdaleMusic

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Posted 12 April 2017 - 17:28

The teacher handbook is really good. I'm not a confident jazz specialist but with the combination of the handbook and some YouTube exampler improvisations I put a little lad through grades 1-3, I decided after that his mum should get him a jazz specialist. He did 4&5 quite successfully so am confident I gave him a good start, and now has decided to go back to classical at grade 6.
Yes - the pieces are harder, similar to Trinity Rock&Pop... Grade 1 is accessible but children who would be around grade 2 classical xx
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#3 agricola

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 07:07

I find that when pupils ask for jazzy pieces they usually want jazz-style but fully notated boogies, blues etc.  I've never had many takers for the AB jazz exams although I always offer them as an alternative. 

 

I also recommend the teacher's handbook -- if you want to get some experience yourself this is a good course to follow as it takes a much more guided and gradual path than the majority of jazz tutor books.  As a notation-reading classical teacher I found working through the course very useful -- improvising became such a habit that I eventually found myself doing it in Mozart Sonatas. 


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#4 Boogaloo

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 09:23

I'm following this with interest but, having just searched for the handbook on the internet, am only able to LCM ones! Is someone able to let me know the title of said handbook please?!


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#5 Ilewydh

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 12:21

I'm following this with interest but, having just searched for the handbook on the internet, am only able to LCM ones! Is someone able to let me know the title of said handbook please?!

That'll be this one :D

 

http://www.musicroom...10/details.html


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#6 susiejean

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Posted 13 April 2017 - 17:15

It's the improv that put me off teaching/playing this. I'm only just getting my head round drum improv. Much harder on the piano. There are so many more notes!


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#7 jelly roll harris

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Posted 15 April 2017 - 18:55

I quite like the Beale book, especially the Chapter on swing. And he's very thorough with rhythm, too.

I haven't taught the AB jazz syllabus, but as far as I know the "suggested" notes in the improv sections are just that: suggestions. It helps you and your pupil to recognise which notes "go" with the harmony.
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#8 hammer action

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Posted 15 April 2017 - 21:00

Thanks everyone, i ordered the handbook earlier today.

 

The main thing that's confusing me is how do you know which notes to use when improvising?!  For example, in the piece "Bedford Square Blues" there's a bar with a D7 chord and the suggested RH notes are - D, E, G, A, Bb.  The D and the A belong in the chord, but why the E, G and Bb?  Passing notes?  Why Bb and not B natural?  Is there a particular rule so you know what will sound good and what won't?

 

I can't help thinking of that funny sketch from The Fast Show, Louis Balfour's Jazz Club, where the musicians on the stage just played absolutely anything.


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#9 Hildegard

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 05:55

in the piece "Bedford Square Blues" there's a bar with a D7 chord and the suggested RH notes are - D, E, G, A, Bb.  The D and the A belong in the chord, but why the E, G and Bb?  Passing notes?  Why Bb and not B natural?  Is there a particular rule so you know what will sound good and what won't?
 

 

Think "extended chords" - that is, 9ths, 11ths and 13ths.

Adding E over a D7 gives a D9 chord
Adding G over a D7 gives a D11 chord
Adding Bb over a D7 gives a D b13 chord (a dominant minor 13th in classical harmony)

In other words, E, G and Bb are all potential chord notes.


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#10 hammer action

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 16:08

 

Think "extended chords" - that is, 9ths, 11ths and 13ths.

Adding E over a D7 gives a D9 chord
Adding G over a D7 gives a D11 chord
Adding Bb over a D7 gives a D b13 chord (a dominant minor 13th in classical harmony)

In other words, E, G and Bb are all potential chord notes.

 

 

Ah, ok thanks i see that now.  Jazz improvisation must require the musician to be a very fast-thinker.  Don't fancy improvising at 130bpm with a couple of chord changes per bar and having to instantly work out 9ths, 11th, and 13ths in my head!  I wonder how you can think that fast?  


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#11 BannerdaleMusic

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Posted 16 April 2017 - 19:12

We looked at it and practised super slowly... by the time they get to the exam the kids will have an 'improvisation' that is fairly set. I don't think anyone, particularly at the lower grades, will be truly "improvising" from scratch in the exam. It'll be well known and we'll practiced.
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#12 linda.ff

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 10:28

I can't help thinking of that funny sketch from The Fast Show, Louis Balfour's Jazz Club, where the musicians on the stage just played absolutely anything.

Nice!  :lol:


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#13 Clovis

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 15:00

I'm facing the same issue – jazz-mad child wants to do the ABRSM syllabus. He's just taken Grade 3 and is adapting to the improvisation really well.

 

Definitely get the ABRSM handbook by Charles Beale. I've also found Tim Richard's Improvising Blues Piano really helpful, as well as Piano By Ear by Lucinda Mackworth-Young.

 

There's a weekend on the ABRSM Jazz Syllabus at Benslow Music this summer, aimed at teachers with little or no jazz experience. I think Tim Richards is the tutor.

 

I found that a good way into the improvisations is to restrict myself to one or two notes, or a chord made out of the suggested pitches (any combination seems to work), and get a simple rhythmic pattern going. Child is way ahead of me here though!

 

Making up 2-bar question and answer improvisations help, as does playing simple 12-bar blues patterns (I'm the bass, child is improvising).

 

I'm really enjoying it too!


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#14 Clovis

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 16:41

Just remembered – Tim Richards has some YouTube tutorials to go with his book:


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#15 hammer action

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Posted 18 April 2017 - 18:20

 

I can't help thinking of that funny sketch from The Fast Show, Louis Balfour's Jazz Club, where the musicians on the stage just played absolutely anything.

Nice!  :lol:

 

 

Ahhhh I wondered if anyone would know what i was taking about.....!   :D


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