Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsLet’s have a go at improvising on our tune “You Took Advantage Of Me” keeping the vamping going in the left hand and adding the improvisation over the top. As I say, I am not really an expert at this but I want to give you an idea, at least, of what stride piano is like.

Skip to 0 minutes and 32 secondsWhen it comes to improvising it’s pretty much enough to stay close to E flat major7. This piece is so rooted in E flat major7 that you can get away with it. I mean, strictly speaking, it would be good if you could get notes that belong to the scales that belong to the chords but, even playing this fairly slowly, that’s quite a lot of different scales. For example, the first bar you’ve got E flat major and in the second bit you’ve got E diminished - which would be C sharp diminished scale, or a mode of it. Similarly in the second bar you’ve got F sharp diminished, that would be a mode of C diminished. It’s a lot to do.

Skip to 1 minute and 16 secondsThere is one important point, probably, in the piece and that’s in bar 6 - it’s a split bar A flat major7, D flat7. Remember that we said that major sevenths are a very strong chord and, even if it’s only very fleetingly, it sort of modulates to A flat major at that point. It would be good if you’ve got notes that really belong to that scale.

Skip to 1 minute and 45 secondsIn fact, A flat major only differs from E flat major by possessing a D flat rather than a D natural - it’s 4 flats rather than 3 flats - and that D flat is important because the second chord in the bar is D flat7 so, strictly speaking, the scale that goes with that is a mode of G flat major.

Skip to 2 minutes and 11 secondsIf we can get to the notes that definitely belong to A flat major7, at least in the beginning of that bar, that would be good.

Skip to 2 minutes and 21 secondsThe other thing that you could do, and I’ll try and do it when I improvise, is to go for the thirds of the chord. Remember the bass player is playing, or implying the root, and the most important note - the strongest note, so to speak, in the scale after that - is the third. So you can get the third out. For example, in the middle 8 the first chord is C minor7 so we want to get onto the third of that which is the keynote, as we’ve said, of the whole piece. Then it goes to D7 and the third of that is F sharp.

Skip to 2 minutes and 55 secondsThen G7, or G+7, you can play the whole tone scale if you want to at that stage but, you know, I am talking about getting to the third, and then to the third of C7

Skip to 3 minutes and 11 secondskeep going

Skip to 3 minutes and 16 secondsSo thirds are strong notes. Let’s have a go.

Improvising on "You Took Advantage Of Me"

Improvising on “You Took Advantage Of Me” in the style of stride piano.

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This video is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: III. Solo Piano and Advanced Topics

Goldsmiths, University of London