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Introduction to Learn Jazz Piano: II. Improvising on Jazz Standards

Welcome to Introduction to Learn Jazz Piano: II. Improvising on Jazz Standards.

In this course we look at 9 news tunes including minor blues, modal tunes, “Moanin’” – which I show you how to play as a solo piece – and the important jazz standards “I Got Rhythm”, “All The Things You Are” and “Autumn Leaves”. On the theory side we investigate the “Clock Of Keys”, which can be used to analyse chords sequences and thereby simplify the scales needed for improvising, some more scale theory and I provide a detailed investigation of Improvisation.

Remember that you may study at your own pace. Some steps are relatively straightforward but others are very demanding. Examples of the latter are the steps 6.6, 6.7 and 6.8 on scale theory. Make as much of these steps as you can but try not to get stuck on them. Just know that the theory is there and if you cannot take it all on board at first then go back to it when you feel ready. It will probably take you years to fully absorb all their content. It certainly took me that long. In the meantime there are other new ideas which you probably can cope with, like hopefully the analysis of the tune “Autumn Leaves” which follows.

As in the previous course, Learn Jazz Piano: I. Begin with the Blues, I adopt a “how-to” approach: watch me – now you try the same. This approach relies on the use of playalong tracks and so you will need access to a program like Audacity or Transcribe to vary the speed and possibly the pitch of the playalongs.

In the “Viewing and Listening” sections I give some links to YouTube videos but be warned that they can change or be removed, so see what you are able to locate and consider sharing it with others. You can try and do this by putting the name of the artist (e.g. Keith Jarrett) and the tune you are interested in (e.g. All The Things You Are) in the search box in YouTube and see what you come up with.

You are again encouraged to raise any issues discussed in the videos in the comments section.

Using the playalongs and charts

I urge you to record yourself playing with the playalongs to check critically that you are doing what is asked for, as well as consider sharing your efforts with other students using SoundCloud, or an equivalent system, and perhaps offer some constructive feedback to other learners’ efforts.

If you want to get as close as possible to recreating my sound, then consider downloading the corresponding Aebersold tracks that I use, that is when they are available.

However, I have also provided playalong tracks produced by my trio rhythm section of Ben Taylor on bass and Lee Miller on drums. They are available in the Exercises article step at the end of each week. I have indicated in the titles of the tracks the number of choruses provided.

All the charts used are available at the end of the videos where they are first introduced and I advise you to print them off for your own use.

Important: to download the mp3 and pdf files on a computer you need to right click on a file and then download it with a file name (for example click on “Save target as …” on a PC and “Download Linked File As …” on a Mac).

This part of the course ends with me playing “Autumn Leaves” with a playalong and with some greater freedom in an attempt to persuade you that using playalongs can not only help to develop your playing, but can also be great fun. I hope you will agree …

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This article is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: II. Improvising on Jazz Standards

Goldsmiths, University of London