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Skip to 0 minutes and 5 seconds Hi, my name is Ray d’Inverno, and I’m going to lead you through my course on jazz piano. But before we start the course proper, I thought it would be good if I just said a few words about my background so you know where I’m coming from, and also said something about what it is I expect of you in order to make most use of this course. OK, my background. Well, I’ve been a gigging musician, a jazz musician, for over 50 years. And I’ve combined that with being a university lecturer and a university professor in mathematics, mostly at the University of Southampton.

Skip to 0 minutes and 50 seconds And indeed, at the university, I introduced a liberal arts course called “Jazz Workshop” for the Adult and Continuing Education Department in the university, as it was then called. And I ran that for over 15 years, during which time, I developed my own approach to teaching jazz. It’s quite an individual approach, in the sense that I place great emphasis of the role of the blues in the music. I feel that’s necessary if you’re going to play it with any real authenticity. And, from a technical point of view, I also make considerable use of the role of scales in improvisation. I shall make that clear during the course proper.

Skip to 1 minute and 48 seconds I did go on, after a period, to actually introduce jazz into the curriculum in the Music Department of the university itself. Indeed, I taught there for three years. And then, they employed an American, Jose Bowen, who took over from me to continue teaching jazz. And it has continued and thrived. Today, you can take a pathway in jazz studies if you do a degree in music at the University of Southampton, and you can study jazz in all three years.

Skip to 2 minutes and 28 seconds Indeed, I think we may have been the first provincial university to introduce jazz, and I think there are other universities that have now followed suit. So I have a lot of experience of my own approach to jazz, which I hope has proved to be successful. Now, what is it that’s expected of you to make the most from this course? You need to be able to play your scales fluently in all keys. And by scales, I mean major scales and the minor scales, harmonic minor, melodic minor, and be fluent at playing things like arpeggios, say on the major or minor triad.

Skip to 3 minutes and 16 seconds In addition, I’d like you to have some facility with being able to read music. We make most use of what’s called “charts”, which consist of top line and chords, the top line being the tune, usually in the treble clef. And I expect you to make easy sense of those tunes. On occasion, I will give you a full transcription to play a tune, where you use both left hand right hand in root position. This will be somewhat exceptional, because there’s two distinct ways in which you can play jazz piano. First is solo piano, or sometimes called playing in “root” position.

Skip to 4 minutes and 5 seconds And the second is playing in “voiced” position, where you typically play with a rhythm section—where usually the rhythm section consists of bass and drums. And from my point of view, you really need to understand how to play in voiced position before you fully understand the details of how to play in root position. So we shall be principally concerned, in this course, with playing in voiced position, although I shall make some reference to playing in root position. Now, in order to make progress with playing in voiced position, we shall make use of “playalongs”.

Skip to 4 minutes and 41 seconds A playalong is a pre-recorded track– usually consists of bass and drums– playing an important tune in jazz – a blues, or a standard – and then the idea is that, as you play the track, you play along with it, in preparation for the day when hopefully you will get to play with real musicians in real time. I expect you to have some familiarity with musical language, although I hope, generally speaking, that the course should be quite self-contained from that point of view. Finally, I’d like you to be in a position to set up where – when you’re at your piano, or your keyboard if that’s what you’re using – you can view the computer.

Skip to 5 minutes and 33 seconds Because I’d like you to see what I’m doing on occasion, and maybe to try and copy that on your instrument. In particular, on occasions, we will have a section called “hot licks”, where I play something on the piano, and I want you to copy it on your keyboard. So setting up your computer so that’s possible will be important. Indeed, setting it up —if that’s the mechanism you use for your playalong tracks – that’s important, too. OK, so I think that gives you some background about my approach to jazz tuition. When I ran the jazz workshops, I had all sorts of instrumentalists there, including jazz pianists. And I’ve had private jazz piano students throughout most of my career.

Skip to 6 minutes and 25 seconds So I hope that I know quite a bit about it. Indeed, I hope I know enough to bring you to the point that you wish to get to as a jazz pianist in this course.

Meet the educator, Ray d’Inverno

The background video is first about me and, in summary, says:

  • I have been a gigging jazz musician for over 50 years
  • I ran the Southampton University Adult Education Jazz Workshop for more than 15 years
  • I taught in Southampton University Music Department for 3 years introducing Jazz Studies
  • I have had many private jazz piano students

It then considers you and your requirements which, in summary, are:

  • Already possess the piano playing ability and be able to play major and minor scales and arpeggios in all keys
  • Have some basic ability to read music

How about you? In the comments on this step, introduce yourself to the other learners and explain why you are interested in this course.

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This video is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: I. Begin with the Blues

Goldsmiths, University of London