Skip to 0 minutes and 9 secondsIn a second I am going to improvise on “Blue Room” using our 5 scales.

Skip to 0 minutes and 18 secondsAgain, I will mostly just run up and down the scales because, at the moment, I am more interested in you knowing which notes are available to you at any one time, rather than actually doing something musical with them. We are still in the land of exercises. We are tooling up to start improvising. I haven’t really said what improvising means yet, but I will. Before we do that, I thought I’d combine it with developing the left hand a bit further. Up until now we have been playing the left hand either 1 chord to the bar or 2 chords to the bar legato.

Skip to 0 minutes and 58 secondsSo, for example, the first 2 bars of “Blue Room” … There are, I would say, 3 principal ways in which you can use the left hand. One of them is legato. We are going to have a look at the second form today and I call it “stabbed”.

Skip to 1 minute and 23 secondsIn classical music there is obviously legato playing, but there is also a thing called “staccato” … Something like that and it is playing the notes with very short duration.

Skip to 1 minute and 46 secondsWe want to do that in our left hand as well but there’s more to it than that, really, because the left hand is a kind of springboard for the right hand. The left hand sets up the kind of rhythmic subtleties which the right hand responds to. When we play staccato we do a bit more than play staccato, which is why I call it stabbed. In legato playing the hand is nice and smooth, but when you have stabbed the idea is that you really have to use your wrist. You really have to bounce off the chord, like this … You will only get that sort of attack if the wrist is involved.

Skip to 2 minutes and 34 secondsThe way I explain it to students is that you think of the piano as being red hot and you go to play it and you burn your fingers on it. It’s that sort of response.

Skip to 2 minutes and 50 secondsWe’ll just do this on 1 and 3 to start off with. Here’s the tune up here and here’s the stabbed chords down here. Let’s just play a little bit of it. 1,2,1234 …

Skip to 3 minutes and 17 secondsThere is a subtlety here, or a difficulty, in that we’re playing the left hand stabbed but it shouldn’t affect the right hand. The right hand should still be free to play legato, if it wants to play legato, and staccato or stabbed if it wants to that as well. The two hands have to develop an independence. So although this is going like that … you still will, probably, mostly want to play the right hand legato. I don’t want to do too much in one go but, just to let you know, that it’s a question of where you put the stabs as well. You could, for example, put them instead of on beats 1 and 3 on beats 2 and 4.

Skip to 3 minutes and 57 secondsIt would sound like this. 1,2,1234 …

Skip to 4 minutes and 9 secondsetc. For the moment let’s just keep our stabs on beats 1 and 3. The other thing - what’s the other thing I want to do? - I think I’d like to bring the tune down into the middle of the piano in which case there’s going to be competition over notes, but I’ll let the right hand win … Our exercise then will be to play the tune using stabs on beats 1 and 3 and then do a chorus of improvising - really concentrating on running up and down the scales which are available to us.

Playing left hand voicings: 'stabbed' and legato

You will learn about the way of playing left hand voicings “stabbed” and contrast it with legato playing.

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This video is from the free online course:

Learn Jazz Piano: I. Begin with the Blues

Goldsmiths, University of London