Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off your first 2 months of Unlimited Monthly. Start your subscription for just £29.99 £19.99. New subscribers only. T&Cs apply

Find out more


This again has been quite a long session.
We’ve looked at 2 quite disparate things: modulation and rhythmic phrases. Modulation - we looked at how you use II-V-I to change keys, in particular, in the tune “I Love You” which goes form F major to A major and back again to F major via II-V-Is. Clearly I’d like you to be able to play “I Love You” with a playalong and improvise on it. If you’re not ready to use the more enhanced scales then just use basic, sort of, F major and A major scales. But if you feel ready to try using some of the scales that are required - because the tune leads to the chords being altered.
The first chord has a minor 5 in it and the second chord has a minor 9 in it. It’s in the tune and so, in some sense, the scales, when you come to improvise, should match that. They don’t have to - but that’s what we are aiming towards. In the left hand, maybe, do some regular use of your legato, stabs and Amen chords - maybe deciding on playing the chord in particular parts of the bar and keeping it going, at least for several bars, because I don’t think we’re quite ready to free up the left hand yet, but we are ready to use different patterns to make sure that we know how to use those 3 devices.
Then we discussed what is swing and then we moved to rhythmic phrases. Obviously, I’d like you to be able to play the rhythmic phrases with me.
Then we had a look at applying the rhythmic phrases to first of all a blues - it can be anything - you can apply it to a blues or to one of the standards. The idea is to look at those patterns and to play them. Typically I’d say do 4 bars at a time because, otherwise, it will all move on too quickly for you. Taking a blues or a standard, for example Rhythmic Phrases I Standard Rhythms, you can then play 4 bars of semibreves, 4 bars of minims, 4 bars of crotchets, etc. Then on to dotted rhythms, then on to tied rhythms, then on to tied triplets. We also had a look at a 32 bar sequence of Lee’s.
I couldn’t trust myself to do 32 bars, so I divided it into 2 lots of 16. Again, see if you can have a go at it. Now if you want a really challenging exercise you could try using that rhythmic pattern over a 32 bar sequence like rhythm changes or “I Love You”. It would be quite reasonable to slow it down so that you have a chance of getting in these rhythmic patterns or close to the rhythmic patterns. That would be a real challenge, if you could do that. It’s probably asking a lot at this stage, but it is something you could, maybe, return to later on.
Then we had a look at applying the rhythmic phrases - no, then we moved on to a blues, didn’t we - “Straight No Chaser”, Thelonius Monk’s blues. Again, it’s an exemplar of how to - almost - to improvise by taking a simple phrase and then doing something
with it: extending it, moving it, displacing it, moving it on a keyboard higher when you get to B flat7, and playing it in different parts of the bar - rhythmic displacement. Then we had a go at improvising, at least I had a go at improvising trying to use that initial melodic element.
This article is from the free online

Learn Jazz Piano: Advanced and Solo Playing

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now