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The Challenge

The Challenge
In this session we are going to be talking about playing in root position or, more precisely, we are going to make a start on looking at playing in root position. Now this is a very challenging thing to do because, as the name describes, you have to not only get the roots in, but you have to get the tune in over the top and then chords in the middle. Usually speaking, the chords are shared between the two hands. Not only that, but there are other devices one uses when playing solo piano and, in that sense, it’s quite a challenging activity.
Indeed, one could spend a whole course talking about solo piano - that is after you’ve leant how to play in voiced position.
That’s what this course is aimed at: playing in voiced position - in our case with playalongs but ultimately, hopefully, with other musicians, perhaps in jam sessions, perhaps in groups that you are involved in.
We are going to have a look at the elements of playing in root position and then if you want to take it further then you will need to look at people who are great exponents of playing. I mean, generally speaking, the sort of context in which we will be looking at it is in a trio context where we’ll play an introduction to a piece. Usually that introduction is what’s called “colla voce” - colla voce means following the voice. It’s another way of saying playing something out of time. The standard thing is to play an introduction which is out of time, then to set up the time and then the rhythm section joins and then you play the tune.
Also, at the other end of the piece, instead of everybody finishing at the same time, the pianist can continue with what I call an “outro” - an outro meaning a bit which is tacked on at the end, a coda if you like, again usually out of time.
If you want to explore this further then look at people who are wonderful exponents of playing intros and outros, in particular, and playing solo piano. Two obvious people are Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett. There are many, many others. In the UK if I were to single someone out for playing standards in a solo context then I’d probably choose Dave Newton - the British pianist Dave Newton. We are going to make a start now at looking at the elements of playing in root position and our starting point is something called “stride” piano.
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