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Left hand in root position and dominant pedalling

Left hand in root position and dominant pedalling
Originally I’d planned one session on the Introduction to Playing in Root Position, but I took so long over the stride piano part that I had to split it into two. It is still really an introduction because there’s so much to say about playing in root position that we’ll lose the thread really if I don’t move on to other issues to do with playing in voiced position. That’s what I’m mostly interested in, in this course, so you can play in jam sessions and in group contexts. However, let’s have a look at the left hand.
Now the left hand, typically, plays one note the root - just think about C major7 for a moment - so it either plays one root and then a chord, or a chord and then one root, or a root and a fifth and, of course with McCoy Tyner, a root and a fifth for a minor.
The next thing would be an octave but, funnily enough, octaves are rarely used in jazz in playing in root position - they’re just too consonant somehow … sounds too consonant.
What people tend to use is the seventh, because it has a nicer piquancy, a nicer flavour and we’ve seen quite a lot about playing sevenths in root position. What other intervals? Well the fifth and the ninth sound quite nice together … It’s a shape that Keith Jarrett sometimes uses. We know about fifth-tenths.
We know about seventh-tenths - I have to roll it. Also what’s quite nice is the fifth-ninth but with the tenth as well - so you play 2 notes with the thumb … like that.
Those are the sort of shapes and then, obviously, you put the rest of the chord in the right hand - it depends on the chord and it depends on the tune as well. Obviously the tune has to be played above the chords. But those are the sort of typical things the left hand
plays: the root, the root and the fifth, the seventh, the ninth, the fifth-tenth, the seventh-tenth and the fifth-ninth-tenth - not very often an octave. But you can have an octave in something called dominant pedalling which crops up a lot in modern jazz piano. That’s simply the idea of rooting everything over the dominant. So take, for example, a sequence in a standard which is in C major - so it goes II-V-I in C major - D minor 7 say, G7, C major7. We can root that - at least the first 2 chords - over the dominant - then go home to C major7 - or not go home to C major7 - still keep it on the dominant.
This is used quite a lot. You get this sound. I’m in C major now but I’ve still got the dominant going - especially if I go to some other dominant, like the dominant of E flat. Then back again to the
maybe home to a home chord.
So dominant pedalling crops up a lot. It’s something the bass player can do if he or she feels like it, if it seems appropriate in a piece to do dominant pedalling, because it sets up some tension which when eventually you go to a (home) root gives you that tension and release. Tonal music is about tension and release.

We consider different ways in which the left hand can be used in root position and meet the idea of dominant pedalling.

You can download the charts for “Root Position Left Hand Shapes” and “Dominant Pedalling” in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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