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Left hand in root position: open sevenths (using thumb to indicate pulse)

Left hand in root position: open sevenths (using thumb to indicate pulse)
So we’re going to make use of the full blues scale to improvise on our blues, “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.” The way I think of the full blue scale is, in the case of C, C-major (easy on the major seventh)
plus the three blues notes: flattened third, flattened fifth flattened seventh – in this case E-flat, G-flat, B-flat. If I want a brighter, slightly happier, sound I tend to use notes in the Ionian scale. If I want a slightly darker, or sadder sound,
then I use the blues notes: the flattened third, the flattened fifth, and the flattened seventh.
Now, in this course, we’re going to be mostly concerned with playing the piano in voiced position– that is playing with a rhythm section, typically bass and drums. There’s two reasons. First of all, that’s the more likely situation in which you will be playing the music. But secondly, because it’s easier. If you want to play solo piano in root position, then you’ve got to at least understand how to play in voiced position first of all. Then you need to learn some other things as well. We will make some reference to playing on your own in root position and we’re going to do that in the rest of this session.
So the first thing we’re going to have a look at is playing what is called open sevenths. Now at the moment we’ve been playing “Things Ain’t What Used to Be” four beats to the bar,
with the left hand playing all the notes of C7. The problem with that some is it’s a little bit heavy, a little bit clumsy, a little bit too constant somehow. Even though I have a beautiful Yamaha concert grand piano here it still doesn’t sound brilliant. The notes are sort of somehow too close together. So what we’re going to do is we’re going to simplify things by just playing the root and the flattened seventh – the minor seventh – in the left hand. For example, when we play C7, we just play the root in the seventh. When we play F7, we just play the root in the seventh. When we play G7, we just play the root and the (minor) seventh.
You may ask, what about the other notes? Well, we’ll either play the notes that we’re missing – the third and the fifth in G, in the case of C7, or we’ll imply them somehow, so that we don’t have to spell it out quite so fully. However, think about our blues “Things Ain’t What They Used to Be.” Now I’m going to play the tune in the middle of the piano rather than an octave higher because I think it sounds better. But if you’re having difficulties with this – if the hands are getting in each other’s way because you’re going to have to lay one hand over the other – then separate them out.
If I just play the beginning of the tune: one, two, three, four, …
Then you will see in the tune there are the missing notes, E and G. They tell you it’s C7. Similarly, the next phrase is …
there’s the third and the fifth, the A and the C in the case of F7. Right, the next thing we are going to do, because there’s a lot of implication
that’s going on: We’re implying the time really and we’re implying the missing notes in the left hand, let’s at least make the time a little bit more explicit. And the way we can do that is play four beats to the bar with the thumb in the left hand, like this. One, two, three, four, …
Here’s the third bar, fourth bar, and we go down to F7, etc. What we’re going to do now is play the tune using our thumb to give us the pulse. One, two, three, four, …
If you’re finding it a little bit difficult then slow it down. And secondly, I have to insist that the left hand should dominate the right hand. That is to say, if in trying to play something in the right hand, you make the left hand go off, then don’t play the right hand, leave the right hand out. It’s important when we’re playing– this is a general point– to think bottom up, to think of roots, the harmony, the chords, where they’re going to go, and then the tune and improvisation goes over the top of that, typically. If you start leading with the right hand then you’ll end up having time problems.
So make sure your left hand is correct and then you can add the right hand to it.

In this video you will learn about the idea of playing open sevenths in root position in the left hand and using the thumb to indicate the pulse and playing our blues “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” over the top.

You can download the open sevenths referenced in the video in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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