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Improvising using seventh-tenths
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Improvising using seventh-tenths

Improvising using seventh-tenths using the top two fingers to indicate the pulse.
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So now we’re going to discuss seventh tenths in the left hand. As you might imagine, it consists of the root, the seventh (minor seventh indicates a C7) and the tenth – the third an octave higher.
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So in the case of C7: we have the root, which we’ll play with the fifth finger, the minor seventh, which should be played with the second finger, and the tenth – the third an octave higher – which is played with the thumb. So there’s the chord. Now I don’t have a particularly big hand and I find that quite a stretch to play. In fact, I cannot play D flat 7 or C sharp 7, which is the same thing, up a semitone, because my hand would just not stretch to it. So what do we do? The answer is I roll the chord.
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So I start from the bottom, roll the chord and hold the last two notes down, but catch the bottom note with the pedal – with the sustain pedal – like this. So my sustain pedal goes down to catch that bottom note.
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When it comes to playing the blues,
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I can play C7: the root, the seventh, and the tenth in C.
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Similarly F7:
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the root, the seventh and the tenth – F, E flat, A – and G7: the root, the seventh and the tenth. I can play all those. But if I were to play in a different key, like a blues in D flat, then I wouldn’t be able to do it. I’d have to roll it. Apparently Oscar Peterson’s hands were so big that he could actually walk in tenths. I certainly can’t. You may remember at the very start of this course, I played for you a solo piano version of “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be”. And it starts off like this …
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And so – D flat 7, caught with the pedal, coming down to C7. We’ll discuss that device a bit later on. It’s of interest to note … perhaps I’ll play the whole of the tune again if I can.
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OK, so there you notice at the beginning I play in seventh tenth’s. When I come to walking up, there’s a baseline that I’m playing …
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Then I start of using fifth tenth’s, because I can’t reach or I don’t have the physical energy to play seventh tenth’s.
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and I think when I get to there, I just use single notes. Then I go to tenths – sevenths I mean – I go to sevenths …
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something like that. So I use all three devices. Right. So let’s have a look now at playing our blues and doing a little bit of improvising on the full blues scales using seventh tenth’s. And what I’m going to do is – you may remember when we did sevenths, I asked you to mark the pulse by playing four to the bar with the thumb, whereas, when we played fifth tenth’s, I suggested you just played one chord to the bar. This time I want to do the same thing, mark the pulse, but I want to use, not just the thumb, but the top two notes to mark the pulse, like this.
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Etc. So, we are going to use that device now, using seventh tenth’s, using the top two notes to mark the pulse and improvising on our full blues scale. One, two, three, four …
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Right. So we have three exercises then
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playing five choruses: the tune, improvising using the American blues scale, improvising using the seventh scales, improvising using full blues scales and then playing the tune again.
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And we have those three devices: playing the seventh (using the thumb to mark the pulse), playing in fifth tenths (playing just one chord to the bar) and playing in seventh tenth’s (using the top two notes to mark the pulse).

In this video, I’ll show improvising over the left hand in root position playing seventh-tenths, this time using the top two fingers to indicate the pulse, in preparation for the exercises.

You can download the seventh-tenths referenced in the video in PDF format at the bottom of this step.

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Learn Jazz Piano: Begin with the Blues

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