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Supplemental Piano

Discussion in 'Music Theory [DB]' started by hdiddy, May 7, 2004.


  1. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Hi guys,

    I've heard that ability to play piano is very useful when playing stuff like Jazz on other instruments as a means to explore different musical textures/tones (like Mingus, et. al). Being that I've had 15 years of classical piano as a kid, I'd like to use some of piano ability as a supplemental way of getting sounds in my head. I don't want to master the piano in any way, but use what I have to make my bass playing even better. I dont' have a problem tickling the ivories and can sight-read pretty well. I don't play jazz piano and the closest I've gotten is permanently burning a couple Scott Joplin rag's into my subconscious.

    I'm wondering about what I can do late at night when the bass is too loud to be played and my digital piano can be used with headphones. so what do you guys do to help your ears for bass playing?

    I know Mr. Fitzgerald plays piano... can you suggest something?

    Thanks.
    diddy
     
  2. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    I'm slammed at the moment but wanted to susbscribe to the thread. I'll check in in the next day or so!
     
  3. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    My original musical instrument was piano and I grew up playing a lot of classical pieces. When I got more into rock/pop/blues styles and, more recently, jazz, I found having a background in piano helpful.

    When I started jamming with blues and learning blues improv I wasn't even yet a bass player. I learned the chords on the keyboard/piano. At first it was just the I IV V thing, but later I learned the differences in sound and how to play Major, minor sevenths, major sevenths, 6ths. etc. chords on the piano. I have a chordal approach to playing jazz, and when I improvise its more in a chordal way. I think a background in chords on the piano keyboard, almost being able to visualize this has made this all a little easier. I have a long way to go in getting competent in jazz, but having that knowledge of piano chords helps. I seem to know where all the chords are on the piano.

    If I had the time to spend playing piano, I would like to get comfortable playing more extended jazz chords -- i.e. 9ths, and diminished and augmented too which I've started to use in jazz improv. I think I can play most of the basic chords without even thinking. I'm working on learning to recognize chord patterns common in a lot of jazz standards i.e. ii V I, rhythm changes, up a step, and I sometimes play them on my keyboard to get an understanding of what the full chord sounds like. I'm not a jazz player but being able to play chords, being able to identify the 3rd, 5th, 7th, etc. and, most importantly, have an understanding of how to use them would be a good use of time.
     
  4. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Well, basic identifications of chord tones, extended chords (save for diminished & augmented chords which I can't exactly 'hear' in my head yet), inversions, iiVI are all very straightforward and understood in an intellectual form. They're concepts that aren't neccessarily internalized into my playing yet. I'm still working on basslines using chord tones, scale tones, approach tones on the URB and feel more and more comfortable with them every day.

    After hours, I can go through Mark Levine's book and breeze through a bunch of examples on piano. At times it's almost like it goes through one ear and out the other - it's that easy for me. I pretty have no retention in terms of ear training when I play these things - that's the bad side of having learned piano the way I did.

    So... now what? How do I get the sound of an extended or diminished chord in my head, so that it starts become a part of my bass playing? Can I explore these 'intermediate' level concepts on piano and integrate those sounds in my hands on the bass? Or am I wasting my time and forget about the piano? That's hard to believe being that there are so many brilliant players in history and today (Charles Mingus and Kurt Rosenwinkel come to mind) that have facility on piano and their main instrument.
     
  5. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Well, these are some tough questions and I don't have Mark Levine's book so I'm not sure what your framework is. I've heard its really good. Sounds like these exercises are kind of mindless. I can only say, for me, that it is also very much looking at how chords connect to each other and learning that a lot of different songs have a lot in common in their chord structures. (Talking mostly about Standards here but it applies other places too).

    Maybe there are some other folks here who have experience with the Mark Levine book and how this could be used for piano and bass. My approach is more about Carol Kaye's chordal methods for electric bass and applying them later to upright playing, although I study other approaches as well. That might not be your approach.

    In her approach, reaching a point where you just have such a good understanding of where everything is chordally, whether you're going to play the root, or 3rd, or whatever, your fingers just know where to go anywhere on the fingerboard, and just being able to play it without thinking about it is something to aspire to. I've had a few moments. And its also about learning various jazz licks and understanding how to use them, how it goes with a particular set of chords and just knowing to play them. That would apply to piano as well.
     
  6. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Just tried to upload a PDF file of some voicing info I've put together for non-pianists. No luck so far with the PDF, but the info is solid. Can anyone help with the attachment?
     
  7. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Okay, here goes nothing...


    Damn. Getting closer: I managed to rip the PDF file to four JPEG pages, but when I try to upload, I get the message, "File Too Large. Limits are 600 x 600. Your file is 612 x 792". Can you rescale a JPEG file?

    I'm gonna figure this one out if it kills me. :D
     
  8. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Sure can... if you're on WINDBLOWS you can use the basic "Paint" program to do it if you have nothing better. Just open the file with Paint, do a select all, and use the stretch/skew tool to shrink it a little bit horizontally and vertically.

    Usually, all paint programs can do it. You just gotta find out what you have to do.
     
  9. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Actually, I'm on Mac OSX (Panther). Sibelius rules, and so does OSX, but I'm a newb at managing the files and sending them to BORGSOFT users. Any ideas? Calling Wrong Robot!!!
     
  10. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
  11. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
  12. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Hey Chris,

    The handout is great! I've done a little bit of voice leading on guitar but I think my past teachers failed in telling me how it works clearly. Would you mind commenting more about how non-pianists would make use of this info?

    Thanks!

    Huy
     
  13. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Huy,

    Thanks for managing to get the stuff up there. It looks kinda squished, but it will get the point across until I get it up on my site, where it will be downloadable in regular page size.

    As for how to use this stuff, I've always felt that pianists had a great advantage in the area of hearing the whole of the harmony of most tunes in greater depth than players of non-chordal instruments - it's probably the main reason I decided to switch to piano as my principle instrument during my composition studies at the U. When I started playing jazz, I quickly learned that new tunes were largely a mystery until I could hear all of the harmony in real time, so I did a lot of hunt-and-peck type of banging my head against the wall while learning voicings, with the end result being that I knew some voicings REALLY WELL, and others almost not at all. The system defined on the handout came later, when I would try to describe how NOT to make the same mistakes I had made myself.

    Basically, it comes down to a few simple things:
    - Rootless voicings are important for ensemble playing, because not having to play the root (since the bass will likely be covering it anyway) frees up mental and physical space for playing voicings containing interesting color tones.
    - For basic voicings, it's best to play the guide tones (3rd and 7th) all the time in the beginning (you can use subs later) as a foundation to define each chord, so two notes of each chord are already predetermined.
    - Due to the size of the human hand, four-note voicings are the most practical for one-hand voice leading. This means two guide tones, and two color tones.
    - In the beginning, it's best to build the voicings UP from a guide tone rather than a color tone (This will make more sense later), so that leaves you with two basic types of voicings - this simplifies voice leading a great deal.
    - Rather than do what the pros do and choose each set of color tones based on what they are hearing in that particular moment in time (which takes a lot of knowledge, experience, and practice), it's best to choose a couple of generic "all purpose" color tones to add to the guide tones and plug them in automatically to get the ball rolling. Once you can use these voicings fluidly in all keys, you'll be ready to shift colors with more confidence.

    An important item to remember: left their own devices, the rules of voice leading as stated in the handout will produce voicings that continue to get lower and lower. When voicings get too low, they start to sound like ****. Therefore, it's helpful to use a lower voicing range limit that is inviolate - meaning that whenever "correct voice leading" would produce a voicing with a note below the lower limit, you automatically use a higher voicing of the opposite type. (i.e. if "voice leading" tells you to use a Type II D-7 voicing below middle C, you recognize that the lowest note of the voicing will be too low and switch to the higher Type I inversion instead).

    * * * * * * * *

    Having said all of that, the best place to start is by learning ii-V-I progressions in all major keys. Notice that in a ii-V-I progression that is voice-lead "correctly", the progression moves from a Type I chord (ii) to a Type II chord (V7) and then back to a Type I chord (IMa7)...in other words, each progression starts with one type of voicing, switches to the other, then switches back. If the ii-V-I progression starts and ends with a Type I voicing, we'll call it a "Type I Progression". If it starts and ends with a Type II voicing, we'll call it a "Type II Progression".

    Is this clear enough so far, or do I need to backtrack?
     
  14. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Just got word that the handout is now available in downloadable form on my site, so anyone who is interested can download the PDF and print full size pages. It's free, of course, and no popups or spyware involved. Click Here to get to the articles page, then just click on the Voicings link.
     
  15. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Chris! Your handout kicks a**! I just fidding through page two and already I can hear it all and it makes a ton of sense. Just 10 minutes and my playing doesn't sound so pathetic anymore. I tried messing around with it a couple days ago (without the handout obviously) and it sounded like some kind of wanna-be-jazz-but-was-awkwardly-classical crap.

    Instead, tonight I tried composing basslines with just guide-tone voicings and even then it kinda came together in a simple fashion. I will experiement more with using color tones as lead tones along with the guide tones in my basslines. Very cool! Personally, I don't think you need to backtrack... I just need to work with this for a while and do the iiVI in 12 keys thing to get a strong sense of it all. With your rootless guide-tones as a way of understanding it, tritone-subs make alot more sense too since a sub is just switching the chord type and changing the color tones (i think?).

    Anyways, thanks again!
     
  16. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Thanks, but remember, I didn't make the voicings up - this is just a simple way of explaining how to create the kind of voicings that many pianists start with.

    Learning to play these things in 12 keys is really a must, but it's not really as much work as it seems. These type of voicings have two main functions, and each can be practiced seperately:

    1) As R.H. voicings, they're great for hearing the harmony of a tune while playing L.H. basslines; in this way you can also accompany someone else who may be soloing over the changes or playing the melody. This is also a great way to work on internalizing new tunes - play the bassline (or just roots) in the L.H., rootless voicings in the R.H., and then sing the melody over the top.

    2) As L.H. voicings, they're useful as rootless foundations for melodic soloing in the R.H. (or for simply playing the melody). Although they sound best when playing along with a bassist who supplies the bassline, they can also be used without the bass note and still stand pretty well on their own. Bill Evans used this type of voicing a lot in records like his Undercurrents duo recording with Jim Hall.

    Either way you do it, there are a couple of tips which can help make the process simpler:

    - if you have good sized hands, it is helpful to use the same fingering for all voicings: for the L.H., the fingering is (from the bottom up) 5 3 2 1, and for the R.H., the bottom up fingering is 1 2 3 5. When you do this (and if your hands are too small to make this work, find a more comfortable fingering!), notice that when the voicings are in the R.H., your guide tones will always be in fingers 1 and 3 (Thumb and Middle), and when the voicings are in the L.H., the guide tones will be played by 5 and 2.

    - An easy way to remember the voicing range is to think of all the voicings as being written on a treble clef staff that sounds one octave lower than written: I call this "Voicing Clef". Any voicing that would need ledger lines to be written on this imaginary staff is out of range and should be reverted to the opposite type. This makes voice leading decisions even simpler.


    Actually, it's even simpler than that: Many tritone subs are created in spirit by simply changing the bass note a tritone away. When this voicing stays the same, this turns an unaltered dominant chord into an altered Tritone sub, or an altered dominant chord into an unaltered tritone sub.

    For example:

    C7 = (C) E A Bb D

    In this case, you've got a basic C7 voicing with a 6th and a 9th as color tones. If you change the bass to a Gb, the E and Bb are still the guide tones - they've simply switched roles. But the "A" which was once the 6th is now a #9, and the "D", once the 9th, is now the #5.

    Gb7 = (Gb) E A Bb D

    Does that make sense? That may have been what you were already saying, but I wasn't sure.
     
  17. jgbass

    jgbass Guest

    Dec 17, 2003
    Chris, those handouts are great! Really demystified the whole subject of piano voicing that was originally presented to me in a most confusing way. Even a little knowledge here will help me better communicate with any pianist and better know what they are doing. I'll work on some of thse ideas myself. :)
     
  18. Wow, great thread!!! :cool:

    My secondary instrument as a live performer is ... keyboards. In a 40 song gig with my band, I will play about 16 songs on keys and 24 on bass. The keyboard, and study / ear training of polyphonic playing with regards to song structure, has really fueled the fire for me as a musician. Being a bassist always has been, and always will be, my first love as a musician. But keyboards will keep my interest for the rest of my life.

    Many are interested in the compositional aspect (in using a sequencer / workstation) as well as the art of synthesis, but I'm more into the performance aspect and using the timeless sounds of piano, Hammond, Rhodes, Wurlitzer etc. as the voice of the keyboard.

    Anyway, for those who wonder "Will keyboard playing benefit my musicianship and satisfaction in the art of music", I must say most definitely. If keys sound right in your head and you are interested, go for it.
     
  19. hdiddy

    hdiddy Official Forum Flunkee Supporting Member

    Mar 16, 2004
    San Francisco, CA
    Yes I think that's what I was attempting to say and trying to emphasize that the guide tones are what allows the tritone-sub to it work.

    But your explanation is the clearest I've ever read. I've studied with other people (including Mimi Fox) who tried to explain it but it remained kinda confusing. They usually didn't explain how the color tones affect the sub in a clear manner. Anyways your breakdown makes it totally easy to grasp. Kudos once again!
     
  20. Chris Fitzgerald

    Chris Fitzgerald Student of Life Staff Member Administrator

    Oct 19, 2000
    Louisville, KY
    Moved to the music theory forum for future use and linkage.