Saturday, December 27, 2008

All the keys you are

Continuing with the famous tune 'All the things you are'.

Here, I'm hoping to motivate pianists to play things in multiple keys.
Here's a folder where I stored the tune in several keys. I played just the melody, doubled in the left hand. Playing with the left hand is a good way to memorize the melody while giving the left hand a good workout.

Then I played the tune 2+2 style, meaning 1-3, 1-7 in the left hand, while playing melody + 3 or 7 in the right hand.

Nothing really fancy here, but a couple of things are worth noting:
- Don't transpose on paper.
- 'All The things you' are uses a lot of 3rds. It's a good quick way to find out the harmonies.
- After a while, you stop thinking and start using the ear to find both the melody and the harmonies. "All the things you are" is a good tune because it modulates a lot, but uses fairly simple chords and lots of two-fives. The only 2 unusual chords are (in Ab), the C7+ and the Bdim. That's all that needs to be memorized really. The rest can be worked out by ear.

Keep practicing.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Groove Blues in G

I said I was gonna do the Groove blues in G this time.

So here it is:
Groove Blues in G

It wasn't that difficult at all. I'm hoping the 3rd key will be a snap. And the 3rd key will be:

Take care

Solo Stella

Trying my hands at Solo Piano.

I hope you somewhat enjoy this very short version of Stella by Starlight. I sure had fun playing with various sounds.

Next step is working with the chord tone exercise.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Stella's back

Weird things happen in music. How do I put it?

There's that one tune I never liked. It's one of the most famous American standards of all times, and I don't even know it. I can't sing it from memory. Give me a lead sheet and I can barely make sense out of it.

Everyone who's ever played any song from The Great American Songbook has played it. Everyone has sung it.

By now you know which tune I mean (as if the title wasn't completely obvious). Stella by Starlight.

So what's wrong with me?

I know. I got it. I checked out my music library (recently converted all my CDs to FLAC), and these are the cats playing Stella: Keny Werner, Kenny Drew, Chick Corea McCoy Tyner, etc... (I'm not much into singers)
None of whom bothers to stay even remotely close to the melody. That's how famous the tune is. How's a young fellow like me suppose to know it then?

There's another angle to it. Many pianists believe that learning tunes from leadsheets is a waste of time. You should learn tunes from records. I never bought it. I can play 'Fly me to the moon' in my sleep. Half drunk I'll still know the melody. I don't need to transcribe it.
That's because I already did... without realizing it ...

So there I was determined to learn Stella.
Went to my favorite source for everything: Youtube! Typed Stella by Starlight, picked up the first video that came up. Anita O'Day. Not bad. It'll do. Here it is:

Off I go transcribing the melody. Took about an hour I think. After only one hour, I no longer have any problem remembering the melody. Sorry I can't post the transcription. I could, but I really don't think I'm supposed to...
So it does work to get melodies off records, but get it from singers. Sinatra, King Cole whatever. You don't have to like it, but at least, it stays close to the original.

And now of course I have Stella in my head. I'm going to make something with it, not quite sure what yet. I'm working out some harmonies for it, (very) loosely based on the O'Day version. I'll use some tricks I got from 7NoteMode and see what I can do with it.

I'll also try the chord tone approach. All of that coming up soon.

Keep playing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Chord tone Improvisation

Here's an interesting exercise I got from the great book

"Metaphors for the Musician".

Choose a tune and improvise on it using chord tones, only chord tones and nothing but chord tones.

So if you see Cm7, you get to choose between C Eb G and Bb
If you see Eb6, you get to play Eb - G - Bb - C
you get the drift.

This is a bit of a brain teaser at first. The metaphor Randy uses is the lighted keys, those keys should light up in your head.

The first tune I chose is All the things you are. I chose it because it's a great standards with tons of 251 and plenty of modulation.
Here are my changes:
F-7 | Bb-7 | Eb7 | AbM7 | DbM7 | G7 | CM7 | CM7
C-7 | F-7 | Bb7 | EbM7 | AbM7 | D7 | GM7 | GM7
A-7 | D7 | GM7 | GM7 | F#-7 | B7 | EM7 | C+7
F-7 | Bb7 | Eb7 | AbM7 | DbM7 | Db-7| Cm7| Bdim7
Bb-7| Eb7 | AbM7| G7 C7 |

If you want to play, play one or 2 choruses. Any instrument goes.

Here's my chorus:
All the things you are

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Groove Blues

Here's a blues in F I recorded last week.
The right hand plays simple lines, while the Left hand plays "charleston" style, a style often heard played by Wynton Kelly or Ahmad Jamal for example.

Playing simpler exercises like this one is a good opportunity to focus on key things:
- Swing, keeping solid time.
- Left Hand voicings. Here 2 kinds of reharmonization are used. ii V and passing 7th chords (B7 to Bb7 for instance)
- Hand balance. Left hand should play very lightly, imitating a guitar
- Hand independence. While the left hands playing lightly, it's important for the right hand to articulate the lines, simple as they may be.

This last point proves to be the most challenging.

Time permitting, the intent is to play this short tune in a few more keys. I chose the next one randomly and it's G.

In the meantime, I'm working on a chord tone approach improvisation exercise for "All the things you are". I'd like to post something within a few weeks.