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Jazz Piano Voicings - bandmasters.org chord symbols and create proper jazz voicings a student is setup to fail ... 4-note “left hand only” voicings “A” and “B” for soloing

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  • Jazz Piano Voicings: A Curriculum for Middle School and High School

    Jeff RobilliardJohnston High School

  • Purpose

    Jazz piano is an expansive topic that is not familiar to most classically trained pianists

    Many students are never taught the necessary skills to function in a jazz combo or intermediate to advanced jazz ensemble.

    College professors are frustrated that many piano majors go to college with little to no knowledge of chord symbols or how to create jazz voicings.

    Lack of instructional material on the subject

  • Typical Jazz Band Piano Part

    Student does not need to know what chord symbols mean or how to analyze them because voicings are provided for them

    Students have no reason to concern themselves with chord symbols

  • Advanced Jazz Band Piano Parts

    The problem occurs when a student is given a piece of music as shown on the right.

    Having received no training on how to interpret chord symbols and create proper jazz voicings a student is setup to fail

    Students give up quickly because the task is too overwhelming

  • The Plan

    This sequence of instruction is designed to force students to create their own voicings well before it is necessary

  • The Process The following curriculum was developed from studying several jazz piano method books, interviewing professional jazz pianists/educators, and from my own experience teaching the subject to many young musicians.

  • Step 1

    Root position chords built on intervals in 3rds

    Step 2

    4-note voicings A and B with roots

    Step 3

    4-note voicings A and B without roots

    Step 4

    4-note left hand only voicings A and B for soloing

    Step 5

    Frank Mantooths 5-note voicings (Miracle Voicings and Polychord Fractions)

  • Step 1A Creating Triads

    The first step in learning to create jazz voicings is to identify the root, 3rd and 5th in every chord

    Play them as root position triads in both hands.

  • Watch Rachel play through the root position triads on Solar by Miles Davis, which is one of the charts she is currently working on in the 8th grade jazz band.

    *In all of the student examples in this presentation, none of them are using written out chords - only chord symbols.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2HpCX_F8msg

  • Step 1BCreating 7th Chords

    The next step is to have the student play all chords as root position 7th chords (Root, 3rd, 5th, 7th) in the right hand only.

  • Listen to Cameron play through the first half of the form to In a Mellow Tone by Duke Ellington playing all root position chords built in 3rds up to the 7th as described in Step 1B

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvbCr_dXofE

  • Step 1CCreating 9th Chords

    Play the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th in the right hand

    Play the root in the left hand

  • Watch Jesse play through a portion of Lover Man - by Davis/Ramirez/Sherman/arr. Stan Kenton by playing the root in his left hand and the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th in his right hand.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9VnhJ9IfZ0

  • Step 2AVoicing A with root

    Root position chords built on 3rds lack sophisication

    Voicings A and B reorder the same notes the students were using in step 1, but create a more favorable jazz harmony.

    In Step 2A, the student will learn to play all chords using voicing A as shown on the right (from bottom to top - 1, 7, 3, 5)

    Voicing A in C major

    Coker, J. (1991). Jazz Keyboard. Van Nuys, CA. Alfred

  • Listen to Kyle play Recorda Me by Joe Henderson using voicing A on all chords.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Qkem9nQyVs

  • Step 2BVoicing B with root

    The next step is to learn all of the chords in their music using voicing B as shown on the right

    From the bottom up - scale degrees 1, 3, 5, 9

    Voicing B in F major

    Coker, J. (1991). Jazz Keyboard. Van Nuys, CA. Alfred

  • Hailey playing all chords using voicing B over the changes to Blue Monk by Thelonious Monk.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5t3INleSh44

  • Step 2CUse both A and B voicings to streamline chords

    Once both voicings have been mastered on all chords the student can utilize either inversion A or B to minimize hand movement.

    A B A

    Weir, M. (2008). Jazz Piano Handbook. Van Nuys, CA. Alfred

  • Listen to Julie use a combination of voicings A and B to streamline all of the chords in Northwest Riff by Bob Curnow.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89UMqeFVgEE

  • Guidelines for the Best Voice-Leading

    According to Phil DeGreg in Jazz Keyboard Harmony (1992), the following guidelines should be used to determine the inversion of each subsequent chord (p. 4).

    1. If the root doesnt move (but the quality changes)... maintain the same inversion.

    2. If the root moves a 2nd or a 7th maintain the same inversion. 3. If the root moves a 4th or a 5th switch inversions.4. If the root moves a 3rd or a 6th either maintain or switch inversions.

  • Step 34-note voicings without the root

    Voicings with the root - no bass player (solo playing, duo with voice or horn)

    Voicings without root - playing with bass player The chords above are identical to the voicings created

    in Step 2, except the root has been omitted at the bottom and the 5th or 9th has been added on top.

    Hughes, C. (2016, February 16). Two Beginning Jazz Piano Voicings - Learn Jazz Standards. Retrieved November 30, 2016, from https://www.learnjazzstandards.com/blog/2-begining-jazz-piano-voicings/

  • Step 4Left Hand Voicings for Solos

    The left hand voicings create a harmonic cushion for the right hand to play over

    Playing the melody Improvising

    Hughes, C. (2016, February 16). Two Beginning Jazz Piano Voicings - Learn Jazz Standards. Retrieved November 30, 2016, from https://www.learnjazzstandards.com/blog/2-begining-jazz-piano-voicings/

  • Step 5Voicings for Jazz Keyboard by Frank Mantooth

    Mantooths book on voicings has become standard literature for intermediate to advanced level jazz pianists.

    Key Concepts

    Miracle Voicings - built on 4ths Suspended and Altered Dominant

    Chords using polychord fractions

  • Keys to Success

    Students will need to have a basic understanding of scales and chords before starting this sequence

    Before progressing on to the next step in the process it is imperative that the students have a complete grasp of each assigned voicing. Rushing through the sequence is doomed to failure.

    As Weir (2008) states, these voicing patterns must become automatic to you. Theres not enough time in the context of playing an actual song to think each chord; your muscle memory needs to take over

  • Once a student has gained proficiency in learning various voicings, he/she will begin to see the enjoyment in the

    creative process of playing jazz piano, rather than playing the same written out piece of music everytime.

  • Scope and Sequence

    A possible timeline for each step of the curriculum could sequence as shown on the right. However, the teacher should ultimately move a student through the steps at a pace that is most appropriate for that individual.

    7th grade - Root Position triads (Step 1A)

    8th grade - Root Position 7th chords (Step 1B)

    9th grade - Root Position 9th chords (Step 1C)

    10th grade - Voicings A and B with root (Step 2)

    11th grade - Voicings A and B without root/Voicings A and B Left Hand only (Steps 3 and 4)

    12th grade - Frank Mantooths Voicings for Jazz Keyboard (Step 5)

  • Resources

    Coker, J. (1984). Jazz Keyboard. Alfred Music.

    DeGreg, P. (1994). Jazz Keyboard Harmony. Aebersold.

    Hughes, C. (2016, February 16). Two Beginning Jazz Piano Voicings - Learn Jazz Standards. Retrieved November 30, 2016, from https://www.learnjazzstandards.com/blog/2-begining-jazz-piano-voicings/

    Levine, M. (1989). The Jazz Piano Book. Petaluma, CA: Sher Music Company.

    Mantooth, F. (1997). Voicings for Jazz Keyboard. Hal Leonard Corporation.

    Wier, M. (2007). Jazz Piano Handbook. Alfred Music.