Developing Independence

A key skill to develop in jazz piano is to become freely independent.  This is the same as studying drums.  Drummers all have the skill to play something in one hand, which is free from another hand, which is free from each foot.  This is no easy task.  Jazz pianists have to do this too.

Think of the drummer, guitarist or pianist who sings when he plays.  He has to have the playing totally subconscious so that he can freely sing.  It’s my belief that singers should sing “against” the groove, not with it.  Singers breathe and phrase.  They tell stories and create moods.  This can only be done when the musician is freely independent.

The question is:  “How do you develop independence?”  The answer:  “One-step-at-a-time.”

There is a gland in the center of our brain called the Corpus Callosum.  It controls the right and left sides of our body and brain.  It also causes us to “freeze up” when we are trying to be independent on the piano.  In a sense, you have to train this gland.  It’s not easy.

Here are the steps that I recommend to train the Corpus Callosum:

  1. Sing a groove.  Yes, just make up a language which sounds like a groove that you want to play.
  2. Play (and sing) the groove using an easy chord progression.  This could be a II V, or II V I, or I VI II V etc.  Start in an easy key, like C major.  Eventually, move to all keys.  Keep the groove specific.
  3. Once you can thoroughly and easily play this groove . . . start talking.  Yes, just speak normally.  You will probably find that this is very difficult to do.  It will take practice to get to the point where you can carry on a conversation while continuing the specific groove.  Think of the drummer or guitarist who has to sing while continuing to play accompaniment patterns.  Once this is easy . . . it’s easy and free.
  4. Once you are able to freely talk . . . then, perhaps, try singing.  When you sing, make sure you are breathing and phrasing normally and not “meter-beating”.   Don’t sing to the groove.  You have to be free from the groove.
  5. Then, play singable ideas while playing the groove.
  6. This is also a great way to also develop odd-time soloing.  Sing and Play the odd-time groove over and over until you are secure.  Then start speaking while playing it.  Then, move to singing and playing a solo against the groove.

Make a daily practice of developing independence.  This is a key to becoming a successful improvisor.  It also develops a great style.

Advertisements

Developing Jazz Skills

Tags

, ,

Developing Jazz Skills

by Martan Mann
Author of JazzSkills for Piano

There a many books which teach the theory of jazz.  Learning the theory of jazz is important.  However – what many pianists truly need is a method to expand their various jazz skills using that theory.  To put this simply, competent jazz pianists play automatically.  They “flip the switch” and the music flows out of them.  The main issue is . . . how did they get to that skill level?  Also, is there a more direct way to arrive at that point?

We know that classical players spend years honing their skills.  They work on piano technique, pianistic skills, interpretive knowledge.  This is done by studying with competent teachers who teach them the skills of playing the piano and guide them through piece after piece. Through years of learning and memorizing classical pieces, the classical pianist eventually develops musical skills, good tone, a fluid piano technique, good timing and rhythm, phrasing, interpretation, and music-reading skills.

Continue reading

Music Language . . .

Tags

, , , , , , , , ,

MUSIC LANGUAGE
by Martan Mann
Author of JazzSkills for Piano®

We have often been told that “music is the universal language”.  Another way to look at this is to consider music as a direct language of emotion.  It is an instant access into the subconscious of the listener.  It is powerful!

I’m not an expert on brain functions, but I’m fairly sure that the same center of the brain that allows to speak, converse, create and conceive is the same “language center” which allows us to improvise and compose music.  If that is true, we can directly improve our ability to improvise by learning music the same as we learn other languages.

I have some exercises which will develop your music-language skills.

Continue reading

Time is not a click . . .

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

TIME IS NOT A CLICK
by Martan Mann
Author of JazzSkills for Piano®

Music is not about perfection.  It is about feeling.  Jazz, in particular is about groove.  It is groove which gives jazz it’s identity, it’s purpose, it’s joy.  You know groove when you hear it.  You know what it feels like.  The main issue is . . . how to develop a great groove in your playing?

I’m pretty sure that ALL great players practice to a metronome.  Practicing to a metronome develops an internal “click” in the player’s subconscious.  However the click is only a reference point.  If you have recorded your music, you, and all the players on the recording, have probably listened to a “click track” while recording.  All the players have the same reference point of time.

Continue reading