Jazz Piano

May 5th, 2009

This site is about my journey learning to play jazz piano. I’d like to share some of the challenges I’ve had, as well as some of the things I have found that really worked well in helping me learn to play the way I’ve always wanted. Of course, I’m still working on that!

I’ll talk about chords and voicings, methods of playing, improvisation, recording, equipment, my favorite pianists, and whatever else comes to mind.

I hope you find some of it interesting and useful in your own pursuits.

Mark Harrison

May 20th, 2009

Mark Harrison is one of my favorite authors for piano. I have at least eight of his books. I started with The Pop Piano Book and bought the CD set that goes with it so I could hear what the examples are supposed to sound like. I was very impressed with his approach and was at home with a lot of his concepts, I think because he taught at the Grove School of Music in LA (see my article on the Dick Grove Keyboard Course). In this article I will talk about some of the most useful as well as enjoyable things I’ve learned from Mark.

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Cakewalk Sonar LE

May 15th, 2009

Because I originally got started with Cakewalk in the early 90’s, it’s the program I’ve gotten used to and stayed with. It fulfills all my needs. When I built my recording system my plan was to buy the full Producer version of Sonar. Sonar LE came free with my E-Mu 1212M sound card so I decided to use that version just to get everything up and running to check the system out. Then to my amazement I found out…

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Ray Santisi – Berklee Jazz Piano

May 14th, 2009

Berklee Jazz Piano by Ray Santisi is a book I am currently working out of in addition to my other studies. I ordered it without seeing inside, but I was pleasantly surprised. This is not really a basic book. While there are basic exercises, my opinion is that you really need a background like Dick Grove’s or Phil DeGreg before studying this book. That’s not to say it can’t be done, but it is more a collection of ideas than a method, although the ideas probably come from a method, or could certainly be developed into one, if that makes sense.

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finale PrintMusic 2009 Notation Software

May 13th, 2009

I have tried notating in sequencer programs as opposed to “playing in” the sequence. I have tried free versions of notation software, and other solutions. By far, the best solution for me has turned out to be finale’s PrintMusic. Let me tell you a couple of my pet peeves with notation software and why I think PrintMusic is so good.

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May 12th, 2009

Band-in-a-Box is a great addition to my “fun” software. The reason is simple. I can type in chord changes, pick a style such as Bill Evans, select RealDrums, select the number of times through the tune, and a tempo, and I have something to practice along with that works very well. And rather than sequencing in bass parts and drum parts, etc. I can be playing along with Band-in-a-Box in a few minutes, max.

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Yamaha P-70 Keyboard

May 11th, 2009

When my small keyboard I had used since the early 90’s for MIDI and an occasional living room gig developed a problem with the low F, I was in the market for a new keyboard. The most important considerations were that it needed to be low price, have a decent piano sound, and be light enough to easily carry under one arm.

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Bert Ligon

May 10th, 2009

An area I have really struggled with is improvisation. Coming from a drumming background, I had a strong rhythmic sense for lines, but not a good tonal sense. I was always dissatisfied with my tonal ideas. I felt like I could conceive of decent ideas just singing improvisations, but when I tried to play what I sang, I mostly ending up just singing what I could play.

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Oscar Peterson

May 9th, 2009

The pianist who was a central figure for me from the beginning is, not surprisingly, Oscar Peterson. One of my earliest exposures to jazz was an album my father had called “Oscar Peterson Trio + One, Clark Terry.”

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Korg Triton Le

May 8th, 2009

When I was in the market for my first professional quality electronic keyboard in 2003, I settled on the Korg Triton Le 88-key workstation. I didn’t know a lot about the various brands available and the Triton met my parameters. I was looking for weighted key action because I had just started working on the Dick Grove Keyboard course and figured there was no use doing all that work on an easy action and then not be able to play a real piano. I also wanted 88 keys. I had a certain price window. I needed MIDI in, out and thru, and the Triton came highly recommended by some friends of mine.

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Phil DeGreg – Jazz Keyboard Harmony

May 7th, 2009

I mentioned in my last post that I would discuss some materials that don’t require a full blown commitment to a program of study and yet still provide a very effective direction to pursue. The first I want to discuss is a book by pianist Phil DeGreg titled “Jazz Keyboard Harmony” and published by Jamey Aebersold Jazz.

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