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Jazz Piano Lessons: Practicing the F7 Bop Scale

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Okay, let's start
working out now on our first jazz scale.
Before we do, though,
I'd like to just make a few comments
on practicing technique in general.
It's important that before we dig in and
start practicing,
that when we're practicing we're
burning in the good habits.
The really essential good habit to me
is that we're burning in a relaxed
mode when we play the piano.
When I first started to play jazz I was so
eager to play it.
And I was really quite anxious, I guess.
And I found it kind of frustrating, and
my shoulders would come up like this, and
I would be playing like this.
And I ended up kind of getting
in a habit of being uptight
when I practiced, and
it took me a while to get out of that.
So, first thing, as you practice this,
you gotta have your shoulders down.
That is a biofeedback thing.
It says, I'm relaxed, and
then since you're relaxed, they don't tend
to go up like this in the first place.
You might see Keith Jarret play and
he's all over the place with
his posture and so forth.
But for mortal men,
working on relaxation is essential.
If you're uptight when you practice,
you're basically practicing being uptight,
and when you get on the gig,
you're gonna be uptight as well.
So get your shoulders loose.
Get your seat at the right height
to where you know your forearms
are basically parallel
to the ground like this.
It's hard to overestimate
the importance of playing with
a proper arch to your fingers, like this.
I mean, you see people playing like this.
And some people actually can
play pretty well like that, but
it really is a limiter.
If you're coming at it like this
instead of like this, I mean,
the arch, there's a reason that
the Roman aqueducts that they made with
arches back in 2,000 years ago or whatever
it is why they are still standing.
It's the strongest shape.
It's the best way to shape your
fingers for maximum power, and yet
you can also play very quietly with it,
and that's maximum dynamic range.
And dynamic range, meaning the difference
between your loud notes and
your soft notes, is critical to playing
good jazz and articulating nicely.
Keep your wrists really flat.
I mean, even if I play a technical
like that.
You can see that the wrist, I mean,
we might have all had the old ladies with
the buns in their head that taught us to
play piano who told us keep your wrist
flat and put a coin on the back.
And you can see that
that it's really very quiet up here and
very controlled.
If you watch Chick Corea play,
if you watch Herbie Hancock warm up,
Herbie plays these incredibly smooth
arpeggios, where it looks like this,
really, literally like
he's not moving anything.
And that's what he's working on,
is very, very quiet, relaxed technique.
So work on that, work on this shape
rather than down in here, because this is
eventually going to get the best of you,
and it's going to limit your ability.
Play on a weighted keyboard.
You can learn a lot about theory
on an unweighted keyboard.
And then you get to the gig, and
it's a piano with a stiff action.
And everything's gonna come kind
of sounding like a machine gun or
real staccato and broken up,
and that's not what you want.
Watch for bad habits.
There's a classical pianist
named Gary Graffman who
wrote a great book about his career, and
he got into a bad habit of practicing and
having his little finger curled under
like this when he wasn't using it.
And he eventually got to a point
where he couldn't uncurl it.
And it took a lot of physical
therapy to get that fixed.
So watch for any bad habits.
The thing about practicing exercises,
is that we can really dwell in on
the physical aspect of our playing.
Part of our mind is not occupied,
thinking about what the line should be,
about what harmony we're playing on or
anything like that.
We can just work on breathing right and
getting the right physical response
going in relation to the piano.
Playing legato is really really important.
When you do your exercises, by and
large, you wanna connect the dots.
One note should almost overhang the other.
This is a really important thing about,
it's part of the reason among
the myriad of reasons that Herbie Hancock
sounds like Herbie, is that it's so
fluid and the dots are so connected,
no matter what his articulation.
Sometimes he changes it up and
he goes for a very staccato thing.
In general,
you want to be practicing legato, though.
Let's take a quick look at how we
will practice the F7 bop scale.
Then in the next lesson,
we're going to continue on and
start working it out more
as a jazz sounding thing.
And we'll talk about articulation and
dynamics and
particularly start getting
the exercises to swing.
For now, I just want you to put
the metronome on one, two, three and four.
And let's just play it up and down.
So, I'm gonna get my metronome going.
Let's play it from the third now.
Then from
the fifth,
the C.
And then
starting on
the seventh
the E flat.
And that, essentially,
is the scale as we're gonna practice it,
but in our next lesson,
we're gonna start getting into the idea
of practicing this stuff as jazz,
so that it feels like a jazz line,
because it already
sounds like a jazz line.
And so I'll see you for the next lesson.