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Jazz Piano Lessons: General Thoughts on Learning & Practicing

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Let's take a little break here and
talk a little bit about our philosophy,
when we practice and when we play.
I've been at this now for
more years than I wanna say and
I've learned a lot about
my own learning process and
kinda attitudes that foster
a good approach to learning
things like this and
attitudes that are inhibitory.
I've talked about the importance of
staying relaxed when we practice and
when play.
The Buddhists have a thing where
just the definition of life
isn't that we eventually get to
a place where there are no issues.
I mean one of my favorite stories
from Buddhist philosophy is
a guy comes to the Buddha, and
he says, my life is a bitter thing,
my wife doesn't understand me and my kids
don't respect me and my boss overworks me.
What can I do?
The Buddha says, each of us, in life,
he says, has 64 problems and
I can't help you with any of them.
The guy says, what do you mean,
you're supposed to be this great
genius who has an answer for everything
and you can't help me with anything?
And the Buddha says, no, I can't help
you with any of your 64 problems.
The guy is really upset, he came all
this way, and then Buddha says but
perhaps, I can help you with the 65th
problem and the guys says, what's that?
The Buddha says, you want for
there not to be any problems.
That's a lot of what it's like, when
you're learning to play stuff like this,
some thing's are gonna come easy,
some thing's are gonna take a lot of work.
There's a lot that I'm still frying
away on now, 35 years later and
expecting that it's something
that takes a lot of work
is part of having a cool
attitude about the whole thing.
We should also be thankful
that this isn't that easy or
everybody would be a jazz piano player.
If you find that you're frustrated,
I mean I have a weighted keyboard at home,
a big heavy Roland weighted keyboard
with two broken keys down here because
one day I was practicing, I don't remember
what, and I just got so upset that I,
bang, smashed these two things and
I had to superglue them back on.
Expecting that it's gonna
take time is kind of key to
practicing in a way that's
conducive to your development and
keeping an attitude that makes you want
to practice the next day, as well.
If you run into something, a real sticking
point that you just can't seem to get
behind, for me, it's the B flat 13 chord.
If you do went into something
that you can't seem to push pass,
we will isolate it.
I've tried to design these courses in the
first place so that these sticking points,
I'm aware of what they are,
at least what they were for me, and
then come up with a way
to get you passed it.
But the more you can isolate it,
the better able you are to
work on it in the absence
of anything else.
As you pass each thing,
that's another thing to be thankful for,
it's another milestone on your road.
With the lessons and
the video exchanges here,
we will get you passed it,
whatever there is that's in your way.
Expect that it takes a good deal
of practice to master this stuff.
What we're trying to do here,
to me, it's the highest calling of
the human spirit and mind and body.
I mean, it takes an incredible
amount of intelligence.
It takes an incredible amount
of physical dexterity.
It takes a lot of determination.
If you look at Herbie Hancock,
for example,
somebody whose able to pull music
out of thin air at that level,
I think that's the highest
calling of the human potential.
One thing that I'm trying to do with these
lessons is to get you on the wave quick.
You don't learn to surf by reading about
it in a book, you gotta get on a board and
get out there in the waves and get a feel
for the ballistics of it and so forth.
That's why, right from the get go,
I've tried to get you playing
on the play along tracks and
doing something that has jazz in it.
That's a big part of what
the play along tracks are for and
I encourage you to use those because they
make the whole thing a lot more fun.
When you eventually when your get out
there and your playing with other
musicians, you'll have a pretty good
feel for what that ought to feel like.
One thing that I cannot overstate
is the importance of
listening to great jazz.
Develop that library.
It's gotten so easy to buy records now.
And there's gonna be a list
of recommended listening.
But there is absolutely nothing,
kind of your sense for
what a groove should be,
your melodic instincts, and
just for inspiration and kind of
the development of your soul factor.
Listen to as much great jazz as you can,
and there's just no shortage of it.
Tens of thousands of discs
worth listening to, and
I'm gonna suggest a number of them.
And they're on all instruments,
is another really important thing.
I probably have pinched more
stuff off of Freddie Hubbard,
the great trumpet player,
than I have from anybody.
And part of that is cuz I love
to play lead synthesizer, and
Freddie, of course, is playing trumpet.
Again, Dexter Gordon, Sonny Stitt,
a couple of saxophone players.
Pat Metheny, Mike Stern,
John Scofield, great guitar players.
Pinch things from anybody.
It helps contribute to a unique
sound if you're pulling
inspiration from people
on other instruments.
And finally, I'd like to say, it's really
important as we go through these lessons,
we're gonna try to keep you from having to
burn out into all 12 keys at every point,
but as we get into the more
advanced lessons, especially,
some of the most interesting stuff we do
is we substitute things onto other things.
And in order to do that and
be fluent at that, we need to
learn this stuff in all 12 keys.
So, I'm gonna show you
things in a couple keys.
Like our blues, we're gonna do those in F.
[SOUND] And then we're also going
to do them [SOUND] in E, and
that will give us 6 of
our 12 dominant chords.
Then, we're gonna study tune up,
which gives us some more.
But go beyond that, and
you'll find play-alongs in all 12 keys.
Have fun on those.
But we're gonna start substituting,
I mean for example.
[SOUND] There is a C7 sharp 9 chord,
which is something that
we're gonna learn about in the next 10 or
15 lessons.
Here's the scale for it, [SOUND] and
that puts all the chord tones on the beat,
as we've been discussing.
But what I actually prefer to play
on it is a C sharp minor bop scale.
And the reason I prefer to play that is,
because look at what
that puts on the beat.
[SOUND] It puts these great
tension notes on there,
C sharp, E is in the chord,
G sharp and A sharp,
[SOUND] and that's just a more
interesting sound to me.
It's more intense.
To me,
it wants to resolve more than this,
which is the more inside one of those.
The point being, though,
that if I didn't know all my scales
equally fluently in every key,
I wouldn't really have access to a C
sharp minor bop scale that I
could superimpose on there.
So, these are some points to ponder.
I will leave you with a quote
from the great David Sanborn, and
this really pertains to putting
it all out there on the gig.
And what David Sanborn
says is, if you make a mistake,
just play it again.
And I've heard him do
that countless times.
You're playing along, you got your good
thing going, [SOUND] you hit, uh-oh.
Make something out of it.
It reminds me of one time when I went
to the Kyle Worth saxophone company in
Germany, and the last step, here they
make these beautiful instruments and
it's worth $3,500 or
$5,000, whatever it is,
and the last step is the guy
who does the engraving.
And here's this German guy
sitting there with a chisel, and
he just cuts it in by hand like this.
And I'm looking at this saying, man,
that's a lot of responsibility,
cuz it's the last step, and you can't
just throw it away if he jakes it.
And so, I asked him,
what do you do if you make a mistake?
And he says, well, I just make
this into a flower or something.
Take it as it comes.
I've seen the great guitarist Mike Stern.
He plays at the 55 Bar in New York,
a well known little jazz hole.
And I've seen him on that gig and
he's working on something new,
and he just keeps attacking it.
The blues comes around and
Mike tries that same line again, and
you can hear that it's
not the way he wants it.
And it comes around again and
he tries it again.
It's all a process.
I guess if I had to leave you with any one
thing, the whole thing is a process and
God help us if the process ever stops.
Just put me in my pine box at that point.
So, there's a little bit of philosophy,
now we're gonna get on with the lessons
with Ear Training Lesson Number One.