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Jazz Piano Lessons: Technique Building: Jazz Style Hanons

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Let's get a little ugly and
utilitarian with our exercises now.
We're gonna practice some exercises
from a book called, what is it?
The Complete Pianist in 40 Exercises, or
something like, by a guy named Hannon.
I don't know what his first name was,
probably Gregor or
Wilberforce, or whatever it is.
But you can get it cheap,
it's like seven dollars.
And it's 40 exercises that really use your
musculature in a different sort of way.
We are going to take these exercises and
I'm just going to show you two of them.
And we're going to use them to work on
mostly because they are really good
exercises for kind of finger independence.
And if you do enough of these, and
again the book is completely full
of different options on these.
The simplest is
That one is, to me,
is too simple to do us much good.
The first one we're gonna do,
though, it really works your
fourth finger, your third finger.
It's great for making sure that
everybody is reporting for
duty when you're taking a solo.
That you don't have to try to work around
your weak fourth finger or something.
So, we're gonna do these,
we're gonna start out doing them in
just the classical way which is
really striving for even tone.
With a decent amount of power,
we are of course, as I've been saying,
we're little muscle people.
We're kind of finesse people,
technique people.
But if you look at a lot of piano players,
they're really well developed here.
They've got a lot of muscle,
and we don't do it like
Arnold Schwarzenegger does it where
we work the muscles to fatigue.
But we do want them to get
a workout that stops well short
of really stressing us out.
If I haven't been practicing for a week,
I find that these Hannon exercises will
show that to me kind of in short order.
So the very first one is very simple,
there's a PDF of it.
So it's
a little third there.
[SOUND] Third with two and four.
[SOUND] Third with three and five.
Walk down,
move the hand,
and I do these with both hands,
because on my bucket list is having
a functional left hand for soloing.
And this is a concession
I make to that effort.
So that's the idea.
Let's put up our metronome on two and
four as we've been doing.
Everyday when I start to practice,
this is my first go to exercise, and
I start it slow.
With each, I play it up two octaves and
down two octaves.
And each time I stop,
I set the metronome forward another
couple of beats per minute.
So let's get going on that, and
I'll just show you how I do these.
One thing that I do that I don't know
if it's part of the classical idea,
I play in an all 12 keys.
And part of the thing with that,
as a jazz musician we
can't indulge ourselves
in classical no-nos like
no thumb on a black note.
Your thumb is on the black note
all day long when you play jazz.
Getting accustomed to that and
being comfortable with that,
being able to cross over
with your thumb on the black note,
it's part of being able to get
at whenever you could imagine.
So I'm gonna put the metronome on two and
four and just illustrate this.
I'll go up and down and then I'll go up
to the next key and play up and down.
And then we'll talk a little bit
more about the second exercise.
[SOUND] One, two, one,
two, three, four.
Then we go
up to D flat
normally I
would speed
the metronome
up a little
bit here.
we go up the keys
like that.
And we don't practice until we burn.
But as you get where these
are going quite fast.
You'll find that, your right hand,
you start to feel that you're getting
a little bit of a workout there.
Stop well short of anything that hurts or
is exhausting your hand.
It takes time to build technique this way.
It's important as we do these to
think about playing very legato.
You can even exaggerate it.
Well I can't do that.
Let each prior note hang a little bit over
into the next note, because there's always
an option to shorten it up and
play more detached.
But keeping the dots connected, it's part
of what makes Herbie Hancock's playing so
beautiful is the smooth flowing
ability that he has, and
he chooses often not to do that.
But when he wants to do that,
he's kind of peerless at it.
It's almost like listening to a horn.
So you want to practice legato,
don't practice until you burn.
Get that thumb
play them in all 12 keys up,
usually by that time you're kind of
booking along at a reasonable pace,
play with your left hand
as well as your right,
might as well start to
get that in the game.
One thing that I've gotten into
the habit of doing as I get to where my
left hand can't hang, is I start to play
a tombau baseline, is what it's called.
It's a Latin thing.
One two three four.
kinda weird.
It's a Latin bass line that lands
on kind of lands on two and
four more than one and two.
And what I'm thinking there,
I love playing organ.
I love playing left-hand bass on
the organ, and I really admire piano
players like Larry Goldings, an incredible
pianist and incredible organ player.
He's got such great independence between
his hands that he's often in the band
playing all the bass between his foot and
his left hand.
And burning something else
completely different with his right.
And by practicing in that way,
I'm kind of working on developing
the ability to keep something going down
here that's different then this up here.
Play these in all 12 keys, and
now I'm going to show you the second one.
The second one of these Hanons that
we wanna work on is further into the book.
It's number 27 or 28 or 29.
And it's a two bar one
that goes like this.
Let's put
that up in A flat.
And lets do our jazz
articulation thing on there.
When I'm playing that there,
I am trying to put some
accents in place where
I need to accent with
my fourth finger.
I'm working on developing that thing so
that it's a useful digit.
And I don't have to try to stay
away from it and avoid it.
I haven't done this one in a while,
and I can feel that I need to do it.
So, let's take a look at it again in C,
just so that we're clear what it is.
There is a PDF with both
of these Hanons on there.
Start on the third.
Stepwise down there.
Once we get up into here.
We're kind of asking a lot of these three,
the trash fingers we'll call them.
As we're doing these,
this is another one where
the notes are a given,
so our mind is free to
kinda police our posture,
the way we're holding our hands,
the good arch to our fingers.
We're ready for anything.
And we're not like this,
where whoa, how am I gonna get.
We wanna be in the right position.
Our shoulders are down.
We're breathing.
That's another thing that I should
be mentioning, is that often
I'm not breathing because I'm kind of
singing along with what I'm doing.
Another thing about singing along
that's great that I should also mention
is that when you run out of air,
stop playing and take a breath.
Piano players, it's really easy.
That's great but
it would probably be better if
we're taking breaths in
there and singing along.
If you get in the habit of it,
it forces you to takes breaks when
a horn player would take a break.
Interestingly enough, also,
when you listen to Elvin Jones play,
to me the greatest jazz drummer ever,
what a great, sticky feel he had,
you can hear him going [NOISE]
as he's playing like this, so
he's not breathing in and out.
What he's doing, though,
especially when he's soloing,
he's singing the head of the tune.
And Elvin had a range of
about a major second so
he couldn't quite reach all the notes, but
that's what a great musician this guy was.
He wasn't just using the tune
as a vehicle to do his thing.
He actually really had
the melody of it in his head.
He was interpreting
the song as it was written,
playing the drums by
singing it to himself.
So If you're singing, then come up for
air, but make sure that you're getting
a free exchange and that you're breathing
from down here, cuz if you're kind
of just breathing from up here and
this isn't going in and out, you're not
really getting oxygen to the brain.
And that's not good, so that's how
we're going to practice these Hamons.
They occupy a bit of a different place
in our strategy of building technique
in that these really are a little bit
more about developing the musculature and
the independence between the fingers
rather than putting a scale
under your fingers in a way
that you're comfortable with.
This is about kind of a go anywhere
all terrain exercise that's
gonna make you work these fingers in a way
that you might not be comfortable with.
And as I've been saying all along,
getting outside our comfort zone and
expanding our comfort
zone to be bigger and
bigger is the way that we get
comfortable playing this music.
So I will see you for the next lesson.