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Jazz Piano Lessons: Voicings in 4ths for the Left Hand

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Once we had John Coltrane on the scene,
he was playing such expansive harmony and
superimposing so much interesting,
great stuff on these Modal
pieces that he was doing,
kinda a new way to play harmony
under him needed to be figured out.
this kinda traditional thing,
he could be anywhere on that.
And he was fortunate to find a brilliant
young piano player named McCoy Tyner and
McCoy is one of those just an avatar of
jazz who came on the scene and introduced
a whole different way of playing
that was really quite unique to him.
It had its roots in some other players.
You can hear elements
of Bud Powell in him.
You can hear maybe some elements of
Red Garland in the big, fat voicings.
What we're gonna look at now is
a different way of comping that
we attribute to McCoy Tyner.
And a lot of people have
used this since him.
We hear it in a lot of
contemporary piano players.
Kenny Kirkland, when he was alive, he was
a master of playing this kinda thing.
He's just a master in general, anything
you can find with Kenny Kirkland on it,
particularly a record called Black Codes
from the Underground by Wynton Marsalis,
is a study in, it's like the encyclopedia
of modern jazz piano playing.
Let's take a look at what
we're talking about here.
There's a PDF download of these things
available that shows all of them.
It's a really, really simple concept.
It's very much like our
our gospel triads thing.
In that it moves up and
down by the next note in the scale,
and as we discussed in our lesson
at the beginning of the section
on the modes, that means in C minor,
the mode, the Dorian mode, as we discussed
is really just [SOUND] the same
notes as in a B flat major scale.
The first voicing that we're gonna
look at, these are fourths voicings,
this is what we're getting to here.
And it's really just as it sounds, for the
left hand [SOUND] stack up four fourths.
[SOUND] There's one.
[SOUND] There's another.
[SOUND] And there's the other.
And the voicing,
the most elemental voicing of this
because it includes both
guide tones of a C minor 7,
[SOUND] is that right there in McCoy.
What we do with these that
makes them a different sorta unique
tool especially in our left hand.
But also when we're copping for a soloist.
Same idea as with the gospel triads thing.
They go up and down.
The B flat scale.
Let's check the movement of the voices.
Here's our basic voicing right there, so
next note up the scale for this is there.
Next note up the scale for
this one from our basic voicing is there.
And that goes straight up there.
It's another voicing in fourths.
It's not this.
We'll get to that later.
For now, move it up there.
Now let's move it down and
check what happens.
The next note down in the scale for
this note is here, down a half step.
Same thing with this one.
Next note down for
our B flat is A, a half step.
But the next note down in a B flat's
major scale or our C Dorian scale.
For this voice, is down a whole step and
now we get a really classic
voicing to use, which includes
the third from our guide tones but
a couple really good buzz notes,
the 13 and the 9.
If we keep going down the next notes
down in the scale, our C, G and D.
And finally we have the root
position fourth voicing.
One, four, and flat seven.
That is the essence of these voicings.
There's no fingering required.
These get to where you can
really find these things.
Under your fingers, and
what it allows us to do is make
a melodic statement out of it.
McCoy was often anchoring
things with [SOUND] like this,
except he was coming down from here.
I saw him do a gig once
at a club in Boston, and
he played just this torrential first set.
Burning as hard as you can imagine.
And in between this poor piano
tuner had to get up there
with everybody clinking their drinks and
stuff and re tune the piano between sets.
is an iconic
sound of
modern jazz.
And we're gonna start working our way
into it here in the next couple lessons.
On the pdf you'll notice that some
of the fourth voicings are in red.
And those are these ones here, which I
really think of as kinda the meat and
potatoes voicings that we
wanna be bouncing back and
forth to on over a minor chord.
[NOISE] That's a little thing
we're gonna get to later too.
We don't, you can go up here and
visit for a melodic statement.
I mean you can go.
Like that.
But you don't really wanna comp on this
too much because this isn't giving
us any information about
what the chord is.
Whereas these ones that include.
Elements of the chord.
Here we have the flat 3.
This voicing has the 7 and the flat 3.
And this voicing at least
includes the 5 and the 1.
The ones that are marked in red on the
PDF, are the ones that I kinda consider
the main ones, and those you should
really work to get under your fingers so
that you're not thinking about them.
Let's move on.
I'm gonna show you one more thing, though,
that's interesting about these voicings.
And that's when it comes
to learning voicings for
a dominant chord,
we are already in business.
There's a whole different trip
to these on an altered chord,
but for a regular dominant chord
these are the same voicings on F7.
Once you get
the hang of this and
your fingers
are acclimated
to working within
the scale tones
of that scale.
This is really pretty,
pretty easy to get going.
Let's look at a couple ways to
do that in our next lesson.