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Jazz Piano Lessons: Practicing 4th Voicings

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We're gonna talk now about
a way to practice our
fourths voicings to get them
where we can find them easily.
This basic thing.
Makes a great comping
device behind a soloist.
We're eventually,
in the next series of lessons we shoot,
we're gonna start covering
the big, fat five note fourths voicings.
But to get you going and
to also help you stay under the soloist,
these are great.
We also want to get them
going in our left hand.
Want to have these available,
especially these middle three.
On the PDF that I've provided
with the fourths voicing on them,
these middle three, the more
essential ones as I think of them,
are highlighted in red.
Let's do a quick exercise
to help us find these.
Quick review of where,
what they are and why.
If you just go fourths up,
this is the fourth note of the chord.
This is the fourth note or
rather the fourth note of scale.
Build yourself a fourths voicing that
goes one, four seven in C minor.
And that chord’s going to be C, F, B flat.
Then we walk up the scale.
The C Dorian scale which
is the B flat major scale.
And they're easy find if
you walk up that way.
You can watch each voice move up
to the next scale tone like that.
Let's do something a little
different instead.
Let's do it with our right hand.
Let's skip one and go up.
Then down one.
So up two.
Let's look at this.
Here's the first three voicings.
What we wanna do is go
directly from the first one.
To the third one.
Down to the second one.
Up to the fourth one.
Down to the third one.
Up to the fifth one.
Down to the fourth one.
And this way.
In the first place, this motion is
something that as we're creating
melodies with our fourths voicings which
is one of the great features of it.
If you're playing something like this,
really more of the ninth's voicings
that we've been talking about.
That's not a voicing that you move around.
But you move around like this.
This, since the intervalick
relationship stays the same,
it's a sequence of things that you
can easily make a melody out of that
sounds like it's harmonized in a cool
way with the fourths below it.
Even with my left hand.
I'm inserting some stuff there for
lessons that are gonna be down the road.
But just with these voicings, you can see
that I have a lot of facility with it,
that I can skip around and
make a melody out of it.
When we're copping behind a soloist,
you're probably going to pick him up.
He might be playing.
And you're right there with him.
Then you're suggesting this, or
if you hear me playing that play
something that's compatible here.
So an awareness of these and
having these as part of your repository
of things that don't require
your A brain to initiate.
Things that you're comfortable with
basically is what I am saying is
a really good idea.
Let's take a look at how
we would practice these.
Put your metronome on if you want.
But if you don't.
Up two, down one, up two, down one.
There's an example of this as a PDF
just to make sure that we really
are clear on it.
Let's visit the next chord
in our cycle of fifths,
which is how I like to
practice this thing.
Once again, we build the first one F,
B flat and A flat.
We walk up the scale on that, and
since it's an F Dorian scale that
means it's an E flat major scale.
And we're looking for just the next scale
note up for each of these voicings.
Then let's go to B flat and
find the same voicings.
What you wanna work toward
is a situation where
the first one falls under
your fingers maybe.
Is this one.
And the thing we love about this one is
that it's got your guide tones in it.
This makes the strongest
statement of what the harmony is.
And then it's got this note
down here that's kinda buzzing,
that one in a nice way but yet it's
keeping our really nice open quality here.
So we go.
There’s one, three, two, four,
three, five, four, six, five.
Up two, down one, up two,
down one, like that.
That'll get you thinking a little
bit melodically about it.
And it challenges us to learn
to just see these shapes and
feel them under our fingers much
more than walking up the scale does.
So, see if you can get these
going in all 12 keys or
at least start your way on the cycle
of fifths or the circle of fifths.
There's the first one that I find.
This actually sounds kinda cool.
And we'll work those in as we
play on modal pieces at first.
These are actually interesting too,
because you get double your
money's worth out of them.
The same exact voicings are the one's
we play on the related dominant chord.
So if we’re starting out,
with these voicings in C.
There exactly the same voices.
You often see a model tune
where rather than being given
a minor chord to blow on
until the guitarist and
saxophonist have finished their drinks,
you get a dominant chord.
Blow on F seven.
Tower of power tunes.
You're gonna get a dominant chord that's
yours to twist any way you want it.
Boy, there's that great tune on Live and
In Living Color where
Lenny Pickett takes, what,
a 10 minute saxophone solo?
Basically on these things, and
Chester Thompson is constantly
finding ways to freshen it up.
What he's doing underneath it,
one of the great live track,
rhythm section tracks
particularly of all time.
But this is the same chords.
So maybe we go around the cycle of fifths.
Hearing these against the five in
the bass rather than the two in the bass.
Let's go up to B flat seven, we know that
voicing, the nine voicing, let's do it.
First one I reach for
here is typically that because it's
our standard issue 13
voicing that falls in here.
And then from here,
that's the first one I see.
And the two right up from that, right up
the A flat scale from that are the next
couple that I see that are my home
base when I'm comping in fourths.
I love that one.
That's off the top of our scale, but
it has the same integrity of the constant
fourth's thing that we've been doing,
especially if you come up into it.
It sounds like it really belongs, but
we have that very cool feature where
we're buzzing our third with our fourth.
The next step with these things, and
I'm gonna demonstrate
this quickly here for
a second,
is to have fun with them over a track.
And we're going to play,
first we're gonna play, let's do that.
We're in E flat.
Let's start by playing
them over B flat minor.
And then we're gonna move up here.
A lot of McCoy Tyner's
original writing, it was so great.
It's flatter.
He's constantly spanking
these fifths down here.
Fully capable of dropping it from up here,
breaking a piano string
even in the bass register.
But a lot of his tunes featured
extended soloing on a dominant chord,
which is really,
it's just tremendous to listen to.
It's like a force of nature
really almost as much of a solo.
So let's work these out
a little bit over B flat minor.
And then we'll go to E flat dominant and
hear this nice,
it's almost like a bright
sunny texture combined with
a really cool storm cloud or something.
Let's work this out on B flat minor.
Three, four.
I'm just
doing this
with my
left hand.
But, I'm comping behind a soloist.
Little bit
of chromatic in there.
I'm just doing that with the bottom
two voices and holding the top voice.
You probably
recognize that
from a lot of modern
jazz that we hear.
Something that McCoy Tyner
really popularized,
it was developing a little bit in
the 50s in some other players.
But he's the guy who made this stuff
famous and made it an iconic sound,
and we're all still playing it today.
Let's put this over the E flat.
And see how it's [SOUND] just a sunnier
texture on the dominant chord.
But it's the same exact voicings.
Two, a one, two, three, four.
When you're
playing stuff like that,
try to really be
way on the back
of the beat.
You want it to kind of snap.
You don't want to go
That's no fun.
Let's mix in
a little bit our of ninths
voicings in there.
to our fourth
That right there
was the exercise that we
were doing earlier,
up two, down one.
Let's see if we can go down two, up one.
You can see the value of that exercise cuz
it lets you start walking around and
skipping stuff in here
to create your melody.
All of that chromatic stuff,
that weird stuff serves
a real purpose when
you're playing behind
a really great soloist.
And all of that is coming in
our next series of lessons.
For now, have fun with these.
It's a cool thing to swing
out with these voicings.
Listen to a lot of McCoy Tyner.
Listen to a record called The Real McCoy.
One of my very favorite
McCoy Tyner records ever,
is McCoy plays Duke Ellington.
And, you can hear some of this stuff in
there applied to Duke's beautiful harmony.
But it's a ridiculously swinging record.
McCoy Tyner, listen to a song
on there called In my Solitude.
It's a pitch-perfect way,
example of playing a really
bright swing tune and
such a light elegant touch and
such great ideas.
And they're all just swinging like mad.
And McCoy is who we have to thank for this
idea gaining traction in the jazz world.
And it's still an iconic sound.
So work that out in all 12 keys,
and I will see you later.