The Best Place to Start

I get a lot of questions from teachers about my That’s Jazz piano method regarding ability levels.  They usually fall into three categories: 1. Beginner Students I have a first year student who I think would enjoy your books.  What level of technique is required to begin? 2. Play by Ear Students My student reads a little but would rather noodle around than play written music.  I think he might like jazz. Do you think Book 2 is right for him?  3. Good Readers I have an advanced student who reads and plays written music very well but is new to improvisation.  What book do you suggest? To all these questions, I always suggest everyone start with Book 1 – Getting Into It regardless of their technical ability.   For beginners, Book 1 is an obvious fit as soon as they have the very basics down. The first tune, Spare … Read more…

Scaling the Chords

Here is the third in a series of blogs coupled with videos that focus on specific tunes from my That’s Jazz piano method books that we will be playing in the 88 Creative Keys summer camp this summer. Late Beginner – That’s Jazz Book 1 1. Spare Change 2. Swing Out 3. Burrito Cha Cha Early Intermediate – That’s Jazz Book 2 Flint and Steel Get Up, Get Ready Repeat After Me Intermediate – That’s Jazz Book 3 Fired Up Livin’ the Blues Stepping Stones Burrito Cha Cha from That’s Jazz Book 1 is my focus today but the principles discussed here can be applied to most any tune. Please take a look at the video where I demonstrate how to get the most out of this tune.  Pay particular attention around 2:07 where I explain the concept of playing a prescribed pattern in the left hand while the right hand noodles … Read more…

My Three Cents Worth on Enhancing a Melody

This is the first of a series of blogs coupled with videos that focus on specific tunes from my That’s Jazz piano method books that we will be playing in the 88 Creative Keys camp this summer.  The first step in learning to improvise is to get a tune well under your hands (preferably memorized) which is why we are requiring all participants to prepare at least one selection from the list below prior to arriving at camp. Late Beginner – That’s Jazz Book 1 Spare Change Swing Out Burrito Cha Cha Early Intermediate – That’s Jazz Book 2 Flint and Steel Get Up, Get Ready Repeat After Me Intermediate – That’s Jazz Book 3 Fired Up Livin’ the Blues Stepping Stones To begin, take a look at my video explaining how to get the most out of Spare Change, the first tune in Book 1.  Please pay particular attention around 2:15 where I … Read more…

Bright Blues Scale Improv

In a previous post, I discussed the pentatonic scale as a collection of “fallback” notes for improvisation that will sound good in almost any style or chord progression that stays in one key. Scale degrees 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 You can also think of it as a major scale minus the 4th and 7th notes. C Major Scale = C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C C Major Pentatonic Scale = C  D  E      G  A      C (major scale minus 4 and 7) Like a painter preparing his or her palette for a new still life, a great way to bring a bit of jazzy color to this “pitch palette” is to add the flat 3rd “blue” note to the pentatonic scale.  The result is a note collection that I like to call the bright blues scale. C Bright Blues Scale = C  D  Eb … Read more…

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