Piano Technique

  1. Velocity Blues
  2. Blues Chromatique
  3. Peak Traffic
  4. The Cyclist
  5. Reflection
  6. Friends Forever
  7. Bop It
  8. Song Materials

    Subject Index - Topic Index

    PIANO LAB - Intro

Lessons | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | ?? |

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KT Song 1 - Velocity Blues

In medium tempo and up tempo Jazz songs (and also some rock tunes) there is a triplet feel underlying each beat.
This means that each beat is subdivided into three equal parts, rather than two as in Classical music, most Pop and other popular music.

Therefore in Jazz :

  • Quavers that fall on a downbeat are played for two thirds of a whole beat.

  • Quavers that fall on a offbeat ('up beat') are played for one third of a whole beat.

  • Also : when an off beat quaver is followed by a rest it is played staccato !!

Audio 11.1

Velocity Blues (Audio) is played in typical swing style.
Play all quavers in swing style, and all offbeat quavers staccato.

For more about the Velocity Blues see Lesson 8.

(Note : In fast Jazz tunes the triplet subdivision of each beat becomes distorted. Down beat quavers become somewhat shorter, off beat quavers become longer.)

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KT Song 2 - Blues Chromatique

The blues is the most popular song format in Jazz.
A typical basic blues chorus is 12 bars long, subdivided into three musical phrases of 4 bars each. The basic blues chord progression contains only three different chords, the chords I, IV and V (in C Blues : C, F and G).

Velocity Blues (Audio) uses the simplest blues progression, which is :

Audio 11.2


The chords can be triads, as in most Rock blues, or dominant 7th chords, as commonly used in Jazz.

Blues Chromatique (Audio) represents a very popular variation on the above basic blues chord progressions.
This uses the IV chord in bar 2 and in bar 10. It also commonly includes a V chord as a turnaround in the last bar (except of course for the last chorus of the song).

This embellished blues format looks like this :

Audio 11.3
V IV I (V)

Blues Chromatique contains a great number of triplet quavers, which are played normally (as in all Classical music). But make sure to swing the quavers on the 3rd beat in bar 1 and also in bar 5 (with a staccato on the offbeat notes).

For more about the Blues Chromatique see Lesson 7.

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KT Song 3 - Peak Traffic

Peak Traffic (Audio) is a lively piece, but not a swing tune. Play therefore straight quavers.
Start with a two bars introduction of the ostinato (repetitive bass pattern) in the left hand only. Then maintain this bass pattern throughout the song.

Make sure to lift each finger high off the keyboard as soon as the note is played.

Peak Traffic is entirely composed of the C Dorian mode (= Bb major scale, but with C selected as its tonic note).

Audio : Dorian mode

Extend the song by improvising your own melody using notes from this scale, while maintaining the left hand ostinato.

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KT Song 4 - The Cyclist

The Cyclist (Audio) is also a lively piece and not a swing tune. Play therefore straight quavers.

Maintain a relaxed left hand and use plenty of wrist rotation.

Both The Cyclist and Peak Traffic contain syncopations formed by tied notes. Make sure to play these correctly off the beat. (The quaver patterns in the left hand will help you do this.)

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KT Song 5 - Reflection

Reflection (Audio) is a slow ballad.
In Jazz ballads the quavers are usually played straight.

Use the sustain pedal for each bar in this song as follows :

  1. hold the pedal down throughout the bar

  2. lift the pedal at the same time you play the next bass note

  3. then immediately push the pedal down again before you lift the bass note finger off the keyboard.

This ensures that each chord is sustained right up to the next bass note, but does not affect the next chord.

If you lift the pedal before the next bass note is played it leaves an ugly silent gap in the music.

Audio 11.4

Ninth chords are formed by simply stacking another note on top of any seventh chord in root position. For example :

The 9th note provides additional colour but does not change the chord quality.

In Reflection the root tones are played as bass notes only and are not included in the chord.
This provides a nice contemporary sound.

The Cmaj9 chord contains within its structure other smaller chords, like Em7, Em and G.
This aspect is called chord plurality and is frequently used in contemporary chord voicings.

Once you can play the song exactly as written you may embellish the melody and alter its rhythm according to your own taste.

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KT Song 6 - Friends Forever

Friend Forever (Audio) is also a slow ballad. Play therefore straight quavers.

You can pedal each bar, as in 'Reflection', or play without the pedal, whichever you prefer.

Most of the chords in this song are scale-tone 7th chords of the C major scale.
(Scale-tone chords contain only tones derived from its parent scale.)

Audio 11.5
Only two chords in Friends Forever (A7 and D7) are not scale-tone chords of the C major scale.
These represent small temporary modulations to other keys (D major and G major).

Placing all scale-tone chords in Circle of 5ths order, starting with the IV chord and ending on the tonic chord (I) produces the following Scale-tone Chord Progression :

Audio 11.6

This forms the main part of the chord progression for Friends Forever. The left hand plays the chords in arpeggiated form alternating between root position and 2nd inversion voicings.

Try this song also with solid chords in the left hand. Use the voicings as shown above.

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KT Song 7 - Bop It

Bop It (Audio) is an up tempo Swing tune. Therefore swing all quavers and apply the appropriate staccatos.

In most piano playing the hands are relaxed but quite mobile. They jump up and down, rather like bouncing balls, shaping the musical phrases with their movements.

Swing staccatos are ideal spring boards for the hand to jump from one phrase to the next. This produces nice crisp staccato notes, shapes the music phrase and ensures a good relaxed technique motion.

Audio 11.7

Bop It contains many syncopations in both the right and the left hand.
Practise therefore the right hand melody first, accompanied by light staccato crotchet chords on each beat in the left hand.

A nice effect in this simple accompaniment is to pedal the occasional chord on the 4th beat in the bar.

Audio 11.7

Once you have the right hand melody down add the written left hand to your practice.

When you can play Bop It as written, experiment a bit an work out your own left hand accompaniment for this song.

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KT Song 8 - Song Materials

Velocity BluesTextDemoP-a-Lp.1
Blues ChromatiqueTextDemoP-a-Lp.1
Peak TrafficTextDemoP-a-Lp.1
The CyclistTextDemoP-a-Lp.1p.2
Friends ForeverTextDemoP-a-Lp.1p.2
Bop ItTextDemoP-a-Lp.1p.2

Play all songs both with and without the backing tracks.

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© 1999 Michael Furstner (Jazclass)