If you’ve ever tried improvising on Thelonious Monk’s classic jazz composition “Well, You Needn’t,” you know first-hand what a challenge it can be. I’d like to share a surprisingly easy way to improvise over the tune’s chord changes in this quick jazz piano video lesson.
I basically spent years disliking my own playing on “Well, You Needn’t,” because I mistakenly thought that I had to always sound like Herbie Hancock, who generally disguises the chord changes when he improvises. I’ve since learned how to do this too, but on a tune that uses chromatic motion like Monk did here, it’s easier, and very effective, to embrace the obvious: the tune’s chromatic, so why not highlight that in your solo. After all, Monk and his contemporaries did this all the time, so why not take a page from their playbook and do the same?
The idea is simple, and as I said, you can hear Monk himself and his sidemen, like tenor saxophonist Charlie Rouse, do this all the time. You simply play a short phrase on the F7 chord, and then repeat it up a half step on the G7 chord in the next measure. You can either repeat it exactly of with some variation. I demonstrate both these approaches in this short video. Enjoy, and have fun applying this to Monk’s Well, You Needn’t!”
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