During my college days at The University of Connecticut, I was fortunate to study composition and jazz piano with a wonderful musician and human being named Hale Smith. Hale was “the real deal,” and was well-known in both the classical and jazz worlds. In his youth he had won the very first BMI Composer’s Award, and I went to hear Gunther Schuller conduct Hale’s compositions with the NY Philharmonic. He was also “old friends” with many jazz luminaries, including Dizzy Gillespie and Ahmad Jamal, who had recorded one of Smith’s tunes. It was exciting to learn one of Hale’s tunes and hear him say, “the first live performance of that song featured John Coltrane in the big band.” Wow!
Although I had some “talent,” there were lots of gaps in my abilities, and Hale showed me how to develop my overall musicianship in a wholehearted way. He would often come to his office early to answer my musical questions, and he inspired me with stories of how he had taught his friend, the legendary alto saxophonist Eric Dolphy, with ear training drills and rhythmic exercises during Dolphy’s formative years. Hale showed me many of these exercises, which were in a classical musical context, and I gradually began creating my own exercises based on jazz standards, to help me become a better jazz pianist.
Some of the most exciting and invigorating practice sessions I’ve ever had were those involving rhythm and ear training “games,” as I like to refer to them. Over the years, I would experiment with applying these musical “games” to a jazz context, and even to use them on specific jazz standards. Sitting down and challenging myself to sing chord tones or tap out intricate rhythms between my two hands has helped me play jazz piano with the rhythmic feel, hand coordination, and connection to my musical ear that I had always dreamed possible but couldn’t attain by simply practicing in the “usual” way.
I’ve spent the past month working daily to notate the exercises that I’ve created, and I’m excited to have put them in an ebook which I’ve titled Essential Training for Jazz Pianists.
Essential Training for Jazz Pianists contains 30 exercises to improve your jazz rhythmic ability, your musical ear, and hand independence while playing jazz standards. Although it’s taken me 35 years to finally write them down, I’m delighted to be sharing them with you here. I think you’ll have fun with them. The exercises start simply, with the basic jazz groove, and progress gradually up to the point where you’ll be improvising with a stronger connection to your musical ear, a more natural sense of jazz rhythm, and a degree of hand independence which will allow you to play jazz standards with self-expression and confidence. I’ve also made a video in which I demonstrate all of the exercises for you and discuss various ways to practice them. You’ll find the link to this video on the Table of Contents page in the ebook.
If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can get the ebook for $9.95 this week, instead of $14.95. I think these fun and engaging exercises will help you get to a level of playing jazz piano where you sound consistently better and very much in the jazz groove.
You can get your copy here:
Essential Training for Jazz Pianists
Thanks for being here, good luck with everything, and “let the music flow!”
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