Have you heard Jamie Foxx play piano? A lot of people know him as an actor, and many have heard him sing. But have you listened to him play piano? I mean, really listened? He's far beyond being a "singer who plays piano." In fact, he probably could have succeeded in the music business on his pianistic abilities alone.
Check out this clip: (Thx, Jester, for sending me the link!)
Jamie Foxx: I Might Need Security
The first thing you'll probably notice is that he's a good singer and knows how to deliver a song well. And if you're like me, you'll enjoy the comedic bit he throws in midway, playing "church organ" as he cracks jokes. And since you're musical, you'll begin noticing how good he plays piano.
Now check out how effortless his keyboard playing is. I mean, it's totally second-nature to him. He plays with one hand as the other adjusts the mic, he plays complex, chromatic jazz chords while talking to the audience, and he's completely fluent in the gospel style.
Foxx is an excellent role model as a keyboard player, for several reasons:
1. He thoroughly knows the piano. It's effortless. He can focus on singing and talking without worrying what he's going to play next.
2. He plays a nice contemporary R&B style. The rhythms are from pop/R&B and gospel music, while the harmonies are from jazz. Stevie Wonder does this too.
3. He's obviously play a LOT of jazz, R&B, and gospel music as a keyboardist, not only when he's singing. In other words, he's paid his musical dues. I remember hearing him play an instrumental version of Thelonious Monk's "Straight, No Chaser" on TV once. He's put himself deep into the jazz language, and it comes out in his sophisticated harmonic language. But he makes it seem easy!
So yes, Jamie Foxx is a great role model if you want to play contemporary-style R&B music. And the best thing is, he'll make you work! Because if you want to play like him, you'll have to cover a lot of musical ground (which is a good thing!).
Start by learning your triads, 7th chords, upper extensions up to 13ths along with alterations and substitutions. Then become thoroughly at ease playing in jazz, funk, gospel, smooth jazz, pop, and R&B grooves. Oh, and one more thing... star in a movie about keyboard legend Ray Charles while you're at it!
Good luck, and remember: the more you enjoy yourself while practicing, the better you'll get 🙂
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