Practicing Jazz Piano in Db Major

C’mon, admit it. You know you need to become fluent in all 12 keys but you keep gravitating back to the “easy” keys; the ones with all the white notes. C major, F major, and the rest. Comfort food for the jazz pianist.

Why do you keep avoiding keys like Db major? Just because they have some flats? Don’t you know that these keys are just as easy as the ones you prefer? You just haven’t spent as much time with them, that’s all. Would it surprise you to know that some pianists prefer playing in the keys you consider to be the most difficult? Don’t believe me? Well, it’s a well-known fact that the great songwriter Irving Berlin could only play in the key of F# major. It’s true! He actually had a transposing piano built so he could play in F# and hear how his songs sounded in the other keys. (I almost got to play this piano when I did the Broadway show Swinging On A Star at the Music Box Theater in NYC, which the Berlin estate co-owns. The piano had resided for decades in the manager’s office, but had recently been moved when I was there in 1995-96!

So let’s get back to your jazz practicing, and spend a little time in Db major today.

It’s simple: Play the following chords with your left hand in root position for one measure each: Dbmaj7/Bbm7/Ebm7/Ab7. The root positions are fine, but you can also use rootless voicings if you know them. Play them in tempo a few times until you get used to them and them begin improvising a simple solo with your right hand, using the Db major scale. Play as slowly as you want, and don’t try to be fancy. The only goal is to live for a while in the key of Db.

That’s your assignment for today. “Go to it,” and have fun as it gets easier and easier. (And you’ll thank me big time when you play the tune Body and Soul!)

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