A Guide To Help You Play Better Jazz Piano

Ron Drotos

History and overview:
“You Took Advantage Of Me” is a 1928 tune written for the Broadway stage by the great songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart (who, incidentally, have more tunes in The Real Book than anyone else). It’s a wonderful song, and has a chord progression that will make it easier to learn lots of other tunes as well (see more on that below).

Recommended videos/recordings:
(for international readers who may not have access to these YouTube links, I’ve indicated the original album names wherever possible so you can listen to them on music streaming services, etc.)

Bix Beiderbecke: 70 Hits

with Paul Whiteman’s orchestra

Art Tatum

Gerry Mulligan Concert Jazz Band

Musical ideas and jazz piano practice tips:
The chord progression to the ‘A’ Section of “You Took Advantage Of Me” is one of the most important in all of jazz. Take the time to learn it really well, because you’ll see it all the time.

It’s based on the classic I-vi-II-V progression, and then modulates to the subdominant (IV) key. In this tune, it’s in the key of Eb, and begins with the I chord, EbMaj7. Instead of going to vi (Cm), Rodgers substitutes an Edim7, which acts as a kind of extension of an implied C7(b9). Then the upward stepwise motion continues to Fm7 (iim7) and then the expected V7(Bb7).

The next two measures (m.3-4) are also based on I-vi-II-V, but in a different way. The Gm7 is a substitute for the I chord, then Rodgers moves down stepwise through Gbdim7 to the ii-V of Fm7-Bb7.

Spend some time with measures 1-2, and then with 3-4, comparing them and viewing them both as variants of the same underlying I-vi-II-V.

The progression them has a ii-V-I to Ab major before doing something very stylistic; going to Db7, the bVII. The section ends by returning to the “home” key of Eb major.

This chord progression, in one form or another, appears in many, many standard tunes. Learn it very well, memorize it, and transpose it to as many keys as you can. Also become comfortable soloing over it. The next time you see this chord progression, you’ll be glad you did!

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

Further links and resources:
You Took Advantage Of Me (song): Wikipedia

Rodgers & Hart Reconsidered
An insightful article about the songwriting team, partly drawn from interviews with Mary Rodgers, the composer’s daughter

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

How To Learn Jazz Piano
A podcast to help you learn jazz piano more effectively

Take a Free Jazz Piano Lesson

Mastering The Real Book: A 10-week Skype Intensive for Jazz Pianists

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