Monday, February 9, 2009

Learning Jazz Piano Voicings

When I began my journey as a jazz pianist at the ripe old age of 12, I was overwhelmed by one question: How am I EVER going to learn all of those piano voicings?! I would listen to records by Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, and Oscar Peterson, loving all of those beautiful chords, with their different shapes, sizes, and colors, but I could never quite figure out what was going on.

I barely even knew basic piano chords at that time, but I was determined to learn. A fellow musician recommended The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine to me, and I immediately took his advice, bought the book, and started reading it.

In just a few days, I began to understand what I was hearing on the records. My knowledge of jazz piano harmony increased exponentially, and within a week I could play most of the tunes out of my Jazz Real Book.

The beauty of the Jazz Piano Book is that the only real prerequisite is the ability to read music. Mark begins with a discussion over musical intervals, the fundamental building blocks to any scale or chord, and triads, the most basic of chords. Over time, he discusses scales and modes, then gradually moves into three and four note voicings, and before you know it, you have developed a diverse and interesting pallet of jazz voicings that can be applied to any tune.

He also suppliments the voicings by discussing scale theory, which is a crucial aspect to improvisation, and once I learned his scale theory concepts, I started to play interesting, melodic solos. It wasn't long before I started playing on real jam sessions, and then earned a full ride scholarship to Berklee College of Music :D

Quite frankly, this book is the real deal. It is the first book I recommend to anybody who asks me about how they can learn some jazz piano, because it works SO WELL. To learn more about the Jazz Piano Book and how it can help you achieve your musical potential, just click on it!
Mark Levine: The Jazz Piano Book