This is a question that I am often asked from new and potential students. I suppose if I only have two DVDs available, it would be easier to pick a place to start. However, I have dozens and dozens of DVDs available on many different topics. So, I completely understand why many of you ask “Where do I start?”
In this three-part article, I am going to lay out a “plan of attack” for the beginner, intermediate and advanced level player. Of course every student has different needs and interests. Therefore, I ask that you view this guide as a starting point, and not a rigid lesson plan.
This first part will deal with the absolute beginner to jazz or the piano. This lesson plan is for you if:
If your goal is to learn jazz piano, learn how to improvise at the piano or just learn how to play the piano with more ease and fluidity, you need to break your practice and learning down into separate concepts. The concepts I’ll be discussing are:
Rhythm is perhaps the most important elements of music. The other element of music are harmony and melody. Rhythm however can make or break a performance. We all know that just playing the ‘right’ notes does not always sound fine. Having good rhythm goes a long way in deciding if you sound like a professional or a novice.
A good place for all pianists to brush up on their rhythms is Mastering Rhythms Volume 1. In this DVD, you’ll learn:
At this point, you can move on to the next DVD, or stay focused on rhythms. It really depends on your learning style. There is no harm in moving back-and-forth between multiple lessons as long as you come back to this lesson for review within a day or two.
A basic definition of accompaniment is “the part played in the left hand that keeps a steady beat”. Many students when learning how to improvise have difficulty keeping a steady beat. Often, I hear them “fool around” with a scale in the right hand while playing a chord or nothing at all in the left hand. This would be fine if the beat were steady. Unfortunately, it is usually not.
If you have gone through at least the first chapter or two from the Mastering Rhythms DVD, you can now being working on a simple accompaniment that you can improvise over. DVD30-Improvise in 30 Minutes (JazzKids Book 2) teaches you these simple accompaniments and how to improvise over them.
At this point you should have a working knowledge of what a lick is. You should also be comfortable with the C Blues 5-finger scale and the bassline. You can stop here and rest for a day or keep going.
It is important to really learn your piano chords. What I mean is that you need to understand how to form all of your chords and spell the notes. Many times students only know how to find a chord because they have played it so many times. This is motor-memory. However, when asked to spell the notes in a B-7 chord, students draw a blank. The notes, by the way, of a B-7 chord is B-D-F#-A. You want to know how to spell all of your chords in as many keys as possible.
In my Basic Piano Chords DVD, you’ll learn:
The last DVD that I’ll recommend in this article is the Hanon Mastery DVD. Technique is important not only to achieve fluid playing, but also to avoid injury. It is important to learn how to practice technical exercises without hurting yourself andwhile keeping focused. I have found that the more “fun” an exercise can be made, the more likely students will practice it.
Now, when I say fun, we’re still working. But, I make these exercises fun by showing you how to be creative in your practice. Yes, we’ll go through the ‘typical’ Hanon exercises, but I’ll also show you how to “spice” them up to sound more interesting to the ears.
After two weeks of working with the DVDs and the JazzPianoLessons.com program, you should have a clearer understanding of how to move between the DVDs. Remember, the DVDs are teaching you concepts. This means that you can apply these concepts to thousands of other songs. This method of teaching is more powerful in the end because you are learning the concept, not just what notes to push.
The best way to solidify these concepts is to apply them to songs. In the intermediate phase, I’ll show you how to apply these concepts to popular songs and styles. Now, you might be “itching” to get to that phase right now. Be patient. Jumping too far, too fast usually builds frustration in students.
I’ve learned the best way to avoid frustration is to break concepts down into small, step-by-step lessons that are easy to accomplish. Now easy is a relative term. What is easy to one student, might not be easy to the next. However, if you diligently practice the steps that I have laid out here, you will be able to master these concepts quickly.
The last concept is improvisation. Now we have already focused on improvisation inDVD30-Improvise in 30 Minutes. However, let me give you a few more pointers:
The four DVDs that I have laid out in this article represent several hours of instruction. This would translate into months of private lessons. Therefore, do not be in a hurry to ‘learn it all’ within two weeks. You might need to let some chapters just ’sit’ in your head for a while. There is nothing wrong with just watching the DVDs to ’soak’ up the concepts. You might also try watching one DVD for ‘fun’ while working on a different DVD.
The possibilities of how you can use these piano instruction DVDs is almost endless. Apply your creative spirit to your practicing. Think of new and exciting ways to practice these concepts.