Thelonious Monk is one of the most iconic musicians in jazz history. His recordings and compositions are characterized by noticeably angular rhythms, chords, and melodies that highlight his unique approach to jazz vocabulary. Perhaps his most famous composition - 'Round Midnight - has become an absolute must-know jazz standard. Monk's personal piano style is on full display in his solo piano recording of this piece and it's ripe with some of the most stock jazz piano structures - things like chord shells, arpeggios, and stride playing. Let's take a look at a transcription of this classic tune featured in our 'Round Midnight lesson.

Chord Shells

Chord shells are a left hand harmonic device that is built by playing (1) the root of the chord and (2) another chord tone (usually the 3rd or 7th of the chord). The key to playing chord shells is that the root and some other notes (but not the entire chord) are included. So a C minor 7th chord shell could be spelled as: C-Bb, C-Eb, C-Eb-Bb, C-G-Bb, or even something as simple as C-G.

Monk uses chord shells extensively in his solo recording of 'Round Midnight. In fact, Monk plays almost nothing other than chord shells and stride patterns in his left hand throughout the recording. Check out this excerpt showing the exact notes Monk is using in his left hand.

Notice the use of chord shells for 4 of the 6 chords in these measures - simple root-5th-7th, root-7th, and root-3rd-7th structures.

Arpeggios

Monk embellishes his melody with repeated and constant fills and embellishments, and so many of these melodic inventions are built on arpeggios - outlining the individual notes of the chord in ascending and descending directions with various rhythms. Again, let's look at measure 4 which features two "ii - Vs" separated by a half step.

While the left hand features the use of chord shells, the right hand embellishes the melody by simply outlining the chord tones, ascending, over the minor 7th chords and then resolving down when arriving on the dominant 7th chord. For example, on B minor 7, Monk's right hand plays A (the 7th), D (3rd), F# (5th), A (7th), then (on the E7 chord) G# (3rd) and E (root). Monk plays the exact same figure down a half-step over the Bb minor 7th chord and the Eb7.

Stride

Stride is a technique in which the pianist's left hand plays the root on beat 1 and the chord on beat 2. The term "stride" refers to the movement of the pianist's left hand striding from the low register of the piano to the mid-register, back and forth in this manner. Many people don't realize that Monk was a masterful stride pianist.

Monk uses this stride technique predominantly on the bridge. Notice at the start of the bridge (measure 17) in the left hand how Monk plays the root of the chord on beat 1, followed by the chord itself on beat 2. On beat 3, when the chord changes to F7, he continues in the same manner, and again in measure 18 for the Bb7 chord.

In true Monk style when playing the Bb7 chord, Monk uses his signature dissonance - the #11 sound - and voices the Bb7(#11) chord in a way that highlights, not conceals, the tension-filled sound. After playing the root (Bb), Monk voices the chord using Ab (7th), D (3rd), and E (#11) and puts the E at the very top of the voicing, ensuring that it stands out. This is a signature Monk-ism. For the complete transcription and more signature Monk devices, check out the complete "Standards by the Dozen" lesson on 'Round Midnight.

Building an arrangement and knowing how to incorporate various harmonic devices is a major part of developing your cocktail piano repertoire. It's also an essential skill that can be practiced at an easy, intermediate, and advanced level. In this article we'll take a very popular cocktail piano piece - George Gershwin's "Summertime" - and show you a step-by-step approach to build a basic arrangement. Along the way we'll even sprinkle in some more advanced tips to help you achieve that professional sound.

Building an Arrangement - The Basics

It may seem obvious, but an important first step in building an arrangement is to listen to the song. Listen repeatedly and to different versions played by different artists. Listen at the gym, in the car, at work, in the shower, while eating dinner, etc. "Summertime" has been recorded by many artists, so there are a number of various interpretations of the song.

The goal is to become very familiar with the song before you ever even start to play the song. With repeated listenings you should start to get familiar with the melody, tempo, meter, form, and chord progression.

Building an Arrangement - Chord Shells

Here are the first 4 measures of "Summertime":

building an arrangement 1

As a first step, let's simply play the melody in the right hand and add in some chord shells in the left hand.

building an arrangement 2

Building an Arrangement - Inserting Chords

A general rule of harmony in jazz is that we can precede dominant 'V' chords with the 'ii' chord. Look at measure four and notice that we have an A7 chord. Since this A7 is a 'V' chord, we can precede this chord with a 'ii' chord which will be an E minor 7 chord.

building an arrangement 3

Building an Arrangement - Tritone Substitutions

Tritone substitution is a device used quite often in jazz. The rule for tritone substitutions is that you can substitute one dominant chord for another dominant chord a tritone away from the first. As we look at our arrangement we notice that we have two dominant 7th chords - Bb7 (in measure 2) and A7 (measure 4). Using our tritone substitution rule, we can substitute Bb7 with an E7 chord, and A7 with an Eb7 chord. Just because we can do this does not mean that we have to, or even should, do this. Sometimes tritone substitutions sound great. Other times they don't really sound appropriate. The idea is to try them out and listen to the options, then choose whichever sound you most prefer.

building an arrangement 4

Building an Arrangement - Expanding the Chords

In the example above our right hand is still just playing a single-note melody. We can start to flesh out the melody by filling in (or expanding) the harmony. Below is one possible example which was created by simply filling the chords in with chord tones.

building an arrangement 5

Building an Arrangement - Adding Some Rhythm

As a final step we can add some rhythmic variety to our arrangement without having to change any of the notes or harmonies that we have created.

building an arrangement 7

The beautiful jazz ballad "Blue in Green" is a jazz piano staple. First appearing on Miles Davis' classic jazz album "Kind of Blue" in 1959, the song is often attributed to jazz piano hero Bill Evans (though Miles Davis is credited as the composer, many believe Bill Evans played a large role in the composition of this song). In this article we'll take a look at how to play this piece as a solo piano arrangement. We'll go through the first few measures and discuss some advanced jazz techniques in the style of Bill Evans to help you create some beautiful, lush piano chords. And don't forget to check out the complete Blue in Green lesson!

Blue In Green: The Major 7 #11 Chord

Let's check out the first 4 measures of "Blue in Green." What do you notice in measure 1?

Blue in Green 1

The 'E' in the melody represents the #11 on the Bb major 7th chord, an upper extension that is sometimes used on major 7th chords in jazz. It's a sound that has some inherent conflict and tension. Here's a great way to harmonize major 7th chords with #11 - think of a major triad built a whole-step above the root of the chord.

Let's break that down. We'll harmonize this Bb major 7th chord by simply playing a chord shell in the left hand (root, 3rd, 7th). In the right hand, we'll harmonize the 'E' by thinking of it as part of a C major triad - i.e., a major triad built a whole-step above Bb. Notice how much beautiful, lush harmony we now have in this chord voicing. The 'E' = #11; 'C' = 9th; 'G' = 13th.

Blue in Green 2

Blue In Green: The 'A7' Chord in Measure 2

Let's look now at measure 2 in which we see an 'A7' chord with a 'C' natural in the melody. Hmm? What is the 'C' natural in relation to A7? The answer is that this note represents the #9. In jazz, dominant 7th chords frequently include lots of upper extensions (things like 9ths, 11ths, an 13ths). These chords can also include altered extensions (things like #9, #11, and b13), such as the #9 we see here. So how will we harmonize this chord and create a lush, dense voicing?

Again, we start simply with a left hand chord shell - A, E, and G, the root, 5th, and 7th. In the right hand we will harmonize the chord by playing an F major triad. Why F major? Using the 3 notes which make up an F major triad we get some great altered extensions over the A7 harmony (F = b13; A = root; C = #9). Of course, we still need the 3rd of the chord (C#) so we include this tone by playing it with our right hand.

Blue in Green 3

Blue In Green: The D Minor 7 Chord in Measure 3

One last quick little tip for harmonizing minor 7th chords - you can create a very cool (and Bill Evans-style sound) by voicing these chords in 4ths. Let's take a look at the D minor 7 chord.

Blue in Green 4

Notice the intervals of a 4th from 'D' to 'G' to 'C' to 'F.' Of course, the melody (the 'A') is only a 3rd above 'F'. This particular voicing is identical to the D minor 7 voicing Bill Evans used on "So What," another tune from Miles Davis' "Kind of Blue."

In this article we'll take a look at a great jazz standard, "The Days of Wine and Roses," and talk about advanced jazz arranging concepts. We're going to squeeze out so much information in just 4 measures that your brain might explode from the incredible amount of knowledge you'll gain.

Days of Wine and Roses: The Original 4 Measures

Here are measures 9-12 with simply the right hand playing the melody and the left hand playing chord shell voicings.

days of wine and roses 1

Days of Wine and Roses: Measure 9 and Reharm

"Reharm" is jazz-speak for "reharmonize," which basically means that we're going to build new ideas into the chords. Let's take a look at what we've done to reharm measure 9 and talk about why these ideas work.

days of wine and roses 2

We have a couple principles that we're working with here:

  1. We never alter the melody, only the harmony. The melody is off-limits;
  2. We want to use chords that "move" the harmony (i.e., create a chord progression that moves the song in the same way as the original chords).

In measure 9 we've used a device called "contrary motion," meaning that we have created a counter-line to the melody that moves in the opposite direction. Notice that the left hand counter-line moves down by half-steps, from E to Eb to D to C#, while the right hand melody moves up. On beat 1 we use the Am7 chord; on beat 2 we change that chord to Am7b5 in order to create some movement (the 5th of the left hand chord shell moves down by half-step, from E to Eb). On beats 3 and 4 we move to an A dominant chord. Why? Because in measure 10 we're going to a Dm7 chord, and by using an A7 chord we're creating some "V to I" movement.

Days of Wine and Roses: Measures 10 and 11, Tritone Substitution

In measure 10 and 11, notice that we begin on beats 1 and 2 with the original chords, Dm7 and Gm7 respectively. But on beats 3 and 4 of each measure we have inserted new chords, Ab7 and Db7 respectively. Why?

days of wine and roses 3

These new chords are referred to as tritone substitutions. Some of you might be saying "Hey, I thought you've said previously that tritone substitution only works with DOMINANT chords. Dm7 and Gm7 are MINOR chords. What gives?" Well, you're right. Tritone substitution generally only works with dominant chords. But we're not really substituting chords here - we're inserting. So I've got you on a technicality (haha). But why these particular chords? Notice that Ab7 is the tritone sub of D7. The Ab7 (like the D7) resolves to Gm7 in measure 11, so we've created some more "V to I" movement. Ditto on the use of the Db7 resolving to C7 (just as G7 resolves to C7).

Days of Wine and Roses: Measures 12, Sus4 to Altered Resolution

This is a great little harmonic device that you can use on most dominant chords. It works by treating the dominant chord first as a sus4 chord and then resolving the chord to a regular dominant.

days of wine and roses 4

On beats 1 and 2, the C7 chord is treated and harmonized as a C7sus4 chord. On beats 3 and 4, we resolve to a C7 chord with a couple altered extensions, b9 and #11.

Here is the completed 4-measure phrase:

days of wine and roses 5

In Part 1 of this "Learn to Play Stride Piano" article we focused on Phase 1 and Phase 2 of our stride piano approaches. These phases were meant to introduce one element of stride piano at a time in a way that gradually increases the level of difficulty. By working through these phases, you can structure your practice to master one aspect of stride piano playing at a time. Here we will discuss Phase 3, which is the most challenging but most most rewarding phase. This phase of stride piano playing will bring you to that advanced, professional, classic jazz piano sound. Let's get started!

Beats 1 and 3

To start, we are still going to play the root of the chord on the downbeat of each new chord change (which in our example of the 1st 4 measures of "It's Only a Paper Moon" will be beats 1 and 3). However, we're going to now add a note - the 5th of the chord. So now we'll play the root and 5th of every chord on beats 1 and 3:

Stride Piano 5Also, it's important to note what's happening in measure 4. We have a C major 6 chord, but this chord lasts for the entire measure, not just two beats like all of the previous chords. In cases where the chord lasts for a whole measure we will play the root (or root and 5th) on beat 1 and the 5th (single note or in octaves) on beat 3.

Beats 2 and 4

We're now going to fill in beats 2 and 4 of each measure. On these beats our left hand will jump up (always up from the root) and play a complete chord, generally using 4 notes in order to get a dense, robust sound. For these chords, close-position rootless voicings work really well (meaning chords that are within an octave range and usually don't contain the root, which is being played on beat 1 or 3 anyway). Filling in beats 2 and 4 with these close-position rootless voicings results in something like this:

Stride Piano 6

Practice Ideas

It's important to minimize your mistakes when learning because you want to begin imprinting the correct way to play the stride pattern. For this reason, and because your left hand is moving consistently across a wide range, be sure to practice slowly.

"Looping" is also a helpful practice idea in which you simply play a single measure over and over again in time (with your metronome) in order to get a lot of repetitions and therefore build muscle memory. Remember to work slowly and start one hand at a time. It's very important to have the left hand stride part mastered before trying to add the right hand.

Once you're able to play hands together (even at a slow tempo) try using your metronome on beats 2 and 4, as opposed to having the metronome click on every beat. Being able to play with the metronome set to beats 2 and 4 will improve your overall sense of time and will also help you develop a sense of swing.

For these and more practice ideas, as well as all 3 phases of stride playing explained in detail, check out our Stride Piano lesson!

Stride piano is a popular style of piano playing in which the left hand acts as a complete rhythm section. Sometimes described as an "oom-pah" style of playing, stride piano requires that the left hand play the role of timekeeper, bass player, and chordal accompaniment all at once. This is an understandably advanced concept to master, but we can learn to play an easy stride piano style and work our way up to a more challenging and technically demanding level of stride piano playing. In this article we'll look at three ways to practice stride piano playing that will increase in terms of complexity, ultimately helping us to master this essential style of piano accompaniment.

Play Stride Piano - Phase 1

One of the things that makes stride piano challenging is the fact that the left hand is constantly in motion, often times switching hand positions very quickly in order to create that "oom-pah" sound. In this level we're going to focus on a much easier version of stride that allows us to stay in a comfortable, easy hand position yet still create that "oom-pah" accompaniment pattern.

We'll start with the first 4 measures of the jazz classic "It's Only a Paper Moon":

Stride Piano

If we start to dissect the specifics of stride playing one of the things we notice is that at the start of each new chord we're going to play the root - nothing else. Knowing that goes a long way in understanding the stride pattern as we can now fill in half of the stride left-hand part:

Stride Piano 2

Next, we'll turn our attention to the second beat of each chord (wherever we see rests in the bass clef in the example above). On these beats (beats 2 and 4) we will play chord tones to help flesh out the sound of each chord. Doing so gives us something that looks like this:

Stride Piano 3

As you can probably see, the left-hand part is really quite simple now that we understand how it's being created. The left hand, at this Phase 1 level, is basically playing chord shells that are broken into two parts - root, then chord tones.

Play Stride Piano - Phase 2

This next level is a little more challenging but will help you to create an awesome sound in jazz piano - the sound of left hand 10ths! It also gets you moving your left hand just slightly so that you get accustomed to the feeling of constant motion in the left hand.

Stride Piano 4

By playing 10ths in your left hand you are forced to play the root of the chord and then move your hand slightly in order to accommodate the next two notes. This might be quite challenging at first, so start by practicing the left hand by itself at a very slow tempo. As you improve, try playing one measure at a time with the left hand. It's important to master this level before going on to Phase 3, which is covered in Part 2 of this article. Happy practicing!

 

I grew up as a huge fan of pop-rock music. It was really my first love when it comes to music, and it wasn't until much later that I was introduced to classical and jazz music. Pop-rock (and all of the various genres that fall into that heading) was what my parents listened to and was all around me. As a kid I spent hours listening to Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Steve Winwood, Whitney Houston, the Beatles, Dave Matthews Band... just to name a few. When I was studying jazz in college one of my favorite things to do in the practice room was to put on one of my favorite pop-rock tunes and try to solo over it.

Something else happened while I was in college. I got caught up in the mistaken notion that rock music was inferior to jazz. For those who may not realize it, there exists (in some places, often universities) this idea that jazz is a purer form of music, more sophisticated and possessing a higher amount of complexity and therefore integrity than rock music. I got caught up in this "jazz purist" attitude (what I sometimes refer to as a "jazz snob"). For years I stupidly avoided opportunities in pop-rock music because I wanted to be a part of some high-brow jazz camp. As a result of such short-sightedness, I missed out on some great music-making, money-making, networking, and travel experiences. Oh, and I never attained any high-brow jazz status either. So, a bit of a "lose-lose" there.

Luckily, I eventually came to my senses and started openly embracing pop-rock music. I don't know if I'm a jazz musician who loves rock, or a rock musician who loves jazz. I also don't care anymore about figuring out which is which because I view music as path that has many different side trails to explore. One week I may need to learn 30 pop-rock tunes for a wedding band gig, another week may require me to do some serious improvisation shedding for a colleague's recital, and once in a while I get asked to record or produce some original music. Instead of forcing myself to identify as a jazz pianist or rock pianist, I try to approach these projects as a complete musician who gains an understanding of what is required and then offers his musicality to the project.

So for anyone who still thinks that there is a wall of separation between jazzers and rockers, I offer this list of my "TOP 5 JAZZ MUSICIANS WHO ROCK." I want you to notice the high level of musicality amongst these players. Notice that what makes them great is their ability to offer something "musical" (not something "jazz" or something "rock") to the song.

NUMBER 5: Phil Woods' solo on Billy Joel's "Just the Way You Are"

NUMBER 4: Herbie Hancock with John Mayer, "Stitched Up"

NUMBER 3: Jason Rebello with Sting, "Never Coming Home" (piano solo begins at 4:40)

NUMBER 2: Michael Brecker with Paul Simon, "Still Crazy After All These Years"

NUMBER 1: Branford Marsalis with Sting, "Roxanne"

 

In this article we'll be looking at an advanced interpretation of the 12-bar blues, known as the Charlie Parker blues or "Bird" blues (Parker's nickname). The thing that makes this interpretation of the blues advanced is the sheer number of chord changes. We'll take a look at these chord changes and simplify them a bit by cracking the code and answering the question "how did Charlie Parker come up with these chords?" But if you're not familiar with the Charlie Parker blues form, start by listening to the tune "Blues for Alice," a classic Charlie Parker blues.

Charlie Parker Blues: Why All The Chord Changes?

First let's take a look at a lead sheet for the tune "Blues for Alice."

Charlie Parker Blues 1

Those chord changes look quite different from a 12-bar blues form, right? Yes and no (as we'll see in a minute). The first question many students ask when they see all these chord changes in place of the simpler blues form is, "why?" Charlie Parker was a bebop player. Well, not just a bebop player but one of the best bebop players. And one of the characteristics of great bebop playing is the ability to improvise over forms that contains a lot of quickly shifting chord progressions. So Charlie Parker likely amended the simpler blues form to that which you see above in order to create a set of chord changes that required a lot more harmonic navigation - and sounded less like blues and more like bebop.

Charlie Parker Blues: Why These Particular Chord Changes?

Okay, let's quickly review a typical 12-bar blues form in jazz.

Charlie Parker Blues 2

What you see above looks pretty familiar, right? You have the 'I' chord, the 'IV' chord, and then a 'ii - V' progression back to the 'I' chord. Believe it or not we're actually going to leave much of that form above in place. Take a look at the "Blues for Alice" lead sheet above and look at measures 1, 5, 7, 9, 10, and 11. What do you see? Most of the chords in those measures are the same as in the simpler blues form. The big difference occurs in measure 7, so let's discuss why.

The cool thing about these Charlier Parker blues changes is that they are a constant series of 'ii - V' progressions. These 'ii - V' progressions move us from the 'I' chord in measure 1, to the 'IV' chord in measure 5, and finally to a 'ii - V - I' progression in measures 9, 10, and 11 - the same structural and primary chords that give shape to the basic 12-bar blues form.

Let's do a quick harmonic analysis of this advanced blues form. We start on the 'I' chord (F) and do a series of 'ii-V' progressions which bring us to the 'IV' chord (Bb7) in measure 5. Measures 6, 7, and 8 are a series of 'ii-V' progressions which move down by half-steps. Measures 9 and 10 are a 'ii - V' progression (Gm7 and C7, one measure each). In measure 11 we get back to the 'I' chord which begins what is called a 'I - vi - ii - V' turnaround (F to Dm7, to Gm7, to C7. The C7 resolves back to the F major chord at the start of the form).

This is a valuable blues form to know, so give it some practice and add it to your repertoire.

In a Sentimental Mood is a jazz composition by the great Duke Ellington. It has been played and recorded by many jazz artists since it was written in 1935 and has become a popular jazz standard as a result. In this article we’re going to examine certain aspects of this tune in a jazz masterclass context. By breaking down the tune we can better understand how to memorize the song, how to improvise over the chord changes, and how to create piano arrangements.

In a Sentimental Mood: Understanding the Form

Being able to quickly assess the form of a jazz standard is an important skill. In addition to recognizing the form, it’s a good idea to have a checklist of info that you look for before even going to the piano to play the tune. This checklist includes the following:

  1. Key signature
  2. Time signature
  3. Tempo or metronome mark (if any)
  4. Form (including repeats or “roadmap” symbols, such as codas or 1st/2nd endings)

In this tune, the form is a 32-bar form and is arranged in sections of 8 measures. Looking more closely we realize that this song is an AABA form, which means that the first 8 measures return for measures 9-16 and 25-32. Many jazz standards are written in this AABA form (including all “rhythm changes” tunes).

But why is this important? Consider that if 75% of the tune (24/32 measures) is comprised of the same music then you only really have to learn 16 measures (the 8-measure ‘A’ section, and the 8-measure ‘B’ section). Understanding this not only helps you organize your practice, but also makes memorizing the tune much easier.

Below are the chord symbols for "In a Sentimental Mood" showing the AABA form:

in a sentimental mood

In a Sentimental Mood: Tonalities

Notice that the chord changes of the song focuses on 2 tonal centers, meaning that the song moves to two different keys which can temporarily be considered the “I” chord. The first of these tonal centers is D minor (and/or F major). Obviously, D minor and F major are related (relative major and minor) and both occur in the ‘A’ section, so they can be considered as simply one tonal center as opposed to two.

The next tonal center is Db major, which occurs during the ‘B’ section. Understanding these two tonal centers can greatly aid you when soloing. Knowing that all of the chords in this song are really coming from just two chord scales (D minor/F major and Db major) can help to simplify your approach to improvisation.

in a sentimental mood 2

In a Sentimental Mood: Simple Arranging Approaches

Let's look at one simple yet effective example of how we might harmonize the bridge, which we know moves to the key of Db major. The bridge is basically moving in a 'I-vi-ii-V' harmonic progression, two chords per measure. In the left hand you can play the root of the chord on beat one (or beat 3) and the chord itself on beat 2 (or beat 4) creating a stride piano effect. In the right hand you can play the single-note melody, or (more effectively) you can double the melody in octaves to create a denser effect.

in a sentimental mood 4

This jazz masterclass article will present a few different ways to go about playing a jazz standard like a pro in a quick, straightforward manner. We will discuss some basic concepts (and an advanced concept or two) that can help you tweak your playing using the first 2 measures of the beautiful jazz ballad "When I Fall In Love" in all of our examples.

Jazz Masterclass: The Bare Minimum

Before you can really dig deep into the advanced jazz harmony concepts you first have to do some bare minimum prep work. This requires that you listen repeatedly to various versions (meaning more than 1) of the tune. Try to memorize things like tempo, meter, form, and the melody (and even the chords!) before you begin to play. To help get you started check out Nat King Cole's version as well as Bill Evans'.

Jazz Masterclass: Chord Shells

An easy way to get a jazz tune up on its legs quickly is to simply play the melody in the right hand and the chord shells in the left hand. Chord shells refer to the root of the chord and at least one of the other chord tones (and sometimes two). The chord tones refer to the root, 3rd, 5, and 7th of a chord. So by completing this step you're getting the basic harmony played for each chord.

jazz masterclass 1

(NOTE: If you're having trouble reaching the interval of the 10th in the left hand, simply play the root with your left hand and the higher note with your right hand).

Jazz Masterclass: Filling in the Harmony

Chord shells are a basic first step. But from there we can start to flesh out the rest of the harmony by adding more notes to the chords and the melody. We're not adding any additional chords or substitutions (yet). Just staying with the original harmony but beefing things up a bit.

jazz masterclass 2

Jazz Masterclass: Basic Stride Approach

A simple way to think about stride piano is to play the root of the chord on beat 1 and the chord itself on beat 2. Then play the root of the new chord on beat 3 and the chord itself on beat 4.

jazz masterclass 3

Jazz Masterclass: Advanced Reharm

Now for some juicy stuff. We're going to start on Eb for our first chord and end at the Bb7 chord in measure 2. But we're going to use chromatically descending chords to get there. What will that look like? Well, like this:

jazz masterclass 4

How did we do that? Starting with D7 every chord acts as a V7 leading to the next chord, except that instead of "V7 to I" we're using the tritone substitutions of those V7 chords. You see, what's really happening is this:

jazz masterclass 5

 

All that we really did is use a tritone substitution in place of the G7 chord (Db7) and F7 chord (B7) in order to create the chromatic descent (i.e., half-step motion) in the roots of the chords. That allows us to come up with some lush harmonies like this:

jazz masterclass 6

 

This article, featuring an 'Over the Rainbow' piano tutorial, will focus on a few harmonic concepts based on this beautiful song to help you achieve that advanced piano sound. We'll look at ways to take a lead sheet (fakebook or Real Book version) and add chord tones and extensions to create the same sound as the jazz piano pros. We'll also look at a common device used to resolve dominant 7 sus4 chords.

The Original Melody and Harmony

Let's take a look at the lead sheet version of the first four measures of 'Over the Rainbow':

Over the Rainbow 1

Using this information we could simply play the melody as written with our right hand, and the corresponding chord in our left hand. Doing so would look like this:

Over the Rainbow 2

This is a great way to start playing and working through the song as it gets you playing all of the chord tones in time with the melody, but we're going to build this arrangement into a much denser, more robust, two-handed piano arrangement.

Spreading the Voicings Across Two Hands and Adding Extensions

Now we're going to build the chords across both hands and add in some other tones, such as 9ths, 11ths, and 13ths, as well as the dominant 7 sus4 chord. Doing so might result in something like this:

Over the Rainbow 3

Measure 1:

The Eb chord on beat 1 is pretty straightforward - it's basically just an Eb major triad with a 9th (the 'F') in the left hand. The C minor chord on beat 3 is also fairly simple. The left hand uses a shell voicing (root, 5th, 7th) and the right hand plays the 11th, 7th, and 3rd (F, Bb, Eb). One noteworthy thing about the C minor chord is that the right hand voicing is stacked in 4ths, a very jazzy sound.

Measure 2:

The G minor chord on beat 1 of measure 2 has a moving melody, unlike measure 1 in which the melody stays still. We harmonized the melody in 3rds, while the left hand plays and holds the root, 11th, 7th (G, C, F). Beat 4 is where we first use the dominant 7 sus4 chord, resolving it to the dominant 7 chord. This is a great-sounding jazz device that pro players use quite often - and it's really effective! On beat 4 we're playing the root, 4th, 7th in the left hand (Eb, Ab, Db). The right hand plays the 9th, 4th, 13th, root (F, Ab, C, Eb). There's a ton of great harmony in that chord. But it only stays there for half a beat before it resolves to the regular dominant chord on the second half of beat 4. That chord includes (from bottom up) the root, 3rd, 7th, flat-9th (E natural), 3rd, 13th (C), and root. Notice that the notes which remain constant are tied over.

Measure 3:

Again, the Ab major chord is pretty straightforward. The D7sus4 to D7 chord uses the same approach described on the Eb chord in measure 2.

Measure 4:

Here we see another advanced jazz device in which an inner voice moves within a series of chords. The G-natural on beat 1 moves down in half-steps. The harmony also follows this moving voice from G minor to G minor (major 7), and then on beats 3 and 4 we use the same dominant 7 sus4 resolution that we saw in measures 2 and 3.

For more, check out the full lesson and arrangement of Over the Rainbow!

In this article we'll take a look at some excellent jazz piano tips and apply them to the classic jazz standard "Body and Soul." These jazz piano tips can be used on any tune, provided you understand the core concept. Gaining that understanding is exactly what we'll focus on here. These jazz piano tips are commonly employed by the pros to achieve that authentic jazz sound. Practice each of them separately and check out our full length video lesson.

Jazz Piano Tips #1: Using the "Dominant 7 Flat 9" Chord

The "dominant 7 flat 9" chord is a powerful chord that often gets labeled or named incorrectly. At first glance many mistakenly call this chord a diminished chord. But its function as a dominant chord is undeniable. What chord does this look like to you?

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If you said an "A-flat diminished 7th" chord you're not wrong. But also realize that this chord could be inverted to be a "B diminished 7th, D diminished 7th, or F diminished 7th" chord.

Now, what happens if we put a Bb, Db, E, or G in the bass below this same chord?

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So this single diminished chord can also function as one of four different 'dominant 7 flat 9' chords. Notice that in each chord the notes in the treble clef function as the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and flat-9th.

So let's check out how this info helps us on "Body and Soul." In the opening 2 measures we see a back-and-forth from Eb minor 7 to Bb7, a "i" to "V7" relationship.

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If we harmonize that passage using the Bb7(b9) chord, we get something like this:

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Practice playing through the 2-measure excerpt above and notice the sound of the dominant 7 flat 9 chord. Then, practice playing that same chord with different roots in the bass to hear the sound of the Db7b9, E7b9, and G7b9 chord.

Jazz Piano Tips #2: "Flurry" Arpeggio Using the Dominant 7 Flat 9

Ok, now that you understand that the dominant 7 flat 9 chord is really a diminished chord in disguise, let's talk about a really flashy way to embellish a passage. This is mostly just a little piano parlor trick, something flashy that sounds much harder than it actually is. Still it's a very effective and useful trick to have under you fingers.

Quite simply, we are going to stylize the first two measures of "Body and Soul" and create a long "flurry" arpeggio by playing the Bb7b9 diminished shape (same as above) all the way up the keyboard. On a tune like "Body and Soul" (a ballad) we can get away with some rubato playing, which means that we don't need to have a very rigid sense of time but instead can have sort of an expressive sense of the time.

Here's an example of what we might play:

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Now the idea is that you want to be able to play this "flurry" quickly. But like everything we do at the piano, we begin simply and slowly. So practice being able to play that diminished chord up 3-4 octaves at a slow tempo, gradually increasing your speed as you improve.