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Topic: Questions: Guide Me Please!  (Read 2167 times)

Offline etalent

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Questions: Guide Me Please!
on: December 11, 2003, 11:38:04 PM
If I may first provide a little background. I read. I've played drumset since I was a kid. Me enamoré con la percución cuando me aburre la música pop en inglés. I've pored over Rebeca Mauleon-Santana's "Guidebook." "101 Montunos," "the Latin Pianist" again, again, and again, and my understanding of the music relevant to those treasured resources increases continually. When I first began getting bored with pop music, my frustration with playing only as a sideman began growing too. That's when I started getting instruction in mainly piano and some guitar and vocals.

I've composed some 12 songs, including lyrics en Español, loosely in the styles of guajira, son, salsa, bolero, coros, and ranchera, which are sufficiently catchy that the hearers respond by clapping along (if not the backbeat, the clave!), applauding afterward, requesting my songs, and even being moved to tears (in a good way)! My talent is proven, which is encouraging, but my principle instrument is still mainly percussion (congas, bongos, clave, campana, tambora…). If I play live, I play percussion. With only a few exceptions, if I share one of my songs, it's singing to a track (yuck!). I love singing my lyrics too (I'm a technical writer by profession), but tracks should never be used in performance, only practice!

My goal is to play and arrange real-time at the piano. My immediate goal is to play (accompanying and improvising) a song book of some 60+ sing along lead sheets that lend themselves to basically three montuno styles: (1) basic Son, (2) Merengue, and (3) Bolero.

I have an upright piano and a portable keyboard (a good Roland one). I've had as many lessons as I can afford over the years without sacrificing too much for my kids and wife, which means not too many lessons, because I don’t make much money. I've made progress although often haltingly. My foundation in theroy and rhythm serves me well in formulating my own drills and practicing wisely (keeping it interesting). Here are seven really long-winded questions I hope you could find the time to answer:

(1) Two styles of piano playing exist principally: (1) accompanyment and (2) solo. Right?

(2)  In accompanyment, the left and right hands both play time keeping in support of the melody, which is played (or sung) by whomever the painist is accompanying. Right?

(3) In solo playing, which may also be improvization, the left hand keeps time principally with the root, and the right hand plays chords in whatever inversions that put the notes of the melody on top, and there's no shortcut to developing this skill. Right?

(4)  In either accompanyment or solo playing, the left hand plays primarily the root, yet I've heard it said that the left hand root is optional if the right hand chord accounts for it, especially if it's doulbled in the case of a root position son montuno. In such an instance, then what should the left hand play? The 5th usually (as in Bolero)? Perhaps the third, or it depends entirely on what best supports the melody?

(5) A real breakthrough came for me in accompanyment playing in understanding the simple harmony-enriching fundamental of playing a different inversion of a chord with each hand. I'm playing mainly son montunos at present, limited so far to triads (Maj and min) with an occasional Dom7 or dom7. My "default" voicings, for example, the inversions I start a song with, are 2nd inversion in the left hand and root in the right. For the chord changes I go to whichever inversions require the minimum of movement. Sometimes my right is quicker, sometimes my left. I say "quicker" to mean more in control. Each hand alone is strong, but together they just aren't clicking. Should I play fewer notes still (less than 3) in the left hand? In my son montuno playing, all the chords are broken; that is, if I play a "C," I play one note first and then the other notes of the chord afterward. I don't want my left hand to be a hindrance development-wise, but what can I do to get "up and running" ASAP? Especially recently, I practice as much as four hours a day occasionally, but usually between 45 minutes to 2 hours. I never sacrifice control for speed and religiously use a metronome or backing tracks (fun!). I really try to discipline myself not to goof around but to "problem solve" whatever skills I can use ASAP in real life playing situations. So far, that bascially means playing chords as accompanyment. As I mentioned earlier, I've got a song book of some 60+ lead sheets of sing alongs that is my goal to be able to play (both accompanyment and solo). Again, what can I do left hand simplification-wise to accelerate my getting "up and running" ASAP?

(6) I'm limiting myself to Maj, minor, and occasionally Dom7 and dom7 chords so as not to overwhelm myself. I have a stong theory understanding and strong rhythm (because I'm first a reading percussionist). I'm not scared of scales, but I'm not practicing scales because I don't want practice to become "stale" at all costs. I want my practice time to result in my being able to apply practical real-world skills ASAP. I've thought I'd begin integrating scales into my chord drills once I've first developed some mastery of the chords. To me "some mastery" means readily being able to play every voicing possibility of every Maj or min chord inversion in every key. I've formulated an enormous drill to that end. I know that being able to play every Maj and min chord inversion variation in every key would be a valuable skill, but getting there is taking so long! At this rate I wonder when I'll ever begin integrating scales.

(7) I know that mastering Maj and min scales and Maj and min chords will serve me well foundationally, because they are basically what everthing else is based upon, but I want to internalize jazz. When I start integration scales into my practice (of playing chords as accompanyment), would I be asking for trouble if I skipped ahead past Maj and min scales to the blues scale? Then there's the Dom7, dom7, other chords, and the unconventional voicings thereof in jazz. Should I leave all that alone unitl I've developed my understanding of Maj and min chords and scales beyond simple understanding to the point of practical (readily playable) skill? I want to play Latin Jazz, though, but I can't with just Maj and min.

(8) Regarding scales, one instructor I have had strongly recommends practicing scales in somewhat the manner in which they are played in real life, meaning like "licks" or "riffs," not so much as rote up and down drills. I want to practice two octave scales too, not just one. To that end, I've got my eye on the books "Salsa Hanon" and "Ultimate Latin Piano/Keyboard Riffs" by Carlos Campos. Would those be good for me? Do you have Latin Jazz scale materials available for sale or have other materials recommendations?

That's all the questions. Thanks.
Mi vida es una fiesta a cual Dios me esta invitado...
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