\"\"
Piano Forum logo

Help on how to not sound like a classical pianist when playing jazz! (Read 1222 times)

Offline littleg567

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Hey everyone, I'm still relatively new here, but I thought I'd throw this out there.

I'm a senior at a high school in Indiana and I've been playing in my high school jazz ensemble since 9th grade. Only since 11th grade have I began improvising, and it's been a struggle to say the least. With no formal jazz training or lessons, I've been trying to learn jazz the "classical way" and have not found any success.
I listen, transcribe, and mimic the greats, but struggle with ultimately making my own ideas and just PLAYING. Also my comping is a disaster and consists of mostly block chords...

This is interesting timing because in 2 and half weeks my ensemble is traveling to Savannah, GA for a music festival. There will be clinicians there to help us and I'm afraid I'm going to make a fool of myself when they see how classical I am.

The one piece I'm struggling with the most is Quietude by Thad Jones. It basically features me.
Here it is if you're wondering:


Anyone have advice on how to get through this competition confidently? Or any ideas on how to not comp so classically? Thank you.

Giselle.

Offline huaidongxi

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 269
Re: Help on how to not sound like a classical pianist when playing jazz!
«Reply #1 on: March 15, 2016, 08:00:50 AM »
your ambitions are commendable.  many if not most jazz players will envy you for having the technical foundation you probably have from your training.

the truly good jazz players, like Roland Hanna on the Thad Jones band you attached, get there after being immersed in Great Black Music for most of their lives, and that immersion (tons of listening, not just wood-shedding, jamming, performing) enables them to feel and improvise to the moments in the music.  you can do a lot with those block chords when you're feeling the moment.

if you like how Roland Hanna sounds, try immersing yourself in the music he probably lived in during the 50s, be bop evolving to post be bop if you need categories.  Powell, Monk (was the pianist for a touring gospel ensemble in his youth, part of his foundation in Great Black Music), Mary Lou Williams, Red Garland, Wynton Kelly, Jaki Byard.  of course there are many others, but these are from a more primal stage of the music's evolution than the icons of post be bop like Hancock, Jarrett, Evans, and have a bit more rhythmic bite than other prominent, smoother players of the time like Peterson or Shearing.  you also might gain something from listening to the piano work of Nat Cole when he was leading a small ensemble rather than singing popular music in front of a band or orchestra.

don't worry about how the instructors judge you in those clinics, they will be immensely pleased someone like you is committed to keeping the music alive for the future.  enjoy the journey.  peace

Offline dcstudio

  • PS Silver Member
  • Sr. Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 2423
Re: Help on how to not sound like a classical pianist when playing jazz!
«Reply #2 on: March 15, 2016, 08:46:26 AM »
I've been trying to learn jazz the "classical way" and have not found any success.
I listen, transcribe, and mimic the greats, but struggle with ultimately making my own ideas and just PLAYING. Also my comping is a disaster and consists of mostly block chords...

This is interesting timing because in 2 and half weeks my ensemble is traveling to Savannah, GA for a music festival. There will be clinicians there to help us and I'm afraid I'm going to make a fool of myself when they see how classical I am.

The one piece I'm struggling with the most is Quietude by Thad Jones. It basically features me.
Here it is if you're wondering:



oh my friend I know your pain,  it is so difficult to make that transition.  I was horrendously classically trained -- and I went to UNT which has one of the largest jazz programs in the country -- oh honey did I ever make a fool of myself... 

I can offer some advice though.

First off-- you do not sound nearly as bad as you think you do--I know this for a fact and I have never heard you play...   as for block chords-- google "jazz chord shell voicings" and practice those...

it is so frustrating because you have no files in the part of your brain that improvises.   You have no words yet so you are speaking jibberish... but it doesn't mean it sounds bad.   we think as pianists who are solo artists--we want more notes and fast moving fingers so we feel like we are playing something...  that is what you have to get over and it is not easy to do.  Most arrangements for HS jazz have simple enough piano parts... which makes you feel even worse when they don't turn out well.


a lot of this is your musical neurosis--which is alive and well I see. 

I will pass on a secret I learned from my jazz mentor--Mr. Dan Haerle...

jazz students think they have to "invent" their own style... and that's not the case.  Jazz is a language and it's already been written. 

at the competition-- if you look like you are having fun--and you act like you know what you are doing--and play with serious confidence even if you fake it--you might convince the judge that you just like really out there solos... think like T Monk.  It's all about the attitude.


Offline flashyfingers

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 458
Re: Help on how to not sound like a classical pianist when playing jazz!
«Reply #3 on: March 18, 2016, 06:08:31 AM »
Have you seen The jazz Deck?
I'm hungry

Offline flashyfingers

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 458
Re: Help on how to not sound like a classical pianist when playing jazz!
«Reply #4 on: March 18, 2016, 06:31:30 AM »
I just listened to the tune. Here's what you do:

Get the chart. No sheet music.

Learn the form/repeats or write out what repeats your band takes

Write out a chord for each symbol, avoid using root position, use basic knowledge of voice leading ie leave out 9th or 11th if building 13th chord, unless chord symbol indicates otherwise

Find a voicing that you like for each common chord like Bb7 or F7... or C7b5 and have
'go to' chords

ALSO, this is what I always did in jazz band. I would take the chart, sit down with a blank sheet of paper, any paper will do...write out all the tones in each chord.

for example, start with the first chord, pick a GOOD voicing for it, because you will follow close voice movement after this chord, so start SOLID.

chords from A child is born, Thad Jones

Bbmaj9  Bb3 D4   A4    C5   F5

Next chord will have a common tone. it is b flat. or WHATEVER lol don't move that note.

ebm6     Bb3  Eb4 Gb4  C5  Eb5


A good voicing vocabulary and some rhythmic dynamics will leave you sounding jazzy, just fill in the harmonies bro. no need to be eccentric and play lots of 128th note runs.  

Another way to look at it:

I would just write out all the notes i need to play, especially the COLOR tones or as we call them, ACCIDENTALS lol. Don't play something different from every measure. Just learn the changes, and fill in with some close voice movement or inversion and diminution/augmentation everywhere else.

At this point in your jazz career, if you aren't reading the chart or aren't given written out parts to play, just memorize the chords on the piano and play a few times to the song by ear, until you get it right.

most importantly, just listen to a lot of GreAT JAZZZZZZZ

you'll get that sound in your head, and with a few playing and part-writing experiences under your belt, you'll be going at it in no time.

Please feel free to message me or just respond kindly here if you need assistance. I'm on spring break for 3 more days lol

  ;)


the jazz deck
http://www.jazzdeck.com/order/jazzdeck
I'm hungry

Offline littleg567

  • Newbie
  • *
  • Posts: 3
Re: Help on how to not sound like a classical pianist when playing jazz!
«Reply #5 on: March 26, 2016, 08:13:08 PM »
Thank you everyone. Your replies have meant a lot. We are leaving on Monday and I'm going to do my best to make use of what each of you have told me.

Thanks,

Giselle.

Offline huaidongxi

  • Sr. Member
  • ****
  • Posts: 269
Re: Help on how to not sound like a classical pianist when playing jazz!
«Reply #6 on: March 27, 2016, 07:47:53 AM »
ma'm'selle giselle, with jazz improvisation who you are as a person and musician matters as much as your training, which isn't quite the case with most young 'classical' players.  the young players have freedom to reshape and interpret the music from the get go, instead of complete obsession with note by note reproduction (which is of course great training, just different). the great players at your age grew up in environments saturated with the music, like Claudio Arrau hearing his mother's piano lessons when he was still in her womb, and you'll pass through your own explorations at your own pace.  you have a lifetime to find out who you are in the music, no need to be hard on yourself.  great joy and discovery are ahead of you. peace.