What is the goal for beginners?

What is the goal?
I have now followed various lessons (Cocktail Piano Improvisation)carefully and mostly understood your explanations. If I want to develop this on my own without guidance, I come to my limits because I think I need an enormous “computing power” to implement it, especially the identification of the tones and the decision about the respective improvisation model. Therefore, I am interested in whether the goal is to be able to do this intuitively at some point or whether the goal is to increase the “computing power” in the brain in order to be able to theoretically deduce the chosen key at any time.

Hi Jochem and welcome. I have been learning for Jazz piano for 5 years. My goal is for it to become intuitive. To pick up a lead sheet and be able to play a respectable jazzy rendition. In my view it takes a lot of “computational power” to learn the complexities of jazz and the significant techniques - and to get these into your fingers so it’s intuitive. It takes significant time but my advice would be to learn the fundamentals and drills while simultaneously playing a 5 - 10 song repertoire. Use simple techniques to begin, and as you build the techniques in your drills, they will more and more begin to intuitively come out of your fingers. Be persistent and patient but make sure you have fun unfolding this complex and beautiful language.

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Hi Rick,
thank you for your assessment. I think it’s a long way without a shortcut. Maybe like a foreign language. At some point you don’t think about grammar anymore.

I think it’s very similar to learning a foreign language. And to mastery, it is a long way. I think some of the same short cuts apply - 1) learn the basics to set a strong foundation (learn the scales, intervals, and construction of chords) 2) Immerse yourself as best as possible in the language (listen to lots of Jazz and at the right point, try to transcribe), 3) Try to speak it as much as possible, even if you sound like a 5 year old (very quickly you can understand make a conversation, communicate - play a simple spread voiced single not melody), keep trying to expand your vocabulary and understanding and apply - but just keep speaking. Eventually exactly as you say, you are speaking without translating in your head and thinking about grammar - you’re just speaking (or in this instance playing).

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A perfect analogy @rickgoulburn - thanks for sharing.

@Jochen - great question here.

Absolutely the goal is to be able to do this intuitively in the future.

This does take time and as @rickgoulburn mentioned lots of listening and immersing yourself in the music is vitally important.

Improvisation ‘comes from within’ in the sense that our improvisations are a manifestation of all of the things that we have listened to, studied, transcribed, and applied to our playing through theory drills and in the jazz standard that we are working on.

The cocktail piano improv course in particular should help you to analyse improvisations in your favourite recordings.

If you listen to the improvised solo of “Misty” by Kenny Barron - starting around 2:11 in the record below - the majority of his solo is comprised of the principles we explore in the cocktail piano course, in particular:

  • rephrasing the melody
  • targeting chord tones
  • arpeggio patterns
  • altered arpeggios
  • combinations of the above

After studying the cocktail piano course and the concepts, you should be able to detect these things in his solo, and also in other solos of your favourite players.

Now I personally like Kenny Barron’s style and particularly his improvised solo in this recording. It’s very clean and melodic and in addition it outlines many important improvisation principles (bullet pointed above). This is one of the reasons I spent the time to analyse it and try to break now the core components and present them in the course on cocktail improv.

It’s worth noting that I first listened to this record many years ago, perhaps 10 years ago, I can’t remember exactly. At that point I wasn’t able to analyse it the way that I can do today. So what I’m trying to say is this does takes time; just like learning a language and understanding people speaking that language in a conversation to further @rickgoulburn’s analogy.

We have tonnes of courses and resources at PianoGroove which cover many different styles of jazz and theory areas. I’d recommend to view PianoGroove as ‘a library’ where you ‘take a book’ home, study it, and once you are comfortable with the concepts and theory, you move onto something else.

In addition it’s really important that you identify the musicians and records that you personally admire and want to sound like. Then you have something to shoot towards and set yourself a benchmark. That’s a really important step.

If you like you can post records here in the forum and myself, our other teachers, and perhaps other students will give you recommendations on what theory areas to study to push your sound in that direction.

I hope this helps Jochen - happy to answer any follow up questions or analyse any recordings for you etc…

Talk soon, cheers,

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Thank you so much for your statements. Today I saw the following interpretation from Errol Garner. If I look into his face I believe he only feels what he plays and does not think about the structure of scales, chords or tensions before he presses the keys.

Regards from Germany :raising_hand_man:t2:

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