Back on the Bench and Out of the Box

IMG_2511 This month I became a piano student again. To learn why, see this previous post about online lessons. The shift in focus from sitting in the driver's seat (teacher in charge) to the passenger side is enlightening to say the least.

A long time ago, my family learned to tune me out (my practicing, that is) which is good because employing Bradley Sowash's steps to bringing a lead sheet to life takes an enormous amount of focused repetition. As I say to all my students: "repetition is your  friend" and yes, I have found a friend.

As a blog is defined as a personal website in which an individual records opinions, experiences, etc., I've now made a commitment to blogging about my journey as a classically trained pianist learning how to build some jazz chops. It is intended that my blogging efforts will inspire

  1. you to do the same and step out and learn something new (I'd love some company!)
  2. me so I have a record of where I started and the progress I’ve made.

Among other things, my first lesson assignment was to complete the following with a lead sheet (notated melody with chord symbols) of Gershwin's Summertime:

  • Master the melody
  • Add LH (left hand) chords employing a Sowash special formula that works like a charm
  • Add RH fills during long melodic durations
  • Use the dark blues scale in my RH for adding fills and melodic embellishments
  • Add a couple of LH bass notes between the chords.

After watching Bradley masterfully demonstrate the combination listed above, there was a moment where I felt completely inadequate. This did not stop me from wanting to try as there is a small thread of competitiveness and tenacity in my bloodline!

Below is a video of my efforts after two weeks. It's a shame there was not more time to practice--all of  this teaching and blogging gets in the way!  I feel I'm stepping out and placing myself in a vulnerable position allowing "the world"  to view my attempts at playing outside my box but, here it goes...

As stated earlier, combining all the prescribed elements took some time to absorb. Reading this from the grand staff would have been SO much easier! Here are the steps that it took for me to become comfortable adding fill notes in the RH as it seemed impossible to come up with something "appealing" when I first began:

  • Mastered the LH (left hand) chords so it became involuntary, like breathing
  • Added the RH melody above the LH with confidence and a little embellishment
  • Omitted the melody (sang it in my head) and only played fills that echoed the melody
  • Played the melody up an octave and echoed with fills an octave lower
  • Played the dark Blue scale above the LH chords and began experimenting
  • Eventually added fills that borrowed from both the melody and the dark blues scale.

Stay tuned for more posts about my hopefully ongoing progress in this entirely new process for a printed-page-loving gal.

Do you have any tips to share? Would love to hear them!

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iPad Revolution-Book-Comp-4 2Interested in learning how I use the iPad to practice lead sheets? Order my book The iPad Piano Studio: Keys to Unlocking the Power of Apps here.

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