I play the piano. And have played for 50 years on again and off again. The last couple of years have been on again, and it has been a joy. But for someone who likes the jazz medium, its too bad that I’m tied to notes on the page. I haven’t developed skill at improvisation.
I’ve approached it many times. Whether it is a teacher or a book, the set is the same: There are 5 variations of the 7-chord. For each chord, there is a root position and 3 inversions to learn. Learn the 5 variations and 4 voicings in all 12 keys. Do that in both the right hand and the left hand. After you have that done, you are ready for lesson two! Talk about hitting a wall at lesson one! I’ve hit that wall several times.
The most recent book I’ve acquired is Bill Dobbins, “A Creative Approach to Jazz Piano Harmony”. I’ve been working at lesson one for about a month. I’ve learned major-7 and dominant-7 in 12 keys. I’m working at the minor. I will still have half-diminished and diminished to work on! This is not exactly what you call instant gratification! But I think I’ll hang in there.
Yesterday, I read, or perhaps re-read, Mr. Dobbins introduction to the book. What he had to say was profound. At least it was at that reading.
The question may be asked, whether or not it is really necessary to practice all material in all inversions and in all keys. The answer, of course, is that it is not really necessary for any of us to do most of the things we do. If we are really interested in developing our bodies we submit to endlessly repetititve exercise regimins with little complaining, as long as we eventually see some positive result. If I wish to have a richer harmonic vocabulary than I do now, and to use that vocabulary with both greater effectiveness and spontaneity, it seems only logical that I will need to practice differently than I do now. Unfortunately, contemporary society and the media strongly condition us to expect to be able to have anything we want almost immediately, and with the investment of as little time or money as possible. No one seems to notice that most things which can be so easily obtained are not worth having to begin with.
So Mr. Dobbins sent me that message loud and clear. Since I’ve already bought the book, I might as well hang in there and do the work. Unless I don’t want to. I think I do!