Book Review: Beginning Jazz Keyboard

In my music library, I own Noah Baerman's book,

Complete Jazz Keyboard Method: Beginning Jazz Keyboard
It's The Complete Jazz Keyboard Method with CD for:
  • Beginning
  • Intermediate
  • Mastering
Here's a little blurb from Amazon:

"Anyone with basic keyboard skills (equivalent to Alfred's Basic Piano, Lesson Book 2) can dig right in and begin learning jazz right away. Spanning from the major scale and basic triad theory all the way through 7th chords, pentatonic scales and modulating chord progressions, this book features a full etude or tune demonstrating every new concept introduced. Beginning Jazz keyboard breaks the age-old tradition of dry, intimidating and confusing jazz books, and provides an actual step-by-step and enjoyable method for learning to play in this style. The CD demonstrates examples and offers opportunity to play along."
It's a great resource and what I like about this book is that it takes you to some exotic chords,
instead of the regular major/minor chords. I think you'll like this one and the price is good.
 On my other blog, that is mostly for Jazz songs, I posted a favorite of mine,
Bouncin' With Bill E.  You can find the music chord chart at Bouncin with Bill. But today I
wanted to talk a little bit about shell voicings.

Some chord tones are more important than others. Let's take a look at the 3 most
common 7th chords (major, minor and dominant) from a root of D.

D Maj, which is DF#AC# played together.
D7, the notes in the chord are DF#AC.
Dmin7 chord has the notes, DFAC.

We know the root is important since that is what defines the chord. the 3rd and 7th
are not the same from chord to chord, so we need those to determine the chord quality.
The 5th is another story. The major, minor and dominant 7th chords all have perfect 5ths.
That means three chords are being played.

To play shell voicings, we use the same concept we've been using but leave out the 5th
of each chord; the roots go in the left hand and the right hand takes the 3rds and 7ths.
If the melody note is the 3rd or 7th of a chord, we have three-note chords; if not, we add
the melody note on top and have a four note chord. This is a very sparse, compact way to
voice chords without losing the character of the changes.

Play this I-vi-ii-V-I in G Major.

(I) GMaj7 =  (root) G/F#B (7th and 3th)

(vi) Emin7 = (root) E/DG (7th and 3th)

(ii) Amin7 = (root) A/CG (3th and 7th)

(V) D7 = (root) D/CF# (7th and 3th)

(I) GMaj7 = (root) G/BF# (3th and 7th

These voicings just get easier on the hands. In the above example, the
right hand barely has to move at all. This ease in voice leading is common
with shell voicings whenever the roots are moving down in 5ths (or up in 4ths).
In these cases, the most you'll have to move to get from the 7th of one chord to
the 3rd of the next is a whole step, sometimes only a half step. To get from the
3rd of one chord to the 7th of the next, you often need only to repeat the same note!

GMaj7 = G/F#B (7th and 3th)

Emin7 = (5th) E/DG (7th and 3th)

Amin7 = (4th) A/CG (3th and 7th)

D7 = (5th) D/CF# (7th and 3th)

GMaj7 = G/BF# (3th and 7th)

If you like Jazz, then consider looking into these dvd courses from HearandPlay:

Jazz101  and  Jazz201

Thanks to many of you that have asked about shell voicings. You can learn so much about
Jazz from Willie Myette and James Wurbel. Look them up on YouTube... some great stuff!


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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