I’ve experimented with a few fingerings:
This may work as well, it opens the hand up a bit more:
Here’s a variation that I use sometimes (Right-hand ascending or left-hand descending). It can useful if my fifth-fingers need a break or if I’m only playing a section of the scale:
Stay tuned for part 4!
What about descending? The trick: Your right-hand descending uses the same fingering as left-hand ascending. And your left-hand descending uses the same fingering and right-hand ascending! This trick utilizes keyboard symmetry. Example:
The notes D and G# are points of keyboard symmetry. If you ascend chromatically from these notes, you will see an exact mirror image if you descend chromatically. This is you how you can figure out difficult fingering solutions for say, your left-hand: figure out how to play it symmetrically in your right-hand!
All my examples will only show ascending passages. I’ll assume you can figure out descending passages using keyboard symmetry.
Stay tuned for part 3!
We want to master our instrument. We want ultimate control. This requires ultimate control over our mind and muscles. Practicing is an act of training our mind and muscles to properly execute. And the only way to do that is through repetition.
Practicing while sick can be worse than taking the day off. Through repetition, you’d be training your body to hit wrong notes, retain a bad posture and be unfocused. It would take another day of practice to undo your mistakes!
Be attentive. Whenever you feel your body compensating for soreness or sickness, you’re probably better off doing something else. It’s up to you to be diligent and observe how your body is responding. Don’t be afraid to do something else productive that doesn’t involve infusing habits into your muscles.
I thought it’d be interesting to post some fingering exercises for pianists interested in exploring double-note scales. Posts will deal with things that I’ve worked on over that last two years. The exercises are derived from experimenting with Moszkowski’s book Scales & Double Notes Book II. Thanks to Gary Williamson for introducing me to this book!
Side Note: If anybody comes across Book III or Book IV, PLEASE let me know! I’m seriously interested in checking them out. I haven’t been able to find them.
Most important with double note scales is strengthening your third, fourth and fifth fingers. This is especially important because more often than not, these fingers will be playing melodies. Check out this exercise:
You can use the same fingering descending. Of course, there are many variations. So I would encourage pianists to practice ascending and descending with fingering alternating 3-4, 3-5, 4-5 and 3-4-5. This should prepare you for all of them! Example:
I should also mention that you shouldn’t limit yourself to the chromatic scale. Be sure to apply this to major scales, minor scales (melodic & harmonic), bop scales, diminished scales and any other scales you can think of. The above fingering variations will hopefully prepare you for the problems faced in these scales, but be sure to put them to the test!
Stay tuned for part 2!
In the best ensembles, everyone’s doing both simultaneously.
I have had many moments of weakness. I clicked the links, watched the videos and read the news. I told myself that I want to know about the business and what’s happening with the music scene. Energy is spent on taking sides in debates with no practical value. I catch myself thinking about non-issues. I get wrapped up in what others think about what others think. I read too much banter. Useless banter.
Maybe it’s useful for some people, but not for me.
If my goal is to create music, I’ll want to immerse myself in all things that contribute to that purpose. Otherwise, as far as this goal is concerned, those things are useless. The secret is in knowing goals and tracing the best path to achieving them.
Side Note: There’s an irony here. You’re here, visiting my website and reading this post. Are you reading this out of habit or because it’s useful to you? Does my blog and this post contribute to you achieving your goals? If not, then stop reading. You’ve got better things to do!
I’m getting better at filtering. I’m getting better at recognizing things that inspire, motivate and improve me. I’m also getting better at recognizing things that are irrelevant or have become irrelevant. The list is continuously changing. I hope I can achieve the day when everything I take in is useful and contributes to my goals. Or else, I’m wasting time. That is my ideal.
Know your goals. Stay the course.
on CBC Radio One (Pacific region)
Listen online: http://www.cbc.ca/hotair/
I wonder who started using the word ‘voice’ to express an artist’s individuality. It runs deep. Everyone’s looking for their ‘voice’ and getting frustrated when they don’t find it!
The obvious answer: “Everybody has a voice! Your voice is right under your nose!” This is true. If you look hard enough, you’ll find individuality in everyone.
(Side Note: Is having a ‘voice’ dependant on other people’s ability to recognize it?)
But this answer is useless. It isn’t good enough to call off the search. When we use the word ‘voice’ then, we must be referring to something else. Words like ‘clarity’ and ‘confidence’ come to mind. Maybe those individuals are still searching because they’re not comfortable with the voice they already have! Maybe the question should be: “How does one find confidence in his or her voice?”
I picture two musicians in two practice rooms. One is searching for his/her voice while the other is searching for confidence. It sounds like two entirely different game plans. I like the second one better. It accepts that you already have a voice but that it needs some attention. It needs a direction and a concept. The rest is practice.
Now we’re on to something!
“How does one find his or her voice?”
I replied: “Speak with confidence!”
We think a closed-minded artist is a fanatic. But an open-minded artist is a sellout.
Speak publicly about despising Coltrane’s music and they’ll put a bounty on your head. But telling someone: “He’s great!” goes against their expectations and your calling to be an honest artist.
The pressure from the community could be overwhelming, which is why we’ve developed escape phrases: “He’s great!” “She’s great!” You sound great!” “Great band!” Say no more, say no less; they won’t suspect a thing, but you’ve got to live with it!
I admire the artist who doesn’t succumb to that pressure. They’re the real deal. I’m not talking about the people who vibe you, I’m talking about the old school. The guys who know you better than you know yourself! They’re underrated. They don’t vibe and they don’t praise. They don’t change with the times either. That would be blasphemous!
I admire that.
While we’re on topic: Versatility is overrated too.
“I really don't think a kid younger than 16 is at all ready for jazz.
I'll elaborate a bit: I think you can teach a younger person how to swing. I think a good jazz player, however, should have an understanding of how most of the developments in the music come from a degree of rejection of what went before. There's also the concept of musical movements being couched in greater social changes of the time they come from. You also have to know enough standard practice period music to get how jazz turns those conventions on their head (i.e. rhythm). I suppose there are some pre-teens who might be able to handle all that, but I've never met any.”
I disagree so strongly that I consider this a non-issue. The fundamentals for a jazz education can start at age three. Kids can improvise and play tunes at age ten. Pre-teens can communicate musically in jazz ensembles. Mid-teens can write tunes and start their own jazz ensembles.
I know this because I lived it. And kids are still living it at the Humber College Community Music School.
But there’s still something lingering:
Jazz education is maximum 40 years old in Canada (if not in North America and the world). Programs have been springing up (some with considerable resistance) in colleges and universities all across the country. Naturally, jazz is gradually seeping down into high schools where graduates of these colleges and universities are teaching and making a living.
Side Note: Remember this post? It fits nicely, especially these few sentences:
“Arts institutions serve much broader a purpose than creating performers…Not all graduates have the skills, perseverance (or desire) to be performers. But that experience remains with them forever. They have a unique perspective. They have a cultured perspective.”
I’m very fortunate that I’m part of the first generation of music students who had access to a jazz education from when I was 3 years old (at HCCMS). To my knowledge, it was the first of its kind in the world and is still at the forefront of jazz education today. I’m excited to think that more programs like HCCMS will be appearing over the next 20 years!
Unfortunately, this movement is challenged at the post-secondary level by classical-music education. That’s beginning to change. The jazz community also challenges it. That’s changing too, but there are still plenty of issues out there creating resistance (The Carolina Shout incident, Teachout’s article, Old vs. New, Ali’s comments etc.). They’re all related in that they expose the community’s disunity. I hope that ironing out these issues is only a matter of fully realizing the education movement. After all, how many of them would exist if jazz education was 80 years old?
I’ll be bold: I think this 40-year-old process is part of a greater movement that can change the face of music education. It can change the world! It’s only a matter of blood, sweat, tears and patience!
My job: Pave the way; Promote unity.
I spotted another elephant today. She’s hiding; I’ll show you.
I mentioned in the previous post that these music teachers recognize the imbalance and want to change, but don’t know how. What I should have said is that they want to change and think they know how. They hired me didn’t they?
“Mr. Donnelly, please teach us how to teach jazz!”
I had one hour to teach “how to teach jazz” to music teachers who know nothing about the jazz tradition. There’s the elephant! No, not the ‘one-hour.’ I’m referring to the last part.
Let me be clearer: These teachers are not qualified to teach jazz just as I’m not qualified to teach Russian. No number of workshops will change this. No number of workshops can substitute for blood, sweat and tears.
Here’s the problem: Anything other than blood, sweat and tears is a shortcut. I don’t believe in shortcuts; they’re beside the point. Otherwise we’re resorting to teaching RCM-approved Oscar Peterson solos, jazzy versions of Pachabel’s Canon in D and other shortcuts/variations. So what can you teach them to teach that’s not a shortcut?
Deeper: If our goal is to build another room, to what degree, if any, can the new room include non-specialists?
The topic: How to Teach Jazz Piano.
The class: Remember this post? Generally, the class consisted of piano teachers from the ‘read-execute’ tradition who are encountering more and more students interested in learning “jazz.”
The elephant: I’m not interested in RCM-approved transcriptions of Oscar Peterson solos. I’m not interested in jazzy versions of Pachabel’s Canon in D. I’m interested in a fundamental shift in methodology. They need to embrace a ‘listen-execute’ tradition. And I want them to embrace the jazz ‘listen-execute’ tradition!
Every music teacher I spoke to recognized the imbalance. They all want to change, but don’t know how. The elephant is getting bigger.
Our goal: Build another room!
UPDATE: I spotted another elephant.
For musicians, technique often refers to ‘fast playing,’ but can also refer to precision, control, range and balance. Virtuosos are master technicians. They possess all of these qualities. In an effort to improve our technique, we’re taught, for example, to master scales (in every key!)
But isn’t there a flaw in this approach? If you have no intention of performing music that requires the skills acquired from practicing scales, then why practice scales!?
There are two issues here: The musical and the physical.
We often hear the question: Who has better technique, Oscar Peterson or Thelonious Monk? It’s a silly question. Some will argue: “With his incredible facility, Oscar has ability to express more than Monk!” To which I respond: “Yes, Oscar can express more Oscar than Monk. But Monk can express more Monk than Oscar! Are you listening to the music or notes/minute!?”
What if Monk acquired technical skills beyond what was required of his own music? One day, he ‘mastered’ the C major scale and could play it up and down faster than anybody. Knowing that he would never use a scale like that, one could say that it wouldn’t benefit his music. It might one day benefit someone else’s music, but most likely, it was a waste of Monk’s time.
How does one know what technical exercises they should practice?
What do you want to perform? Pick your repertoire. Repertoire comes first. Music comes first. That should be your goal. Then devise a strategy to acquire the skills needed to execute the music (if you don’t have them already!). Technique is a means to this end, not an end in itself.
Side note: If you are a master technician (i.e. technique is your main objective), could you say that you are a composer’s means to this end?
In regards to the second issue (the physical), I fear that students are too often injuring themselves and becoming discouraged because of ‘technical expectations.’ Their physical limitations make it impossible for them to achieve the proficiency of say, Oscar Peterson. What they need to realize is that everybody has a point of physical exertion on their instrument that can’t be crossed without injury. I would encourage all musicians to explore the limits of their physicality but never try to achieve someone else’s.
Remember: Music comes first.
“The artist has only to take care that everything stands clearly before us in its most authentic form so that we can sense it. He is on guard against all that is vague or ineffective, zealous to find the most accurate depiction of all objects, and diligent in thinking of a good form for his work whereby its totality becomes interesting.”
- Johann Georg Sulzer, General Theory of the Fine Arts (1771-74)
I was going to write a reflection, but wouldn’t that have defeated the point?