Elephants Everywhere! (Part 3/4)

In case you missed it, here’s the link to Part 2.

If you’re interested, this is my attempt at a formula for non-specialists for their piano students. It’s very limiting, but it’s a start.

First and foremost, tell the students to start listening to jazz records. Hopefully they can make a connection. I recommend Oscar Peterson’s Night Train because that was my first record. I also recommend Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue because I handed out a lead sheet of Freddie Freeloader. The point is that students are hearing (and hopefully enjoying) these tunes, and then take steps to learning the tunes themselves. Piano students might like Night Trainbetter than Kind of Blue, so I would consider handing out lead sheets for C Jam Blues and Night Train instead (emphasis on the blues).

Side Note: For all you James P. Johnson fans, notice that my starting point for beginners is Freddie Freeloader from the 50s. I start here because this is where I began my jazz education. When you’re shaping your lesson plans, where will you start?

I’ll divide the tune into three parts: bass, harmony/chords and melody/improv. Bass parts are played in the left hand, melodiy/improv is played in the right hand and harmony/chords can be played in either hand (I also handed out a chord chart). The student’s challenge is internalizing all three parts individually and then pairing them with another part.

  • Bass + harmony/chords
  • Bass + melody/improv
  • Harmony/chords + melody/improv

I’ll show you. For the sake of example, I’ll only use measures 5-8 of Freddie Freeloader. Also, the melody/improv part will be restricted to just melody. For a number of reasons, figuring out an improv formula is very complicated.

The lead sheet:

Elephants Everywhere - Lead Sheet

The three parts, in their most basic form:

Elephants Everywhere - Three Parts

Paired in three different ways:

Elephants Everywhere - Three Pairings

So far, I think non-specialists can handle this. What’s next!?

Usually, the next step is derived from either recordings or the guidance of a specialist. We can’t assume young students (or their teachers) have the skills or patience to figure out what’s happening on the recording. That leaves us with needing a specialist, but we don’t have that either. So if we bother to continue, things will get shady from this point on.

I’ll try. Stay tuned for part 4!

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