Mood Studies EP, short film and piano book

Hey piano fam, what’s happening! I’m finally done with releasing / promoting / advertising business I had to embark on in order to make the interwebs a little bit more aware of my new EP. I must say I am not exactly the biggest fan of the promotion part (to put it the softest way possible), but that’s something you just have to do, so yeah—

In fact, there’s a ton of amazing things I and my friends have done over the course of the last two weeks, so I’m going to take this opportunity and shamelessly share some of them with you here — although it might not have directly something to do with the piano practice, which is the main topic of this blog.

So, first of all, the EP is out on all streaming platforms, and here’s the link to all of them in one place:

https://fanlink.to/moodstudies

If you simply want to stream it, just go to my SoundCloud, but if you want to get some extras, it might make sense to check out my Bandcamp page. For this release, I collaborated with an extremely talented nature photographer Anton Ilinski, and we produced the 30-page piano book containing the sheet music for all the pieces and also featuring Anton’s stunning images. Here’s a couple of screenshots from it:

It is available as PDF and is included in the downloads of both my EP and the solo-piano version of one of its tracks (that will cost you $5 and $3 respectively). I have immensely enjoyed putting this book together and I’m really happy with how well photographs worked together with the music.

In fact, they worked so well that I decided to go ahead and edit a short film using them and some archive footage from the 70s that you can watch here:

The track you hear in this video is available in two versions — fully orchestrated that you get on the EP and grand piano only that came out as a separate release. As I said, the sheet music book is included for free in both downloads. And just because I feel like it, I’m going to share the sheet music for this very track here for free:

Jan Vaschuk — Arrivals and Departures (PDF)

Okay, so that’s what I was up to during the last couple of silent weeks, and now I’m ready to go back to focused practice and — of course — to sharing new routine ideas here, so stay tuned and — harmonise ’till it hurts! 🤓

Lydian clouds for your slow attack pad

Hey folks, I’m so sorry for this long gap between posts again. There’s a ton of stuff going on — I’m preparing the piano sheet music book for my EP, editing the videos and just mindlessly cycling around the town (which should, of course, also be considered an important activity) — long story short, I just can’t carve out the time to sit down and share some quality material here (although believe me I have a fuckton of it in the queue). Did I just use “fuck” and “quality material” in the same sentence? 🤔 Anyway! This time is going to be a quick modal workout that I’ve recently used, and as soon as I’m done with my release, I promise I’ll get back with a fat post on descending motion I’ve been wanting to share with you all for a long time. But today, let’s talk about Lydian clouds!

What? Yes, this:

 

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So what’s going on here? All I’m doing is layering the incomplete Lydian scale runs with the degrees of the 3rd degree of the same scale (iii7 in this case) played in triad and rootless jazz voicing (in this example it’s 7-3-5). Lydian is one of the favourite modes of jazz composers — unsurprisingly, because of its more-major-than-major quality that’s coming from the II7 and V∆ degrees. I personally like it a lot and use it very often in my compositions.

This exercise — as pretty much every other in this blog — helps you achieve several goals: memorise the scale degrees and understand how they define the mode’s nature. Plus — the whole figure creates a very obscure sound that could be easily used as an accompaniment device. Done with iii7? Pick another degree!

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Same idea: Lydian scale from root to 6th in the left hand, Lydian V∆7 in the right. The beauty of it is that you can also adjust several things as you go to avoid getting bored: for example, play different degrees each time or change the scale range you cover with your left hand. Here’s an example:

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I might say that I’ve intentionally left it you to figure out what degrees I was using in each bar, but I’ll be honest and admit that I just forgot to mark them in the sheet music 😄 So, go figure! 🤓

That’s it for today — I hope it was not too boring and too jazzy or too Lydian or — insert your term for something that feels a bit too lazy — but let’s just call it slow attack pad routine. Jokes aside — you might wanna try it on your favourite Serum or Omnisphere pad instead of the piano — you won’t be disappointed! Okay, going back to my release prep business — talk to you later!

The sexiest bass pattern on Earth (so far, in this blog, in my opinion)

What’s up people? Long time no see, huh? I’m sorry — I’ve been quite busy during the last two weeks working on a couple of scores (this one and this one) and preparing my new EP release. That includes some annoying promo job, but also cutting cool videos and animating photos shot by this extremely talented person. Anyway, let’s go back to the topic of this blog!

If you’re reading it for a while, you probably know my obsession with 10ths — the bigger thrids, the thirds that got out of puberty, or — as I used to call them when I was more involved in skateboarding — the ollie of left-hand patterns— I mean, you get it. The broken 10th chords sound freaking awesome, and when you master them, they take your playing to the next level and literally open new universes. In this sense, they are the ollie of piano 🛹 But like every cool trick, they get boring and dry if you don’t incorporate them into new, increasingly complex contexts. Luckily, there are endless possibilities for us to explore 🤓

Let’s talk about Erroll Garner’s ballad bass. Erroll Garner was an American jazz pianist who specialised in mid-tempo swing ballads with lush left-hand arrangements and insanely beautiful ornamental passages (that he played without even taking a single look at the keyboard, obviously). I was reading one of my favourite jazz books the other day, Jazz Piano: The Left Hand by Riccardo Scivales, and found a little extract from Garner’s composition that demonstrated his peculiar left-hand device. It was, of course, an immense waterfall of 32nd notes that I couldn’t play, so, as always, I did my little research and adapted the virtuoso line a bit to fit my needs.

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What’s going on here? As you can see, it’s pretty much the broken 10th chord of Cm, but instead of 10th (that would be Eb) I’m first playing the minor 9th (which is D) and then proceed to the 10th. And then, to make it sound complete, I go ahead and play the major triad based on that 10th, which is the Eb major triad. And because it’s just not cool enough, I continue to play the 9th of Cm one octave above — which happens to be the major 7th of the Eb in the octave I’m currently in — which is, of course, the same D I played at the very beginning before the 10th. I’m pretty sure it sounds a bit entangled, but the idea is actually very simple: you take the minor chord, and you add a major III∆ chord on top of it, tying them together with a minor 9th. Man, that sounds beautiful!

And this is just the beginning! I’m going to keep developing this line and add some descending motion to it. Here is the pimped up version in Cm & Fm:

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Same idea — starting on 1-5-9, then a III∆ chord built on the minor 10th, colour tone (pick your favourite — I used both octave or 9th here), and then a gradual descent back to where you started. I’m using the old trick here by revoicing my Eb chord as a 7-1-3 shell (playing 7th below the root), and my Cm chord as a 7-3-5 shell. One can, of course, think about these combinations of notes as completely different chords or even as individual scale degrees, but really, what I’ve noticed is that thinking in shell voicings could be an extremely powerful tool that helps you not to lose your position on the keyboard. Try it out!

Here’s the same approach used for two major chords (C & F):

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Identical to minor, only this time I’m using major 9th, major 10th and my triad that I’m putting on top of the root chord is minor (e. g. C — Em, F — Am). Because you’re harmonising the major scale now mate! 😄 Plus, I chose to play just the root note of the V chord (as opposed to the whole triad in the previous example).

Talking about mixing major and minor — personally, I find these little injections of the opposite color (Eb∆ in Cm and Em in C) immensely beautiful and very satisfying. Playing such a line en lieu of a typical double octave or 1-5 bass creates ambiguity that might embellish otherwise dry and straightforward progression.

Here’s the excerpt that involves the right hand (playing sus4 arpeggio-based figures) in the keys of Cm and Fm:

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I can play this one for hours (also working on my finger independence, actually! 😄) and still not get enough of this. So, definitely, thank you for inspiration, dear Mr. Garner 🙏🏻

As a closing part, I would like to share a little piece that is composed mostly using the above technique. Sheet music is available for download below.

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Download sheet music as PDF

That’s it for today, I hope I’ll be able to keep pauses between posts a bit shorter and get back to you very soon with some new practice ideas and studies! Let’s talk independence and modal mixture next time shall we? 🤓 Harmonise till it hurts—

Album release, new modal studies coming soon and more

Hey, how is it going folks? A lot of things are happening currently, so I thought it would make sense to write a quick update about it all.

First of all, some new exciting modal studies are coming, I’ve just finished cleaning up sheet music and am going to post them soon — stay tuned 🤙🏻

Second of all, I’ve just dropped a new album that is a compilation of my work during the last year. It was an intense period of my life with me finishing my music studies in California and then flying to Germany, briefly hovering over Europe in a suspended state of which-direction-am-I-going-ness, and finally hopping on my bike to cycle around the Leipzig downtown and city channels. It resulted in a collection of instrumental pieces that don’t necessarily have to coexist on an EP or LP or any kind of release really, but, as it often happens, having zoomed out far enough, I could see the big picture in which they fit very well together.

So, here it is. If you want to give it a spin, feel free to check out the release on the Bandcamp and leave me your feedback.

 

I’m also working on a new piano EP, which is currently in the post-production stage. So, a lot of new stuff on the horizon! Hope you’re enjoying your weekend and not forgetting about practice! 🤓 À plus tard!

Perpetuation — new track & sheet music

Salut! I’ve been busy recently rehearsing and recording a new piece that is called Perpetuation and is inspired by the déplacements that I undertook in recent time.

I often feel that there is a certain — poorly identifiable — substrate that somehow lurks behind everyday pictures. Although at times it does come very close to the surface of the wordable world where you could harpoon it with one right term — especially on those sunny summer weekends when you sit around on an empty tennis court or walk down the street to the supermarket — yet, it never really reveals itself fully, thus leaving you with a bunch of almost-there definitions. I know you know what I am talking about, and that’s exactly why I am going to shut up now and give you the link to the track and sheet music to download 🎼

See you in a practice session!

Download full score as PDF

Reversed stride bass in the context of satisfaction

Okay, first post after a two-week vacation! The best advice I could give to my two-week-younger self? Don’t ever take a goddam break from posting! I should’ve known this trap already, and yet I fell into it just like that. Anyway, on the plus side, I have tons of new sheet music and practice routine ideas waiting in the pipeline now, so expect high activity in the nearest future 👌🏻

Alright, today I wanted to talk about another left hand pattern that is worth exploring after you’ve mastered the broken 10ths and the excitement of mixing them with other diatonic intervallic patterns has started to wane. Reversed stride bass! I found it in the wonderful book Jazz Piano: The Left Hand by Roberto Scivales (which I highly recommend to everyone), got blown away by it and then amended it in order to use it in my own routine.

Reversed stride bass is — well, stride bass played backwards 🤓 Instead of hitting the root in the low register and then following up with a block triad or shell octave or two above, you do the exact opposite. Here’s the exercise that I used to practice this movement:

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The right hand here plays rootless voicings with minimal movement voice-leading pattern (7-3-5 → 3-7-9) around the cycle of 4ths. The left hand plays chord shells one octave lower and roots two octaves lower. You may also add root — 5th — root octave up movement to complement the rhythmic figure, but it’s more of an ornament.

You can absolutely play block chords in place of shells with the left hand, but, to my taste, doubling roots just sound too muddy. As always, after cycling that thing, take it to your favourite modal progressions & songs.

Reverse stride may sound a bit weird on its own, so, in order to add some FAT and intensity, you can actually combine it with broken 10ths (1-5-10) and block triads! It might be a bit tricky to get used to, but super fun to practice. Check this out:

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Same routine (cycling → modal DNAs → songs).

Just for the hell of it, here’s the (slightly oddly voiced) ii—V—I—IV improv that makes extensive use of the above pattern:

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I’m definitely not done practicing it yet, so it most likely is going to be one of my priorities in the next sessions. There aren’t too many things as satisfying as hitting the low A after a rather watery sounding 7th chord shell played over another shell, both of which are trying their best to avoid the root 😄 Till later—

Back from vacation!

Alright fellas, it’s been a long vacation — not exactly as productive as I planned it, quite procrastination-filled, I would say rather (although I did practice as normal) — so, now it’s time to go back to theory! Got some exciting stuff prepared, more details soon! I’ll be updating the practice log as well, so make sure to use your time machines and read posts from the past 😄 Till later!