Practice session: lost in dissonances, rescued by Lydian sweetness

Scale studies

  • All Hm1 scales
  • All Hm1 scales, focus on descending motion
  • Accidentals jam (Dorian scales in all keys) — must confess that this exercise does not really apply well to anything other than harmonic minor 😕

  • Scale dissection: C, F, Bb Lydian over moving major 7th arpeggio in groups of 3
  • Scale dissection: C, F, Bb & Eb Lydian over arpeggiated scale degrees in groups of 3

Here’s what I mean:

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Surprisingly, it’s slightly easier to play than over the moving root arpeggio (because you don’t have to think about inversions all the time and simply go up the scale degrees) — and it sounds much better. Especially in sweet Lydian mode 🍭 Might get tricky in keys with a lot of accidentals though.

Jazz voicings + left hand

  • iim9 — V13 — I∆9 — IV∆ | iiø — V7b9 — m9 in C thru A, descending broken 10ths with the left hand

Session timing: 2h

Practice session: modes of harmonic minor & not forgetting 10ths

Scale studies

  • All Hm1 scales
    • Focus on sharp keys
    • Accidentals jam Bb — F — Eb (Hm1)
    • Accidentals jam C — F — Bb (Dor)

Left hand

Session timing: 2h

Becoming a scale monster

Last week I’ve shared a non-boring scale hack that is supposed to turn the scale studies that are often viewed as boring and mechanical into an — quoting Dan Haerle — extremely entertaining pastime. I am using it all the time, and just recently I’ve come up with a new workout that could be viewed as a sequel to the original one. Word of warning: its efficiency in terms of fucking up your brain and your finger muscles has improved exponentially. This is why I called it The Scale Monster.

At some point in my bass training I have been introduced to the concept of chord permutations. Basically, it’s just pure math: you have a 7th chord arpeggio, and there are 24 ways to play these notes in a sequence. Not a big deal, right? Later, you realise that you can then take all inversions of this chord and permutate them. Which will give you 96 sequences. Which you will then transpose to all keys and circle around all the modes and create all the Western music.

Of course, it would be crazy for a human to just mechanically practice this hell (although it does improve your fluency tremendously). Instead, you can just use it as a pool of pre-generated patterns to sex up your routine!

Check it out — this is just a regular F#m7 chord played consequently in all inversions:

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Easy, right?

Going on — F#m7 in all permutations starting on 1:

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Personally, I just like how it sounds. There is no trace of that worn-out minor arpeggio sound that so many other people are practicing at this very moment all around the world. Yes, it’s a bit robotic — but — we’ll fix that in a sec.

Next — my “aha!” moment: 1st inversion in different permutations:

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Note that permutating the inversion does not give you the same results as permutating the original chord, as the root (aka 1) is transposed one octave above. So it’s a completely different set of combinations.

As a next step, I’m going to take one permutation of choice (1-3-5-7 in this case) and play all inversions of my F#m7 using it — ascending, then descending:

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And finally, add the right hand that is going to play the F# Dorian scale dissected into groups of 2 notes:

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If up until this point you were only mildly challenging the part of your brain responsible for scale fluency, now’s the moment when you finger independence gets fucked up big time! 🤓

Not all of it might sound great — as particular permutations might create dissonant intervals with scale degrees, but that only means that you can spend another two hours trying out other ones figuring out the best combination. And — remember — it was only F# Dorian over F#m7. Sooo… You get the idea 🤙🏻 Harmonise ’till it hurts! Till next time—

Practice session: permutations and more Gershwin studies

Scale studies

  • All Lydian scales
  • All Ionian scales
  • Scale dissection: Ab Lydian over Ab∆7 moving arpeggios in groups of two
  • Scale dissection: F# Dorian over F#m7 moving arpeggios in groups of three
  • Scale dissection #2: F# Dorian in groups of three over F#m7 regrouped arpeggios
  • Scale dissection #3: F# Dorian in groups of three over all F#m7 inversions in 1-3-5-7 permutations (several slow passes, but couldn’t really play it fluently)

Left hand

  • Gershwin reversed stride bass (#14 from Jazz Piano: The Left Hand)
    • Original chord progression (dominant descent over the cycle of 4ths from F#, in fact 🤓)
    • Minor variation
      • Only reversed stride in 3-7 → R | 7-10 → R pattern
      • Reversed stride + broken 10ths + block triads up the octave (sounds super dope 🔥)
  • Descending 10ths in a free jam: focus on 10-5 movement

Improvisation

  • Major blues scale around the cycle (quick recap)

Session timing: 2h 30m

Observations

Variations are great! It definitely is much more inspiring an empowering than simply learning the piece from sheet music and finally reading it without any errors. Understanding the logic behind the particular composition and the techniques that are used in it — and then being able to freely play your variation of it in which one can still recognise the original — this is extremely satisfying.

Scale practice routine that’s as fun as drugs are bad

I promised to come back with more non-boring scale practice routine ideas, so here they are. I think I made it clear enough in this blog that I hate doing mechanical exercises and thoughtlessly practicing patterns. That’s not very helpful in a real-life situation (still, knowing fingering is important!) Anyway, here’s what I do when I want to learn the scale and be able to use it and also enjoy the sound of my exercise.

I call it scale dissection. You literally take the scale and divide it into small diatonic lines and then snort them in one after another (I swear I tried to come up with the better analogy). It could be something as easy as 1-2, 3-4, 5-6, 7-1, or more sophisticated as b7-1, 1-b3, 5-1, 1-5-10 — you name it. Bottom line, it has to consist of scale tones. To keep left hand busy, you can choose something not very brain-processing-heavy, like a common pattern (see previous post) or — in this case — arpeggiated inversions. This would also improve hand independence. Playing dissected scale and arpeggiated inversion in the adjacent octaves is recommended for the maximum level of brain fuck.

Just like doing an ollie 360 on a skateboard, trying the whole thing unprepared might result in injuries, therefore it might be helpful to approach in three stages:

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I’m making a one measure pause after each bit to buy me some time and figure out the notes and fingering. Next, making sure I can play arpeggios steadily enough to not to care too much about the right hand:

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And, finally, the full version:

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And that’s just one scale! You can do the same in C minor now:

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And the beauty of this routine is that you don’t have to play the same stuff in all keys. If you feel like it, you can dissect C minor in a completely different way — and then practice switching to in from F minor pattern seamlessly! Sounds like another 2 hours of work right?

Also, all arpeggiated inversions could be replaced with chord permutations (like, 1-3-5-7 or 3-7-5-1, etc.), which can then also be inverted. And what about blues and bebop scales? What about bloody Vagadhisvari scale? You get the idea. Have fun—

Gershwin’s reversed stride bass and best practice moments

Scale studies

  • All Lydian scales
  • All Ionian scales in contrary motion
  • Lydian scales dissection over moving arpeggiated inversions (C, F, Bb)

Left hand

  • Gershwin’s reversed stride bass — study + applying (from Jazz Piano: The Left Hand by Riccardo Scivales
IMG_0536 2

Yes, the notes I make in my textbooks look exactly as they look here 😆

Observations

I was studying a fragment from the Gershwin piece today where he uses a particular bass pattern, and it felt so satisfying to finally get it: ah, that’s what he’s doing here! After half an hour of meandering it just clicked. Probably the best moment in piano practice: when you’re slowly digging your way through the piece, dreaded by all the sheet music, and it feels so weird and complicated, and then — bam! — the logic kicks in and you realise what exactly is happening here. And then you can just play it without even looking at the sheet music.

Session timing: 1h 45m

Piano day (1h 40m)

Scale studies

Jazz voicings + left hand

  • ii — V9 — I∆ | iiø — V7b9 — i in all keys with broken 10ths and arpeggiated triads up an octave
  • Dominant to Major cycling (skill 38a from Jazz Piano Voicings) with 10ths & triad blocks in LH