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—

Piano practice (1h 45m)

Scale studies

  • All Lydian scales
  • All Ionian scales
  • C, F, Bb Lydian in grand form
  • All Lydian scales over moving Lydian DNA
  • Dissecting Phrygian scales over arpeggiated inversions (E, A, D, G) — sheet music link coming soon

Jazz voicings + left hand

  • iim9 — V13 — I∆9 | iiø — V7b9 — im9 (format 2) from Jazz Piano Voicings (C thru F#). Left hand:
    • Blocks
    • 10ths + octave blocks + b7-1-5 run on iiø

Improvisation

  • Minor blues scale — quick recap in all keys

How to practice modal scales in all keys and not slip into practicing mindfulness

I love modal scales. I mean, technically, all scales are modal, but you know what I mean. There is just no such things as standard fingering for C Dorian or D Phrygian, which means, you’re pretty much free to invent your own without feeling “incorrect”, plus — the sound of the full scale, when you play it, is not that beat-up solfège drill (compared to major or minor), so it does not immediately evoke in your mind depressing images of conservatory class full of virtuoso players where even the worst one is ≈1039 times better than you.

But, as always, I find mechanical scale runs a bit of a shit approach. It’s great for learning fingerings, but as soon as fingerings are there, you better add some thought process.

One way is to run scale against the common progression of the mode (aka modal DNA), for example, i — IV7 for Dorian here:

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I tend to add bits of improv as well.

Next, you can take modal DNA and break it into intervallic patterns — for example, my favourite — broken 10ths:

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This way you can also work on hand independency. And, of course, get familiar with modal scale degrees! IV7 of F Dorian? Bam — Bb! Plus, it sounds super nice.

Another slightly more academic way to jazz up the one-hand modal scale practice is to play the scales as you normally would, but instead of doing it to a root chord, change the chords that you play with the left hand to the next scale degree as you switch keys. So, you go: E Phrygian to i, A Phrygian to bII∆7, D Phrygian to bIII7, etc.

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It’s pretty tricky if you think of it, as you have to keep in mind both key signature and modal formula (or harmonise on the fly). But on the plus side — you (kind of) get rid of this awful sound of endless transposition. You know? I hate it. E-F-G-A-B-C-D-E… Now same shit up the fourth… A-Bb-C-D— 😖 I want every key to sound different! I mean, I know it’s not the case — but this hack will get you close enough to not to get lulled into meditative state. (Unless it’s what you’re using your practice time for! 😄)

I’ll come back with even less boring scale runs soon. Harmonise ’till it hurts! 🤙🏻

Bass day (1h 45m)

  • Scale studies
    • Scale dissection
      • Minor blues: R, b3-4-#4, 5, 7 (recap)
      • Major bebop
        • R-5, b6-6, 7-R
        • 7-R (below), 4-5, b6-6 (above or below), 7-R (all chromatics) — COOL!
  • Walking bass / chord tones
    • Voice leading / connecting inversions with passing tones (Phil Mann exercise) over All of Me in G
  • Reading
    • Afro Blue
    • Afternoon in Paris
    • Airegin

Observations

Just found another very effective way of internalising a new scale. Instead of going up and down the neck, you can first figure out all chromatic intervals in it and them play only them, memorising their position relative to the root. Semitones are normally the simplest to memorise and visualise on fretboard (like, major 7 below — root), therefore there’s a big chance that you will get familiar with them really quickly, and afterwards it will be much easier to learn the rest of the scale. In the case of major bebop, the chromatics are: 7 below — root, M3 — 4, b6 —6 and 7 — R (above). I played them around the cycle of 4ths in all keys, sometimes playing b6-6 run below — because it is quicker to find — and must say that I’m definitely feeling much more confident with this scale!