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.

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
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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)

Modal studies

  • Lydian DNA in 7th arpeggios
    • LH only
    • LH + alternating shells in RH (gave up pretty quickly, need to approach it slowly)
  • Harmonising Lydian scale in chord pairs around the cycle in growing gaps (Imaj7 — II7, Imaj7 — iii, Imaj7 — #IV, etc. — e. g. C — D, F — A-, Bb — Eø, etc.) — extra cool exercise!

Arpeggios + combined LH & RH melodic studies

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This badass workout achieves three goals:

  • Improve LH technique by drilling the 2-octave arpeggios along with harmonic intervals
  • Think in chord tones and improve key fluency
  • Enjoy the non-boring exercise that actually sounds nice even though you’re still just playing a diatonic pattern around the cycle of goddam fourths

Improv

  • Major blues scale improv in all keys (recap)
    • LH: harmonic 5ths & 6ths
    • Broken 10ths + blocks

Just for the hell of it

  • All Lydian scales (similar & contrary motion)

Piano day (2h)

Left hand + shells

  • Descending major 10ths workout (10-5-1 + 6-7)
    • Only LH
    • With RH: 7-3-5 shells
    • With RH: alternating shells of same chord (7-3-5 to 3-6-9 or 3-7-9) — octave jump
    • With RH: connecting descending shells (cycling 7-3-5 to 3-7-9)

Left hand + modal studies

  • Lydian DNA (Imaj7 — II7) in all keys
    • Blocks
    • LH: 1-5-10-6’-7’ | 1-1’, RH: 7-3-5 shell | 1 octave scale run

Left hand + scale studies

  • Major blues scale recap (LH: broken 10ths, harmonic 5ths and 6ths)

Reading + analysis

  • Fascinating Rhythm by George Gershwin  (first 4 bars, then quick improv over LH pattern) — Exercise #14 from Jazz Piano: The Left Hand book

Observations
I haven’t been practicing too much bass during the last months, as I’m trying to focus in on left hand on piano, but recently I picked it up late at night and simply did some walking over a jazz standard. Then some inversions. Some permutations. Some arpeggios. All that stuff that I though I’ve had enough of. One big takeaway from that? Wanna get excited about seemingly boring material like scales, arpeggios and reading on your instrument? Simply practice another one for a month or so (completely ignoring the first one), and I swear you’ll start CRAVING it! 😂

Piano day (2h 45m)

  • Improv / scales study
    • Locrian 2-octave scales in all keys with two hands
    • Improvisation: Locrian scale over m7b5 chords, all keys around the cycle (to the bass line and rhodes)
    • 2-octave Lydian pentatonic in all keys (major shells in LH)
    • 2-octave minor pentatonic in all keys (minor shells in LH)
    • 2-octave “Locrian pentatonic” (1-b2-b3-b5-b6) + m7b5 shells in LH
    • Hirajoshi scale (checked out in C)
  • Left hand
    • Intervallic patterns
      • 1-5-6 in major & minor (cycling)
      • Broken tenths (1-5-10 + 1-5-6 8va) in major & minor (cycling)
      • Broken chords (1-5 + 1-3-5 8va) in major & minor (cycling)
  • Interpreting pop tunes (wow!)
    • Muse — New Born
    • Damon Albarn — Hostiles (looked up chords on UltimateGuitar and adapted to piano using intervallic patterns in LH and shells in RH)

Observations

Moving towards 3-hour sessions on weekend. Taking breaks after each hour is essential! Also, 3 hours really feel awesome in terms of stuff you can cram into this time without rushing and messing up. Musical observations: I finally go to Locrian mode! I have been avoiding it for such a long time. Professors in music school only mentioned it briefly saying it is not that useful, we weren’t asked to compose in it, so I totally ignored it. Until lately. And man it’s beautiful!!! Don’t believe anyone who tells you that Locrian is “ugly” or “scary”. It’s sad, tragic, dramatic, incredibly touching, anything but ugly. Also I discovered a whole family of modal pentatonic scales that can be derived from normal heptatoic modal scales by applying major or minor pentatonic patterns to them. For example, you can take 1-3-4-5-7 and apply it to Lydian mode, which will give you 1-3-#4-5-7, which is BEAUTIFUL! Fun fact: most people on the internets tend to use major pentatonic pattern to derive modal pentatonics (1-2-3-5-6), but it’s definitely worth looking at minor as well.

Another cool practice routine I came up with is adapting pop songs to piano using patterns that I already learn (or am learning). That is, taking chords and breaking them down to shell voicings and intervallic patterns for the left hand. Makes any song sound immediately like a “piano version”.