Styles, Arranging & More


Intros, endings, interludes, vamps, full arrangements and styles and are some of the topics that you will find in this catch-all category.

Studying transcribed intros from recordings can yield a wealth of useful information. Not only can you use them to open an arrangement or performance but you can dissect them for licks and progressions that you can use for improvising, arranging or composition. The three Oscar Peterson intros presented in this lesson are transcribed from recordings between 1962-1997 and provide a treasure trove of harmonic and melodic Oscarness. Learn how to play them (fingerings!), how to take them apart and how to apply the magic that lies within each of these four to eight bar mini-compositions to your own playing.

The lead sheet is the basic form of notation for the jazz repertoire. Composed of the melody, written in treble clef, and chord symbols, written above the staff, a lead sheet confers only the most basic elements of a tune. The ability to read and interpret lead sheets is a fundamental skill for every jazz player. In this lesson, learn how to interpret notation and chord symbols common to jazz lead sheets.

A classic ending for standard tunes and ballads, this lesson will break this ending down into it's component parts and introduce you to the lydian chord, substitue dominants and the sharp 11 extension and show you how to use it to end any tune.

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Stride piano is a captivating solo piano style anchored by the left-hand pattern of low bass notes that alternate with mid-range chords. Using a transcription of Harry Connick's left hand on the tune "On the Sunny Side of the Street" from his 1987 self-titled debut recording, the stride left hand pattern is broken down into its component parts in part one of this lesson. Part two fleshes out the basic pattern with walking tenths, chromatic approach notes and rootless and spread voicings. Master this solo piano style with the accompanying PDF Practice Sessions which will start you out with writing a stride left hand pattern and then guide you through improvising your own left hand stride pattern to the changes to three tunes commonly played in the stride style, "On the Sunny Side of the Street," "Summertime" and "Stormy Weather."

Gospel music and the Blues are intimately linked. Gospel tunes are often based on the blues progression and because of this the Blues naturally lends itself to gospel style inflection. Wynton Kelly elegantly demonstrates this two-sides-of-a-coin relationship on his gospel inflected blues solo over the changes to his tune "Old Clothes" from his 1959 Riverside release "Kelly Blue." The secret to achieving this gospel blues sound is revealed through an analysis of his solo in this lesson.

This charming little jazz prelude starts off with clean, perfectly voice-led, diatonic 7th chords in C major moving through the cycle of 5ths (hence the title, Circles). Composed by Stuart Isacoff, this decades old piece then takes a minor turn and encounters some serious jazz chords- b9, #11 and b13 altered dominant chords among them. Learn about the different voicing techniques used in this piece and then open the practice sessions which include the full 2 hand arrangement of the tune as well as left hand voicings with comping rhythms and playalong tracks for soloing. Play the piece as is or use it as a jumping off point for a larger composition or as a vehicle for improvisation.

From Lead Sheet to Arrangement

At the heart of solo jazz piano playing lies the use of spread and rootless voicings. But to truly transform a simple lead sheet into a captivating piece of music involves digging deeper into the jazz player's bag of tricks and employing an array of arranging and reharmonization techniques to develop and intensify the underlying character of the melody and harmony of the tune. Each lesson in this series features a comparison of a fully realized two-handed arrangement of a tune with it's basic lead sheet that will reveal the techniques and devices used to transform the piece from a melody and chord symbols to a finished arrangement.

One of the most beautiful of the old English Christmas carols, this 20 measure, through-composed 18th century piece has been reharmonized with rich, colorful jazz chords and voicings in this lesson. Enjoy playing this full two-handed arrangement from your tablet or pc using the onscreen practice sessions or from a printout of the downloadable pdf. Try your hand at applying the techniques used in this lesson to a tune of your choice. Everything is demonstrated note-by-note and chord-by-chord so you can see how all of the pieces come together in this much requested holiday favorite.
Starting out life as a Big Band staple, this hit tune of 1941 soon became a jazz standard through the recordings of John Coltrane and Bill Evans. In this lesson, the rich changes of this 32 bar AABA tune are left largely intact in this solo jazz piano arrangement and treated subtly with a range of standard voicing techniques including spread voicings, rootless voicings with added tension, upper structure triads, double lead, drop 2 voicings, sus chords, substitute dominants and a walking bass line in the bridge. The transformation of the plain lead sheet is demonstrated note-by-note and chord-by-chord resulting in a full two-handed arrangement that you can play directly from your tablet or pc using the onscreen practice sessions or from a printout of the fully annotated downloadable pdf.
A range of voicing, reharmonization and arranging techniques are used to create the arrangement of this "beautiful" Jimmy Van Heusen ballad. In this lesson, watch as each device is implemented to elevate the already gorgeous melody and harmony of this 1947 jazz standard into an engaging solo jazz piano arrangement. After the lesson, download and play the fully annotated piece.
Here is a jazz arrangement of our national anthem. Incorporating a wide range of reharmonization and arranging devices- substitutions, upper structures, deceptive cadences and non-functional harmony among them- you will no doubt enjoy hearing this familiar melody juxtaposed with the chromatic sounds of the reharmonized chords.
The folk tune "America the Beautiful" is an elegant 16 measure melody harmonized with basic primary chords, I, IV and V7. In this lesson, this simple tune is transformed into a richly harmonized jazz piece using four basic reharmonization devices: seventh chords, cycle extension, functional substitution and, for lack of a better term, "messing with dominant chords." Print and play the full arrangement and learn to apply these techniques using the exercises in the downloadable pdf practice sessions included with the lesson.
Sarah Jane Cion's jazz ballad, "The Safflower," is presented in the first lesson of this series to demonstrate how to get from a lead sheet to a complete arrangement using various arranging and reharmonization techniques. By supplementing spread and rootless voicings with upper structure triads, related ii chords, deceptive cadences, sus chords, constant structures and other devices, this already beautiful tune is elevated into a engaging and compelling piece of music.