Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Another small realization...

Last night I learned that a local outdoor shopping center is auditioning "entertainers", and I immediately decided that even though I'm not good enough, if they are interested in me as a piano player, and they'll supply a piano, I might go ahead and audition and see if I couldn't get paid to play piano a few hours on the occasional weekend.

To wit, I figured I needed to start adding to my repertoire pretty quick, to wit, I thought it might be easier to learn songs I had started to learn and stopped rather than try a bunch of all new ones. So last night, I revisted McCoy Tyner's version of Afro Blue. First thing I realized is the chords I'd been playing when I was fooling around with it were nothing like the chords that were written for the song, so I corrected those. Next thing I realized was the tempo I was playing was all wrong and there wasn't much "Latin" flavor to how I was playing it, so I worked on that. Then I put the CD on and played along while listening to Tyner play it.

The solos are long and are played over a 3/4 minor blues or an F minor, only. But I noticed something on Tyner's solo (on the version I had from the library) that I wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't been playing along: with the song in A flat, the scale includes only three white keys. Of course. And while this is an over generalization, for the most part, it sounds like McCoy plays a lot on the white keys, even though there are only three of them. I started hitting C-F-G in various riffs and combinations, high and low, up and down, just smack, smack, smack - and they all sounded perfectly fine with the CD in the background. I tried it again, and again, success. I could play just those three notes, make some tight sounding chords, dainty and not so dainty arpeggios, anything, and it sounded fine. Throw in an occasional E-flat or A-flat when the fingers were positioned "safe", and that sounded okay too. Then, as I was spreading out the notes and playing them just in chords of various inversions, guess what? G-C-F is a quartal voicing. Yeah, no big deal, but I didn't KNOW that. Now I do. And once a jazz musician knows that, he knows all he has to do to "get by" is find a quartal voicing in the scale of the key the song is written in, and go crazy. Something tells me, too, that no matter what scale or key you are in, there is probably at least one "safe and easy" quartal voicing that will work. (I'm planning to experiment on that hypothesis tonight.)

I'm convinced these small realizations are what will continue to help me improve as a piano player. Solo in A-flat over F-minor? I can do it all day long with just three notes, they're all white keys, and they're easy to play. And anyone asks me what I was playing after the fact, I can look at them and go, "Some riffs I developed, using inversions of quartal voicings, with a minor blues scale thrown in for spicing up, man."

Late afternoon follow up: I talked to the talent contest organizers. The shopping center would require me to tote my own piano around. I've only got the box it came in, but I might be encouraged to buy a travel case for it, if I had a reason and need to do so. Then, I'll also need a travel stand. Which means I'll have to take apart and re-affix my piano after every gig. Which means,

I probably will not be auditioning. Maybe I'll audition and just turn down the job when (if) they offer it. It's something to consider.

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