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How's Your Left Hand?


Jazzwee

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I've ignored my left hand all these years. Seeing that there's only so much I could practice, I focused on the Right Hand. I figured other than stabbing chords and an occasional walking bass of quarter notes that there's no point.

 

Well, after watching Mehldau all these years, what I thought impossible is somewhat doable but now I have catch up to do for my LH. Bummer. Articulation, strength, fingering. So much to focus on.

 

How's your left hand?

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Decades of Bach, Mozart and playing the guitar have made my left hand quite useable. The down side is I can get bored in a group setting.
Steinway L, Yamaha Motif XS-8, NE3 73, Casio PX-5S, iPad, EV ZLX 12-P ZZ(x2), bunch of PA stuff.
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Study Czerny!

 

The left hand etude, (op740 #8 I THINK) is cool. That will build some chops. The dynamics are the hard part. My left has always had trouble playing quiet whenever it played fast. I suck.

 

My left hand is just stupid. My left thinks that fast=loud. But slow doesn't necessarily mean soft. I guess I have a certain predisposition to loud. :D

 

"It doesn't have to be difficult to be cool" - Mitch Towne

 

"A great musician can bring tears to your eyes!!!

So can a auto Mechanic." - Stokes Hunt

 

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Start with the two voice Bach Inventions Wee. Play the LH voice alone and strive for an even, legato sound. No pedal!

 

Closer to home, take one or two bar lines (that are technically playable) from Bird, Bud Powell, Herbie solos, (or anyone...doesn't have to even be a piano solo) and play with both hands two octaves apart. Try and play in all 12 keys. I would recommend starting with Be bop solos has they are more connected eighths uninterrupted by rhythms. Again strive for legato, connected sound (no pedal...ever) with occasional LH alone. Try and play IN tempo even if you have to go REAL SLOW.

 

Using the materiel in a "game situation"....set your metronome on 2 & 4 like you normally would and just blow through Autumn Leaves, ATTYA, Bb Blues, Rhythm changes, whatever tunes you're working on with AP. SLOW! Try and get a flow going without the LH comp, you'll have to visualize the flow of the changes in your head....that's actually the hardest part. Don't get frustrated with it, go slow, do a little at a time. When you get more comfortable, try and play a RH voicing and LH line against that. Start with out of tempo and gradually work to in tempo but very slow. Remember, a little bit at a time consistently over a long period of time will yield huge results.

 

More advanced specific Classical studies would include the Chopin "Revolutionary Etude" #12.

 

Bach "Well Tempered Clavier" Books I & II

 

Since you are just starting with this you are gonna run into technical road blocks regarding fingering and such. That's why it might be a good thing to include some Bach or a piece of Czerny devoted to the LH just to get you going.

 

Ask AP about this, he plays all this same stuff.

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How's your left hand?

 

Not what it was 32 year ago. That is when I stopped focusing on classical piano and moved to drums. When I moved back to keyboards my left hand never reached that level again.

 

On the other hand, while my left hand was no longer adept at playing Bach it could cover string orchestration on a string machine and program a MiniMoog between chord changes. :)

This post edited for speling.
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Thanks for the tips guys. How about you guys? How far do you take your left hand?

 

Some years back, I worked really hard on doing a walking bass. But now I realize that stylistically, I would hardly ever walk a bass so that was the end of that extended LH practice :) and LH just stuck to normal comping.

 

I already do stride-like playing and I don't think that really develops the LH hand for improvising though, which is the goal in my case.

 

Hey Dave, I tried it as a project and that's why I thought was doable. I was able to integrate some LH lines with no comping. The main problem was the articulation and just dexterity to keep good time with those eighth notes. And of course it is really distracting to use two hands. Harmonically no problem. It created a nice effect, like the solo was more spread out among more registers.

 

I'm not sure if I want to carry like a Bach Invention style like this guy because the swing is lost

 

 

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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How's your left hand?

... it could cover string orchestration on a string machine and program a MiniMoog between chord changes. :)

 

Now that sounds like LH dexterity there :)

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Well I don't think the Bach's WTC is with the intent of busting out a baroque solo at a jazz festival! It is however, great for developing coordination, timing, and finger strength.
Steinway L, Yamaha Motif XS-8, NE3 73, Casio PX-5S, iPad, EV ZLX 12-P ZZ(x2), bunch of PA stuff.
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Study Czerny!

 

The left hand etude, (op740 #8 I THINK) is cool. That will build some chops. The dynamics are the hard part. My left has always had trouble playing quiet whenever it played fast. I suck.

 

My left hand is just stupid. My left thinks that fast=loud. But slow doesn't necessarily mean soft. I guess I have a certain predisposition to loud. :D

 

I actually play some classical (some Chopin) and probably that really helped with the dynamics of the LH a lot. But unless it's Bach, I haven't really stressed the LH. I've actually never played Bach.

 

The thing about my particular application, Jazz, the LH has to swing too and I realized that I have never practiced swinging in the LH. I'm even wondering if Bach might be counterproductive.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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I personally don't think being well versed in various styles would be counter-productive....I don't think your swing skills will degrade, kind of like riding a bike.
Steinway L, Yamaha Motif XS-8, NE3 73, Casio PX-5S, iPad, EV ZLX 12-P ZZ(x2), bunch of PA stuff.
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I personally don't think being well versed in various styles would be counter-productive....I don't think your swing skills will degrade, kind of like riding a bike.

 

Nothing to degrade on the LH :) LH Swing skills are completely absent :D It's funny because all these years, my LH was trained to play straight to contrast against the RH swing.

 

My Jazz teacher doesn't have a great LH either so I guess he just perpetuated this. But I'm breaking out and doing my own thing.

 

Don't worry - I'm not discounting Bach.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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I'm even wondering if Bach might be counterproductive.

 

Never...in a million years. If Bach would have lived in the 1940-60 time period he would have been a Be Bopper. Harmonically, his stuff is what all modern music is based on, especially Jazz.

 

You play Bach and all Classical with straight eighths, you swing the eighth notes in Jazz.

 

You just have to get used to going back and forth between the two.

EVERY great Jazz pianist (from whatever style) you look up to has played Bach at one time in their lives.....Brad, Fred Hersch, Chick, Keith, Bill, Herbie, Shearing, Tatum, Oscar, AP, Geoff Keezer, Kenny Werner, Bill Mays, Kenny Drew Jr., ( I saw something that Jazz + posted somewhere where KD Jr. was playing LH alone on maybe Sophisticated Lady that was great!) etc. etc.

 

 

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SK, Dave, do you guys improvise with your left hand? Or combined LH/RH?
Sometimes I'll comp right handed with solo lines in the left hand. It's whatever makes the ideas come across most clearly, so most lines are usually right hand. And I use both hands on lines sometimes, but I don't like to overdo that.

 

But I don't think RH/LH. It's all improvising, every note in both hands, every choice made in voicings, and inter-moving lines within the chords. Both hands work together to supply whatever's needed. Another reason why studying Bach has big benefits.

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Study Czerny!

 

The left hand etude, (op740 #8 I THINK) is cool. That will build some chops. The dynamics are the hard part.

Not to be confused with op.399, "School of the Left Hand", an entire collection dedicated to left hand virtuosity. I tried my (ahem) hand at that when I was young and enthusiastic, but frankly, I found some of those pieces nearly unplayable for me; I almost ruined my left hand by trying all those stretches.

 

For left hand development, the best advice I can give is, take Bach's Suites for solo cello, and read thru them. They're so musical, logical, virtuosic, melodic, and allow you to concentrate on the left hand alone - there's no better combination of technique and great *music* in my view.

 

 

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Couldn't agree more. Bach, Bach, and more Bach. So great for LH independence as well as LH/RH coordination. There's countless other music from the "classical" realm to explore as well, but Bach is the foundation, and despite the relative age of his music, there's so much "jazz stuff" in there. You could really call Bach the first jazzer, as much of his keyboard music was completely improvised, and written down later on. Thing is, you get the most out of it not just by playing it, per se, but by consciously applying the techniques you learn into your musical language. Approach it like you would any other solo transcription.
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ELP, Scott Joplin, and Bach really helped my left hand. Tarkus's "Eruption" is a good song for that. For soloing, if you let the left hand "hit a few notes in between" the right hand ones, it will sound like you can play that much faster. Also, playing the organ helped too. The bass is mainly left band punctuated by the pedals.
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SK, Dave, do you guys improvise with your left hand? Or combined LH/RH?
Sometimes I'll comp right handed with solo lines in the left hand. It's whatever makes the ideas come across most clearly, so most lines are usually right hand. And I use both hands on lines sometimes, but I don't like to overdo that.

 

But I don't think RH/LH. It's all improvising, every note in both hands, every choice made in voicings, and inter-moving lines within the chords. Both hands work together to supply whatever's needed. Another reason why studying Bach has big benefits.

 

Exactly, you don't want to over do it. But it can give your playing another color or dimension or add an element of surprise.

 

LH with RH chords, mostly on the the first "A" and a tad in the bridge. Excuse the recording here:

http://www.divshare.com/download/8290431-4ba

 

Sometimes I'll inject the two hand thing at the end of a 4 or 8 bar phrase just for a different effect.

http://www.divshare.com/download/7956341-467

 

Sometimes I'll write a whole tune based off the LH. This is a very common device that when doubled with bass is very effective.

http://www.divshare.com/download/7426725-a1e

 

 

 

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Dave, that's exactly what I was trying to do. Those examples were perfect. I like it because the texture is more varied than straight comping or just playing a bass line.

 

One thing I did discover from experimenting with this is that I realized I can't overdo the lower register. However if I move LH above middle C, I could do more.

 

Did you guys check out that Youtube example I gave? Reposting here

 

Is this guy overdoing it? Although it is jazz it is starting to sound like Bach.

Hamburg Steinway O, Crumar Mojo, Nord Electro 4 HP 73, EV ZXA1

 

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Did you guys check out that Youtube example I gave? Reposting here

 

Is this guy overdoing it? Although it is jazz it is starting to sound like Bach.

While I like that approach, here's what I heard: At first, his facility, flow and control sounded nice, although it didn't allow the melody to really stand out from the improv. Then with some issues with phrase timing/bar lengths and overall sameness, it turned into an overdone exercise.
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Damn, you guys, I'm lucky I can play a simple bass line with my LH while improv'ing the RH. And what I'm improv'ing with the RH, I'd be embarrassed to show you. :) But, I'm working on it, and I've had some minor breakthroughs. I dream of being able to improvise a jumpin' boogie woogie someday

"I'm so crazy, I don't know this is impossible! Hoo hoo!" - Daffy Duck

 

"The good news is that once you start piano you never have to worry about getting laid again. More time to practice!" - MOI

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