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Question: Right hand octave technique in jazz ?


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I'm wondering if the jazz pianist who are great at playing fast lines with right handed octaves (like Tatum, Peterson, Hiromi, stride players, etc), if they us 1 and 4 fingering on the black keys and 1 and 5 fingering on the white keys like classical pianists do? Hanon shows the fingerings this way. Or do they use mostly 1 and 5 universally for both black and white. It seems using 1 and 4 on black key octaves requires less hand motion and is easier to locate without looking at the keys. The advantage to doing it all with 1 and 5 is that there is no changing and it's easier to insert a harmonic note or two inside the octaves Of course I think a loose wrist is essential to avoid injury and for speed, yes?

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."    Facebook Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

 

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I use 1-4 sometimes, especially if I'm coming off of 1-5 on black notes to 1-4 on white notes underneath. A loose wrist DOES help for octaves, and that's definitely the classical technique and the spirit of Hanon #51. I do find that fast R.H. octaves aren't a terribly useful texture for me in playing jazz however, at least in any great length. A texture I use much more often is the R.H. line doubled in the L.H. two or three octaves apart. This way you have the dexterity of using all 5 fingers on each hand to play a weaving line. Oscar was a master of this.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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For example, ascending a C minor blues scales in octaves ( C Eb F F# G Bb C continue... ) it seems the 4th finger on the black keys and the 5th finger on the white keys makes it easier to play fast as long as your hand is not small. It requires quite a bit less hand motion.

 

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."    Facebook Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

 

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I do play some Stride but I use transcriptions. My tuppence worth below relates to soloing in a trio (or bigger) setting.

 

Are you talking about playing a whole line in octaves?

 

I had to think about this and then play a bit to see what I currently do.

 

I think I just use octaves for puncuation - not always at the start and end of a line - but definitely for emphasis. Same as Bobby above - 1-5 to 1-4 if it's scalar (classical start and Hanon exercises programmed me too) - but 1-5 if it's jumping around.

I'm the piano player "off of" Borrowed Books.
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I'm wondering if the jazz pianist who are great at playing fast lines with right handed octaves (like Tatum, Peterson, Hiromi, stride players, etc), if they us 1 and 4 fingering on the black keys and 1 and 5 fingering on the white keys like classical pianists do?

 

I don't know if the set of vids is still there, but search on youtoob for a TV special that Peterson did with Andre Previn. During the show, Peterson demonstrated his legato octave technique. IIR, it was pretty much what you've outlined; alternating between 4th and 5th along with the thumb. I don't recall any particular assignment to black or white keys, just that he alternated up and down scales. Anyway, if the vids are still there you'll be able to see for yourself.

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I do the 4th finger thing too.

 

One tip a classical pianist gave me for improving octave speed is to play melodies and lines that you would play in octaves with only the thumb. It forces you to improve your accuracy and to focus on the technique involved in dropping the hand and lifting it more than you might when playing octaves.

A ROMpler is just a polyphonic turntable.
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Great tips!

 

"stillgigging" raised an interesting point when he mentioned "but 1-5 if it's jumping around."

 

I think that's quite correct, 1-5 for jumps.

 

Do you agree 1-5 is best for larger leaps like with Eb triad arpeggios?

And that 1-4 on black and 1-5 on white is best suited for scale or stepwise type motion?

 

 

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."    Facebook Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

 

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I got kinda big hands, so I sometimes use the 3rd finger as well, but it depends on how's the line I'm playing. Sometimes if I really need to play legato octaves I switch between the 3rd, 4th and 5th finger, in no particular order. When playing for instance a descending octave scale I sometimes use the third in some passing notes (never on the first or last one, looks awful!) :)

 

I don't think I ever follow strictly the Hanon rule of 5th for white and 4th for black keys though. probably I just haven't practices enough :)

 

But that's not something I use often when playing jazz, maybe when playing latin-oriented stuff...

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Also I noticed that have a loose wrist helps, but the most important thing is the movement of the forearm, that's what gives you speed.

 

When playing black key's octaves the forearm (the whole arm, in fact) should move slightly towards the piano, and when playing white key's octaves the forearm should move a bit backwards (closer to you, let's say). So in black the forearm should be a bit higher and closer to the piano, and in white's the forearm should be on its normal position. Most of the super-speed classical pianists do this.

 

This swing gives the real speed, and also makes it much more confortable...

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Wow, this never occurred to me, but trying it just now it feels natural, especially on a descending line or legato.

 

In certain classical passages, it's the only way to fly for a legato line.

Kawai C-60 Grand Piano : Hammond A-100 : Hammond SK2 : Yamaha CP4 : Yamaha Montage 7 : Moog Sub 37

 

My latest album: Funky organ, huge horn section

https://bobbycressey.bandcamp.com/album/cali-native

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Thanks non c'e futuro, good tips on the forearm.

 

 

What's the consensus for using 1-5 for larger jumps regardless of key color?

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."    Facebook Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

 

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Thanks again non c'e futuro

 

Let me narrow the question further:

If legato is not required, but rather accuracy and speed is the goal, would you use 1-4 or 1-5 for executing such an Eb arpeggio. And let's say it is a continuous Eb arpeggio, one that travels up continuously across several octaves of range. (ascending: Eb G Bb, Eb G Bb, etc. on up)

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."    Facebook Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

 

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Also I noticed that have a loose wrist helps, but the most important thing is the movement of the forearm, that's what gives you speed.

 

When playing black key's octaves the forearm (the whole arm, in fact) should move slightly towards the piano, and when playing white key's octaves the forearm should move a bit backwards (closer to you, let's say). So in black the forearm should be a bit higher and closer to the piano, and in white's the forearm should be on its normal position.

Correct - but if you think about it, it's valid for all playing, not just octaves. :)

 

 

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non c'e futuro

 

How would you handle the minor 3rd jumps in the ascending blues scale played very fast in octaves by the right hand ? :

 

C Eb F F# G Bb

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."    Facebook Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

 

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What's Hiromi using for the very fast octaves, 1-4 or 1-5 on black keys?

 

Starting at 4:25 time (in G- blues territory):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ao3gRYpV6A

 

At 1:30 (D minor blues territory, not many black keys):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uzLmHOnIPfk

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book."    Facebook Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

 

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Mmm, I had to tried it at the keyboard!! :)

I play that octaves:

 

5th-3rd-5th-3rd-5th-4th if I want to make a really smooth legato, and also good if I have to end the run with the upper C (will play upper C with the 5th-looks nice)

 

or

 

just alternating the 4th and 5th if I wanna play it the fast as I can (but loosing pretty much of the good legato accuracy) :)

 

I guess I just use the third as substitute of 4th on some black keys because that way it's more confortable for my hand, and also because this way my arm swings back and forth in an easier way, too. To do the second octave (a minor third jump) with the third finger forces you to move your wrist and forearm up and towards the piano, so it's a good exercise, I guess, and makes a better legato.

The 4th finger has less independency and flexibility, so it's aesier for me "to legato" the octaves moving up from 3rd to 5th (like from Eb to F or F# to G).

 

But I just noticed now, while practicing this figure, that playing legato the descending same blues scale (Bb-G-F#-F-Eb-C) I do this:

4th-5th-4th-5th-4th-3rd (it's easier to play legato the minor third in this case -Eb-C- moving 4th to 3rd, then breaking the rule of 5th always on white keys.

So I guess fingering depends on the notes you're gonna play, as always :)

does this makes sense? Maybe I just have a weird shape of hands!! :freak:

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Never heard of the 1-4 thing. The one tune with RH octaves that kicked my ass was when I was accompanying a guy playing Schubert's Winterreise song cycle. He wanted to do "The Erl-King" as an encore. Holy shit some people play those repeated RH octaves FAST. I'm getting carpal tunnel just thinking about it.
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