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Tips for soloing in E or A flat


jazzdoc52

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Ive tried and tried,but i just dont feel as comfortable soloing in jazz and blues in the flat keys, as much as F, G, C etc. For instance, in a blues riff, I just cant seem to slide from the minor third to the major third as easily in E flat as I can in , say, F. I can do ok in E flat songs that use major 7 structures, such as "Four", but when the song is more blues oriented, and has a harder edge, it just doesnt have the same tonal structure as the "easier" keys. Other than the advice "to practice more", are there some practical tips anyone can offer?
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When teaching students to "break out" of the guitar keys (and F) I used to get them to try out three licks or riffs they liked in their comfortable keys to see how they worked out in the new key we were looking at (I encouraged one new key at a time).

 

Some worked, some didn't but often you could spot a shape or line that worked (or worked with one note changed) that fell nicely under the fingers in the new key - but that is now sitting on different scale tones (e.g. it might start and finish on 3rd and root or 3rd and 9th - in the new key see how the shape works starting on the 6th or 7th).

 

Just to get them going. That, a pentatonic to fall back on, and lastly use bits of the melody with octaves at odd parts. When it all went to pieces on them I told them to tell people it was an homage to Monk.

 

And you know (as an educator) I'm going to finish by telling you "to practise more."

 

Good luck.

I'm the piano player "off of" Borrowed Books.
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Other than hammering the beejeebees out of the scales and signature licks you want to use in those keys I don't know.

 

Somewhere along the line you have to develop muscle memory for the keys you want to jam in. Something I hope for is to be able to play with minimal thought. When I start thinking I start making inaccuracies. I play the best when the hands just go.

"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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You have to get to a point where you can visualize patterns, and like mentioned, develop muscle memory to play those different and foreign structures in Eb. A lot has to do with developing the correct fingering so you're using the least amount of movement. A lot of Rock guys and even some jazz guys that have never studied Classical music use oddball fingering that consequently makes things much harder then they need to be.

 

Eb Minor Blues IS easier then Eb Dominant 7th to play the Blues over. And Ab Dominant 7th is harder then both. On the Jazz side, learn the head to Clifford Brown's "Sandu" written in Eb--very hip line with some Blues-isms that work in even more Rock blues contexts.

 

All that said, if someone asked me to play a Chuck Leavell/Bill Payne Rock type blues-I'd still sound better in G, C, F then I would in Eb ...that's just the way it is.

It's similar to-I'm gonna sound better on Rhythm changes in Bb then E-even though I can play it in E.

 

However that's not saying you can't get more fluent in both Eb & Ab if you work on it though.. :cool:

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Well stated, Dave. On rockin', blues influenced material I sound better in C, G, D, A and E; B and F also work ok. I've done a fair amount of material in Bb, but that's been more pentatonic, or major blues type stuff. That said, I've been in situations where tunes have been called in Eb, and Ab, and I've had to solo. F# has come up a few times too. In those situations, I started out using simple riffs, patterns based off the melody, etc.. After having to play a minor blues influenced rock tune in C# on a CD session, I went home and started 'shedding the minor blues scales in all 12 keys. I'd gotten through the recording fine - the singer/songwriter wanted a lot of octaves, and very basic, scale based stuff - but I still felt whipped by the experience.

 

After reading the Mike Garson article last night in Keyboard, I'm feeling like there's no excuse for lack of fluency in any key. The amount of practice that Mike has put in is staggering. The simple answer that has been put forth already is "practice" (then practice more). I'd been working on Ab a bit back in the summer, digging into "All My Love Is Gone", by Lyle Lovett. The recording I have is in G, but I figured working it out in Ab would be helpful. Time to pick that up again...

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

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Ive tried and tried,but i just dont feel as comfortable soloing in jazz and blues in the flat keys, as much as F, G, C etc. For instance, in a blues riff, I just cant seem to slide from the minor third to the major third as easily in E flat as I can in , say, F. I can do ok in E flat songs that use major 7 structures, such as "Four", but when the song is more blues oriented, and has a harder edge, it just doesnt have the same tonal structure as the "easier" keys. Other than the advice "to practice more", are there some practical tips anyone can offer?

 

The book "Metaphors for the Jazz Musician" has an excellent chapter entitled "User Friendly Scales". It goes into detail about 3- and 4-note groupings that make the flat-key scales easier to learn and play. There's nothing I can say that isn't better stated in that book.

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I actaully play a lot of rock/blues in Eb and Ab because SRV and those who want to be just like him down tune one half step.

"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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Missionary position has its role -- I think all positions have something going for them, and I hate to see any of them maligned.

 

If you transcribe a lot of New Orleans stuff -- like from Dr. John or James Booker -- you'll find a lot of cool things that just "make sense" in Eb. I agree that Eb is a very basic key -- more so than C, to me -- when it's a major7 tonality on a standard. Gene Harris did a lot of hardcore blues things in Eb as well, but I too have a hard time laying out really fat single-note blues runs on it. I think of it as a key for playing textures and rhythms in a blues context, and try when soloing blues to just make use of intervals played at the same time to make little (I hope) groovy phrases.

 

I don't play a lot in Ab, for some reason, so I don't have anything to say. Oh, wait, there's stuff like "All About My Girl" (the Jimmy McGriff tune) and some other things in my book, but I just don't really have much of a chance to play in Ab in blues context. IIRC McGriff bases a lot of his lines in that tune on -- I guess like an Fm7b5 structure, which is one way to think about it without any clams. I wouldn't say it's a "hard" key, though -- just getting familiar with it and what you can do it that's kind of unique to the key is the name of the game, for me. I don't see the point of playing everything the same in every key -- they're all kind of different and can spur you to same new ideas or patterns because of the geometry.

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Missionary position has its role -- I think all positions have something going for them, and I hate to see any of them maligned.
I'm maligning the notion that blues in Eb is as simple as the Eb blues scale and nothing more. Like I said, blues is so much richer than that. All of it has it's place for sure, but there are a ton of different blues styles where a blues scale approach would be pretty wrong. there are also plenty where it would be perfect....
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Ray Charles "Hard Times" just feels right in Eb. I've transposed it to C and it didn't have the same intent as Ray sang it.

There's a "tactile" connection that my fingers respond to with tunes played in Eb major. Perhaps, it's my overly familiar experience with C minor and C blues scales.

 

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Well stated, Dave. On rockin', blues influenced material I sound better in C, G, D, A and E; B and F also work ok. I've done a fair amount of material in Bb, but that's been more pentatonic, or major blues type stuff. That said, I've been in situations where tunes have been called in Eb, and Ab, and I've had to solo. F# has come up a few times too. In those situations, I started out using simple riffs, patterns based off the melody, etc.. After having to play a minor blues influenced rock tune in C# on a CD session, I went home and started 'shedding the minor blues scales in all 12 keys. I'd gotten through the recording fine - the singer/songwriter wanted a lot of octaves, and very basic, scale based stuff - but I still felt whipped by the experience.

 

After reading the Mike Garson article last night in Keyboard, I'm feeling like there's no excuse for lack of fluency in any key. The amount of practice that Mike has put in is staggering. The simple answer that has been put forth already is "practice" (then practice more). I'd been working on Ab a bit back in the summer, digging into "All My Love Is Gone", by Lyle Lovett. The recording I have is in G, but I figured working it out in Ab would be helpful. Time to pick that up again...

 

I know of no one that is really fluent in all different keys. Your hands are just not designed that way. Most people will gravitate to certain keys just because of what they learned or what music they have.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

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Sure I understand that but with all 12 keys there is not enough time in the day to practice everything and the knowledge base is real deep. If you wanted to be proficient in all keys that would mean you would have to be able to play something like a blues scale in Ab Major just as fast and fluid with the same amount of conviction as you would in G Major. I don't see it happening people are people and will be proficient in about 6-7 of the keys most of the time. Speaking about transpose buttons I am surprised on how many people here locally use them.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

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The C minor blues scale is relative to Eb7 and the F minor blues scale is relative to Ab7. Those are easy and give you the Major Blues scales ( 1 2 b3 3 5 6 ) .

It's the minor blues scales in Eb and Ab that I find less comfortable, the Eb minor blues scale (Eb Gb Ab A Bb Db) is almost all black keys and feels a bit like a tight rope walk, it can lead to slips.

The Ab minor blues scale just gets visited a lot less than the standard keys.

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

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The C minor blues scale is relative to Eb7 and the F minor blues scale is relative to Ab7. Those are easy and give you the Major Blues scales ( 1 2 b3 3 5 6 ) .

 

Yeah if you look at it from a pure linear perspective it doesn't seem as daunting.

 

But a lot of the Blues vocabulary or signature sounds/colors come from chordal devices like minor & major double thirds. That's were the fingering issues can crop up--in Eb, sliding from the Gb to those double 3rds of G & Bb, Ab/C, Bb/Db. Or licks were you're using the augmented 6th interval, to fifth, to flat 5 to 4th-like G-Eb, Ab-Eb, A natural-Eb, Bb-Eb.- or variations off that.

 

Throw in the double thirds, 6ths, augmented 6th and octave double notes, not to mention the tremolo or "shaking" that occurs within the double notes and chords-things can get pretty tricky real quick. And that's just the RH ! :laugh:

The LH with octaves, the semi-stride thing...jeez. Take all that to Ab and it just compounds the difficulty or thorniness of it all..

 

On the other hand if you are a "blues specialist" and constantly doing that "kind" of playing, the hand/fingers will obviously adapt easier to those structures and positions more easily then someone who plays more linear stuff or rarely plays in that style.

 

In any case, one needs to slow the process way down and really put everything under the microscope in regards to fingering, rhythmic phrasing, getting a good solid sound from the piano, playing into the keys and playing as musical as possible. It's called practice, concentrated and focused work.

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I've found that soloing in freaky/unusual keys DOES get better with practice. It's strange that way.

 

The feeling is similar to when you learn a new technical concept in classical music. There are times when I've been made to tackle a new piece or etude and what's being asked of my fingers feels totally foreign or strange. I've never played legato thirds like this or this intervalic combination on those black notes before. It feels weird and strange every time you do it. And as your practice it, you can do it more quickly and with greater familiarity though it continues to feel weird and strange. Then the weird and strange feeling diminishes, because you are so used to doing it.

 

That's what happens with blues licks in unnatural keys. It's what happens with ALL licks in unnatural keys actually. Practice makes it better / easier.

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I dislike blues or boogie in C. It just doesn't sound as good to me. I like the sound of F. Fess played nice stuff in F.

 

G sounds sort of worn out also.

 

It just maybe because I played so much in C as a kid I sonically wore it out.

 

I like the sound of a lot of classical music in C. Mozart's and Haydn's piano Sonata's in C major sound very nice to me.

 

But blues in Eb, Ab, F just have a nice sound to them.

 

Structurally I like playing in C# and F# alot. But for some reason I just don't like the Key of B. Or B just doesn't like me.

 

To B or not to B that is the question.

 

"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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I dislike blues or boogie in C. It just doesn't sound as good to me. I like the sound of F.
Is this just when you play it or when you listen to other musicians too?

"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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Mostly when I play I guess. Heck with my gig schedule I don't listen to very other players other than the classical music I have been getting back into recently.

"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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I've been practicing "Confirmation" in E - it's getting better and it's been a great experience. One day I might take it out on a gig.

I think the 'hard' keys are just an illusion - it's a matter of experience. I'm good at G,C,F,Bb,Eb,Ab as they're the most common keys for jazz tunes. If the trumpet was a "B" instrument instead of "Bb" the keys I mentioned would be the other part of the cycle of 5ths.

 

I have a long-term goal of any tune in ant key - I'll get back to you on that....

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I've been practicing "Confirmation" in E - it's getting better and it's been a great experience.

 

A few years back I had the head in E, Gb, G & A. Slow, probably half note = 80 but it was pretty solid. When I went to blow on it in those keys, I was seeing many new and different structures. I should re-practice that....

 

https://soundcloud.com/dave-ferris

 

 NY Steinway D

Yamaha  AvantGrand N3X, P-515

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The C minor blues scale is relative to Eb7 and the F minor blues scale is relative to Ab7. Those are easy and give you the Major Blues scales ( 1 2 b3 3 5 6 ) ....

 

Those minor blues scales are a great resource for using the Major Blues scale in the relative Major key. One of the first blues scales I learned was c minor. I discovered, on jobbing dates, that it was a great stepping off point for soloing over quite a few of the changes in "Misty"' in Eb. The relative minor / Major blues scale relationship was also a solid starting point for 'honky tonk' country riffing. Learned that one on the fly with my first country road gig: the leader remarked that my riffs sounded a bit too 'Chicago blues'; he wanted that 'honky tonk' sound. Some listening homework got me onto the right track with that one.

'Someday, we'll look back on these days and laugh; likely a maniacal laugh from our padded cells, but a laugh nonetheless' - Mr. Boffo.

 

We need a barfing cat emoticon!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I've been practicing "Confirmation" in E - it's getting better and it's been a great experience. One day I might take it out on a gig.

I think the 'hard' keys are just an illusion - it's a matter of experience. I'm good at G,C,F,Bb,Eb,Ab as they're the most common keys for jazz tunes. If the trumpet was a "B" instrument instead of "Bb" the keys I mentioned would be the other part of the cycle of 5ths.

 

I have a long-term goal of any tune in ant key - I'll get back to you on that.... [/quote)

 

No there are no "hard keys" just some that are a pain the ass to play like BM. My point is your going to gravitate to certain keys because of how you are trained, what you listen to, and what kind of music you play. I know a guy in a community ed program here locally that could play things in Eb Major but not in C Major. Go figure.

"Danny, ci manchi a tutti. La E-Street Band non e' la stessa senza di te. Riposa in pace, fratello"

 

 

noblevibes.com

 

 

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Mostly when I play I guess. Heck with my gig schedule I don't listen to very other players other than the classical music I have been getting back into recently.
So you're saying that it's something in your playing you don't like anymore. Perhaps this means it's time to see what else you can do with these tunes/keys.

 

(I'm not trying to pick on you, just merely encourage you. :) )

"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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