music

A history of Jazz (2)

For those among you more interested in the technical part of Blues and Jazz I’d like to say a few basic things.

First of all, these music styles use improvisation, so they require a lot of fantasy, creativity and skill. They use a fairly syncopated rhythm and, what’s more important, a melancholic tone given by the blue notes.

To understand what a “blue note” is, we need to know the specific “blues scale” (this requires some notions about Harmony).

A Blues scale “in C” has 6 notes and can be built over the C pentatonic minor scale (that is C, Eb, F ,G , Bb) adding an F “flat” (Fb) in between. These three diminished grades (the ones with the flat – or Bemolle – signature) give a sense of “sadness”,  so they have been called “blue notes”.


According to this rule, the blue scale in C is

C – Eb – F – Gb – G – Bb

where Eb, Gb and Bb can be considered as “blue keys”.

Now this sequence of tones often creates chords that are “off-key” (i.e. untuned) because of the interval between C and Gb (a “three-tones” or “fifth diminished” interval) that the classic Harmony theories consider “dissonant”.

In the Middle Ages this type of interval was really despised, and that’s why it was referred to as “diabolus in musica” (devil in music).

More precisely, the blue keys are meant to be played with a sort of “depression” in the tone, so most of the times the musician tries to strike them “sliding down” from the adjacent key, that means literally shifting very quickly, for example, from “E natural” straight down to “E flat” (Eb), or letting the same finger drop from “F sharp” (F#) to “F natural”. That’s a very cool effect and I find it very funny to execute myself!

Thelonious Monk – another “rebel” jazz pianist – was once asked to show off and play some of his “weird” (i.e. “strange, unusual”) chords for a music class at Columbia University.

He answered: “What to you mean weird? They’re perfectly logical chords!”

I recently posted a video in which I’m performing a piece for piano written by Jonathon Wilson – a great musician and an astonishing composer, owner of the “GrooveWindow” site (trust me! It’s worth a visit) at http://www.groovewindow.com/

Blues and Funk, in particular, have plenty of funny and original chords (dissonant for the great part), but also lots of awesome progressions and cool riffs which the performer can master with his experience and spirit of invention. Here’s my video, hope you enjoy it.

P.S. I’m a self-taught keyboard player and have still got a lot to learn, so ehy!… you can’t expect too much for now!

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One thought on “A history of Jazz (2)

  1. I know this groove! I heard this at expertvillage.com!

    This is Jonathon Wilson playing his groove! I love that!
    …I’ll learn it when I have enough time…xD – school is terrible and I never have enough time to learn something more difficult than Allevi, Einaudi, or commercial songs played on the piano….when I have some time, I prefer learning classical music to improve my technique…;-)

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