According to Ellenberger, most of these parts fall into one of four categories: a chord symbols with rhythmic notation, b chord symbols without rhythmic notation, c fully notated parts, and d improvised solos. Because many beginning jazz band pianists cannot easily navigate chord charts instructors are advised to pencil in voicings in whole notes.
Keeping the B eat How To Teach Classical Piano Students To Play With A Jazz Band By Rhonda Ringering, NCTM n an ideal teaching situation, swinging or improvisation. And while future jazz band pianists seeing a prize pupil enter the studio Rhonda would listen to jazz from the with a stack of jazz band charts in Ringering, NCTM, cradle on. They would begin hand may strike fear in many classical received a B.A. improvising and playing by instructors, jazz band playing should degree from Walla ear while they also studied be encouraged, as it will only improve Walla College and classical repertoire, theory and tech- the students’ theory, ear training, an M.M. degree nique. In reality, most pre-college jazz rhythmic, ensemble and improvising from Boston band pianists are intermediate to skills. University. She is advanced classical students who have As the student enters this new world an adjunct piano instructor at had little or no introduction to jazz or of jazz, the instructor’s job is to teach Linfield College and Pacific improvisation. They join the band skills in a way that ensures some level University. Her work has appeared with technique “to burn” but with no of immediate success and to encourage in several magazines. understanding of basic jazz structures the student to further exploration and or chords, chart reading, comping, study. Understanding jazz theory and 22 APRIL/MAY 2009 style is essential to becoming a compe- realize just how little the piano plays in around or above middle C and have tent jazz player and is a process that most charts. the left hand play the third and the can take years of study and practice. seventh, and the right hand play the However, there are some skills that The Role of the Jazz Band Pianist fifth and a “color” note (9th, 11th and contribute to more immediate success Classical piano students are used to so forth). Drop the root; the bass will for the jazz band pianist who has no being soloists or perhaps performing play that note. Through time and background in jazz and has just a short with one other player. Most have no practice, the student eventually learns amount of time to learn enough to understanding of how the piano com- to recognize and execute chords with- begin playing charts: listening, under- plements the jazz band texture and will out the instructor’s assistance. standing the pianist’s role in the band, have a tendency to play too many In his article, “Starting a Jazz rhythm, comping and soloing. notes. Jeff Jarvis writes, “The pianist’s Combo at a Small High School,” Kent role is to support the ensemble by Murdick writes, “Don’t start by teach- 6 Listening emphasizing chord changes and punc- 2 ing them theory; get them playing.” Teaching a pianist to play jazz tuating rhythms.” Kurt Ellenberger, in This is particularly good advice for should begin by teaching the ears to his article “From Chart to Reality:
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