Melodic Concepts for Jazz Piano: Volume 2

The ability to come up with a steady stream of eighth notes on demand is essential in order to play bebop. Here I’ve taken an extremely simple 2-5-1 lick and run it through all keys, descending in whole steps.

Ex. 1
#1 2-5-1 descending whole steps
Here it is, descending in half steps.
Ex.2
#2 2-5-1 descending half steps
Next, I take it, and using only the 2-5 part, play it descending in whole steps.
Ex.3
#3 2-5 descending whole steps

Here it is descending in half steps, common in tunes like Thelonious Monk’s Ask Me Now.
Ex.4
#4 2-5 descending half steps

Here it is in ascending half steps, like John Coltrane uses in “Moments Notice.”
Ex. 5
#5 2-5 ascending half steps

This lick (and most any that outlines the changes well) can be played up a third, and up a fifth, diatonically, meaning, using the sharps and flats of the tonic key we’re in. (Cm7-F7-Bbmaj7 with two flats, F#m7-B7-Emaj7 with four sharps, etc)
Ex.6.
#6 transposition up diatonic 3rd, 5th

By having these patterns available at a rapid tempo, this allows the student time to think when moving from one idea to another. You don’t HAVE to play them. You should have them, in order to make a decision WHETHER to play them. I always encourage students NOT to play everything they hear. The great players always edit, as do the great composers.

There’s no shortcut for having some melodic “vocabulary” that you can run through all keys. Here are a couple of other patterns that might be helpful… you can practice them the same way you practiced the stuff above. Although these are built on the two-bar minor ii, dominant V/ major I progression, they work just fine on one bar dominant V/one bar major I, and, for that matter, on two bars of V, or two bars of I. You just need this stuff to help you connect your more melodic ideas. You can practice these either with or without the left hand at a slow tempo at first, then speed it up.

Ex.7
#7 easy 2-5-1's