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Getting into Jazz accordion the easy way

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VicAccoFun

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Being an amateur keayboard (piano) player I 'd like to get the easy way into playing Jazz arrangements from the Great American Songbook.

What I mean by the 'easy way': I'd like to actually start playing these tunes with the standard LH Stradella technique rather than spending months for learning how to combine bass and chords to get the proper Jazz chords. In other words I'd like to stay in a standard Stradella line of chords so that I don't get confused by weird angles and combinations. I'll work on that later but now I'd like to start playing the actual tunes.

I see couple potions:
1. Play in the LH bass only and a melody in the RH. Also it's possible to add the chord tones below the melody so it becomes LH bass + RH chord-melody. That's what Gary Dahl consideres in his book.
2. Play plain vanilla Maj and min chords (instead o Maj7, min7, etc.) in the LH and don't worry about the "authentic Jazz sound" for now. With this method it's possible to add the missing sounds in the RH below the melody though.

Any other ideas?
 

jozz

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Hmm, considering these two options I think I would rather just familiarize the Maj7 and Min7 (if applicable) rows :mrgreen:
 
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Geronimo

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We are not talking about months here, really (unless you are talking about the time frame where stuff becomes ingrained and automatic).

The point of jazz chords is their ambiguous nature. If you refuse combining chord buttons, it might at least make sense exploring the ambiguity by not matching chord and bass.

For example: don't play Cmaj7 using C bass and c chord but with C bass and em chord, Cmin7 not as C + cm but C + e♭, Cm6 can just be Cdim anyway, and C6 is C + am . So basically you only have to get used to playing strange chords along with your bass note rather than multiple chords at once.
 

JeffJetton

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Either 1 or 2 would work. Or even switch between them in the same song arrangement.

One of the keys of getting the "jazz sound" on accordion, IMHO, is being able to add those harmonies under the melody, using the RH. Exactly the sort of chord melody approach Gary Dahl gets into.

If you can do that, then you will sound pretty "jazzy" even if you're just using standard Stradella LH chords or even just single bass notes (as you would have to do for cases when the standard, "uncombined" chords can't substitute for what's being called for, such as min7(b5) chords).

Plus this will serve you well in cases where you're playing with others, and might not even bother just with the LH in the first place.

You can always start gradually adding more complex LH chording down the road. It would only make things sound richer.

But going the other way--working up the fancy LH chords first, but still only always having monophonic RH melodies--doesn't really do the trick for me. It's not the approach I would choose to be my main, first-and-foremost one. If you can only focus on one side, I'm going with RH.
 

JeffJetton

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And one more point, which may be obvious, but I sometimes have to make it to my students:

We accordionists typically start out (and then get used to) playing most or all of the "rhythm section" part of a song with just our LH, saving the RH for the "lead vocal" part of the tune. So when we stumble onto a lead sheet, where there's just a melody notated on a single staff, with chords written along the top, there's a tendency to think "Aha! I'm supposed to play these notes in my RH and then do all the chord stuff with my LH!" And for many styles, that's actually the best bet.

But really all a lead sheet is telling you is A) what the primary melody is, and B) what the accompanying harmony should generally be. It is not telling you how to implement that melodic/harmonic combination on your instrument.

Your job is simply to make the melody evident and then to support it somehow with at least the given chordal harmony, which you can do in a myriad of different ways, even in a single arrangement.

Maybe you do play the whole chord in the LH, or maybe you just play the root bass note in the LH with the rest of the chord in the RH. Or maybe you play the root and some of the chord in the LH, with the other chord tones (or even some duplicated chord tones) in the RH. Heck, maybe you play the whole cotton-pickin' thing in the RH. Or play the melody in the LH and all the chords in the RH. All are perfectly "legal"!
 

losthobos

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I'm happiest messing around inside the Great American Songbook...for me these were the most beautifully crafted songs ever written....it's up to us to interpret that headstart the writers have so graciously given us...
I used to worry constantly about leftand approach but now have a better understanding of jeff approach (similar to my mentor Harry Hussey's who combines nothing on the left hand)
My approach is to play the melody on the right hand with thesmallest finger...nd then embellish the harmonies / accompaniments / runs between chords / melodic movement with the longer fingers and thumb (i play cba)...it's a journey for sure...less can be more....my playing struggles at the best of times but along with Jeffs advice i'd say dont muddy the water by overcomplicating the issue trying to make it sound 'jazzier'..
Swing is King...wether it be one note or thirteen...
 
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VicAccoFun

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JeffJetton post_id=57010 time=1523373347 user_id=1774 said:
...
You can always start gradually adding more complex LH chording down the road. It would only make things sound richer.
...
If you can only focus on one side, Im going with RH.

Yes, Jeff - I had a similar idea and I only wanted to get confirmation on the validity of that approach. Its good you got me right.

losthobos post_id=57013 time=1523388259 user_id=729 said:
... along with Jeffs advice id say dont muddy the water by overcomplicating the issue trying to make it sound jazzier..
Swing is King...wether it be one note or thirteen...

And I totally agree with you on that: thats why Id only spend much time on getting all the LH Stradella weird angles assuming combining complex chords later.
Some earlier standards sound perfectly right with a simpler Maj/min harmony and you nailed it: Swing rhythm and feel is what makes Jazz to be Jazz.

As Joe Pass used to say, he distinguished only Maj, min and Dom7th sounds and what goes on top is just the icing on the cake.
 
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Geronimo

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JeffJetton post_id=57011 time=1523374190 user_id=1774 said:
Maybe you do play the whole chord in the LH, or maybe you just play the root bass note in the LH with the rest of the chord in the RH. Or maybe you play the root and some of the chord in the LH, with the other chord tones (or even some duplicated chord tones) in the RH. Heck, maybe you play the whole cotton-pickin thing in the RH. Or play the melody in the LH and all the chords in the RH. All are perfectly legal!
One thing to be noted is that this freedom of arrangement works better on chromatic button accordion since the right hand then covers quite a larger range of notes and engaging some fingers with harmonies or parts thereof does not impact continued melody play as much. Mechanically, that is. You still have to wrap your head around it, of course.
 
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VicAccoFun

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Geronimo post_id=57022 time=1523431595 user_id=2623 said:
One thing to be noted is that this freedom of arrangement works better on chromatic button accordion since the right hand then covers quite a larger range of notes...

Good point. There is a video on YT of an Italian button accordion player performing Bachs BWV 639 Choral Prelude in F Minor which would be impossible to perform in all 3 origianl parts on a piano accordion I guess. He chose to play the pedal part below the Choral melody in the RH while playing the bass manual part in 16th notes in the LH.
He confirmed that even on his button accordion he uses large stretches in the RH which makes the performance of a piece quite challenging. He apparently has long fingers as well which means its probably impossible for people with smaller hands.
 
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VicAccoFun

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By the way, after some thinking I came to a conclusion that it would be reasonable to start learning the Blues/Jazz accordion from a plain good old "down-home" Blues using only I7, IV7 and V7. All 7th chords are readily available in the LH without much fiddling. A little later it's possible to extend the form with ii-Vs and vi-ii-V's.

What would be a good bass pattern for 7th chords in the LH? Simple | Bass-Chord-Bass-Chord | etc. - 4 quarter notes per measure? Anything simple but a little more interesting?
 

JeffJetton

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VicAccoFun post_id=57044 time=1523466461 user_id=2820 said:
By the way, after some thinking I came to a conclusion that it would be reasonable to start learning the Blues/Jazz accordion from a plain good old down-home Blues using only I7, IV7 and V7. All 7th chords are readily available in the LH without much fiddling. A little later its possible to extend the form with ii-Vs and vi-ii-Vs.

What would be a good bass pattern for 7th chords in the LH? Simple | Bass-Chord-Bass-Chord | etc. - 4 quarter notes per measure? Anything simple but a little more interesting?

Well if its blues, there are all sorts of boogie patterns. For example, you could play a bass note on each beat:

1: Root
2: Counter-bass
3: Alternate bass
4: Counter-bass again (or, the counter-bass from one floor down, i.e., the 6th)

Play the chord on all the eighth-note upbeats in-between the bass notes (the ands when you count 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and)
 
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VicAccoFun

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JeffJetton post_id=57085 time=1523566819 user_id=1774 said:
Well if its blues, there are all sorts of boogie patterns. For example, you could play a bass note on each beat:

1: Root
2: Counter-bass
3: Alternate bass
4: Counter-bass again (or, the counter-bass from one floor down, i.e., the 6th)

Play the chord on all the eighth-note upbeats in-between the bass notes (the ands when you count 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and)

So it translates to 1-3-5-3(6) chord tones then?
Adding chords on off-beats would be a too busy style for my level yet but it can work in the future.
Thanks Jeff.
 

JeffJetton

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VicAccoFun post_id=57087 time=1523579274 user_id=2820 said:
JeffJetton post_id=57085 time=1523566819 user_id=1774 said:
Well if its blues, there are all sorts of boogie patterns. For example, you could play a bass note on each beat:

1: Root
2: Counter-bass
3: Alternate bass
4: Counter-bass again (or, the counter-bass from one floor down, i.e., the 6th)

Play the chord on all the eighth-note upbeats in-between the bass notes (the ands when you count 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and)

So it translates to 1-3-5-3(6) chord tones then?
Adding chords on off-beats would be a too busy style for my level yet but it can work in the future.
Thanks Jeff.

Yup. The vibe is sort of like what Louis Primas band used to do:



After you get used to 1-3-5-3 and 1-3-5-6, the next level would be 1-3-5-6-b7-6-5-3 (a two-bar pattern).

So on a C7 that would be C-E-G-A-Bb-A-G-E {}
 
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VicAccoFun

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JeffJetton post_id=57140 time=1523718873 user_id=1774 said:
.....
After you get used to 1-3-5-3 and 1-3-5-6, the next level would be 1-3-5-6-b7-6-5-3 (a two-bar pattern).
So on a C7 that would be C-E-G-A-Bb-A-G-E {}

Jeff - what would be a more-less middle-of-the-road standartd Stradella fingering for 1-3-5-6-b7-6-5-3 ?
Something like 3-4-2-4-5-4-2-4 ?
 

JeffJetton

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I'm not so sure that there are "standard" fingerings for something like this (or I'm not expert enough to know them if there are!) But if you're just playing single bass notes, then your choices there seem like good ones to me.
 
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VicAccoFun

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JeffJetton post_id=57175 time=1523822776 user_id=1774 said:
Im not so sure that there are standard fingerings for something like this (or Im not expert enough to know them if there are!) But if youre just playing single bass notes, then your choices there seem like good ones to me.

I actually expected to hear something like that in reply and I overstated it by calling them standard. I just wanted to know what majority of human accordion players would choose for that bass line. I doubt the choices would be radically different.
Anyway since you confirmed my choice is reasonable thats all I wanted to know. However what would be other standard ( ;) ) options?
 
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