Grace Notes & Block Chords

Hayden let me just say I am loving this Pianogroove. I love the theory and your methods are so practical with application of learning harmony. I have been following Tenderly from the beginning through advance sections. I am here for the long run and am taking my time to practice and get the theory down. I was wondering if you could possibly show the technique and application of how Beegie Adair intro on the By Request album of Tenderly works. I think I saw one example in one of your Jazz standards pdf but could not find the lesson for it. It that sort of bass grace roll with the upper chord also. Is there rules on how to use this and when in standards as I hear her do it often.

Thanks in advance
Steve

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Hi Steve,

Welcome to the community area!

I’m glad to hear you are enjoying the PianoGroove course so far.

Sure, let me help you out here.

I have renamed the thread “Grace Notes & Block Chords” as that is what we are going to be discussing.

Here’s the recording you are referring to:

To my ears, it sound like she is playing something like this:

I’ve recorded the audio for you too:

The rolled notes you are hearing is slipping up into the lowest note from 2 half steps below. When I play these voicings, my right hand plays the top 4 notes, and my left hand plays the bottom note & the grace notes.

The chords she plays are all Eb Major chords, the Eb6 chord is particular useful for this style of playing.

Another thing to notice is that because she is playing with a bass player, when she lands on the Ebmaj7 chord after the pickup bar, she omits the root from her voicing, effectively playing a G Minor triad with the top and bottom note doubled, and again grace noting into the bottom note with her left hand.

Now Onto Theory Lesson Covering Block Chords:

Firstly, you might find this forum question useful where we are talking about a very similar topic.

Now, we have a number of theory lesson in the PianoGroove syllabus which cover this style of playing. To understand the basic principle behind this style of playing, check out this lesson on “How To Play Block Chords”:

The above lesson comes from our course on “Block Chords” - I’d also recomend studying the jazz standard lessons in that course where we apply the theory in context.

Here’s the full course:

I also made a 5 Minute Masterclass Tutorial which talks about harmonising step wise melody lines, I think you will also find this useful:

Finally Tuomo made a wonderful masterclass on “Barry Harris Voicings” where he explores some more advanced applications and examples:

Additional Listening Recommendations

I read somewhere that Beegie Adair cites Barry Harris as one of her key influences, amongst many other pianists of course.

The style of block chords is idiomatic of Barry Harris’ style of playing. I’d recommend listening to his discograhpy if that’s a particular sound you are interested in.

Other pianists who used this style are George Shearing & Bill Evans.

George Shearing pioneered the pure ‘4-Way-Close’ sound, which is closer to what Beegie Adair is playing. That is what I cover in the first lesson referenced above.

Bill Evans was more famous for his ‘Drop 2 Voicings’ which is a variation of the 4-way-close where the second to top note is dropped into the left hand.

A final note Steve…

It’s fantastic that you are listening to recordings and trying to work out the bits you like.

That is the key to developing our own style, and our own sound when playing jazz.

It could also be nice to work out some of the fills, melodic phrasing, rhythmic elements, etc… that Beegie Adair is playing on that recording, and then incorporate this into your arrangement of Tenderly.

I’d also recomend taking part in Tuomo’s transcription exercises:

https://www.pianogroove.com/community/c/improvisation-exercises

These exercises will help to train your ears so you can pick out information directly from your favourite recordings.

If you have any further questions just let us know.

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Hayden,
I just want to thank you and say wow your explanation and teaching are so valuable. I already did your block chords upon receipt of this response and for you to take the time to transcribe and record an example is so appreciative. I never expected such a fast and so detailed response. There is so much to learn and I have found Pianogroove worth the investment. I will do the other lessons and exercises I am trying to take my time and really appreciate the theory behind all this. Just in the block chord your explanation of the diminished being the dominant b9 was great.

Thanks so much I will listen to the recordings and do all the other lessons you suggested. So excited.

Thanks,
Steve

My pleasure Steve :+1:

Block chords are a really great sound to add to our repertoire. They can be used in many different situations; mainly for harmonising step-wise melody lines, but they also sound great for harmonic fills, to throw into our solos whilst improvising, and also can be useful a comping setting.

Like yourself, I like the sound of ‘flicking’ up into that bottom note with grace notes in the left hand. It sounds great and it’s also easy to execute with a little practice - win-win!

Yes do check out those other lessons, and also the following thread where we discuss application to the tunes “In A Sentimental Mood” & “Just Friends”:

There’s some useful information there too.

Here to help should you have any further questions. Cheers! :sunglasses:

Welcome to the forum Steve! Thank you for posing the question on Tenderly. I am now going to make a point of listening to Beegie Adair as I like her style. I really love block chords and am finally starting to get my fingers on some drop 2 chords as well. And yes…Hayden is amazing with his responses to us.