Jazz Keyboard Harmony, by Phil DeGreg*
This is my favorite voicing and harmony book for systematic learning; I use it myself and I recommend it to all my jazz students. DeGreg uses classic chord progressions like ii-V-I’s and circle of 5ths to teach good voice-leading practices and common, useful chord shapes, and the author provides intervallic formulas to help you learn the progressions in every key. The chapters are really well-laid out, in a way such that each chapter builds upon the last. Once you learn a set of voicings from the exercises, you can pretty much copy and paste them to your favorite jazz standard.
The voicings are tasty and varied, and DeGreg often offers several options for extending or altering the voicings in each progression. There are also a number of useful appendices that cover practicing individual voicings, practicing the exercises over different root motion patterns, and practicing with different rhythms, among other things. The author also has an excellent website with a lot of great free materials.
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Metaphors for the Musician, by Randy Halberstadt*
This is an extremely well-written book with a wealth of excellent information on how to practice, how to understand harmony, and other important topics. Halberstadt is a very engaging author and uses an informal, conversational tone to keep the material approachable. There are excellent graphics throughout almost every page of the book so that you don’t feel lost in text. Some of the content, like the fingering sets for pentatonic and blues scales, is difficult to find in other method books. While the author writes from a pianist’s point of view (the subtitle is “Perspectives from a Jazz Pianist”), much of the subject matter is applicable to any instrument. Highly recommended even if you’re not a pianist.
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The Real Book – C Instruments – Sixth Edition*
The Real Book is an essential resource if you want to start learning jazz standards and jamming with friends. If you play piano, this is the edition you want (other editions are in different keys or clefs for different instruments).
Buy at Sheet Music Plus* (a list of tunes is available on the product information page):
If the original Real Book doesn’t have the tune you’re looking for, check out Volume II or Volume 3; a lot of the tunes I play regularly are in these additional real books!
Want to learn the words to your favorite standards in addition to the melodies? The Standards Real Book includes words for nearly every tune in the book, and also includes the introductory verses that most real books leave out.
Ready to jazz up the holidays? The Real Christmas Book has you covered! Lots of jazzy reharmonized Christmas & holiday tunes, complete with lyrics!
I personally use the Real Books above quite often, but there are also a ton of other Real Books available. Here’s a selection of C-Instrument Real Books to give you an idea:
Improve Your Sight-reading! Piano series, by Paul Harris*
I like this series for sight-reading because the books are organized into bite-sized, 4-page units with very clear directions and a systematic, progressive introduction of 1-3 new concepts per unit. The series starts off pretty easy—the entire first book features only hands-separate exercises—but the later books are quite challenging. I also enjoy that the books cover a wide variety of musical styles, not just classical.
Buy at Sheet Music Plus*:
Harmonic Exercises for Piano by Clare Fischer*
Clare Fischer is one of my musical heroes and one of the more underappreciated legends of jazz piano. He had a profound harmonic genius, a way of working with inner voices and resolving dissonances into other dissonances like nobody else I’ve ever heard, and he played with monstrous technical precision. I had the opportunity to study with him for a few days when I was a teenager, and in just a short period of time, he completely changed my outlook on harmony and practice. He taught me to carefully consider every note in my chord voicings and to really try to take the time to master techniques rather than settle for good enough.
In addition to the wisdom he imparted to me, Clare also gave me his method book, Harmonic Exercises for Piano, which blew my mind all over again. The exercises are tough, both physically and mentally, but they will improve your facility at the piano while simultaneously helping you achieve an in-depth familiarity with different key areas. Unlike other method books that often focus on single-line exercises, Harmonic Exercises focuses on two-handed and multi-note exercises, moving chords, intervals, and arpeggios around the keyboard, often with some crazy rhythmic phrasing thrown in for good measure. I highly recommend this book if you’re looking for some challenging, off-the-beaten-path harmonic exercises that also sound quite musical.
Print edition at Sheet Music Plus:
Downloadable edition at Sheet Music Plus:
Progressive Steps to Syncopation for the Modern Drummer by Ted Reed*
A great resource to develop rhythmic independence between the hands, even for non-drummers! Covers quarter notes and half rests, eighth notes, 1/8-note triplets, sixteenth notes, mixed rhythms, and syncopation, all against a steady pulse. You can apply the rhythms to each hand or for an extra challenge, individual fingers on one or both hands.
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