Clavier Companion - July/August 2017 - 21
curriculum with little to no emphasis on jazz study.
When deciding which school of music to investigate
in depth on ArtistWorks, "Jazz Piano with George
Whitty" sparked my interest because I yearn to learn
tangible tools as a launching pad to understand, play,
and teach jazz.
Upon entering each school's site, the left-hand
part of the screen lists headings of Dash, Learn, and
Community. Dash provides community discussion
and a learning snapshot that details total minutes of
video watched, performance exchanges, profile, and
badges earned for mastering concepts. Community is
an online forum with student discussion and featured
course videos. Learn is where you view all the course
Jazz with George
"Jazz with George" comprises five sessions ranging
from beginning to early-advanced topics. Each
session contains twenty to thirty video lessons. The
beginning of a session briefly outlines what will be
covered, as well as what viewers should already know.
George Whitty, a California-based pianist, composer,
and arranger, teaches the course.
Each session is centered around a video lecture
with George, and sessions also include pdf files with
fingering/notation charts, backing tracks with drum
and bass, video exchanges (where students video
record a skill discussed in lecture, post it, and George
responds with video feedback), and discussions with
comments and questions about the material. At the
outset of the course, an option exists to send George
a placement video so he can ascertain where you
should start in the sequence. Having had no prior
jazz instruction, I started from the beginning, which
turned out to be a wise decision.
"Approach patterns" are another melodic tool used
in the course. These are defined as short chromatic
segments that link to target, chord-tone notes and
typically fall on the first and/or third beats of the
measure. George introduces these gradually, adding
a new one at each level. For example, the first
approach pattern linking to F in an F7 harmony is G,
G-flat, E, F. After explaining a concept, George does a
demo using the concept from the lesson, additionally
inserting some "grease," or embellishments. Then,
students are able to practice with a backing track
at various tempi (80, 110, 140 bpm). In each lecture,
George discusses how to integrate approach patterns,
build a line of interesting contours using simple tools,
and time all of this in a unique way.
Taking a break from right-hand figuration, George
proceeds to discuss "guide tones" in the left hand.
These come from a tri-tone that is based on the
harmony in a blues progression. Because the bass
To commence, George introduces the F7 bop scale.
He argues for the importance of learning and drilling
formulaic sequences rather than individual notes-a
macro to micro approach. Furthermore, he favors an
eight-note scale over a more traditional seven-note
model. Based on the F7 dominant chord, the F7 bop
scale includes F, G, A, B-flat, C, D, E-flat, E, and F; the
E serves as a passing tone, and is the eighth note.
The reasoning behind playing an eight-note scale is
so chordal tones fall on the beat, a practice predating
J. S. Bach. To teach this scale, George suggests a
right-hand fingering of 212312312. Initially, I thought
students would be resistant to this non-traditional
approach, but blocking the two groups of three
and verbally stating to start with the second finger
allowed the patterns to fall quickly and easily. In
fact, my group class really embraced the sound and
Students working with ArtistWorks.