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About This Picture


A conversation with Clifford...

I have procrastinated for years to put a website together, and here we are.  I want it to be more than an advertisement.  I want there to be some dialogue about music, practicing, life.

I'm going to start out by sharing that I keep a notebook of phrases or "licks," something that I might sit down and improvise and then say, "I like that.  Can I play that in all 12 keys?  Hmmmm........not so well!!"

So, I then write it in my manuscript notebook and practice it in every key.  Then, I pick a tune like "All the Things You Are," for example, and I try to play the phrase a lot while improvising over each chorus.

The phrase takes on new shapes as I play it over the changes of any given tune.  For example, if the phrase outlines a iiø-V-i progression in a minor key, as seen in Example 1 when you CLICK HERE*** (new window opens), I'll change the notes to work over a ii-V-I progression in a major key, if that is what the tune requires (Example 2).  I then choose a voicing for my left hand, and play that voicing in every key, while I play the phrase in my right hand in the respective keys.  Sometimes I might change the inversion of the voicing so it sounds better in a certain range on the piano, for a particular key.  In this regard, multi-tasking, though not my forté, can be a good thing.  Often, I'll discover that the phrase works over many different chords - different from the chords over which it was originally intended to be played.

As I previously stated, these phrases often come from improvising at the piano, but they also might come from another player's solo.  When I hear something that intrigues me I transcribe it.  I place brackets around a phrase/lick or the bars of a solo, and then I copy it into my notebook, after which I practice it in all 12 keys.  It can be so frustrating at times to feel like I could play a much better solo if it was just in a different key.  So this work is to try and prevent that uncomfortable experience.


My friend, the amazing guitarist Steve Khan, recommended that I include the musical examples (Example 1 and Example 2) in all 12 keys, so that is what you see.  Notice the key signature for the A-flat minor version is the A-flat major key signature.  I did this to avoid using the B-major key signature.  I would never want to read "sharps" for the notes while looking at "flats" in the chord symbols.  Also, I switched to D-flat major (instead of using C-sharp major).  I hope I never see a C-sharp major key signature!!

I invite you to share your thoughts...
Click HERE to join the Conversation.



***Examples are available in PDF Format,
which requires Adobe Acrobat Reader.
Get it free HERE

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