Books on Pentatonics & Piano Voicings


Highly recommended on Gary Burton’s Berkelee Online Jazz Improvisation Class (Coursera)

Pentatonic and hexatonic scales are a staple of the modern jazz sound from the 1960s onwards. If you’re interested in exploring what goes into this beautiful modernist sound, read on. And understanding the way these structures work will also add an extra level to the way you play even when you aren’t splanking it out like McCoy or Chick.

This book gives detailed exploration of the six most used pentatonic scales, what to play on every chord type, pentatonics on II-V-Is, variations on II-V-Is and reharmonisations, outside and parallel pentatonics, partial pentatonics, pentatonics with passing notes, keeping modal form, all about groove, traditional hexatonics, hexatonics from triad pairs, the whole-tone family of six, modalisation, fragmentation and outside playing with hexatonics, practice suggestions, example solos, appendices, exercises, pentatonic licks from the jazz repertoire, the “avoid” note, listening, suggested tunes. (152 pages)

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The jazz pianist is an impromptu arranger. This book examines the anatomy of jazz chords and takes a practical tour through the ways that pianists of all eras and styles actually play them.

Chapters cover the idea of a big band under your fingers, rhythmic considerations, playing with guitarists, chord-scale theory, defining chord tones, the quality of voicings, shells, expanded shells, thirds, sixths, stride, four-way close, rootless, melodic minor “grips”, “add 2”, clusters, fourths, “axis”, “drop” chords, drop-2 block chords, four-note structures, Shearing block chords, dominant 13ths, diatonic triads and sevenths, upper structures, slash and polychords, “So What” chords, fifths, RH octave-triads and ambi chords, Red Garland block chords, triad expansions, stacks, combinations and approaches, practice suggestions, DIY ear training, examples, patterns and exercises. (112 pages)

Order online at Amazon

“Immediately upon reading the first several chapters [of your Pentatonics book] and seeing the relationships between scales, chords, modes, and how they all function, and learning what notes work and what doesn’t work, it made my practice sessions something I couldn’t wait to do. … It has been the most helpful of all the books I’ve acquired through the years and I’ve got tons of them gathering dust. This is one I won’t put away. It is my jazz bible, Rosetta Stone and jazz GPS navigation system all in one.” MG (Amazon 5-star review)

“I found your jazz improvisation materials by accident (actually, searching the internet for ‘the invisible half bar line’). What a find! Well written and useful.” BM

“I found your jazz articles to be really useful and about the clearest and most practically helpful things I’ve come across.” MG

“You’ve written some great jazz articles on your website which I’ve enjoyed reading. Good stuff, just what I like reading and putting the real take on things instead of the blurb from the jazz courses.” DR

“This is a big THANK YOU.  The articles and analysis are wonderful to read. The deadly combo of meaty information and great explanations: uncommon and welcome.” LW

“Thanks for your formidable book on Pentatonics. A very useful reference book for anyone interested in understanding the possibilities from scratch to advanced. Your book would be really useful for musicians to dip into it and bring things to whatever they are working on. I like also the friendly clear tone of your commentaries.” AG

“The book on Pentatonics was a most enjoyable read. Speaking as an old pro, it’s great to see someone writing so clearly and comprehensively about a lot of the stuff so many of us had to find out by the hard slog. I kept thinking to myself, oh that’s why that works…” FS

One comment on “Books on Pentatonics & Piano Voicings
  1. Nick says:

    I would love to buy these books. Will there be digital versions available at some time?

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