A Blog

On tech and music

John Nguyen
career code language misc music
Why My Timing Sucks, and Binary Search in Music

August 5, 2018

Drawing the lines through the beats You’d think that keeping the beat wouldn’t be difficult while playing a tune. I thought the same thing. I realised this wasn’t the case when I finally admitted to myself that I still could not play to time (without the help of a metronome) for tunes that I’ve been playing for months. Why problem? I don’t know where notes land relative to the beat.

Modal Improvisation

December 15, 2017

Some new points today about playing modal jazz. Right Hand Quartal arpeggios sound good Minor pentatonic for m7 Major pentatonic for 7 Mixolydian has an avoid note (4th) for dominant chords When played with quartal voicings, avoid note is no longer an avoid note Whole tone scale works for dominant chords Left Hand Left hand is triplets, right hand is straight quavers Stride pattern 1: and of 2, and of 4 Stride pattern 2: and of 2, on 4 Improvisation Play single chord vamp with left hand Start with a single note just crotchets Add second note Add third note Add quavers Profit

Modal Jazz

December 4, 2017

Exploring Modes Modal jazz sounds pretty horrible to the untrained ear. Do not worry, my ear is untrained as well. There are some advantages to this interesting way of playing jazz though. Modes The most common modes that must be studied are: Dorian (b3) Mixolydian (b3, b7) Lydian (#4) Ionian Dorian is useful for minor 7 chords. Mixolydian is useful for dominant chords. Also you can squeeze in altered chords somehow.

Struggling to Improvise

August 22, 2017

I kind of let this blog fall off the wayside (like most people) but it turns out that there are actual people that read it! I should continue to update it for my large readership.

I still struggle to improvise. Actually, I suck at it. My brain can’t keep up with such fast chord changes, nor can my fingers work out where I am quickly enough either. Noodling on the blues scale is boring, and scale tones just sound too safe.

Swinging Jazz

December 2, 2016

So I had a piano lesson today.

I’ve been learning Charlie Parker’s “Dexterity” for the past few weeks.

Some interesting points follow.

Words of wisdom from mikecitizen

November 21, 2016

There’s an amazing fellow who goes by the name Mike. There are many Mike’s in the world, so I’d like to narrow it down to this one particular Mike.

We had a few exchanges over PM on Reddit. Lots of good information here about the nature of Jazz practice and how we can improve ourselves. Conversation follows:


November 15, 2016

Another (fort)night, another jazz piano lesson.

Using the jazz minor modes.

Using the jazz minor modes is a good way to improvise.

Modes sound a lot better when you can blend them into each other. They basically give you tension and release for free. It will give you the iconic bebop jazz sound.

They sound awful on their own but playing it quickly and well blended will give a great sound.

Learning to improvise

October 31, 2016

Learning to become a Jazz musician is a frustrating endeavour. There is no long and extensive history of the art form. Classical pianists have it easy in that regard. You’ve passed grade 4? Oh good, now you can work on passing grade 5. You will need to learn these scales, for this many octaves, and select pieces from this list. It should take roughly a year.

There is no clear way of learning to become like the Jazz greats. Sure, ABRSM has their Jazz track. But its not really the same thing.

Learning lick 1

October 29, 2016

In this blog post I will attempt to explain how I am learning these licks.

Rendering music

October 17, 2016

So I need a way of recording my learnings about Jazz music. Mostly because I can barely keep track of my life in general.