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16-bar stride piano exercise

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Uploaded on Oct 9, 2011

http://bit.do/billsbook

Here’s an exercise that helps to develop left hand independence and control on the piano by playing around with a stride bass. This is a useful one if you want to improve the accuracy of your left hand, whether or not you’re interested in stride piano as a genre.
Stride piano is very common in early jazz, blues and ragtime, and is a useful tool for promoting hand independence because in order to play it correctly you must play very precisely. Your hand has to be in the right place and land on the right notes without any delay or messiness.
For this exercise, I’m playing a single note on the on-beat (usually the first or fifth note of the chord) followed by the chord on the off-beat. The chord sequence is relatively simple, and almost all of the bars have only one chord in them.
The difficulty here is in mastering the control and precision of your left hand. The first part of the exercise is simply to practice the chord sequence as a stride. You should focus on getting the timing absolutely spot-on, and landing on the chords with precision and evenness.
Keep the rhythm steady – speed will come with time, but at first, precision is more important. Try to make sure that you’re playing the chords gently and softly; it’s easy to bash them out, but this won’t help your technique nearly as much.
There are a few things that you can try in the right hand part. Have a go at improvising – you could try out some of the riffs from my earlier videos. Alternatively, you could play block chords in a rhythmic pattern or as tremolos. If you would rather something easier, keep it simple and use three notes.
As ever, the most important thing is to keep practicing, experiment and make it your own. If you’re good at transposition you could try the exercise in different keys. These make for more complex chords, which serve as better practice. If not, just stick to the exercise in C.
If you’re not sure about some of the terms or chords that I’ve mentioned in this video, check out my earlier videos which give a more basic introduction to harmony, chords and improvisation. You might also like to have a look at my book, How to Really Play the Piano, which includes some information on stride piano, as well sections on chords and improvisation.

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