Instructor
John Proulx
Quick Tip
Intermediate
Advanced
23:59

Learning Focus
  • Improvisation
  • Reharmonization
  • Songs
Music Style
  • Jazz Ballads
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If you’re a jazz piano student, then you probably spend a lot of time practicing independent jazz piano skills such as chord voicings, common progressions, melodic patterns and more. However, trying to bring all these skills together to play familiar jazz standards from a fake book can be disheartening. Often times, students’ early jazz arrangements sound bland and bare. Fortunately, in today’s Quick Tip, Misty: Beautiful Jazz Piano Arrangement, John Proulx shares some artistic concepts that he uses to create a compelling arrangement.

Topics covered in today’s video include:

This lesson is perfect for intermediate and advanced level students who are eager to integrate essential jazz piano concepts into a beautiful solo arrangement of Erroll Garner’s “Misty.”

Beautiful Arranging Techniques for Misty

If you are more of a beginner or early intermediate student, we encourage you to check out John’s Quick Tip entitled 3 Steps to Play Misty on Piano (Beg/Int). That lesson is packed with foundational concepts about “Misty” for early jazz piano students including chord diagrams, song facts, reference recordings and more. However, students of all levels will find today’s lesson informative and aspirational.

Before we dive into the specific jazz arranging techniques that John uses in today’s featured video tutorial on “Misty,” let’s get a bird’s-eye look at the beautiful chord choices that he presents. The following lead sheet contains all of the advanced chord changes that John talks about in today’s lesson. In fact, you can download a PDF of these changes from the bottom of this page after logging in with your membership. If you would like a copy of the “Misty” lead sheet that appears in today’s Quick Tip video, it is available through our partners at MusicNotes.com. Also, if you’re already a PWJ member, be sure to check out the Smart Sheet Music for today’s lesson, which you can easily transpose to any key.

Misty Beautiful Jazz Piano Arrangement

Reharmonization Techniques for Misty

If you were to compare the chord changes above to the similar lead sheet found in John’s beginner/intermediate lesson on “Misty” that we mentioned earlier, you’d notice right away that this arrangement has greater harmonic density. In other words, there are simply more chords in this arrangement. In jazz arranging, the topic of reharmonization involves changing the chords of a pre-existing melody for creative purposes.

Passing Chords

You might be wondering, “How can a new arrangement of Misty have more chords than what the composer originally included?” One way this happens is when an arranger adds passing chords in between some of the original chords. Passing chords are colorful harmonic embellishments that create extra tension before resolving to a diatonic chord. For example, the E♭º7 in measure 9 that resolves to E♭▵9 is just one example of a beautiful passing chord in this arrangement of “Misty.”

Misty Passing Chords

You can learn all about diminished 7th passing chords in our Quick Tip on Diminished Chords–5 Essential Piano Techniques (Int). For an even deeper dive on passing chords, check out the following courses:

🔎 Passing Chords & Reharmonization 1 (Int)
🔎 Passing Chords & Reharmonization 2 (Adv)

Inner Voice Movement

Another reason why this arrangement of “Misty” sounds so beautiful is because it uses inner voice movement. This is a compositional device that involves countermelodies for the purpose of embellishment. For example, check out the chords G13→G7(♭13)→Cm11→C7(♭9) in measure 5. This harmonic density is the direct result of beautiful countermelodies that occur in the inner voices.

Misty Contrapuntal Inner Voice Movement

Another example of inner voice movement can be found in measure 10 with the chords B♭m→B♭m(▵9)→E♭13(sus4)→E♭7(♭9). To learn more about this topic, check out our Quick Tip on Create Inner Voice Movement for Jazz Piano (Int).

Tritone Substitution

Another beautiful reharmonization technique that John uses in this arrangement of “Misty” is tritone substitution. The easiest way to spot a “tritone sub” is when you have a dominant chord that resolves down by a half step to a major or minor chord. For example, the chords that John plays over the opening lyrics (“Look at me…”) are Fm11→E7(♯9)→E♭▵9. Notice, this E7 altered dominant chord resolves down a half step to E♭▵. While this resolution is pretty easy to spot, the theory behind this chord substitution often confuses students when first introduced. Simply put, the E7 here is a “tritone substitution” because it is substituting for a dominant 7th chord that is a tritone away…B♭7. Moreover, the guide tones (the 3rd and the 7th) for these two dominant chords are actually the same tritone interval…the notes D and G♯/A♭.

Misty Triton Substitution

The next obvious question then is, “What is a tritone?” In music theory, a tritone is the simplest term to describe an interval that spans 3 whole steps. More specifically, a tritone will appear in notation as either an augmented 4th or a diminished 5th. However, the interval sounds the same regardless of how it is spelled. Tritone substitution is a common way to add harmonic complexity to and ordinary 2-5-1 chord progression. To learn more about tritone subs, check out our Quick Tip on Tritone Substitution–The Complete Guide (Int).

Advanced Piano Voicings for Misty

John uses several beautiful voicing techniques in his arrangement of “Misty” in today’s lesson. In this section, we’ll highlight three categories of jazz voicings that John mentions and show you where to find PWJ resources that will help you master them.

Quintal Voicings

Early in today’s lesson, John shares a large spread voicing for an Fm11 chord. In this voicing, the left hand plays F–C–G which the right hand plays A♭–E♭–B♭. Notice that in this voicing, the notes in each hand are all a perfect 5th apart. In fact, the only interval in this voicing that is not a perfect 5th is the interval between the hands. For example, the left thumb in this voicing is on the note G while the right thumb is on A♭. Therefore, the distance between these notes is a half step. We use the term quintal voicing to describe voicings like this in which the majority of the intervals are 5ths.

Quintal Voicing for Piano

To learn more about quintal voicings, check out our Quick Tip on Quintal Chord Stacks for Piano (Int).

Quartal Voicings

Another voicing type that John uses in this arrangement of “Misty” is quartal voicings. As you might have guessed, we use this term to describe voicings that are primarily made up of 4th intervals. For example, for the A♭▵9 chord in measure 3, John’s plays (from the bottom up) G–C– F–B♭–E♭. Notice that all of the notes in this voicing are a perfect 4th apart. However, some quartal voicings will also contain other intervals. For example, for E♭▵9, John plays the notes G–C– F–B♭–D, a particular structure known as a “So What” voicing. In this voicing, the top interval is a major 3rd. However, since the majority of the intervals are perfect 4ths, it is still considered a quartal voicing.

Misty Quartal Voicings

PWJ members have access to a complete learning track dedicated to helping them master the hip, modern sound of quartal voicings:

🔎 Late Advanced Piano Foundations Learning Track (Level 9).

Upper Structure Polychords

In the second measure of the bridge section of “Misty,” John uses three different polychordal voicings to achieve complex harmonic colors over an E♭7 chord. Technically speaking, these chords are E♭13(♭9), E♭7(♯9♭13) and E♭7(♭9♯11). Even though these chord symbols look intimidating, they are actually quick simple to play. That’s because the right hand plays a simple major triad for each voicing while the left hand plays a basic chord shell.

Misty Upper Structure Polychords

Let’s take a closer look at these various E♭7 voicings. Firstly, notice that the left hand uses a R-3-7 chord shell for each of these voicings, which includes the notes E♭–G–D♭. Then, for the right hand, John uses major triads in second inversion to harmonize the melody. These triads are C major, B major and A major. In fact, John presents these voicings with polychordal symbols that look like fractions. Therefore, the first voicing can be written as C over E♭7. Similarly, the second voicing is B over E♭7. Finally, the last voicing is A over E♭7. In these polychordal voicings, the right hand portion is known as an upper structure triad. As you can see, an easy way to navigate different altered dominant sounds is to simply switch the upper structure triad in the right hand! To learn more about this topic, check out the following course:

🔎 Coloring Dominant Chords with Upper Structures (Adv)

Improv Ideas for Misty

After presenting the melody in its entirety, John transitions into a solo section. It’s important to understand that “Misty” is composed using the standard 32-bar AABA form, which is also known as song form. However, John only solos over the first two A sections of the form, which is a common approach when soloing on a jazz ballad. Afterward, he immediately picks up the melody again for the B section and the final A section.

Soloing over a jazz ballad can be tricky for beginner students. For example, beginners are often inclined to use the same sort of swung-8th-note rhythms that they play on a medium tempo tune, except slower. Typically, this usually doesn’t result in a compelling solo. However, if you listen closely to John’s solo, you’ll notice that he uses a variety of rhythms, including 8th notes, 16th notes and triplets. For his melodic material, John draws on colorful jazz improv scales such as the Altered Scale, the Lydian Dominant Scale and the Minor Blues Scale.

Select Jazz Improv Scales

If you’re ready for a deep dive on jazz ballad improv, then check out the following course:

🔎 Jazz Ballad Soloing Challenge (Beg–Adv)

Intro & Ending Ideas

One of the great aspects of John’s performance of “Misty” in today’s lesson is that he models how a beautiful intro and ending can really help to elevate an arrangement. However, these additions don’t necessarily have to be complex. For example, John’s intro is really just a single chord, B♭13(♭9), played as an piano run. In fact, you can learn how to play intro runs like this in the following course:

🔎 Jazz Intro and Outro Runs (Int/Adv)

For his ending, John elongates the final A section of “Misty” by adding a tag. This is when you delay the final tonic chord with a chord substitution and then repeat the last phrase of the melody. Sometimes, jazz vocalists may even tag the final lyrics of the melody more than once. After the tag, John uses a stock progression called The Sharp Four Jazz Walkdown Chord Progression to bring his arrangement to a satisfying conclusion.

Conclusion

We hope you enjoyed today’s lesson on Misty: Beautiful Jazz Piano Arrangement. Keep in mind that PWJ members have access to several full-length courses on “Misty” that cover a variety of skill levels and playing contexts.

If you enjoyed today’s lessonthen be sure check out our other Quick Tips on popular standards including:

Not sure where to begin? Visit our learning tracks:

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Writer
Michael LaDisa

Michael LaDisa graduated from the University of North Texas with a major in Music Theory & Composition. He lives in Chicago where he operates a private teaching studio and performs regularly as a solo pianist. His educational work with students has been featured on WGN-TV Evening News, Fox 32 Good Day,...

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