Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting/modal jazz


I am now learning So what on piano. The intro is very nice. The question is: the song is played in D-dorian and Eb-dorian. I do not know about the intro. In modal jazz one should not really think of chords like they do in other kinds of jazz but the intro (by Bill Evans) is not just D-dorian as he plays black keys as well. How did he know what to play (it's not random notes)?

Hello Andrew and thank you for contacting me through

While there are certain notes or scales that work best in some places, a player can use any note really; it depends on what the player wishes to express. Example: a chromatic scale can be played in many situations and sound great if done with the right expression.

The most important thing is to listen. Listen to as much as you can, as often as you can. This is what fills your artistic self and after a while, this is what comes out in your playing. Get a good teacher and work hard at your learning. Play with as many other musicians as you can, especially with musicians that are better than you.

Here are a couple charts that may help, but e careful not to be too academic with artistic expression or your playing will not feel alive.

Thanks again and good luck,

D C DowDell
Professor of Music  

Musical Composition, Theory and Songwriting

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D C DowDell


D C DowDell will answer questions about Jazz improvisation, composition, chord voicing, scales and modes, practice techniques and ear training. Professor DowDell also enjoys discussions on Jazz musicology and the evolution of style.

D C DowDell is a professional Jazz pianist/composer who currently teaches online Jazz studies at A Passion for Jazz!. Professor DowDell has been teaching music for over 30 years at 2 major universities, several community colleges as well as accepting students for private study.


American Federation of Musicians
National Music Teachers Association
International Association of Jazz Educators

Bachelors of Music Education from UCLA
Masters of Music Composition from UNT

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