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The Engine Room

by Dave Edwards
June 12, 2005

Note: the files associated with this article can be downloaded individually (see below) or in this single zip file: EngineRoom.ZIP

I am likening the engine room of a liner to our left hand on the keyboard. In fact what I am trying to say is that, if we have that engine room, our right hand need only be a rowing boat in comparison and the comfort will still be there. Once acheived, the left becomes automatically good and the right can be as good as you can manage but still sound like a pro. More people sound less than their peers because of their left hand weakness. The Genre of the music does make a difference and what I suggest leans mostly towards "standards" but played in ANY type of rhythm.

PVO = Personal View Only (everyone to their own likes and dislikes I truly believe)

RITS = Rhythm In Their Soul (I tend to believe you are born with it and is hardly ever teachable)

Dance Background

I am a Ballroom and Disco dancer and, I am told, above average. As I started Ballroom dancing every night at age 14 years 2 months, I should be. I simply can not dance out of time. You may think this is obvious, but a lot of people do dance out of time and the thing is they don't know they are. The same applies to disco. (Audiences on TV are shown how to clap on the wrong beat. They don't clap because they feel anything, it's just the thing to do.) If I clap to music, it's because the joy within expresses itself and is naturally on the off beat (2 and 4).

I don't know about the USA but ballroom dancing is big money here in the UK. The schools are crowded, but they start by teaching Latin and todays Cha Cha and Rumba are taught to be danced off the beat. (No teacher from any school has been able to explain to me why?) It certainly doesn't surprise me that by the time they come to teach students the dances that are played most often at dances, i.e. Quickstep, Slow Foxtrot, and Waltz, students find it hard.

I learned every dance on two Saturday afternoons, and danced every dance, every night.

PVO -- It's a money making thing. Keep them coming for weeks and paying before they start enjoying themselves at dances.

They come to my dance and sit out all the songs except for the latin dances (tango / cha-cha- / rumba / samba) each of which is offered once in each half.

We have dancing shows on the TV. I don't watch, but I have CD's of the music used and the bands cannot decide what speed to play, all they care about is what the singer needs to sing a certain song.

Dancing to the Beat

NOT PVO BUT FACT:

  • Quicksteps can vary between 180 (slow) and 210 (very fast).
  • Slowfoxtrots are 108. At least they seem to agree about that.
  • Waltzes are 90. They also agree about that.

This means in 4/4 time there is nothing less than 108 and nothing between 108 and 180 unless it is Latin except for JIVE. (which I like, but not all the time). I am talking Ballroom ex Latin. This means a lot of songs my friend would like to sing only fit to a latin beat.

In case anybody is interested, my favourite disco is Chris Rear "Let's Dance" and "Oberge," but I don't like anything else he ever did, Pointer Sisters' "I'm So Excited," Barry White, Cher and, I think, mainly 70's and 80's. Some of these arrangements should have made the person who did them rich, but I bet it's the singer who makes the money. Oh, well, back to the keyboard.

PVO -- 2/4 Bass kills swing.

In the engine room
The bass is king
If he don't play the 2 and 4
He is quickly shown the door.

This very narrow view probably started when I was about 10 and my 3-chord piano-playing Dad showed me the notes (chords) he used. He played in only G and C. I wrote my first love song later that week.

My already love of music started me learning a boogie bass (the walking one). Then I heard the terrible mistakes he made with his left hand. I experimented and found the correct notes and recognised them as B A E (in G) and together with diminished (did not know them as that) and I started a book, which I still have. Everything I played was in G but my notes in the left sounded correct. Later, I was to learn these should have been 7ths., I found I could use this boogie bass with the B's A's and E's and I think that must have been my everlasting love for 4 beats to the bar, played beats. I also realised later that I was playing all 6ths.

PVO -- In the old days bass and drums were at the back of the band, now the bass and drums take front placing together with piano and guitar which, as THE ENGINE ROOM, is where they should be. They are what makes everybody else sound good.

Chord Sequences

After a blind pianist kindly gave me two or three lessons about chords, I quickly picked up that every dominant (main) 7th chord (e.g. C7, G7, etc) sounds better if it is preceeded by its associated minor 7th, and that is two notes up from the key you are in, i.e. in key of C, up two notes to D and play Dm7. (I intend this article to be understood by simple folk like me who find 3rds and 5ths and perfect somethings #5ths, 11ths, 13ths and even 9ths confusing)

You need not ever play any further than a 7th in your left hand, the other gubbins is usually only the tune note anyway AND these chord symbols are for guitarists mainly. So, if you go along with me, play all 9ths/11ths/13ths, b anything or # anything chords in the left hand as 7th chords.

The fact that you are supposed to use b (flat) chord symbols if your key contains flats and the reverse if you are playing with sharps does not impress me.

PVO -- Gb7 should be shot. I like F#7 whatever key I am in, and Cb should be executed. So tippex them out and change to what you can read the easiest. If you are playing in F and only once miss the Bb, MARK IT as Bb. Go through the whole piece and mark every Bb as b. You wont make that mistake again then.

PVO -- M meaning major is a pain. Am I the only one who sometimes takes it as a minor?? I only came across it in recent years. It was always maj and still is for me. (more tippex)

Following on from the minor 7th mentioned above, I then discovered that the D7 sounded weak after the other strong sounding chords. As I had unfortunately become a root position player -- made it easy when I changed to Organ -- by chance I found that Ab7 (NB not G#7) sounded ok instead. So I took to playing Am7 Ab7 G6.

I had already discovered the beauty of diminished chords and that I only had to learn three chords and their inversions. My intros were always G6 Bbdim Am7 Ab7 also using them as needed to fill between lines and to replay. I later started to use the alternative fill Bm7 Bb7 Am7 Ab7.

Dimisheds placed between the key chord (C6 in C) and the first change can sometimes very much enhance the sound.

This progression is a one chord substitution, i.e. the dominant 7th. The use of 6ths adds great strength to the produced sound. Diminished use is essential and if anyone wishes, I will send chord sequences adding diminished chords where they are not normally included in printed music. I viewed the ENGINE ROOM midi (see below) from the Score screen and the masses of notes produced with one finger using the Shearing registration and was astonished. Of course, using strong chords in the left hand means more notes added in the right as that sound has the harmony turned on.

Another additional thing in the use of the associated minor 7th plus a changed dominant 7th is that in a lot of music they are not included at all. A change from C to F may just happen (in C). AN addition of the two other chords before the F is part of what this is all about. In the 12 bar, they could be missed out as could the Em7-Eb7-. Using them just sounds more profiessional. Often, in country or other music, you would see C - C7 - F. The adding of the m7th before the 7th strengthens the sound.

I'll Remember April (made famous by George Shearing) is coming first after the 12 bar though to show when you CAN use this alternative to dominant 7th and Undecided Now to show when you can't.

I will from now on only quote the chords in C as that is the key in which I will show my engine room in the hope that at least one person with RITS who cannot at the moment play what they feel may benefit.

The chords you will need to know IN THE ROOT POSITION are shown in the first two columns in the table below. Note how easy it is to move the thumb from one to the other. If you can manage it, get into the habit of going from C6 to Cmaj7 auto pilot. I will explain later when you can not use this alternative to G7, which is the Db7 (G7 being the dominant (main) 7th in C).

Cmaj7
=
C
E
G
B
C6
=
C
E
G
A
Dm7
=
D
F
A
C
Db7
=
Db
F
Ab
B
Em7
=
E
G
B
D
Eb7
=
Eb
G
Bb
C#
Gm7
=
G
Bb
D
F
F#7
=
F#
Bb
C#
E
F7
=
F
A
C
Eb
Ebdim
=
Eb
F#
A
C
The runs will be:
C6
Ebdim
Dm7
Db7
...C6
C6
Gm7
F#7
F7
...C6
Em7
Eb7
Dm7
Db7
...C6

Please don't give up as we will not need to look at the right hand as you will only be playing 1 note or 2 (but you will be swinging like Peterson) (thats Oscar not Fred). Riffs will come along (repeated 3 or 4 notes played no matter what the left hand is doing).

You can practice with a variant of what is known as the 12 bar blues. The idea is for you to experience the joy if you have RITS of listening to the engine room. To practice start high and work down. Em7 - Eb7 - Dm7 - Db7 - C6 to carry to Ebdim - Dm7 - Db7 - Cmaj7 - C6 also Gm7 - F#7 - F7 (these last three in a normal piece would be to Fmaj7/F6). There will be 2-beat chords I'm afraid, so start slowly. Better to get it at 80 bpm and swing.

This is what we are trying to acheive:

 C6  - | C6  - | C6   -   | Gm7 F#7 | 
F7 - | F7 - | C6 - | Em7 Eb7 |
Dm7 - | Db7 - | C6 Ebdim | Dm7 Db7 |

Over and over and over and over. In preparing the registration accompanying this article, I found I had played it for 4 hours. (the new neighbours may be OK.) NB the last 4 chords will always serve as an intro in C and as a fill between lines. The alternative fill would be C6 - Eb7 - Dm7 - Db7. I promise you if you master these, you will use them in all swingers in C or any other key, i.e. every standard ever written. We must use a style with no brass and we'll have a guitar otherwise you will only hear the bass doing the good stuff.

So what about this one note or two in the right hand? Top C or next to top, but only if you have lowered the piano by an octave which I always do. Also I split at Bb2 so my lowest right hand note is B2. I play mostly in C-Eb-F-G-Bb. In Bb I need a Cm7 in root position to go down to Bb.

I will be uploading an example and I'll try to stick to the one note or two. C Jam Blues fits perfectly to this and thats two notes, G and C, thats all.

PVO. An intro is not an intro unless it's at least 4 bars long. I prefer 8 and my backing track I use at the City pub for "Hey Good Looking" has a 16-bar swinging Hammond organ intro. No one leaves (I lock the door).

Now for a very important intro and this time the right hand does the work and the left hand plays one note and then can be used to thumb through music to find the next number. It's also a brilliant key changing method. On all my other Yamaha keyboards this only needed the fingering to be FINGERED. However I have found this does not work on the 3000 so it has to be AI FINGERED (what ever that means).

My best friend has been a pro bassist all his life (coincidence I swear he does not share my views always). After hearing my 7000 he could not get over the bass produced, within 3 weeks he owned a 7000 and still uses it almost daily but only to play a bit, he makes backing tracks from MIDI files to sing to and then does them at the dance (I met him through him playing at my dancehall). He is part of the trio at the dance and he told me about this intro they always used where he would play the dominant 7th note and the pianist would play a multitide of chords. By chance we tried this on the keyboard and it worked.

The window shows the chord G1+8 (whatever that means) and G would be played when in C (dominant 7th). As you know you can take your hand away and the chord stays until another is pressed. So you press G and leave it and the right hand plays

E  - G  - A  - C    (C6) X 2 (for 2 beats)
Eb - F# - A  - C    (Ebdim) X 2
D  - F  - A  - C    (Dm7) X 2
D  - F  - Ab - C    (???) X 2
ONLY 2 BEATS EACH, thats 4 bars

If you have nothing to do with your left hand, play C with your thumb along with the right hand chords ... That's Shearing (yes, George not Harry). Those two sets of chords, C6, Ebdim, Dm7, Db7, fit together as well for an intro both hands.

If you can manage to slide from B to C using 1st finger to thumb, you will sound even more like Shearing (the B might be called a 'grace' note but I'm not sure).

Breaking off from the 12 bar and playing the above 4 times gives you a a 16-bar intro.

When you bounce back onto C6 to start the 12 bar it's like "having an ****** censored" but only if you have RITS.

I'll Remember April

bars 1- 8 Gmaj7 | G6  | Gmaj7 | G6  | Gm7  | Gm7 | Gm7    | Gm7
bars 9-16 Cm6   | D7  | F7    | E7  | Am7  | Ab7 | Gmaj7  | G6
bars 17-24 Cm7   | B7  | Bbmaj7| Bb6 | Cm7  | B7  | Bbmaj7 | Bb6
bars 25-32 Am7   | Ab7 | GMaj7 | G6  | F#m7 | F7  | E6     | Am7 Ab7
  (repeat first 2 lines)

Here in bar 18 and 22, the original F7 is going to key of Bb so is a dominant 7th and is changed to a B7

In bar 30, B7 (it would be) is going to the key of E so is a dominant 7th and changed.

As I have said, in the right hand I play the normal 7th but mostly with the 9th flattened which makes it into a diminished 2 notes down. e.g. if I've changed D7 or if I have not I often use Cdim in the right.

Undecided Now

bars 1-8 C6 | C6  | F7   | F7 | D7 | Dm7 Db7 | C6 Ebdim | Dm7 Db7
bars 9-16 C6 | C6  | F7   | F7 | D7 | Dm7 Db7 | C6       | C6      
bars 17-24 Gm7| F#7 | Fmaj7| F6 | Am7| D7      | Dm7      | Db7
bars 25-32 C6 | C6  | F7   | F7 | D7 | Dm7 Db7 | C6* Ebdim| Dm7 Db7
 
* the last time through, repeat C6 from here until ending pressed.

Please note that in bar 22, D7 stays as D7 because you are not going to the key of G so it is not the dominant 7th but in bar 18 C7 (what it would be) is going to F so it is a dominant 7th and can be changed.

I had not included D7 in the chord table earlier, but it must be played D-F#-A-C.

Registration File

By the way, my Registration is INTRO 2 to Main Section B and ending 2. It's a bebop slowed down with a guitar added from jazz club. I've used it without the guitar since the Tyros came out, on my 8000 and 9000. The guitar is here to stay. The registration file, and the style it calls, are provided below. Place the style file in the USER area or the CARD area and the registration buttons will call up the "Engine Room" style. I used this style for the tunes above, but it could be used with 100's of tunes, naturally.

                 ENGINE ROOM3.RGT   --   ENGINE ROOM2.STY

The 8 registration buttons in the registration file are as follows:

  1. Shearing sound reasonably close. I think Yamaha have done their best.
  2. Tenor Sax
  3. Vibes
  4. Jazz Guitar ( there is a left if you want it)
  5. Piano
  6. Hammond Organ (pedal works rotary)
  7. Trombone section
  8. Brass section.

OTS not mine.

Putting it All Together

Below, I've provided a midi file so you can get an idea of what all this sounds like. The first few single notes demonstrate how even one note sounds good with the suggested left hand. I then play one chorus of C Jam Blues, a well-known jazz classic, and then improvise a number of times. Next, I play the intro example of one note left hand first in key of C (playing G) then key of G (playing D) to take me to I'll Remember April, which I play one and a half times. I then return to the one note left hand intro again in key G playing D and then key C playing G -- there is a slight error here as I hit two notes and there is some bassy noise for a few beats -- to take me to Undecided Now, which is played three times.

                                    ENGINE ROOM.MID

More Samples

I would not like anyone to think I don't like other styles so I have also prepared an ENGINE ROOM FUNK style and midi file. The attraction is the nice guitar backing and bass and the drummer I would hire. The drum breaks are good on all A B C & D makes a change to the norm. I hope PSR Tutorial readers know these ancient tunes, this is "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" by Neil Sedaka. It's got nice key changes, which show my alternative chord off.

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

bars 1-8 C Am7 | Dm7 Db7 | C Am7 | Dm7 Db7 | E7  | Am7 | D7         | Dm7 Db7
bars 9-16C Am7 | Dm7 Db7 | C Am7 | Dm7 Db7 | E7  | Am7 | D7 Dm7 Db7 | C6
bars 17-24Cm7   | B7      | Bbmaj7| Bb6     | Bbm7| A7  | Ab6        | Dm7 Db7
bars 25-32C Am7 | Dm7 Db7 | C Am7 | Dm7 Db7 | E7  | Am7 | D7 Dm7 Db7 | Cmaj7 C6

Use INTRO 2 to MAIN D and press ENDING 2 twice to slow it down.

I search for an appropriate style which must have decent drum breaks. This one is in the DANCE section, called 70's Disco Funk. I raised the Piano and Strings on the style and set the pedal to work the drum breaks except on Piano. It's a real shame they missed the 2 pedals off.

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO.MID  -   ENGINE ROOM FUNK.STY

The Opposite Extreme

There is a lot above about suggested registrations and styles for a certain song, but the alternative treatment might also be kept in mind. I never play a waltz style for my own enjoyment, but always play them as Bossas or other latin styles.

Below are seven midi files, all of one song, Louise. I did them originally for a girl at the dance and put them on a CD for her. These are just a little reminder that most standards can be played in various styles/tempos and still keep their charm. You will see in these examples that I replace dominant 7ths a great deal with the 7th a semitone up from the key, e.g. in Louise F#7 instead of C7. I still play in the right hand C7b9 (Bb dim). The normal mistakes I always make when recording live will have to be forgiven. PS The tango should be No5.

LOUISE CHACHA.MID | LOUISE JAZZ.MID | LOUISE ROMANITC.MID
LOUISE DIXIE.MID | LOUISE TANGO.MID | LOUISE WALTZ.MID | LOUISE R&R.MID

Final Thoughts

Finally, believe me, I know my lack of ability. I just want to share what I have found extremely pleasing to play like with anyone with RITS who probably plays better than this anyway. If one person gets anything out of it, it's worth the effort.

I would love to improvise correctly, but I get pleasure from improvising the chord notes in the right hand as it is all I can do. Only read one liners.

Almost forgot about something. Regarding Yamahas A-D settings. When they were A & B, most people seemed to agree with me that A was terrible and B better. Now there are 4 sections. Again it seems that A and B are terrible and C & D better. I think Yamaha could be more helpful here. Sometimes C & D are too noisy, now I know I can turn off the channels but what happens to those channels during the intro and ending, I want them then. For me naturally the main problem with A & B is the bass being 2/4, and the drummer is changed from sticks to brushes. It's hard work changing them all. On the 8000 I got quite good at editing them, but the 3000 is not the same. I want different volumes on the intros and endings than the main on tracks 9-16. I want to use A & B settings without losing the bass & drums to another band. Do we have an answer?

Easy please.

Dave Edwards (1933-2006)

This page updated on October 26, 2013 .