For all you jazz pianists out there, I’d like to point out a few simple techniques that Oscar Peterson commonly uses:
1. Bluesy licks – If you listen closely, you’ll notice that his lines characteristically have little bluesy inserts within them, or often at the very beginning. I would recommend transcribing some of these and playing them at the beginnings of your lines.
2. Arpeggiated lines – Oscar often plays quick arpeggios up simple chords. Listen carefully and you’ll notice this happening often in his improvisation. The best part is it’s not that hard to do once you practice it a little bit. For starters, try practicing a g minor triad arpeggio and running it quickly up and down the piano over a C7 chord.
3. Oscar regularly uses riffs and repeats them over and over to build tension and interact with the band.
Eventually I’ll post a video to give you a better idea of how these techniques work. See if you can pick out the different ways he uses the above techniques in this video of C Jam Blues:
Something else that you’ll notice is that Oscar had a very strong grasp of how to play like other pianists. In my opinion, the work you put into practicing the styles of those who came before you will contribute greatly to your ability to discover your own way of improvising. Notice who Oscar’s influences are in the video below. Oscar wouldn’t have had Brad Mehldau on his list, so by listening to Brad, you’re already developing your own style. I highly suggest you watch this video and think about what it means to you:
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