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Hello,

Steve highly recommend to practice his II-V-I licks in all keys.

But is it really necessary?

I love his book and it makes a lot of fun but why shall I practice the C/F sharp licks?

It costs so much time to practice all keys and I probably can never use them in a standard.

Regards,

Michael
 

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Do you ever play with vocalists?

Countless times they call keys which put me in those less often used keys. You think they would know that a 1/2 step up or down would make it WAAAAAAY more enjoyable for the whole band....not to mention, sound way better too, because of less chances for train wrecks. Cherokee and other songs have sections where you need that stuff too...
 

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I'm with you. I find that stuff (like playing Charlie Parker songs in all 12 keys) something to impress (or intimidate) your dorm-mates at Berklee...I'm sure it doesn't hurt to master this, but maybe it's not the best use of your time.
 

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It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish with your playing. Any top player is going to know his vocabulary in all 12 keys. ESPECIALLY guys that use a lot of bop / hard bop and even post bop vocabulary. Of course there will be keys that are stronger / preferred, but they will still know everything in all 12 keys. If you want to become truly free with the common devices of the ii V I language, then you will need to know them in all 12 keys. This way you can use back door subs, tri-tone subs, chromatic passing ideas, sequencing and the list goes on.

So in summation:

- If you want to become a top notch improvisor using ii V I language correctly, truly being able to manipulate it and create with it, then you need to learn all your vocabulary in 12 keys.

- If you want to just have fun and play, then you don't have to do them in all 12 keys.

Best of luck!
 

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The bridge to Cherokee goes into those keys; Joy Spring in places. C# and F# pop up in lots of songs., Half Nelson, Lucky Southern, every rock/R&B tune in sharp keys of E, A and D.
 

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Do you ever play with vocalists?

Countless times they call keys which put me in those less often used keys. You think they would know that a 1/2 step up or down would make it WAAAAAAY more enjoyable for the whole band....not to mention, sound way better too, because of less chances for train wrecks. Cherokee and other songs have sections where you need that stuff too...

This is SO very very true!

There is just something beautiful about reaching the point where you are not afraid or even worried about the key!

Occasionally a song will get called & I didn't hear what key was called.... doesn't matter. It took a long time to reach this point & Steve's II-V-I books were HUGE in helping me get there!

My most compelling examples were a few years ago our excellent female vocalist was 8 full months pregnant & she would change the key while counting it in!
"1..2..downahalfstep...4"
 

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Ah singers! Similar to the way the sound man has a 'placebo slider' for when the vocalist wants more volume or whatever in the monitors, the band can likely just play in whatever adjacent key they call without the singer being able to tell, most times.

But that wouldn't be nice, would it... shoot, I play with lots of singers that don't know what keys they need, the piano player helps them figure it out.
 

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I can see how mastering all keys can really enable you to see deeper relationships of chords and scales giving you more ways to look at things and better more interesting improvisational ideas. Everything is in relation to everything else and everything is in some way connected.
 

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Hello,

Steve highly recommend to practice his II-V-I licks in all keys.

But is it really necessary?

I love his book and it makes a lot of fun but why shall I practice the C/F sharp licks?

It costs so much time to practice all keys and I probably can never use them in a standard.

Regards,

Michael
To me it is similar to the analogy of the first time I started going to the gym. I saw the same guys in there everyday for hours doing all sorts of crazy exercises to work out different body parts I had never heard of. These guys were serious and intense. They were also huge and ripped. Part of me was impressed and inspired. I could become a "huge" and ripped Steve Neff! As time went on, I had to count the costs of this goal though. Did I really want this? Was I willing to pay the price? I decided I just wanted to be fit with cardio and have some good muscle tone but I didn't really need to be huge. I only had so many hours in the day and there was other stuff I wanted and needed to do.

Your question points to a similar scenario. Great jazz musicians can play their vocabulary in all 12 keys to a certain extent. (they can't do this for everything they play but can with a lot of their lines.) You hear recordings of guys playing Cherokee in all 12 keys........You have to decide if you want to do that and if you are willing to pay the price to do that. You might decide "You know, if I could just play Cherokee in one key well, I would be happy!"

Many adults I work with have jobs, families, hobbies, etc.....They don't have a lot of time to practice. Instead of thinking I have to do this lick in all 12 keys and working on it for 12 months, I think they would be better served with working on a certain tune and getting the tune down. Working on the changes and as you encounter different II-V-I's addressing them and working on some ideas and lines over them. Then going to the local jam session and trying to sit in on that tune. There is an immediate goal and an immediate reward of playing well on that tune.

The bottom line is it all has to do with what your goals are and how much time you have. I worked on things in all 12 keys BUT I have been practicing 2-6 hours a day for most of my first 20 years of playing. I still play 2-3 hours a day on average even now in my 50's. If you only have a half hour a day I think there are better ways to approach practicing for the best results for you.

When I was young and first improving, I didn't get a sheet of blues scales and learn them in all 12 keys. I found a tune I loved, played to it, found what blues scale that worked on it and played to it. As I played and improvised over and over I learned the tar out of that blues scale and even picked up a lot of licks from the sax player on the recording as I went. A week later, I would work on another tune and learn another scale. It's more the approach that you want to wail on that tune rather than I have to learn this in all 12 keys to be prepared in every possible scenario in the future. That's a decision you have to wrestle with and make. Do you want to practice to wail on a tune next month at a gig or jam session or do you want to practice everything in all 12 keys so that you can handle a hypothetical Cherokee in B that might be called 20 years from now on a gig? I'm not saying it is black and white by any means. We as players have to make those decisions everyday. I remember a teacher saying I should practice Giant Steps in all 12 keys. I had no motivation at all to do that. I kinda hated Giant Steps and to this day when I hear people play it I think "OK, here we go again......" Playing well on it in one key was enough for me. I had other stuff I wanted to work on and get down.........

People are sometimes bothered that my books are in every key. Most really serious guys just want stuff in one key and they will figure it out in all 12 keys in a thousand hours or so of practice but there are many people that just don't have the time for that. I wrote stuff in all 12 keys for them. The majority of adult players are these kinds of people. They don't have a lot of time. Rather than learn a ii-V-I in 12 keys, they might want to pick up a different line on a C#-7 F#7 BMaj7 chord progression because they always play the same thing when they get to those chords. They play a line from my book, really dig it, work on it for a few hours and then on the gig that night they try to insert it into their playing. If they do and it goes well they think "Whoo Hoo! That sounded great!" and they keep trying to play it and let it become part of their vocabulary.

This is all sort of rambling but these are some of my thoughts on this. Different students have different needs and approaches that need to be taken........
 

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I had a gig tonight that fully demonstrated the need for practicing in obscure keys.

In my line of music, requests often feed the tip jar, so tonight someone wanted to hear "Fever" (old pop-blues tune). It's fairly simple, so without any charts we quickly found lyrics on a cell phone & jumped in... suddenly our guitarist decided to modulate up a half step... several times! It made for a great tune, but I would have been in so much trouble if I had taken short cuts with Steve Neff's books!

Then, later in the gig, the same thing happened with "Mac the Knife!" Multiple Modulations!

Thanks Steve for providing us the tools to navigate the unexpected!
 

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Neff- nice explanation. Thank you.

It is nice to hear from a professional, with a practical perspective of what it is like for most musicians to be playing. We aren’t all going to be full time professionals.
 

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I have invested so many time the last year so I will continue the 12 keys.
Great decision.
You'll never regret being comfortable on any key.
With time, you wouldn't even think about 'key' before you play with others (band). You'll just find what key they are on and play.

On Steve's books, I don't ever open beyond the first key. I practice all (12) keys from there (before I turn the page) either going in circle of 4ths, semitone up/down, whole tones, minor 3rds (like diminished) etc. It's nice to have all the keys written out (by Steve) though for those that need it.
More grace to you Steve.
 

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On Steve's books, I don't ever open beyond the first key. I practice all (12) keys from there (before I turn the page) either going in circle of 4ths, semitone up/down, whole tones, minor 3rds (like diminished) etc.
This is exactly how I do it also. I got Steve's excellent ii-V-I 'book' (I got the pdf version) several years ago. I sure haven't learned or worked on all of the different ii-V-I lines in it because I found that taking just a few that I really liked and working out on them in 12 keys resulted in finding lots of different approaches to each one. IOW, I'd learn one line, then experiment with variations on it which led to a new, but similar, line. So even learning one of the lines can open up a bunch more possibilities. In 12 keys.

One thing that hasn't been pointed out on this thread yet (unless I missed it) is that there is a subtle difference between learning a ii-V-I lick in 12 keys vs playing a tune or improvising on a tune in 12 keys. Both are important, but while you may not need to learn a given tune in all 12 keys because it's unlikely you'll be playing that tune in all those keys, you will encounter ii-Vs related to different key centers even when playing in one key. For example, even in a basic 12 bar blues, you can play a ii-V leading to the IV chord, a iii-VI7 in bars 7 & 8 (which is essentially a ii-V change) leading to the ii-V in bars 9 & 10. So that's three different key centers right there, even though you are still in the original key all along. So play that blues in only four different keys and you'll cover all 12 ii-Vs. And many tunes modulate or move through more ii-Vs than that.

I don't know if what I just wrote sounds like gibberish, and it's not nearly as complex as it sounds, but that's the best I can express it in a short statement. Hope it makes sense.

Bottom line, it's important to learn ii-V-I (and other short progressions) lines in all 12 keys. I'd add that while it's fine to read a line off the page at first, you really have to get away from the sheet and continue to work on it by ear. That's the only way you'll internalize it and be able to use it in a solo.
 

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This is exactly how I do it also........ IOW, I'd learn one line, then experiment with variations on it which led to a new, but similar, line. So even learning one of the lines can open up a bunch more possibilities. In 12 keys.

I'd add that while it's fine to read a line off the page at first, you really have to get away from the sheet and continue to work on it by ear. That's the only way you'll internalize it and be able to use it in a solo.
+1.

I wonder if I'd really ever finish all of his books. Working on a bar and then trying other motifs that pops to mind keep me busy and time flies.
Watching his video lessons made for any particular book makes it even easier to understand.
Sincerely, his books and lessons are one of the dearest to me among other books I use.
I often borrow ideas from Serious Jazz Practice Book (1) 􀀢􀁙􀀀􀀢􀀡􀀲􀀲􀀹􀀀􀀦􀀩􀀮􀀮􀀥􀀲􀀴􀀹by Barry Finnerty and incorporate alternating direction, adding chromatic connections (approach notes), reversals, triplets, and Steve's permutations (if you can take time to write them down first ) and combination of different bars etc and the possibilities are unlimited.
I wish Steve's (easy) books/lessons and website were available 20years ago.
 

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Love both major and minor version. I actually just cut the top line off each page and made a compilation of 8 on one page. I also divided them into starting on the Root, Third, and 5th.

I force myself to learn them in all keys then try to use only one ii-V on a tune like This I Dig Of You. Or insert them in a Blues.

It’s been a SLOW process but Steve did an awesome job putting this together.
 

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I think Mastery isn't always the goal. I'd use a book like Steves just to get one or two licks I could pull out if I needed to so I wouldn't embarrass myself on a gig. Its nice to have 20 good licks memorized but if you only have one or two in many keys thats your get out of jail card in a bad circumstance.
 

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I think with the II-V-I Primer I got a little carried away in retrospect. It was supposed to be a beginner-intermediate book but it sorta turned into a Patterns for Jazz type book that is pretty hard if you try to do everything in it. I think where I got overly ambitious was by adding the 8 approaches to each of the patterns. My heart was in the right place because everyone should learn these approaches but I have learned that it really overwhelms beginner improvisors. Now when I work through the book with students we do it without the approaches and when we get about half way through the book, I have them start doing the beginning of the book with the approaches to the patterns also. This has worked a lot better for students. This really is a book that takes years to work through like Patterns for Jazz does. I tell students to make it a part of their daily practice regime knowing that it will take 2-3 years to get though it and they will see steady improvement in their lines and knowledge of chords. They will also begin to have a multitude of new ideas to pull from. Don't just work on this book alone because you might drive yourself crazy. I have included it in all keys which makes it like 700-800 pages long bit really you just want to look at the first section in C and try to play through the keys by figuring it out in your head. If you are stuck you can look at the other keys but the more you can figure it out the better. If any of you have any questions about this book let me know. If you learn everything in this book you will have a great foundation in my opinion to really lift off from that is for sure. Steve
 

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I think Mastery isn't always the goal. I'd use a book like Steves just to get one or two licks I could pull out if I needed to so I wouldn't embarrass myself on a gig. Its nice to have 20 good licks memorized but if you only have one or two in many keys thats your get out of jail card in a bad circumstance.
Keith, you're right but this 'plug in and play' is only one way to use a ii-V-I line you've learned. I think there is a far more useful method to employ when learning ii-Vs or any particular line or lick. Once the line is memorized and internalize in 12 keys, the next step is to get creative with it and start experimenting with it, making changes such as approach notes, adding or subtracting notes, altering notes, varying the rhythm (especially that), combining it with other lines, and finding ways to integrate it seamlessly in the overall progression. So that you really 'own' it and can work with it to create something new, even on the spot while playing a solo.

That's my take on it anyway. Steve I just realized the lines I have from you are from "Best Major II-V-I Patterns," which I guess is different from the "II-V-I Primer" being discussed in this thread. Anyway, at least in my case, I don't view it so much as something to 'get through,' but rather something to pick and choose from, then work out in the way I described above. I suspect the same could be true for the Primer, but maybe that's a bit of a different thing.
 
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