by Gjermund Sivertsen
The One-Note Trick (Jazz Piano)
Sometimes, we can find quite interesting concepts. The One-Note Trick is one of them.

Once I discovered this way of thinking, I suddenly understood a lot more.

Check out the video:

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Sometimes in life, we discover things that change how we work and how we do things. When I first found "The One-Note Trick," I didn't know the trick had a name. It didn't. I invented the term. Feel free to rename it to something else.

I called it The One-Note Trick because it was the best name I could give to this way of thinking.

The idea is that you can play any bass chord to any melody note, and then it will fit.

When I discovered this concept, I immediately practiced this "trick" or principle in all the 12 keys.

After many years, it is now straightforward to play any tune in any key, to rearrange and improvise the tunes I know. I give credit to The One-Note Trick for helping me reach the level of harmonic understanding that I possess today.

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Please let me elaborate!


1. Exploration!
The reason why it is beneficial to learn The One-Note Trick: To explore the many possibilities we have as jazz pianists. In any given situation, we can play different chords and voicings than the original harmony. (Of course, if you play together with other musicians, please make sure you communicate any changes.)

2. Harmonic skills will boost dramatically.
At least, that happened to me. In combination with other essential exercises, working on "The One-Note Trick" helped me understand jazz harmony and apply the different chords and voicings. (To jazz standards and your tunes.)


1. It is just a way of thinking.
Once you understand this method/trick, you'll see that it is just a way of thinking, but what exactly is it?

2. What it is.

You can see it as follows:

1. Play a random melody note.
2. Play a random bass note.
3. Play a chord that fits.

Let me show you an example:

1. Play the note G and Bb

2. How many chords can you make where you keep that G at the top, and the
Bb at the bottom?

Here are some ideas:

There are more possible chords/voicings than what you can see in the image, but the idea is to explore all the possibilities that you can think of.


The exercise is simple, and I find it to be fun to do.

1. Start by playing any note. In the example video, I used the note Bb.
2. Then, you can start with the same root note. (But you don't have to)
3. Work your way through the chromatic scale with your left hand.
4. At each step, explore the different options.

In the following example, I played my way from the top Bb to the bottom Bb while  keeping the Bb as the top-note. (Hence "The One-Note Trick.")

When I got to the C7 (The bass note is a C, and the top message is still a Bb), then I tested the different variations. On any dominant seven chord, there are
many possibilities.

5. Once you're done exploring descending, you can do the same thing ascending.

6. Then, you can do the same through the circle of fifths. Keep in mind: You should still keep the top note of your choice.

7. Make music!

Once you have found the different chords to the different bass notes (that fits your top-note), you can improvise your way through the chord changes.

What chord changes do I recommend?
Start on any bass note, but make sure you move up an octave.

For example:
If the top note is Bb, then the bass note could start on F. That is what I did in the example from the video.

But then, you should play ascending where you make music. In other words:
stick mainly to the note of choice, but you can also add additional notes.

At this point, you should also improvise the way that you play the different chords. In the video example, I didn't plan how I'd like to play. That just came out as a result of doing the exercise.

Again: The chords can be many things on each bass note, so it is not ideal for me to suggest a chord sequence, as that ruins the point of this exercise.

However: If you follow the exercise, you can play:

1. Ascending. (E.g. The top note is Bb, bottom note: F, Gb, G, Ab, etc.)
2. Descending. (E.g. The top note is Bb, bottom note: F, E, Eb, D, etc.)
3. Through the circle of fifths. (E.g. The top note is Bb, bottom note: F, Bb, Eb, Ab, etc.)

8. Test in jazz standards or other tunes.
You can apply this way of thinking to any jazz standard in the following way:

1. Decide what chord in the tune you'll work on.
2. Then, test applying the principle to the chord of choice. (Test using all the different bass notes with possible solutions.
3. Make sure to resolve whatever chord you come up with to something that makes sense musically.

9. Test in your compositions.

As shown in my tune called "Two Five Once," I made this:
Into this:

As you can tell from the screenshots, there are lots of harmonic changes.
Keep in mind: I was intentionally trying to make it musically sophisticated.

I believe that the "Less Is More" strategy works just as fine, depending on where you want to put the contrasts. (But that is another story.)

Feel free to download the tune "Two Five Once" and study how I applied the
different chords.

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Applying this way of thinking is not a quick fix. It took me years to master it all. If you are overwhelmed by this, I suggest that you start with something simple.

If you need to spend the next weeks going through one melody note with its corresponding chords as explained in this lesson, please be patient with yourself.

Easy or not, it can be highly beneficial to go through.

If you find this lesson to be of help, please let me know.

I wish you good luck on your jazz piano journey! Take care of your music!

All the best,
Gjermund Sivertsen