Updated: Jun 20
In the last four years, Thiago Vitori has dedicated all his time studying at Berklee to unravelling a secret - to the process that sculpts great musicians. A very loaded question, and he reckons he’s cracked it. And he reveals it in his new online course for jazz pianists - which is also the first ever online piano course in Brazil.
Vitori received a scholarship to Berklee, however had to crowd fund in Brazil in order to fully pay his tuition. And one of the conditions that his sponsors set were annual concerts showcasing what he had learnt in return for their support. But when he got to Berklee, he realised that he was nowhere near the performing standard he’d thought he was, especially in order to be respected in the Berklee community. More importantly, he felt unable to truly express himself through his limited skills. Thus he considered abandoning his dream of piano performance and following another of Berklee's courses. However having to return to Brazil and perform each semester brought him back to reality, forcing him to jump in the deep end and tackle his dream. Over the course of his studies, he went from rating two to rating seven - a pretty amazing feat, that clearly showcases his work ethic, and determination. Now he’s sharing his knowledge for growing as a jazz pianist, through a video course guiding piano players of all levels, through a refined version of his journey.
In Portuguese, the course Elemento Baga translates as ‘top elements’, which refers to the most essential elements Vitori discovered in his journey to improve as a jazz pianist. He says that he was fuelled by the desire to understand why certain musicians gave him ‘goosebumps’. He boiled down the process to two vital elements: practicing with focused intention, and the mastery of harmony.
He loves Bill Evans, because ‘he’s able to play exactly what is in his head’. Thus Vitori pondered how to figure out how to similarly express what was inside of him. He picked the brains of fellow respected musicians at Berklee, regarding how they practiced and students and teacher alike responded with one similar element. The power of deliberate practice. In short, picking one digestible and specific element to truly master, then moving steadily on, with intention, to the next. He explains how, in breaking down the performance of jazz masters, he saw how whole songs became vehicles to practice one particular element - whether it be specific voicings of 2-5-1 progressions, or using one solo lick over a major 9th chord. He became obsessed with learning to practice, and copying the process of ‘how great artists got to where they are’.
Vitori argues that many assume jazz improvisation is ‘spontaneous’ and ‘free’ - but without the deep understanding of the makeup of the music (i.e the harmony) one cannot express themselves freely through improvisation. Essentially there is a whole lot of structure and refinement that he discovered by delving into the playing of the masters. It’s like the saying goes - in order to break the rules you need to learn them first. Thus in order to master all the elements of jazz piano - soloing, voicings, comping, arranging, and composing alike - Vitori’s journey, and thus Elemento Baga, focuses on explaining harmony, which of the above are derived from.
‘People think that jazz is intuitive’, he explains. ‘But when you practice, you have to train your mind, to give you the freedom… you have to learn everything and forget everything on the spot. Then you get goosebumps’.And this is how he found his musical identity, which to him is the most important thing.
This simple secret of practicing efficiently with a focus harmony, paired with his previous training in music education, has birthed this course, Elemento Baga. In it, he shows how jazz piano masters, like Bill Evans, practice, with an incredible imitation of their musical voices. The series of video explanations break down the practical harmonic elements to create an accessible jazz piano education, which is hard to find in Brazil.
If you’re struggling to find your own musical voice, look no further. Learn the structures and elements that the greats used to build their own musical identities, revealed by Vitori in his new piano course, Elemento Baga.
You can follow Vitori @thivitorio. Check out his pages which include the links to the course.