From the category archives:

Jazz Piano

Opportunities To Extend Your Expressions Exist In Jazz Piano

In learning to play jazz piano and other known styles, you’ll not only find opportunities to express yourself, you’ll also find opportunities to improvise. The same opportunities follow jazz music and although they provide for great fun, we want to warn you that
learning to play jazz piano and controlling its elements requires a bit of practice. There aren’t any real shortcuts however one solution to learning how to master its art is to understand what differentiates it from traditional, classical piano.

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What Distinguishes Jazz Piano Music From Classical Piano Music

In essence, jazz piano incorporates several unique chords and inversions. Inversions are instances in music where ascending intervals are replaced by descending intervals (and vice versa). Playing both these chords and inversions at various times and places is what contributes to improvisation. From major or minor chords and inversions to suspended or augmented chords and inversions, jazz triads work to create sounds that are unique to this particular genre.

Improvisation Follows A Structure Yet Gives The Impression Of Impromptu Entertainment

If you’re unfamiliar with inversions, you can rest assured that they can be learned just as easily as traditional chords can be learned. Perhaps the ironic part about improvisation is that it follows a structure. So that means that although you’ll learn how to play differently, you’ll learn how to play jazz piano based on traditional methods. Yes, there are many different approaches to playing its music and some may not agree with our position here, but you can learn to play jazz piano by pulling knowledge from your classical background.

Classical Music Provides a Foundation To Learn

While some people may derive their sense of jazz skills naturally or from growing up by listening jazz, a classical student can build upon past lessons by shifting away from basic scales and three-finger chords to extensive 2-note inversions or even upside- down inversions. It’s important to remember that there’s no real conflict between the two courses of study and the transition from one to the other is similar to learning how to paint after drawing for many years.

As an analogy, one craft involves the use of widespread color and brush movements while the other involves the use of gray tones and pencil. Both crafts however, involve the use of eye-to-hand coordination and the art of drawing serves as a stepping stone toward learning to paint. It’s the same with learning to play jazz music. Both styles of music involve the use of ear-to-hand coordination and the art of playing classical music serves as a stepping stone toward learning jazz piano.

The only barrier in making a smooth transition is a reluctance to let go of traditional methods. There’s not much practicality in learning jazz riffs, runs, or rhythm combinations unless you’re willing to acknowledge and appreciate how they differ from traditional scales or harmonies. The lessons in jazz piano requires at once, the ability to let go, yet build upon a basic foundation at the same time. Soon enough, you will instinctively grasp its concepts without a second thought.

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Learn Big, Rich Jazz Chords On Piano

by Erik Thiede on July 27, 2015

Jazz chords can sometimes be confusing at first glance. In this article, I am going to explain how jazz players usually interpret chords and pick tensions to create lush chords. Bear in mind, every musician has their own “tricks” that they use to form their jazz chords. However, there are some basic harmonic concepts that you need to understand and I’ll cover some of them in this article.

If you are looking for an instructional course on creating full jazz chords at the piano, I’d suggest the Jazz Piano Lessons membership.

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Let’s begin with a basic seventh chord for D-7. Example A is what a typical voicing of a D-7 chord might look like.

Example A

O.K., that’s pretty simple, right? Now take a look at example B. Does this still look like a D-7 to you?

Example B

Labeling Chords

You might look at this chord and think F Maj7 or D-9. We can rule out F Maj7 because the root is a D. However, why didn’t I label this chord D-9?

I did not label the chord as D-9 because it is common for jazz players to automatically add tensions to the chords that they are playing. Jazz players know which available tensions each of the jazz chords can utilize. Personally, I’d rather see jazz chords written as D-7 than D-9 or D-9 (add 11). I think that many (not all) pianists would agree with me because as jazz players, we are accustomed to working from a “shell”.

Basically, when I see D-7, I already know that the 9th and 11th are probably available to me. When looking at a lead sheet, especially in a low-light gig situation, I want the lead sheet to be as un-cluttered as possible.

The “Right” Tensions

You might be wondering, which tensions are the “right” tensions for a particular chord? Well, let’s go through the three basic jazz chords: Major, minor and Dominant 7th chords.

Major 7th available tensions are: 9, #11 or 6 (usually replaces the 7th)

Minor 7th available tensions: 9 and 11. 6 would replace the 7th.

Dominant 7th available tensions: b9, 9, #9, #11, b13 and 13.

Chord Type Available Tensions

Major: 9, # 11 or 6 (usually replaces the 7th)

Minor: 9 and 11. 6 would replace the 7th

Dominant: b9, 9, # 9, #11, b13 and 13

So, looking back at the D-7 chord in example B, you’ll notice that I am adding the 9th to the chord. This is just one of many different voicings that I cover in the Piano Chords bundle.

Dominant 7th Tensions

I want to draw your attention to the Dominant 7th available tensions. Once again, they are b9, 9, #9, #11, b13 and 13. Let’s go through the notes for a C7 chord.

C7 chord tones are: C-E-G-Bb

Available tensions are: Db-D-D#-F#-Ab-A

You’ll notice that the only two notes left that are not represented are F and B. F would be a sus4 and B would change the C7 to a C Maj7 chord.

I like to bring this up because remember, when you improvise, you can use any jazz chords tones or available tensions in your solo. So, on a Dominant 7th chord, there are really only two notes that you would try to avoid. This also means that when you play a Dominant 7th chord, you can add almost any note as a tension. Well, let me put it this way, you have a 10 out of 12 chance of hitting the “right” note!

The Million Dollar Question, “Why 13 and not 6?”

I have been asked this question for years! It is a difficult question to answer because it is like asking why does 2+2=4? However, I do have my explanation. Let’s take the C7 chord as an example again.

The chord tones (notes that are found in the chord and not tensions) are C-E-G-Bb for a C7 chord. The C is the root, E is the third, G is the fifth and Bb is the flatted 7th.

It is perfectly reasonable to think of D, F# and A as two, sharp four and six. However, we would call D the ninth, F# sharp eleven and A the thirteenth. You might be asking, “Why?”

Since jazz chords are predominantly formed by “stacking” thirds, we would consider the D-F# and A as being “upper structures” of the chord.

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How to Play Jazz Piano

July 9, 2015

If you’ve always wanted to know how to play jazz piano, you’re about to get started. Jazz may be a complex musical genre, but you can play it if you master the basics first. Before you know it, you’ll have developed the skills you need to emulate jazz greats or compose your own music. Jazz’s […]

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A Jazz Piano Book – Is It Possible to Learn Jazz From a Book?

July 1, 2015

Supplement ‘Play Time’ With ‘Book Time’ Learning from a jazz piano book requires a serious approach — even when studying the basics. And part of achieving this success is arming yourself with a high quality jazz piano book. One of your most important goals in becoming a jazz pianist therefore is to surround your musical […]

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Piano Jazz Lessons – Learning Through Its History and Its Music

June 22, 2015

Jazz Is The Answer To Story-Telling Questions Piano jazz lessons through studying notation and chords alone is not an easy feat because its very nature requires us establish how jazz is a reaction to meaningful explorations. This gives us sufficient reason to investigate its development from the late 18th and 19th centuries on through to […]

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Preserving Your ‘Style’ In Jazz Piano Instruction

June 1, 2015

Wisdom And The Chance To Demonstrate It Hardly anyone believes that learning jazz piano instruction is a simple matter of sitting at the instrument and randomly pounding on keys. The context of this music is just too complex to be disregarded as a mishmash of unrelated notes and beats. The secret to learning its genius […]

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Learn To Play Jazz Piano and Abandon Past Traditions

May 19, 2015

No Other Genre of Music Offers Better Opportunities For Expression If you want to learn to play jazz piano, you must first value its opportunities for self-expression that this style grants so unselfishly. In almost any way that you please, jazz music becomes the vehicle for uniquely improvised sounds and rhythms — all to the […]

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Playing Jazz Piano Sheet Music

April 11, 2015

Traditional Piano Is Beneficial Although it isn’t a strict requirement, learning traditional piano is beneficial for learning how to play jazz piano sheet music. This is largely due to the fact that jazz is “classical deviation.” The problem with learning jazz before learning traditional methods is that the beginner may learn to deviate, but might […]

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In Introduction To the Jazz Piano Chord

April 10, 2015

The Distinguished Sounds Of Jazz One of the things that distinguishes jazz piano from classical piano, blues piano, or any other style is its chords. The Jazz piano chord move beyond the typical 3-note triad to a four-note combination (as well as extended chords) — making them an interesting “filler” of sorts. And since they’re […]

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Jazz Piano Chords

March 11, 2015

Believe it or not, jazz piano chords are easy to master and enhance your chord repertoire. Whether you want to become the next jazz legend or simply sit in on a jam, you can learn what you need to hold your own. Jazz owes its roots to the music of African American laborers in the […]

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