From the category archives:

Jazz Piano

Learn To Play Jazz Piano and Abandon Past Traditions

by Erik Thiede on August 3, 2014

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 tune of strong-felt emotions. Jazz piano is not however, a hodge-podge of uncoordinated notes or beats. It is instead, an assembly of “hip” and stimulating tones, chords and patterns.

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Play Artistically – Emotionally – And Without Restraint

Making the break from static classical music is what allows the jazz pianist to play creatively – expressively – and freely. But it’s never a solo performance. One of the greatest skills within this genre of music is the ability to deviate from a basic song in such a way that the entire composition comes together as an entirely new piece of music. Deviations could vary a repetitive theme, run a phrase with interesting digressions, or fill a cadence with unique triads and their inversions for example.

Learn to Play Jazz Piano – An Inspiring Or Even Therapeutic Application

Non-traditional rhythm combinations also contribute to expressionistic piano play, and they can help turn even the most basic rhythms into entertaining sequences. It comes as no surprise then that upon investigation, playing jazz piano can be an inspirational or even healing exercise. This is undoubtedly due to the freedom it allows and the creative opportunities that it affords. For much of the early piano instruction we endure can be too static, ordered, or controlled to enjoy. And these are the things that some musicians find stifling.

Improvisation Can Be Learned!

One of the major complaints from trained musicians who want to play jazz piano is that they can’t play without sheet music. So many years of classical instruction made them inflexible and unyielding to musical spontaneity. While we don’t criticize classical education, we do caution that it doesn’t allow for liberated expression the way that jazz education does. The good news is that improvisation — that is, the kind of improvisation that allies with jazz piano — can be learned. And though some pianists may grab its concepts quicker than others, improvisation isn’t necessarily an inborn trait.

Anyone of any skill can learn how to improvise and thus liven up what would otherwise be monotonous music – music that’s often received with indifference or worse disregarded. This means that with relative ease, even the beginner can play various styles of piano jazz and commence to play:

  • Boogie
  • Country and Country Western
  • The Blues
  • Ragtime
  • Rock
  • Swing
  • Southern Gospel

Click Here To Increase Your Musical Prowess And Learn To Play Jazz Piano!

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Learn Big, Rich Jazz Chords On Piano

by Erik Thiede on July 23, 2014

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

d 7 Learn Big, Rich Jazz Chords On Piano

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

d 9 Learn Big, Rich Jazz Chords On Piano

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 20, 2014

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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Learning To Play Jazz Piano From Traditional Training to Improvisation

June 4, 2014

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 […]

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Piano Jazz Lessons – Learning Through Its History and Its Music

May 31, 2014

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

May 2, 2014

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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In Introduction To the Jazz Piano Chord

March 31, 2014

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 16, 2014

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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Preserving Your ‘Style’ In Jazz Piano Instruction

February 10, 2014

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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Playing Jazz Piano Sheet Music

February 2, 2014

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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