From the category archives:

Jazz Piano

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

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How to Play Jazz Piano

by Erik Thiede on May 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 distinctive sound originated in the South. It’s important to understand its roots to get a feeling for how to play jazz piano. Born out of the songs of African American laborers, notably in New Orleans, Jazz owes its popularity to its unconventional rhythms, trademark chords, and its soulful style.

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While jazz music is recognizable, it is improvisational, which means changing certain aspects of a performance is encouraged. Depending on a musician’s emotions, skill level, playing style, etc., one version of a song can vary greatly from another. This allows for a good deal of creativity on your part.

How To Play Jazz Piano – The Chords

To get started, it’s a good idea for you to understand the chords used to play jazz. These particular chords go beyond the basic three note chords most budding musicians learn. The following lessons will be set in the key of C since that is an easier key to learn in than the others.

Let’s start with the sixth chord. You might see this chord

represented as C6 or Cadd6 on a chord chart. To play a C6 chord, starting with your right thumb, play the notes C-E-G-A. The A is your 6th because it is one step above the 5th note, G. Notice that we are keeping the G in the chord. In a Cadd6 chord, you would replace the G with the A. Try playing them both and listen to their subtle differences.

The next logical step is a seventh chord. When you play a C7 chord, you play the three notes C-E-G and add the C scale’s seventh note, lowered one half step. The seventh note is B, so you will add a B flat. Play the C-E-G-B flat combination and you will instantly recognize the sound.

A close relative of the seventh is the major seventh. This chord, indicated as Cmaj7 on a chord chart, has the seventh note of the scale added on to the end. In this case, it’s B. Play the C-E-G-B combination as a chord and compare it to the C7 chord.

After you have practiced playing the different chords, put them together in a progression. A progression is a series of chords. A common chord progression in jazz music is the 1-4-2-5. The numbers represent the first note of each chord as they relate to the key you are in. In the key of C, the first note of the scale (number 1) is the C. The fourth note is F, the second note is D, and the fifth note is G. So this chord progression would have the following chords, in order: C, F, D, G.

It’s not uncommon to play one or more of the chords in a minor key. For example, try playing the D as D minor, or a D minor 6th. Jazz is all about experimentation and expression, so have fun as you explore your chord options.

How To Play Jazz Piano – Adding the Bass

Now it’s time to add the bass. While you naturally have a few options, a common bass style is known as a walking bass. To perform this style, you basically play one note per beat of the measure, each note being one note from your chord. You “walk up” on the first chord and “walk down” on the second chord. Here’s a example: If your first chord is a C7, your bass could be the notes C-E-G-B flat. On the second chord, F, your bass notes might be A-F-C-A. You don’t have to play every note from the scale. The fourth note, played on the fourth beat, could be a note that transitions well into the next chord. For instance, if your third chord is D minor, your fourth note could be a C sharp.

You’ve only scratched the surface on learning how to play jazz piano, but what you’ve learned so far is enough to sound like you know what you’re doing! Practice and learn to improvise what you’ve learned. Then look for more lessons to take your skills further!

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Piano Jazz Lessons – Learning Through Its History and Its Music

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

April 17, 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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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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Learning To Play Jazz Piano From Traditional Training to Improvisation

March 3, 2015

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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Learn Big, Rich Jazz Chords On Piano

January 29, 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 […]

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Preserving Your ‘Style’ In Jazz Piano Instruction

November 28, 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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