How Do I Get Started Learning Jazz Piano?

piano and trumpet

It is the spontaneity of creative expression that demarcates the boundary between classical and jazz playing styles. Jazz piano transcends the realms of classical playing and encompasses distinctive sounds and rhythms which are developed by awe-inspiring techniques of improvisation.

Since each jazz style is characterized by a unique chord progression and beats, your jazz lessons would primarily focus on mastering the various kinds of rhythms and beats associated with jazz piano. As a beginner, you’ve got to consolidate your base during the initial stages of learning by acquainting yourself with the fundamentals of piano theory, including chords, scales, rhythms and modes.

piano and music sheet
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Capitalizing on Your Auditory Powers

Adequate exposure to jazz music is one of the best ways of getting started on your exciting new journey. Make it a point to utilize your power of listening to the fullest, with concentration like never before. As long as you can, try to remain confined in a melodious world of masterpieces created by pianists belonging to different eras. Do not let go of those earphones!

Compare the diverse styles for hitting on similarities, and depicting elements which can be incorporated into your practice sessions. Sharp listening skills have a very significant role to play in the creation as well as the improvisation of music.

Getting to the Chord of the Matter

A lot of beginners fall prey to the myth that learning jazz piano involves the acquisition of loads of theoretical knowledge! The fact is – jazz has less to do with music theory and a lot more to do with the piano chords. You would be required to study about the chord qualities such as major, minor, diminished, and dominant.

Bill Evans
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Pour in efforts towards developing your ability to recognize chord symbols. Learn how the chords are built, and focus on establishing mental connections using a series of numbers, for the easy recognition of the chord tones. Whenever you get the opportunity, try to visualize the chord structures for leaving a permanent impression on your mind. After developing clear notions about chords, you can proceed to comprehend the chord progressions.

Learning to Recognize the Key Centers

You must have noticed how tunes tend to originate in one particular key, but they progress through several related keys before coming back to the point of origin. Since these keys changes are not too apparent in the chord charts, you must work on picking up subtle hints for deciphering those. For instance, the dominant ‘7th’ chord generally points towards the key center. For your own convenience of playing, try to classify chords according to the key centers to which they belong.

Brushing up on Your Knowledge of Scales and Modes for Seamless Playing

You simply cannot afford to allow the boredom of reading those sheets of music to sap your enthusiasm! Spending time on sheet music is an absolute necessity if you wish to hone your piano skills. Jazz piano lessons become remarkably effortless if it is backed by a learner’s elementary knowledge regarding the major scales and modes. Under expert guidance, you can learn how to associate scales for gaining a deeper insight into the notes contained in specific chords.

jazz performance
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Mastering Rhythms and Accompaniments for a Steady Beat

It goes without saying that the aspect of ‘rhythm’ forms the backbone of all those sublime musical creations! The outstanding nature of jazz music is rooted in the frequent use of dotted notes, eight notes, and seventh chords. Depending on the tempo and the technique of usage, these elements combine together and lend a ‘swing’ feel or a ‘blues’ feel to any particular musical piece. Mastering the common jazz piano rhythms can speed up your learning process by multiple times.

Treading into the Territory of Tunes

Now that you have accumulated a certain degree of knowledge about piano fundamentals, it would be an excellent idea to translate a few of these theories into practice. Begin with a couple of tunes and don’t forget to learn the songs, so that you can enjoy singing along! Begin by learning the bass and melody separately, and then try to coordinate these two aspects while playing.

The list of pop picks for fresh learners include:

  • Autumn leaves
  • On green dolphin street
  • Lullaby of Birdland

The fluidity of creative expression is the very essence of playing jazz music. The concept of learning jazz piano solely revolves around improvisation techniques, based on a thorough understanding of chords, scales, and harmonic structures.

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If you are keen to learn how to play jazz piano, then there are a few things that you should know first – Playing jazz piano can be quite complicated, at least at first.

There are some crucial elements to playing Jazz music that you need to understand and get right. You have to learn to hear the music properly, to understand how the harmony is developed, and get a feel for how the piece is made up, and recognise the scales that are used.
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jazz-piano-3Jazz is one of the few piano styles that allows total creative freedom. Expert jazz pianists reshape not only the rhythms and melody of a song, but they are also given a solo section that allows them to create new melodies on the spot.

While this creative freedom is liberating, it also can be overwhelming when you’re just starting out as a jazz pianist. Below are five jazz piano exercises to start shaping your skills as a beginning jazz pianist.

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