Learning To Play Jazz Piano From Traditional Training to Improvisation

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.

Click Here And Expand Your Repertoire By Learning How To Play Jazz Piano!

Posted by Erik Thiede

  1. I once played classical guitar and gave recitals, and also composed Brazilian-derived 4/4 syncopated bossanova pieces for a quartet I formed briefly. I then left all that twenty five years ago and haven’t played since. Music never leaves you, though. I always composed music by ear, never had theory, the six strings in the guitar felt limiting. Dreamed about piano, so now I want to start again and learn the keyboard. I want jazz to be the context for everything I will do. I am that rare blank slate walking around when it comes to piano. Is there any hope at all for my little dream of composing again but using the keyboard? and learning (finally) theory, harmony, sight reading, solfege, couterpoint, etc., along with the instrument?

    Thank you. O.

  2. Hey O.

    I’m a big believer that anything is possible. Just start where you are and take consistent, small step towards your goal until you arrive…Be flexible…I agree, music never leaves you and since you already have the “ear” from playing guitar, you’re half-way there. The good news is that piano is the foundation for theory, harmony, solfege, etc.

    I’ve found http://jazzbooks.com/ to be an outstanding resource for beginning jazz musicians…best of luck!

  3. I am always amused when someone asks someone that they do not know( let alone have never heard make music) asks us musicians if there is hope or what should they expect. I expected to become a professional trumpet player and I’ve evolved to being a mostly self taught self sustaining pianist though even now working my tail off to improve myself.

    Dave Hepler

  4. I totally agree…Like with anything, there’s really no “magic bullet” and EVERYONE with the normal hearing and the physical capability to play their instrument of choice can learn to play well.

    I can’t stand when seasoned musician try to “predict” someone’s future talent…Forgetting about the countless HOURS it took for them to begin to master their skill.

    Truth is: it takes HOURS & HOURS of quality practice to really master an instrument…But most people just want to learn there favorite songs. This can be done with FAR less effort.

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