Diana Krall jazz piano

9 Easy Jazz Piano Songs to Learn Today [Video Tutorials]

Diana Krall jazz piano

Interested in learning jazz? Try your hand at some of these easy jazz songs, recommended by piano teacher Heather L...

 

Like many other music styles, jazz has seen its phases. It’s gone from being the most popular genre in America, to the least popular, and now to something that almost everyone appreciates. And yet most piano students feel so intimidated by jazz that they don’t even try learning it.

I’m here to tell you: give it a shot! Below, I’ve compiled a list of nine easy jazz piano songs you can try, along with tips for playing jazz piano. Let’s start with the tips:

How to Play Jazz Piano

Jazz is a blast to play on the piano! If you’re used to playing classical piano styles, I recommend starting with these tips for transitioning to the jazz style. Next, you’ll want to review these jazz piano chords, and try out some of these helpful exercises. Beyond these articles, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Play eighth notes unevenly, so that four of them sound like this: “long – short – long – short”. This is called a swing pattern.
  • Play any accents lightly, not heavily as in a lot of other piano music.
  • Play in a slightly detached and clear tone, as if you were playing a Bach piece. Think of little bells!

Easy Jazz Songs to Try

Now that you know some of the basics, here are a few tunes to listen to and try your hand at. Of course, if you’re serious about playing jazz, you’ll want to work with a piano teacher who can show you the ropes — but these easy songs will certainly get you started!

1. “Summertime”

It sounds funny, but this celebrated jazz classic is actually the gem of the acclaimed opera “Porgy and Bess”. Take it slow; it is a lullaby, after all. Simply play the chords in the left hand in a very steady rhythm, and play the melody in a very off-beat way. The word for this is syncopation, which means unexpected rhythmic patterns. Don’t think too much about it; just be creative. Watch the video a few times, then start playing along!

Sheet Music Download — via Sheet Music Plus

2. “When the Saints Go Marching In”

If you can play “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”, then you can play “When the Saints Go Marching In”. And because this song’s melody is so simple, it’s the perfect song to help you learn how to improvise! It’s often included in beginner piano books, and the following tutorial will teach you the melody.

This song is really easy and the video takes it very slowly. Once you learn the melody, you can find lots of versions of this song online — and you can play it in an even jazzier way by changing the rhythm of when and how you play the left-hand chords. For instance, you can play the same block chords in eighth notes instead of quarter notes (in other words, twice as fast).

Sheet Music Download — via Sheet Music Plus

3. “Fly Me to the Moon”

Classic crooner Frank Sinatra made this song famous, and now you can make it your own! First, though, watch the tutorial below. The keys highlighted in blue are played by the right hand; the keys highlighted in yellow are played by the left hand.

Play along with the video a few times with only your right hand, and then again with only your left hand, before playing with hands together.

Sheet Music Download — MusicNotes

4. “Autumn Leaves”

“Autumn Leaves” is one of the best easy jazz songs for beginners, because it introduces us to jazz harmony and the popular chord progression ii – V – I – IV. Unfamiliar with these symbols? It means that if you’re playing in the key of C, this chord progression would be D minor, then G, then C, and finally F. The tutorial below goes a little fast, so watch it a few times before you even begin to play along.

Sheet Music Download — MusicNotes

5. “Misty”

This tutorial is easy to follow, taking the right hand first, one note at a time. The second time through, the player shows us the left-hand three-note chords, or triads. Feel free to play the left hand alone, ignoring the right hand the first few times through, since the left-hand chords will become the steady “time-keeper” of your playing. Then, add the right-hand melody later after the left hand becomes almost automatic.

Sheet Music Download — Sheet Music Plus

6. “Someone to Watch Over Me”

George and Ira Gershwin wrote a musical in 1943 called “Oh, Kay!” and this song is perhaps its most famous. Lots of singers have covered it, and lots of pianists love to play it!

This arrangement is a little different, in that it has the left hand playing the melody, and the right hand playing chords. If it seems a little too difficult, it’s okay to simplify the rhythm. As always, take your time and practice hands separately at first.

Sheet Music Download — MusicNotes

7. “Take the A Train”

Kent Hewitt leads this fun video about Duke Ellington’s classic, “Take the A Train”. He may sound like he’s playing something really complicated in the left hand, but remember, he’s only playing the chords of the song in different ways. For example, instead of playing a D chord in a root position block, he’ll play the D way down low, and then the F# and A up in the middle of the keyboard. In this video he guides you all the way through his own version. Have fun!

Sheet Music Download — MusicNotes

8. “Satin Doll”

“Satin Doll” may be one of the most famous jazz songs of all time. This tutorial will teach you the famous introduction and explain the importance of triplets in swing music, and more importantly, how to play them!

Sheet Music Download — Sheet Music Plus

9. “So What”

Again, this version has the melody in the left hand and the chords in the right. For most of us, the left hand is just not as dextrous as the right. In other words, it’s not as easy to stretch and move. If you have a favorite exercise set, (like Hanon) practicing it daily will help you get ready to play this song.

Be warned: the piano player in the video below talks about some advanced stuff, like modes and modulations. But don’t feel intimidated! You can still play the song — stay patient, and take your time.

Sheet Music Download — Sheet Music Plus


This list of easy jazz songs is only the beginning. Jazz music is a gold mine of timeless standards and classic pieces to add to your repertoire!

Just remember, online tutorials are wonderful tools, but they’ll only take you so far. Progressing takes two first steps: listening to a lot of jazz piano music, and finding a great teacher! Chances are, there’s a quality instructor in your area or online who’s perfect for you. Don’t have one yet? Check out my profile, or find a piano teacher in your area!

Photo by Bruno Bollaert

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