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Getting Started With Jazz Piano Techniques

September 18, 2014

jazz piano Bored with Brahms? For some pianists, Mozart might not be enough. If you find yourself tapping your toes to artists like Ray Charles and Herbie Hancock, you might want to talk to your piano teacher about adding in some jazz piano techniques to your lessons.

Here are some great tips for getting started:

(1) Start listening – to everything and anything jazz.
Listen to jazz greats. Go to jazz gigs. Immerse yourself in the genre, no matter if there is piano involved or not. Jazz singers, jazz flautists, jazz drummers… you get the point.  Check out Art Tatum, Thelonius Monk, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. By doing this, you’ll get a feel for typical patterns, rhythms, style and more even before you sit down at the piano bench.

(2) Know your basics.
Whether you’re playing classical, jazz or another style, technical basics are essential to understand.  Although there are some musicians who can simply rely on their ears, it’s much better to have the groundwork set as you begin improvising and grooving. This means recognizing pitch, memorizing chords and understanding inversions and progressions, to begin with.

(3) Find the right teacher.
An instructor who is used to classical training might not be the best fit for learning jazz techniques. If you’re sure jazz is the route you want to take, find a teacher who is comfortable with the style and can really guide you to success.  (Need help finding a teacher? Search for piano lessons near you with TakeLessons!)

(4) Experiment and explore.
The whole point of jazz is being able to experiment, all while staying within certain musical guidelines (e.g. the key of the song). But how else will you learn unless you try? Try listening to a jazz beat, and then just start playing whatever feels right. With jazz, there may be guidelines, but there definitely aren’t any rules! The more you learn to trust yourself, the easier jazz piano techniques will become.

Readers, what other tips would you give to beginners learning jazz piano? Leave a comment below, or stop by our Facebook page to discuss!

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Photo by Bengt Nyman.


Suzy S.