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How to Jazz Piano

how to jazz piano

Learning How to Jazz Piano


Do you want to learn how to jazz piano music quickly and easily? Then you first need to know the more sophisticated chord symbols and voicings used in jazz music. You also need to understand the difference between chords and voicings. A chord is a group of musical notes played simultaneously. Voicings are the way you arrange the notes of a particular chord.

For instance a C chord has a C,E, and G. You can play these notes in this order, or with the E at the bottom (E-G-C), or with the G at the bottom (G-C-E). These are the different voicings for the C chord. When you start learning how to jazz piano, you’ll notice the use of more advanced chords such as a Cmaj7 or CΔ, a Cm7, and larger dominant chords like the C9, C11, or C13.

Here’s an example showing you the symbols for the main C chords used in jazz:

how to jazz piano

We’ll start with the most widely used chord progression in jazz, the 2-5-1. This means that you build chords based on the 2nd, 5th and 1st note of a scale. Let’s use the C scale as an example. The 2 chord (Dm7, or DFAC) is built on the second note of the scale. The 5 chord (G7, or GBDF) is built on the fifth note, and the 1 chord (Cmaj7, or CEGB) is built on the first note of the scale.

how to jazz piano

How to Jazz Piano Chords

You can start by playing the root of each chord with your left hand and the chords with your right hand. Play these chords in sequence and listen to the distinctive sounds of these chords: the minor seventh, the dominant, and the major seventh. As you continue to learn how to jazz piano, you’ll easily distinguish these jazzy or more sophisticated sounds.

Just to make sure that you understand this concept, try to apply this knowledge to another key. For instance, if you build a similar 2-5-1 chord progression in the key of G, here are the results. The 2 chord (Am7, or ACEG) is built on the second note of the scale. The 5 chord (D7, or DF#AC) is built on the fifth note, and the 1 chord (Gmaj7, or GBDF#) is built on the first note of the G scale.

You should continue to build the same chord sequence in different keys. Then, try to give a clear swinging rhythm to the chords as you play them. Start using different chord voicings. Instead of playing the root, 3rd, 5th, and 7th, leave out the 5th, and play the Root, 7th, and 3rd on top. So if you wanted to play a C7, voice it using the C, Bb, and E notes.

A final step on how to jazz piano, would be to play a scale with your right hand while you play the full chords with your left hand. So, in the key of C, your left hand chords would be: Dm: DFAC, G7: GBDF, and Cmaj7: CEGB. Your right hand can play the notes of the C scale (using eight notes).

As you become familiar with these chords and voicings, begin using more advanced dominant “5” chords such as 9th, 11th, and 13th chords. (C9, C11, C13). To learn how to jazz piano faster, try to improvise melodies with your right hand, and eventually you’ll be able to play your own jazz style based on the chords of your favorite songs.