How to Improve Your Jazz on the Piano

Jazz piano playing requires performers to spend a significant amount of time in the practice room running through exercises and techniques to improve playing. Professional jazz pianists spend upwards of three hours per day practicing in addition to performing and many performers also teach to help supplement their income. Pianists need to increase endurance through increasing practice time gradually to prevent burn-out and injury. Composers that want to learn to play jazz piano to make them more versatile should seek the help of a qualified teacher. While it’s impossible to learn to write jazz music from an article online, there are some general tips for composers that want to begin learning about Jazz music.

Composers should treat the piano as a tool for composing music. It doesn’t matter if you can play complete pieces in concert, but the added technique gained from learning to play the piano will help you write more effective compositions. Practice playing both major and minor scales daily using a metronome and gradually increase your speed. Begin by playing as slowly as necessary to avoid making mistakes. Use a fingering chart so that you don’t stumble over your fingers and aim to play the scales the same way each time. Once you can play the scales slowly without mistakes, set the metronome to 60 beats per minute while playing sixteenth notes. Gradually increase your speed by two beats per minute each day to a maximum of 144 beats per minute.

Memorize chord types and learn how to play them on the piano. Start with major, minor, augmented and diminished triads. Once you are comfortable with basic triads, add seventh chords, ninths, and 13th chords. Then, get a book of designed to help pianists learn to play jazz piano and practice playing chords commonly used in jazz performance. You should learn how to recognize jazz chord symbols immediately. This will require a great deal of practice and the use of a music theory text to learn the theory necessary to analyze jazz piano lead sheets.

Play around on the piano and improvise by using the chord symbols above the music to play notes that fit with the indicated chords. You can add non-chord tones in between main beats, but the main beat of each chord should be a chord tone when possible. For instance, if C major appears above a lead sheet, you can choose from the notes, C, E and G for the main beats. Anything that occurs off the beat does not require the use of a chord tone, so you could play a D or an F between the beats if you like.

Study the terms used in jazz music theory. There are hundreds of terms that can be learned from studying privately and reading a book on jazz piano playing. With any musical endeavor, jargon specific to the type of music performed is always required. You may also consider joining a jazz ensemble through a local community organization or a local college if you improve to the point where you want to play publicly. The best way to learn to improvise, once you have learned theory, involves jumping in and playing.


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