My name is Christian, and I just got my PianoGrove Pro membership. I also just got my first piano–a beautiful digital Yamaha that I can’t wait to get started with. I’ve spent a lot of time deciding on whether to make the investment in learning jazz piano, and I’ll be honest: I don’t know that I would have without PianoGroove as a resource. There’s a real sense of both substance and progression to the lessons presented here that doesn’t seemed matched by other websites on jazz piano. So thank you, Hayden, for creating this site!
My Professional Background
I’m currently a graduate student working on obtaining my PhD in Plant Biology in California. I previously got my B.S. in Molecular Genetics in New York and have been in California pursuing my graduate degree for a little over two years. I do research on fruit ripening and the nasty pathogens that make our fruit moldy. Not entirely sure what I’ll be doing with my PhD once I graduate, but that’s another matter.
My Musical Background
I spent a lot of my childhood being sort of a jack of all trades in terms of being a musician. I did take piano lessons for a few years as a kid (maybe from the ages of 9-11), but I never connected with it back then, and I abandoned it when my lessons teacher moved and I wasn’t fond of the replacement.
When I was 11 I took up viola as part of school, and played in my school orchestras up through my senior year of high school. I enjoyed it quite a bit, especially in the last few years of high school when I was playing in our symphony orchestra and had the awesome opportunity to perform with that orchestra at Carnegie Hall, which was incredible. But I never really committed to that instrument either, and I never spent time developing it as a skill. When I graduated high school, I didn’t stick with it.
I spent a few years (maybe ages 11-14) taking weekly half-hour drum lessons. As with viola and piano, I didn’t have the self-discipline to really commit myself to the instrument and hone my skill. I rarely did much practicing and never really had the opportunity to perform as a drummer, save for some opportunities in middle school when my orchestra director decided he wanted me on a snare drum part in a couple of the pieces. However, my drum lessons did provide me with (I think) a really great sense of rhythm which I’ve managed to keep. And, more importantly for this forum, it was also my first exposure to jazz. My teacher was an amateur jazz drummer who tried to get me to appreciate jazz, though at the time my musical tastes were really budding and were mostly focused on classic, alternative, and indie rock genres, so I wasn’t entirely receptive. Still, I took and enjoyed the two jazz albums he gave me: one Art Blakey CD, and one Wes Montgomery CD.
Lastly, I’m also a (mostly) self-taught guitarist, though not a very good one. In my senior year of college I did buy a classical guitar and took a class which was wonderful, but I haven’t maintained my skill in it.
My Favourite Jazz Musicians/Albums
It’s only been recently that I’ve really taken a much greater dive into jazz and different jazz musicians. I’m still learning and exploring, but I’ll list some of my favorite artists here, as well as the albums (I’m a pretty album-oriented listener) of theirs that I’m particularly fond of:
• Bill Evans (Waltz for Debby)
• Miles Davis (In A Silent Way, Kind of Blue)
• John Coltrane (Giant Steps)
• Keith Jarrett (Facing You)
• Kamasi Washington (Harmony of Differences EP)
• Pat Metheny (Bright Size Life)
• piano (particularly in trio or solo contexts)
• saxophone (Coltrane and Stan Getz are my current favorites)
My Current Musical Goals & Aspirations
There’s a lot to reflect on here. I’m interested in learning to play jazz piano for a few different reasons. First and foremost, I should say that I’m doing it largely for myself–though this could change in the future, I don’t have goals to play in an ensemble or book any gigs. I simply want to connect with the piano and with jazz and deeply hone that skill. A large part of it is leveraging the learning of jazz piano to improve myself as a listener of jazz and of music in general. I’d like to develop a solid understanding of music theory and express that by both learning to play jazz piano and learning to hear things in music I haven’t been able to hear before.
A large part of this is also proving to myself that I can maintain dedication to learning an instrument. As I’ve mentioned, I’ve spent a lot of time playing instruments, but not a lot of time caring about that playing. I’ve frequently worried that I missed my opportunity as a child to really develop that skill. But I think I’ve come to realize that the old cliche is true: it’s never too late.
In more concrete terms, there are specific pieces I’d actually love to learn to eventually play, and I’ve kind of sorted them out in my head both as goals and also gauges of my skill level (despite not really knowing what sorts of skills they require). I’d also really love to improve my listening skills and be able to transcribe pretty freely. Those two goals probably go hand in hand.
Lastly, though I’ll admit it intimidates me right now, I’d like to learn some improvisational skills. Part of my appreciation for jazz as a genre is just how fluid and malleable it is between music written on a page and what actually gets made during any given performance. (I think it really dawned on me just how much freedom there is in jazz performance when I saw Chick Corea a couple months ago.) Being mostly familiar with playing classical music, which is much more restrictive in comparison, this really intrigues me, but also scares me a little bit. Hopefully in time it will become a much more manageable challenge.
I feel like I’ve been carrying on, so that’s all I’ll say for now. I’m incredibly excited to start my jazz piano journey with PianoGroove. Thanks again!
Apart from all your goals and aspirations, more than anything I congratulate you on having enough time and energy as a grad student to even consider starting this course. I gave up music many years ago when I started graduate studies, and now many years later I’m just returning to it.
Best of luck with all your endeavors.
Thanks for this wonderful introduction, I’m always intrigued by our students backgrounds and it’s a joy to read them so thanks for sharing. Your academic/professional background sounds like a fascinating area of study.
Firstly, it’s my pleasure in creating this course, and I also must credit our other fantastic teachers too. It’s been a joy to see how nicely the different sections of the site tie into each other because so much of the theory is interrelated.
I was having a good chat with @james505545 last week about our plans to introduce a Funk side to the syllabus and we were chatting about the reasoning behind it and how it ties in and complements what we already have here.
It’s kind of like joining the dots together between all these genres of improvised music, and having the beginner/intermediate jazz lessons as the central pillar, or the foundations from which we can expand into these genres.
Anyhow, onto your musical background…
Any and all previous musical experience - particularly piano studies - will be an asset. Whether that’s in the form of reading musical notation, dexterity on the keyboard, development of a musical ear, just to name a few… It’s all great experience to have as we start our journey exploring the vast world of jazz.
Wow that must have been a wonderful experience… I imagine that would help with stage fright too!
I’ve heard from many musicians that drumming and piano complement each other beautifully. Again i think that will be a huge asset to you Christian.
I view the piano as a percussion instrument. Ultimately, the piano keyboard is 88 finely-tuned drums, and in that sense, as pianists, we should practice the piano with the same diligence that a drummer practices their rudiments.
Now this is easier said than done, when I started with jazz, I must admit that I found it hard not to ‘indulge’ in the colours and textures that the piano can create, whilst paying very little attention to the rhythmic aspect of my playing.
However, I don’t regret this, I believe this focus - or ‘indulgence’ in harmony - has allowed me to teach harmonic topics effectively, but now I’m going back to playing with a metronome as much as possible, playing with iRealPro, playing along with records… all with the goal to develop my rhythmic awareness.
If hypothetically i started over with learning jazz, I would certainly devote more time to the rhythmic aspect of my playing. Hope that helps.
Onto your musician/instrument list:
That’s a really nice mix of inspirations and also instruments. There’s lots of different jazz eras/styles/movements within your musician list which will give you a broad pool of inspiration to study from.
As I’m sure you know, you can learn so much from other instruments.
Horn instrumentalists as an example, they have to stop to breath, and so that creates such a natural sense of phrasing in their playing. There is a concept with taking a jazz piano solo, where you release the air from your lungs as you are improvising, and then pause whilst you breath in. It’s very easy to ‘over play’ when soloing on the piano which can be detrimental to the overall result of the solo. Space allows your improvised ideas to breath, and sink in, and then I often try to listen for a response to my previous idea.
Listening and transcribing from horn players is a wonderful way to develop your sense of phrasing. And how effective it is to leave space.
Finally, your musical goals and aspirations:
I think you have picked the right instrument for this.
There is no other instrument which gives you such a linear and clear visualisation of the keys/scales. I studied with a very talented guitarist briefly a number of years ago, and he had a piano in his house and he said the same, it’s simply a wonderful instrument to visualise music.
With other commitments it can be a challenge.
Here’s some things I found to be effective and that I would recommend to you:
With other commitments such as work or school, I always tried to wake up a little earlier and hit the piano whilst my brain was fresh. Even if it’s just for half an hour or so.
Check out our practice routines, this is the first one and the key is to split your practice time into small chunks perhaps even a few minutes on each if you are limited for time, and that way you are covering a lot of different topics in 1 sitting.
Try to stick to the same routine each day in terms of the time your practice. For example, an hour in the morning, and an hour in the evening would be perfectly adequate amount of time to see real and substantial improvement over the space of 6 months.
The practice plan series is a key priority for me at the moment, and it’s what I’m working on delivering. You can see more in the Practice Inspiration Section of the forum.
Yes transcription is such a vital element of learning jazz. Check out this recent lesson i put together and again this is a key area for my teachings over 2019.
I’d recommend starting with the 12 bar blues, just because it’s simple to follow and gauge where you are in the form.
Transcription is very difficult to begin with, but it gets easier and easier the more you do it. I did also put together a course on transcription, the first lessons were made years ago and so my own transcription abilities have improved a lot since then, and hopefully the material covered will give you some insight into my journey to becoming more competent at transcription:
Transcription - in my opinion and many others - is the key to learning to improvise.
There is so much information in a single recording that cannot be expressed on paper - or in a video tutorial for that matter. The touch, the feel, the syncopation, the dynamics and other nuances etc… listening and emulating is the only way to truly absorb these vital elements of the music.
For your practice time Christian, follow our practice plan PDFs for the following 2 courses:
and also ensure that you are dedicating a small chunk of every practice session to transcribing, and working out something with your ears.
Don’t be put off by slow progress with transcription… it’s difficulty, but extremely liberating and rewarding once you get the ball rolling with it. Literally any record you like, you can study it and it will mould and sculpt the direction of your own sound.
If I can help you with anything you’re working on, just let me know.
Wellcome Christian ! another lovely presentation
yes nice idea this breathing concept Hayden , even it is so simple i’ve never done it . But easy things often the hardest to apply. … and it should help having some overview of what we are playing… often so many things in mind when trying to improvise … even no time for breathing
Hey @TactfulCactus - welcome! Great to hear about your background. Another Chick Corea fan here too!
I started learning from scratch as an adult without any musical background as a kid, and for me just having some time daily to absorb something that will help me or develop my ear is good enough - and I say that as someone who went through a phase of really pushing myself to produce. And I’ve had a great time learning more on here, so I’d really like to hear what you’d want to share in the ‘what I’m listening to’ thread: What Record Are You Listening To Today?
And hope you have a great time getting started!
Welcome. Don’t let this vast library of material intimidate you. The right way to do this is whatever feels fun. Enjoy
Thanks for the terrific welcome, everyone! I really appreciate all your input and support. @Hayden, thanks for the thorough response. I’ll be keeping all that information in mind as I proceed through my PianoGroove education.
@james505545, it’s really good to hear that someone else has had the “adult beginner” experience. I’ve been listening to quite a lot of good records lately, so I’ll be sure to contribute to that topic soon.
Thanks again! I hope to get to know everyone through these forums soon enough!
Looking forward to hearing your picks @TactfulCactus! Enjoy diving into the lessons
Dr. Dean Bard 69 years young Retired Emergency Physician Played piano age 7 to 18 then off to College etc. Bought a grand piano 5+ years ago and relearned all over. Joined a classical piano private school and studied 3 years advancing to intermediate + level. Completed a 3 year chord based piano course to get away from being tied to the music score. Piano Groove seems to be exactly what I’ve been searching for. I just started with the Beginner lessons to learn the Jazz basics and theory. I have been arranging from a melody line and chord notation but not in a jazz theory style. I play almost every morning 2-4 hours and I don’t know where the time goes. Very delighted with this new approach. Looking forward to playing each day. Any help, advice etc. is always appreciated. I will try to post a picture. I have all my music on I-Pad with Air Turn to advance the pages. Your video lessons seem straight forward and easy to understand.
Welcome. I’m a still working ARNP. I too am shocked at the time that has passed and I’ve been at the piano.
Glad you enjoy the PianoGroove format.
Welcome Dr. Dean!
From what you outline, it sounds like you have a good amount of piano experince ‘under your belt’ and you will be able to dive straight into the beginner/intermediate courses.
2-4 hours is a very good amount of time to practice and you will see great results sticking to this everyday.
I’d recommend checking out our practice inspiration section of the forum:
You will see that in the Practice Plan PDF Downloads, we recommend roughly splitting your practice time in half - 50% Theory Drills, and 50% Jazz Standard Study.
The practice plans have been designed for 1 hour practice slots. If you have more time on your hands, simply multiply the designated exercise time by 2, 3, or 4.
It’s important that you try to cover many different theory topics in each practice session, so that you are improving your understanding on a wide range of topics each time you sit down to practice.
The study of jazz standards is where we apply this theory, and also the more enjoyable aspect of learning to play jazz piano, so make sure you are playing the jazz standards!
I hope this helps to give you some initial direction, and if you have any specific questions with the theory topics we are always here to help.
I am 62 years old and I am now retired.
I am french and I live around Paris
I learned piano classical music during about 10 years but with some interruption . And my last classical piece was a chopin waltz not too complicated.
I have real time to practice jazz piano now and to explore your website.
My goal is to play some jazz standards and improvise in all styles (bossa nova, blues, jazz).
I would to constitute a little repertoire and playing it in front of my family, or playing in a band…Why Not ?
I don’t listen enough jazz. I I would like help to make a little program to listen the main jazz standards during the year.
What are the first main recordings to listen in jazz ? May be, you can make me a list of the best recordings.
Soon, I am going to learn also chromatic harmonica. It is my favorite instrument after the piano, of course.
I know now , Hayden, that you start soon your own quartet. But, please, don’t give up your website. We need your advices and your new lessons.
Welcome aboard the Groove train @dr1 I’m Dan, the Video specialist for PianoGroove, glad to have someone of your level join. I will be floating around capturing collaborative PianoGrooves like the following from @Lyndol and @Hayden…
Let me know if there’s anything I can help you with
Those are some very realistic goals Marc.
We have all of the information here in the PianoGroove syllabus to help you achieve those goals!
Yes listening is extremely important Marc.
Check out our jazz recordings thread here for a huge amount of inspiration: https://www.pianogroove.com/community/c/records-musicians
I would recommend that you listen many different jazz piano players, and find ones that you like the sound of.
The listening thread has 000s of different records:
It might be nice to make note of the artists that you like, and then listen to all of their work.
Try to listen every chance you have in the day and your musicality will increase exponentially within the space of a year.
Enjoy the lessons Marc!
Marc I forgot to answer your final question…
I’m certainly not going anywhere… PianoGroove is my life and I love teaching online and managing the website.
I’ve been drawn away from my original teaching schedule with the growing commitments of managing the website/forum and working with our extended teaching team.
However, I’m working on getting things in place to free up my time again…
So lots more lessons to come from me, and I’ll always be here in the forum to advise and guide our students
Wellcome guys !
@dr1 wow impressive background in piano … hope hearing your playing soon on the forum . Dont tell me more how long you can play in a day … i will be jealous
@loffredo1630087 another french man in the journey … n’hésite pas à me demander si tu as des questions particulières sur lesquelles tu aimerai avoir des réponses en français bienvenu Marc.
I’m David from Vancouver, Canada.
I used to play the piano in high school jazz band back in late 80’s and early 90’s.
I learned to read sheet music note by note but I never learned to play by ear or
learn chords beyond the very basics (C, Cm, C7… and likes).
Never really grasped aug/dim, and other more complex chords).
Since I graduated from high school, there hasn’t been much attempts to improve my piano.
Carried on with my life, but I would always appreciated listening to good jazz artists,
as I grew up listening to a lot of smooth jazz / GRP-labeled cassettes and CDs.
My favorite artists are Jeff Lorber, David Benoit, Rippingtons, Joe Sample, & Hisaishi Joe.
Now, I’m taking a mini sabbatical and I finally have time to work on my skills.
Here’s where I am today (without any sheet music, and without any practice…)
but I’d like to be able to play a full hour of jazz music at a local bar I frequently visit.
It’d be nice if I could achieve it by coming Christmas.
I’m now reviewing Jazz Piano Foundations, and to be honest,
I find it a bit boring just to go over music theory.
I think I do okay in simple scales (C, D, G, maybe E), but not really motivated to
learn my chord positions for more complex scales.
I’m not sure if mechanically following the chord progressions and positions will
improve my skills or motivate me to move forward, either.
If I can commit 45-60 minutes each day on practicing my piano skills,
how would you recommend that I spend my time for the next 3 months?
PS. I don’t have the perfect pitch,
and I always wondered if it’s a skill that can be mastered by practice.
Welcome David. I’d recommend starting with the practice plans that are listed with each beginning group of lessons. It has worked for me. (And I had around 40 years of not playing anything. ) Those boring bits will pay off in the future. And as the plans indicate, at least half of your time is with the fun stuff.
At any rate, have fun. I think you’ll enjoy the experience and will progress if you stick with it.
A very warm welcome to the PianoGroove Community!
Thanks for sharing your performance of “Over The Rainbow” - I like your chord choices and it gives me a much clearer idea of the most suitable courses for you.
A first recommendation would be to add some kind of intro and outro to each tune you are playing. We have an introductory lesson here on the 1-6-2-5 progression which I think you will enjoy:
I see that you are playing “Over The Rainbow” in the key of C Major, and so that would make your 1-6-2-5 progression:
Cmaj7 / A7b9 / D-7 / G7
Of course you can add any combination of extensions, alterations, passing chords to this basic progression. More info on this below.
It can be nice to cycle around that for both and introduction and an ending to extend the length of any tune you are playing. The V7 chord (G7) leads back to the Imaj7 chord (Cmaj7) and so the progression is a cycle, and when ready, you can drop for the G7 straight into the start of the tune.
Most jazz standards tend to start and end on the Imaj7 chord so this kind of intro/outro will will have you covered for most tunes.
That could help with your “full hour of music” goal for the local bar.
I would recommend that you start studying the following 2 courses simultaneously:
Extended Chords & Voicings
This course introduces 9s, 11s, & 13s, and we look at some common extended chord voicings that are very useful to have under your fingers:
Altered Harmony & USTs
This course introduces the concept of chord alterations. I did see you played some alterations in your arrangement of “Over The Rainbow” - for example, at 0:43 seconds, you play A7b9
This course will explain the different ‘colours’ you can add to dominant chords to create more harmonically-complex and sophisticated voicings and progressions:
Intros, Endings, & Turarounds (optional, focus on the above 2 first)
This is housed as an “Advanced Course” but based on your performance, I don’t see any reason why you cannot learn the arrangements. In all of these lessons I demonstrate different ways to create extended intros for jazz standards:
I agree with @scott1 that it would be good to check out the Foundations Practice Plan.
I understand and appreciate that some of those exercises are boring, but they will give you solid foundations for the more advanced theory, and perhaps even highlight weaknesses in your playing that you didn’t realise.
Aim to play the following 2 exercises in less than 5 minutes each:
All 12 major scales and identify the notes numerically ie. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 instead of: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C and you must do this for all 12 major scales. Don’t skip this!!
3 note 251 progressions with root in left hand, and then 3rd and 7th in right hand - being able to clearly visualise the 7ths falling to 3rds in 251s in all 12 keys will help you greatly. The 3rd and 7th are the essential components of the harmony and so it’s important to be able to see that half-step relationship which will also help you in creating improvised melodies.
If you can’t do that, I would recommend spending 10 minutes on it each day until you can.
The other exercises (minor scales, triads, 7th chords) are all still important, but the above 2 are in my opinion the most important to learn thoroughly before moving on. It will simply save you time in the future.
Once you encounter upper structure triads in the “Altered Harmony Course” I highlighted above, you will see how important it is to be able to invert and manipulate triad shapes around the keyboard, and so as @scott1 says, working on the foundation exercises will pay off in the future.
Here’s what I’d recommend:
If you could make that 45-60 minutes per day into 2 hours each day, you will see much better results. I found it very effective to do 1 hour in the morning before I went to work, and then I would play most of the evening. Aim for 1 hour in the morning, & 1 hour in the evening.
Revisit and stick to what you are practicing. The key is to dedicate yourself to a consistent practice routine. Use the downloadable PDF resources and practice plans to give you that structure.
Work on multiple courses at the same time, I’d recommend the Extended Chords Course, and the Altered Harmony & Upper Structure Triads Course - but as mentioned, you will be making life harder for yourself if you don’t know your major scales numerically, and also simple 3-note 251s in all 12 keys.
Don’t forget to have fun with it… This is supposed to be a fun hobby after all!! You have a nice goal to work towards with your “full hour of music by Christmas time” but also understand that learning jazz is truly a lifelong pursuit, there is always more to learn. I find accepting that takes the pressure off and makes the whole process more enjoyable. I just try to get a little better each day.
Here’s 4 forum threads which you may find useful with your “full hour of music” goal:
Earning money as a jazz musician (our vocal expert Lyndol gives some really great tips from her experience performing)