Thanks for the introduction and for sharing that beautiful progression. I have subscribed to your YouTube channel.
I love your rehmonisations, and your right-hand melodies have a lovely smooth/cool jazz vibe. It’s really beautiful.
Yes i can see from your transcription that you have a good understanding of this.
By adding those additional ii-V progressions, you are enhancing the harmony and creating that lovely jazzy sound.
Your performance is really nice to listen to.
No problems at all understanding your English Toshihiro. It all makes perfect sense.
I always find it fascinating to hear where our students are from, and so thanks for sharing this. I’d love to visit Tokyo one day!
We have a good number of students from Japan, and the website has always been popular with Japanese students which is awesome.
It sounds like you are making very good progress in 3 years.
I found it took me around 2 years to get basic confidence playing jazz piano. After 2 years, I could play the 251s, have a basic understanding on interpreting lead sheets, and was starting to explore more interesting extended and altered harmonies.
Learning jazz truly is a lifelong pursuit. I just enjoy getting a little bit better each day when I sit down at the piano. It’s a very gradual process, but also a very rewarding one
Yes I have played on some Casio electric keyboards and they are always nice to play on.
I have a Roland RD700 NX at my home in Manchester, and at PianoGroove’s recording studio in Seattle we have a Roland FP50 which is very lightweight so it’s easy to carry and move around!
I think it would be nice to create a thread on the instruments we all use.
I like to thank you for all the comments you have made for my introduction. Especially, I am very happy that you like my play and its style. It’s the result of what I have been doing for these 3 years. Now, I feel more confident.
As you mentioned, Jazz piano is lifelong work. I will keep learning harmonies, rhythms, and melodies, in addition to reharmonization, to develop my own style.
Yes it was a pleasure to hear you play Toshihiro… thanks again for sharing.
Congratulations that you are feeling more confident with your playing… that must be a great feeling!
Yes, that’s right.
I found that it took the pressure off once I realised and understood that learning jazz piano is something I will be doing for the rest of my life.
Progress is often very slow when learning new harmonies, new progressions, new tunes etc… and this can be offputting for new students.
Focused, daily practice is the key. Each day just getting a little bit better, and within the space o,f 6 months you will see big improvements.
Always remember the importance of listening…
There are so many amazing records to listen to, and take inspiration from.
The recordings and players that you listen to is what shapes your own style, or your ‘own sound’.
If you listen and transcribe from a recording, it might take years for those ideas to show up in your improvisations. I like to look at listening/transcribing as a ‘musical investment’ that I am making for the future
I highly recommend the following:
Listen to jazz recordings every spare moment you have. This is such an important part of our development as students of jazz piano. Any opportunity you have to listen, do it!
Get into the habit of transcribing every day, perhaps just a short part of a melody, a comping rhythm, a 251 line, anything that piques your interest on the records you are listening to.
Try and stick to at least 15 minutes of transcription work per day, and I guarantee you will see big results.
Above anything else, enjoy your journey learning this great music!
I’m Patrice and I live in Boston, Massachusetts. I am just getting back into piano after a verrrrry long break. I took classical lessons from age 5 to 15. I learned almost nothing about theory and chords. I also played alto sax for about 4 years and viola for 1 year during that time.
A couple months ago and after a long while (too many years to say!), I started taking lessons with a teacher who is very jazz focused. My lessons so far are similar in direction to what’s on this site. but with no disrespect to my teacher intended, this is much better!
I love the structure this will provide. I’m very eager to methodically progress through the lessons (and practice) so I learn what I should have done so many years ago. Thanks so much for providing this terrific format!
Like many of us here, we have at some point in our lives taken a hiatus from our musical studies.
Whether it be for work, academic, or family commitments, you’re certainly not alone there.
That’s very similar to my early music education. I studied with a private teacher throughout my childhood.
This classical piano study equiped me with fairly good sight reading, and also general piano technique, but similar to yourself, I had a no understanding of harmony.
I could play lots of nice classical repertoire, but I had very little insight into how the chords were functioning from a harmonic standpoint.
Firstly, welcome to the world of jazz! It’s such a wonderful genre to explore on the piano.
I wouldn’t recommend that you completely rule out the prospect of studying in person. It can bring great benefits. Everyone has their own perspectives on learning jazz, and the more of these that you are exposed to will ultimately broaden your own understanding and perspectives on this art form.
I have some ideas in the pipeline to introduce real-time teaching where students can ask questions whilst myself and other teachers are sat at the piano, so we can feedback directly as if it was an in-person lesson. More to be announced on this soon.
The Beginner/Intermediate Syllabus…
An interesting thing with PianoGroove, is that the beginner/intermediate lessons closely document my own journey in mastering this art form, and so I’m very much teaching from a beginner’s point of view.
I think this works well, and makes the lessons accessible to all who have the desire to learn.
The pleasure is all mine Patrice.
I’m always available for additional guidance or recommendations should you need it, so you can post questions in the forum, or email me directly.
Enjoy the lessons and learning materials and I look forward to hearing about your progress
Pleased to meet you all, hope to have some nice musical exchanges with all of you, I just became a member so will dive deeper into all of the site in the coming weeks. To introduce myself and what brought me here;
I’m Matthijs from Amsterdam. 30 years old, been playing piano on and off (mostly on) since my 8th birthday. Added guitar on my 16th and can sing a bit as well, but my main instrument would be the piano. Had a very classical training and combined with lots of practicing hours I’ve come to quite a good level (I’d say Chopin first Ballade is the most technical/difficult piece I’ve played). Can play most pieces immediately from sight, overall technique is good. However, learning improvisation and jazz has been quite a struggle, because my classical piano teacher didn’t teach me anything on theory and improvising. Scales were for technique only. Since my 16th or so, I started playing at events/auction homes etc and gradually I became more interested in jazz, because it often better fitted the occassion I was playing. But mostly because I started to love the genre in itself as well. Mainly I just played transcribed jazz music from sheet, however learning more about the genre I had a growing desire to become able to just sit behind the piano and play whatever was in my head. Because there often is a lot in my head, but the fingers won’t get it out. So during my 20’s, next to full-time (non-musical) study & work, I did two one-year educations, among others hoping to learn this a bit more. One education was on composition/arranging/improvisation/song-writing (the end project was composing a full score for an entire orchestra). The other education was more on sound production/design, so the studio & recording. Although these educations were very enriching and I now have acquired several extra skills, regarding improvisation it was still a bit broad, so that currently I’m still not satisfied at all with my improvising skills. My improvisaition skills are limited to some simple blues, major/minor scale improvisation with a bit of 2-5-1, but that’s about it. I therefore started with private lessons at the beginning of this year, but there wasn’t really a good match with the teacher. The teacher had a very technical approach (you can’t do this and you can’t do that) and was lacking structure. Next to that it can be hard to fit live lessons next to a full-time job. Therefore I’m now hoping to find my luck on Pianogroove, until now I very much like the structured approach so far. The plan is to this time try to stick to a method from beginning to end. In the end I’m really hoping to come to a level that I will be able to play what’s in my head, where it doesn’t always need to be jazz but can also be more poppy/classical or whatever type of music. I then would like to combine my piano skills with the other instruments and recording/composing skills, hoping to build and record some nice pieces of music. If I could get some general tips on which courses (or in which order) could fit me well, it would be very nice. So I’ll see how it goes, but hope to learn from you all.
If you can sing it, you can play it. Simply match the keys to the pitches that your voice is singing.
Many times as students, it’s difficult for us to sing an improvised melody. If this case, the solution is to listen to LOTS of jazz, emulate the recordings, sing parts of the solos etc… and this gets the music, the rhythms, and the phrasing inside of our bodies and our minds.
It’s a funny predicament because many students (myself included at one point) try to improvise jazz music when we have not spent the time to truly listen to the music we are trying to play!!
Here’s an analogy to help better explain:
Imagine trying to paint an impressionist painting, without first looking at, and studying the work of the great impressionist artists. For sure you would be able to paint something, but without first studying the best artists, your perspective would be limited. I feel that the same is true for all of the arts, you must first study and immerse yourself in what has come before you.
I think that’s a nice analogy with the painting and it highlights how important listening and transcription is to develop as an aspiring jazz musician.
Another Interesting View On Improvisation…
There is a concept/view concerning improvisation, and that is that the piano is not really the instrument, instead, you are the instrument. The piano is just a mass of wood, metal, and/or plastic, which we use as a ‘vehicle’ to express the sounds we are hearing in our head.
And so how do we get the sounds in our head in the first place?..
Listening and transcription is the key.
Check out the following courses which are focused around this:
This course provides a nice introduction to transcription:
If you are new to transcription, start by transcribing 251 lines. The 251 is the most common progression in jazz music, and so you will get the ‘most mileage’ out of your transcribed material. The first examples in this course are beginner-focused, and then as the course progresses, we look at transcribing longer sections of a solo:
How To Play In A Jazz Band:
Check out the last lesson in this course and you will see the process that I follow to absorb the styles and nuances of the players I like. This is the great thing about transcription Matthijs, you are in complete control of the direction of your sound. You just need to put the hours in to listen and transcribe:
This course contains some basic improvisation concepts:
This course does not address transcription, but the idea is that it will give you some insight into improvised melodic ideas, how to structure your improvisations, and bits of general guidance and advice:
Finally, this blues course explores chord tones, approach patterns, and transcription:
This is a beginner-focused course, so it starts with very simple analysis and examples, but the latter half of the course contains some very important concepts that you will hear in many improvised jazz solos:
Whilst these lessons will help give you some direction Matthijs, you must dedicate the time to listening and transcribing. This is a hard process to get started with, but a very rewarding one. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.
I hope this helps give you some direction, and any questions we’re always happy to help.
the hard point is we have a lot of things to learn, even for such a good classical musician like you matthijs
And i think some basics must be mastered too , to be able to free our right hand ,one of the most important is the rootless chords and it is great covered here in the beginner course, but triads scales too.
I have create a topic where we could post our progress and give us some easy challenge to keep us improving all days. Please i really appreciate if i not stay alone … Lets create a practice group! Waiting you fellow musicians !
I had more ideas yesterday, I think we definitely go ahead with a new forum category for the practice routines.
We can add some programming to the forum which allows us to vote, or “thumbs up” an entire thread, not just a post within the thread. This functionality would just be on the forum category for practice routines.
This means that we can have a huge list of practice routines, submitted by both our teachers and our students, and then the community can “thumb them up” so that the most useful ones appear at the top of the page, along with the amounts of “thumbs up” they have received.
I will be driving this initiative forward:
This week I will have completed the practice routines and tutorials on the following 2 courses:
Firstly, the course on Extended Chords & Voicings:
and secondly, the course on Mastering Left Hand Rootless Voicings:
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.
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.