Online Jazz Piano Lessons from PianoGroove.com
PianoGroove jazz piano lessons can be broadly split into 2 categories: theory lessons and jazz standard lessons. The theory lessons cover the fundamentals of jazz piano including basic scales and chords, common progressions such as major 251s and minor 251s and also chord extensions and alterations. The jazz standard lessons apply the theory in a practical context and show you how to build an arrangement from a lead sheet.
All PianoGroove tutorials are planned, recorded and edited based on 3 core principles:
Our online jazz piano lessons start with a thorough explanation of the topic covered. We pay special attention to the pacing of the lesson and ensure that the material is covered slowly enough for you to fully digest the key points. All lessons begin with simple examples and the difficulty gradually increases throughout the lesson.
PianoGroove's unique 3-part layout provides the best visual quality on the web. The Synchronized Light-Up Midi Keyboard gives you instant clarity into dense voicings so you can always see which notes are being played. Our In-Video Notation allows you to gain deeper insight into the material covered and relate the theory to chord symbols, shapes and progressions.
Perhaps the most valuable feature of PianoGroove. All jazz piano lessons are applied to common chord changes so that you understand how to use the theory in a practical context. The goal for many students is to pick up a fake book and just play from lead sheets. Whether you are playing solo piano, or with a band or jazz trio, this skill is invaluable.
Over 20 Free Jazz Piano Lessons!
JAZZ PIANO LESSONS FOR BEGINNERS
PianoGroove.com contains over 20 free jazz piano lessons. These lessons cover the foundations of jazz piano including the major 251 progression, the rootless 251 progression and the minor 251 progression. These 3 progressions make up the DNA of jazz and so you need to be familiar with them and be able to play them in all 12 keys. Virtually every jazz standards or lead sheet you come across will contain major or minor 25s and 251s in some form and so knowing these jazz piano chord progressions will allow you to learn and interpret lead sheet notation quickly and effectively.
JAZZ PIANO CHORDS
There are a selection of free jazz piano lessons for expanding your knowledge of chords and voicings. The best place to start is to get a good understanding of jazz piano intervals. A strong working knowledge of intervals will allow you to understand the structure of jazz piano chords and help you with building chords quickly on the piano. The next step is to understand jazz piano triads which include major triads, minor triads, diminished triads and augmented triads. Triads are the basic building blocks for creating 7th chords and extended chords on the piano.
Once you can build triads, you simply add the 7th note of the scale to create 7th chords on the piano. After mastering the 5 different types of 7th chord it's time to delve into extended harmony - this is where things start to get interesting!
Extended chords are one of the hallmarks of jazz piano creating rich sounds and sonorities. The main extended piano chords lesson provides a general overview of where chord extensions come from and how to extend chords to include the 9th, 11th and 13th. This lesson also references a number of popular extended chords such as the So What Chord which was popularised by jazz pianist Bill Evans, the So What Chord the Herbie Hancock Chord Lesson and the Kenny Barron Voicing.
These lessons will equip you with a selection of chords and voicings that can be used in lead sheets and jazz standards to build you solo arrangements. One big tip here is to memorise the scale degree of the top of these voicings so that you can spot opportunities to play them when reading from lead sheets.
JAZZ STANDARD LESSONS
The most effective way to learn jazz piano is through playing jazz standards. Jazz standards are famous musical compositions that lend themselves to harmonic and melodic development. This is the reason they are so popular amongst jazz musicians. Many of the most famous jazz standards are from Broadway show tunes or Hollywood musicals and were not actually written by jazz musicians. That being said, most of the great jazz musicians did compose their own tunes.
There are 6 free jazz standard lessons on PianoGroove.com. Some of these lessons are easier than others and so they should be approached in the following order:
How to Read Lead Sheets - This lesson provides an introduction to the layout of the lead sheet. We use Miles Davis' tune "Tune Up" as it has a simple form and contains a number of major 251 progression which are easy to navigate for the beginner. If you come from a classical background, you will be used to reading music from 2 staves and so it can be challenging when you come to interpreting a 1 stave lead sheet. This lesson covers the fundamentals so that you understand the meaning behind jazz chord symbols and know how to spot common chord progressions on a lead sheet.
Tenderly Tutorial Lesson - Now that you understand the basic structure of the lead sheet, it's time to approach a slightly more challenging jazz standard. Tenderly is another great tune for beginners due to the amount of space between the chords. Most bars are just 1 chord for the entire measure which gives the beginner more time to think. In this lesson we expand upon spread voicings and create a beautiful sounding solo arrangement. Make sure you pay attention to the 7ths dropping to 3rds in the 25s and 251s!
Misty Piano Tutorial - Another fantastic jazz standard written by the great jazz pianist Erroll Garner. This tune is slightly more challenging than Tenderly as most bars have more than one chord so the chord changes are moving faster. We continue voicing the chords using root, 3rds and 7ths with the melody on top and then start to add some more interesting and jazzy sounding chord extensions. This is the one of the most popular jazz standards on PianoGroove so enjoy.
My Foolish Heart Piano Lesson - My Foolish Heart is a cocktail piano classic. The Bill Evans Trio recording is the definitive recording of the tune so be sure to check that out. This tune introduces the minor 251 progression as well as major 251s that we have come across in previous tune. Minor harmony is more challenging than major harmony so it will take some practice to nail these chord changes.
My One And Only Love - Guy Wood, born in Manchester UK in 1911, was an English songwriter who moved to United States. His famous ballad - My One And Only Love - is one of his most famous compositions and a favourite amongst jazz musicians. The slash notation in this standard looks intimidating for beginners but is actually quite straight-forward once you understand what is going on harmonically.
Blue in Green Piano Lesson - This tutorial was created as part of the PianoGroove Pro membership package but was released to give students an idea of the level of complexity of Pro Tutorials. The tune contains lots of extended and altered harmony which is challenging to understand for beginner. We look at more complex ways to voice chords such as upper structures and altered left hand voicings. The Miles Davis recording on his album 'Kind of Blue' is essential listening for a student looking to learn this tune.
PianoGroove Pro Member Lessons
PianoGroove Pro is an online jazz piano course that covers more detailed and advanced topics. These jazz piano tutorials are focused towards intermediate students who understand the basics and want to take their playing to the next level. The pro lessons on chords and voicings delve deeper into altered jazz harmony. Altered voicings are usually associated with the minor 251 progression but we can also apply altered jazz chords to any major 251 progression. Adding these alterations will spice up the sound of major 251s and create more interest in your playing.
An important area of study in altered harmony is upper structure triads. Sometimes abbreviated to upper structures, these two handed voicings are the most effective way to learn and memorise chord shapes for complex altered dominant sounds. Other lessons in this series cover advice and guidance for practicing upper structures and also a dedicated lesson on applying upper structures to jazz standards.
BUILDING AN ARSENAL OF CHORD VOICINGS
Having a wide range of chord voicings at your disposal is an important skill for the jazz pianist. Whilst there are almost infinite possibilities for voicing dominant chords with alterations and upper structures, there are less possibilities for major and minor chords. 2 lessons in the pro series provide a selection of voicings that work well for major and minor chords:
The major chord voicings lesson provides a range of voicings that work well under each note of the Lydian mode. The Lydian mode is the 4th mode of the major scale and the majority of the time the melody over a major chord will be one of these 7 notes. Memorising the formulas of these voicings will allow you to quickly and easily find major chord voicings when playing through jazz standards.
The minor chord voicings lesson provides a range of voicings that work well under each note of the Dorian mode. The Dorian mode is the 2nd mode of the major scale and the majority of the time, the melody note over minor chords will be one of these 7 notes. Internalising the construction of these minor voicings will equip you with an arsenal of minor voicings for use in jazz standards, leads sheets and improvisation.
Cluster voicings are another useful type of voicing. These dense fragments of chords are unusual as they don't always contain the 2 'essential chord tones' which are the 3rd and 7th of the chord. This can lead to harmonic ambiguity which adds interest and tension to a performance providing much needed contrast to more traditional closed position chord voicings.
Common chord progressions can be spread across both hands to achieve a bigger sound and to access specific chord extensions and alterations. The 2 handed 251 lesson introduces some new chord voicings using colour tones such as b9s and #9s to highlight altered harmony.
Sometimes it can be a nice touch to add your own chords when playing through jazz standards. The easiest way to do this is to gain an understanding of passing chords and how to spot opportunities to add these to your arrangements. Passing chords are great for making your arrangements sound more inventive and original.
UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CHORDS & SCALES
Jazz piano scales and modes are used extensively for improvisation.
Chords and scales share a very intimate relationship. This relationship is known as chord scale theory. All chords imply a scale, or in some cases multiple scales and these scales are used extensively for jazz improvisation. Something to recognise is that the word 'mode' is used interchangeably with scale. Modal Jazz - which originated in the late 1950s and 1960s - is where these 'musical modes' or scales are used to create the harmonic framework of a tune. Miles Davis was a pioneer in this movement with his revolutionary album 'Kind of Blue'. The first step in understanding modal theory is to learn and memorise the modes of the major scale.
Once you understand how to construct the 7 modes of the major scale, the next step is to learn the melodic minor modes. The modes of the melodic minor scale epitomise the sound of modern jazz improvisation. Of these 7 modes, the melodic minor mode, lydian dominant mode and altered mode are the 3 most useful.
It is important for jazz musicians to understand the construction of the modes and also be able to identify where the modes can be applied. A short lesson on choosing modes and chord scales provides a two step process which will allow you to identify and select suitable modes when playing over jazz standards. This 2 step approach is then applied in context of a jazz standard in the lesson improvising over Blue in Green.
An incredibly useful and exotic sounding scale is the half whole diminished scale. As the name suggests, the scale alternates half and whole steps until the scale starts again. The symmetrical interval structure means that there are only 3 different half whole diminished scales to learn for all 12 keys. This scale is useful for playing over minor 251s and outlines the altered chord tones b9, #9 and #11 but the natural 13 - remember not to play this scale over chords containing a b13!
PRO JAZZ STANDARD LESSONS
The Pro Member jazz standard piano lessons are more challenging and in-depth than the free content on the website. Some of these tutorials are up to 40 minutes long so it will take a while to work through the material covered in these lessons. You can also find a selection of Christmas jazz piano lessons that are available for download. These christmas jazz piano tunes are perfect to entertain your family and friends over the holidays! Here is an overview of the Pro jazz standard lessons:
Autumn Leaves Jazz Piano Tutorial - Autumn Leaves is one of the most famous standards in the jazz repertoire. If you turn up to a jam session you can be sure that this number will be called! In this lesson we begin by playing simple jazz piano voicings containing the root, 3rds and 7ths. We then create some bigger voicings using extensions, alterations and upper structure harmony. We also create both a ballad and an up-tempo arrangement so that you have a few different ways of playing over these important changes.
All The Things You Are Tutorial - This is another common jazz standard that's always called at the jam sessions. Again we create both a ballad and up tempo arrangement and we spend time on adding interesting passing chords to liven up the changes. We also look at some new applications of quartal harmony which is voicings based on stacked fourths.
My Funny Valentine Lesson - 36 minutes in length, this is one of the longest tutorials on the website. The lesson starts by breaking down Herbie Hancock's piano introduction from the Miles Davis Sextet version of the tune. We then play through the form using left hand voicings and begin to build up a solo arrangement. One of the challenging aspects of 'My Funny Valentine' is the low register of the melody. This can be overcome by utilising the higher octaves to quote the melody. This tune contains one of the most famous examples of the minor line cliche - it's important to understand this common progression.
The Shadow Of Your Smile Tutorial - The Shadow Of Your Smile is a delightful latin tune which some interesting changes to play over. We start off with some simple two handed voicings and then gradually increase the difficulty and the complexity of the chords and voicings in the arrangement. There is good amount of space in the melody and chord changes which makes this a great tune for adding movement and interest in our left hand.
In A Sentimental Mood and Sophisticated Lady are two unmistakable ballads by the great Duke Ellington. The form of 'In A Sentimental Mood' is very accessible making this a perfect jazz standard tutorial for beginners. Written in the key of D minor, it also a useful tune for practising bluesy licks and riffs in between the chord changes. 'Sophisticated Lady' is a much more challenging tune containing lots of dominant chords and chromaticism - two characteristic features of earlier jazz piano arrangements. Whilst the form is tricky to navigate, it presents the student with a fantastic sequence of chords to practise upper structures and other altered dominant chord voicings.
Body and Soul Tutorial - Body and Soul is the most widely recorded jazz standard - pretty much every great jazz musician has recorded a version. The tune is popular due to the rich chord sequences and interesting modulations and changes. These features make Body and Soul a great tune for exploring jazz piano chord reharmonisation.
Beautiful Love Tutorial - Victor Young's Beautiful Love is a widely recorded jazz standard. The tune is versatile as it can be played as a ballad and also at a medium to up tempo. This lesson provides an arrangement for both of these styles, starting of as a freely-played ballad and then turning into a more up-beat swing version for the repeat. We harmonise the melody with block chords which are great for adding syncopated rhythm to your playing.
Round Midnight Tutorial Lesson - Round Midnight is Thelonious Monk's most famous composition and is a great tune for practising the minor 251 progression. Written in the key of Eb Minor, the 6 flats in the key signature makes the melody challenging to learn. Melodically, the A section of tune is very busy and the fingering can be tricky in places. It's well worth listening to Monk's arrangement of this tune, his rhythmic placement of chords is unique to his style of jazz piano.
Have You Met Miss Jones Tutorial - Have You Met Miss Jones is usually played at faster tempos so we start the tutorial by running through left hand voicings for all of the chords in the changes. Rootless Left Hand Piano Voicings are particularly suited to up tempo tunes and allow you to play through changes whilst keeping your hand in a small range on the keyboard.
Stella By Starlight Jazz Piano Tutorial - Stella By Starlight is a challenging standard and contains some tricky chords to navigate. The tune is packed full of minor harmony and so a good understanding of the minor 251 progression is essential. This 30 minute tutorial covers both left hand voicngs and also more complex two handed voicings.
There Will Never Be Another You Tutorial - There Will Never Be Another You is a jazz ballad written in the key of Eb Major. The tune contains a lot of step wise melodies which makes it particularly useful for piano block chords and drop 2 piano voicings.
Autumn In New York Piano Tutorial - Autumn In New York is a jazz piano classic. This is one of the most challenging tutorials on PianoGroove and the arrangement contains a lot of upper structure triads and also applications of suspended harmony and block chords. We jump straight in with some two handed voicings and work through the entire form.
These Foolish Things Tutorial - These Foolish Things is a bouncy jazz ballad which a catch melody. The arrangement for These Foolish Things is accessible to beginners so this is a great tutorial if you're just starting out with jazz piano.
Time Remembered Tutorial - A composition by Bill Evans, Time Remembered is a unique tune composed entirely of major and minor chords. The absence of dominant and diminished harmony creates an unusual sound but Bill overcomes this by utilising upper extensions and alterations in the melody and choosing interesting root movement throughout the tune.
Easy To Love Tutorial - Cole Porter's Easy To Love is a great jazz piano lesson for beginners. Written in the key of C major, the chords are easy to navigate and the form contains many common 25 and 251 progressions. Whilst the lead sheet may look simple, the tune can be enriched with upper structures and chord substitutions making it a great beginner to intermediate jazz piano lesson.
What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life Tutorial - Michel Legrand's tunes are known for being notoriously difficult. This delightful jazz ballad contains a challenging set of chord changes and numerous 251s in keys that don't appear very often in the standard repertoire. The bridge of the tune is particularly tricky to navigate and should be approached slowly with a metronome. There are sections of the tune where the melody and harmony remains static and so it's down to the performer to add extra interest and keep a sense of forward momentum. We embellish the dominant chords in the bridge with suspensions resolving to b9 alterations. Understanding how to delay dominant chord resolution with suspensions is a useful skill and is a great tool for adding additional movement to a 251 progression.