If you are new to jazz piano, figuring out what to work on and what to practice can be a daunting task. Here’s a few tips and bits of advice to get you off to a flying start:
The Start Of A Journey
Firstly understand that learning jazz is a journey and it will take time. Don’t expect for it to happen overnight. You will never get to the point where you have ‘learnt everything’ – there is always more to learn. Instead of focusing on the end, enjoy the journey you are taking.
The Importance Of Jazz Standards
I am a strong believer that learning to play as many jazz standards as possible is the quickest way to improve. This is because you are exposed to many different chords and progressions. Once you can play 10-15 jazz standards you will have an armoury of different chord voicings at your disposal. This is why all PianoGroove tutorials are focused around jazz standards. I always relate what I am teaching back to jazz standards so that you understand the theory in a practical context.
If you are completely new to jazz piano, I’d recommend starting with the following 3 lessons:
Learn how to play these 3 tunes by copying my arrangements. This will help you get a feel for playing jazz and how to build spread voicings containing the root, 3rd, 7th and the melody on top.
Common Chord Progressions
Major 251s and minor 251s are the most common and important chord progression in jazz and so you need to be able to play these. Check out the lessons on the major 251, rootless major 251 and the minor 251 and I have also included the practice resources for these lessons below so print these off and work through them in all 12 keys. When you can play these comfortably, you will find it much easier to play through jazz standards.
Depending on how long you have to practice, split it up into 5, 10 or 15 minute chunks where you focus on different topics. Then revisit the topic regularly. Learning the piano is a lot like going to the gym, you don’t see improvements whilst in the gym, it happens when you are sleeping. The worst thing you can do is just practise the same thing over and over for hours on end. Using the approach above, if you have 1 hour to practise each day, you can cover 5-10 different topics. When you revisit the same topic multiple days in a row you will start to see noticeable improvement which is great motivation. For more information check out this lesson on jazz piano practice routines