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Topic: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?  (Read 7265 times)

Offline coke

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How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
on: October 16, 2013, 04:20:55 PM
Hi, this is my first time here ::)

I wanna ask what can I do if I want to learn Jazz Piano by myself?

I'm grade 8 in ABRSM, poor skill, poor theory, poor creativity. Only know how to follow the scores.
Am I need to start from an electronic piano or something?
What kind of theory I must learn first?
Which song(s)/musician(s) is/are recommend for the one don't know any about Jazz?

Thanks all. It would really helps.


(If you ask why you know nothing but still want to learn, I would say, just like a kind of language. I'm really interest on it but I can understand nothing before I learn it  :) )

Offline gregh

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Re: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
Reply #1 on: October 16, 2013, 06:28:26 PM
Jazz is sort of a musician's genre-- it's not that popular out in the wild these days, but musicians seem to be attracted to it, and sometimes only after they've been playing for a while.

One of the most important things you can do is listen. A lot. Learn what it is supposed to sound like, find out who you want to sound like. Get a real book, find a few versions of the song on YouTube, and practice playing it. There are also "how to play jazz" type books that will help you with some of the basic vocabulary.

Style is one thing, improvisation is another. Improvisation is a part of every musical form, including classical, but it is especially important in jazz. A standard jazz piece will be to play the head (that's the written part you'd find in a real book), then the soloists each take turns with improvised performances (the audience shows their appreciation by clapping at the conclusion of each solo), and the head is played again. I'm uncomfortable with improv, maybe someone else can say more.

If you want a theory book, you might look for the book Jazzology (descriptive although dorky title-- it's named after one of the songs that is analyzed in the book). Music theory as applied to jazz isn't wildly different from what you might have learned somewhere else-- same fundamentals, different application. If you're really poor at theory you might want to start with Alfred's three books, Essentials of Music Theory. They don't get very advanced, but they're quite good.

You absolutely do not need an electronic piano to play jazz. Acoustic pianos (or at least electronic pianos that sound like acoustics-- how would I know over the radio?) are still by far the most common. Electronics can be used if you have a particular sound in mind. (Check out some of Miles Davis's stuff, like the albums Tutu and pregnant dog's Brew. And Trombone Shorty does some exciting stuff with heavy metal guitar in his album Backatown-- I'm just saying that the field is wide open for experimentation.) If you get something electronic, you'll want to get something that can do Hammond B3 with Leslie speakers-- that is THE electronic keyboard setup in jazz.

Offline landru

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Re: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
Reply #2 on: October 16, 2013, 07:21:00 PM
I wanna ask what can I do if I want to learn Jazz Piano by myself?
Ah...that's the dilemma in a nutshell. I'm a grade or two below you in classical terms, but I've been struggling with learning jazz for a few years, and the "solo" aspect is a big hurdle.

I've come to the conclusion that maybe jazz is learned best when it is far away from written scores and complicated harmonic theories (which is what you'll find in the majority of jazz education books). In the ideal way I think learning jazz should be done by doing it in a group - jazz grew out of collaborative give and take where the ear of the instrumentalist was in a sense the main instrument and the piano, horn, bass or whatever is kinda secondary. These guys (and gals, but all too seldom...) are *listening* to each other when they are playing, as much as they are playing.

So how would somebody who doesn't have a jazz trio at their beck and call go about it? I think the best way is to try to get the same "sense" of a group in approaching learning jazz piano. The drummer and bassist (and sometimes the pianist) supply the rhythm which almost all of jazz is built on. I think that is the place to start - some books do start with rhythm, but most start right on with harmonies and scales.

Listen to jazz trios and really try to hear the various ways the drummer and bassist lay down the beats. Then just take a chord and emulate the beat that you feel. THAT is the soul of jazz piano, I think. I've come to feel it's a mistake to concentrate on the piano lines right from the start - for a classical pianist it is way too close to the way we always have made music. Jazz is a whole 'nother beast. Get the beat down, and then when you're just pounding that one chord around - then your head and hands are going to itch to do something different around that beat. They might arpeggiate (sp?) the chord, they might fill in the beats in different ways, they might do scale fragments on that chord. That, my friend, is what I think is the soul of jazz. IMHO, once you've got that rhythm feel down, THEN learn about all the scales, chord voicings, fake or real books, ii-IV-V, modes etc. All that stuff follows organically from where you just started with messing around with the beat with one chord!

Offline coke

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Re: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
Reply #3 on: October 18, 2013, 12:43:14 PM
>>gregh

Thank you. I will try to find out the books you've mentioned.
I think the first thing I have to do is, as you say, listen. I've just seen the name "Oscar Peterson" in this forum. May be a good start? :D


>>landru

Thanks for your answer. I think you recommended that I have to group a band?
Actually I meet a new friend who love jazz is playing (electronic) guitar. We may form a band hereafter but we should be a (jazzy) rock band and I play bass guitar...
Anyway I will try my best ^^

Offline gregh

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Re: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
Reply #4 on: October 18, 2013, 11:16:31 PM
(Check out some of Miles Davis's stuff, like the albums Tutu and pregnant dog's Brew...)

I just noticed this. You won't find an album by Miles Davis that is titled Pregnant Dog's Brew. But if you can guess which word was filtered out, you will find a pioneering work in the history of jazz.

Nothing beats playing with people who know the style and are willing to put up with you. But the notion that jazz players don't know anything about theory and figured it all out by sound is a myth. There are some, I suppose, but by and large, they know theory better than about anyone-- every improvised performance is a composition done in real-time. As one author put it, you can plop your hand down on any set of keys and a jazz pianist will tell you the name of the chord, even if it takes twenty minutes to say it. Miles Davis demanded much more of his people, since he wanted freedom from set chord changes and he expected his rhythm section to keep up and make his notes the right ones. Jazz is a musical conversation between musicians, and there's a lot more going on than in a typical rock/pop song. They don't think much about modes and scales and chords when they're playing, they just play what they think will sound good. But they have the sounds in their heads and they know how to play it because they practice it.

I've sometimes thought that there's nothing special about jazz as a style in the sense of improvisation (just as some heavy metal musicians play sonatas and concertinas in their particular style-- that's cataloged under "symphonic metal"). You could do the same thing in a baroque style, but it tends to be written out in advance. Or in a heavy metal style, but radio rock is usually much simpler. Learn what you can, don't limit your inspiration to piano performances, and feel free to develop it as you please. It's not like the music Nazis are going to be kicking down your door saying "You in the wrong genre, boy!"

Offline pianoplunker

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Re: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
Reply #5 on: October 19, 2013, 07:58:34 PM
Hi, this is my first time here ::)

I wanna ask what can I do if I want to learn Jazz Piano by myself?

I'm grade 8 in ABRSM, poor skill, poor theory, poor creativity. Only know how to follow the scores.
Am I need to start from an electronic piano or something?
What kind of theory I must learn first?
Which song(s)/musician(s) is/are recommend for the one don't know any about Jazz?

Thanks all. It would really helps.


(If you ask why you know nothing but still want to learn, I would say, just like a kind of language. I'm really interest on it but I can understand nothing before I learn it  :) )

The Jazz level is way beyond grade 8 ABRSM both on theory and performance so learning about Jazz and trying might be the thing to make your ABSM much better. If you are trying to learn by yourself, you will be stuck with a myriad of books. If you can possibly find a teacher who knows Jazz and plays Jazz , you probably will do far better. I remember when I took Jazz lessons from a good teacher, the theory was off the hook, and over my head, even though I thought I was well versed. You need to know your scales and modes well enough to play "outside" the key yet still be in the music. For instance you may be playing a progression in a key but the solo might be in a different key in order to create a unique mode.  If you dont know all the pentatonic, and blues scales, learn them . 

Offline Bob

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Re: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
Reply #6 on: October 19, 2013, 09:15:53 PM
Pregnant Dog's Brew.... ::)

It's B-I-t-c-h-'-s Brew.   ::)
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline robinsky

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Re: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
Reply #7 on: July 08, 2015, 09:12:04 PM
One way to learn jazz piano is to learn jazzy re-harmonizations of a standard tune, from specially arranged sheet music. These contain much of that rich harmony that characterizes jazz interpretations, as opposed to stock sheet music versions. Even though this does not teach you to improvise melodically, it can point the way to harmonic creativity, which is a cornerstone of all jazz interpretations.

There are some excellent online courses, some free, some fee-based. The fee-based ones tend to be more professional and offer personalized support. One I would highly recommend is by New York jazz pianist David Hazeltine: https://www.jazzpianomastery.com  It took my playing to a very sophisticated level in just 3 months! 8)

Offline dcstudio

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Re: How can I start to learn Jazz Piano?
Reply #8 on: July 14, 2015, 10:32:50 PM


I wanna ask what can I do if I want to learn Jazz Piano by myself?




that's the only way to learn it...

the jazz language  by Dan Haerle---  great book.
effortless mastery  by Kenny Werner---another great book
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