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#1140178 - 09/04/08 12:01 AM Jazz piano: Where to start?
2362 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/03/08
Posts: 1
Hi there, i have just returned to my piano to learn jazz and i would like to know where to start. Can you please give me some websites to check out? Haha i would also like to input more jazz music into my itunes, could anyone recommend some good jazz music to get me going too? Thanks!!! \:\)
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#1140179 - 09/04/08 07:52 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
knotty Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 3001
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
Jazz sites, with tons of lessons:

mp3s to download: www.emusic.com

#1140180 - 09/04/08 07:57 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/30/07
Posts: 290
Loc: Massachusetts
I don't mean to be a wise guy, but the first most obvious question would be what kind of jazz do you already enjoy?

Pianists are an interesting case...there are solo jazz pianists, piano-bass duos, trios (add drums), quartets and other small groups, and then larger groups. Where would you like to zero in at first?

Of course, there are thousands of pianists, playing in styles ranging as far back as ragtime and stride, to today's modern pianists. What kinds of pianists have you already heard, and do you enjoy?

Arguably, one of the bridges between older styles and modern jazz piano is Bill Evans (50s-70s). So, one basic question is are you looking for something earlier than Bill Evans, or something Bill Evans or later?

(and you could probably say the same thing about a hundred other pianists)

Unfortunately, it's not so easy to focus on something that truly is so vast.

#1140181 - 09/09/08 02:54 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England

I agree completely with your views. Jazz is an art form and as such is all in the ears, with music. Nobody can know what others hear or the emotions that arise from such art. A very difficult matter to describe.

It really depends on your own feelings and emotions.

What has inspired you 2362, to ask this question? Do you have a collection of jazz recordings. If not, I would suggest you listen to as much jazz as possible and see what you like.


#1140182 - 09/26/08 04:08 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
Ficciones Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/25/08
Posts: 2
I was about to post a topic with the same question, although I know a little more about what kind of jazz.

Bill Evans, based off the material I've heard, is what Chopin would have loved to hear had he lived to this day. As Guy said, he's almost like a bridge, Waltz to Debby being almost iconic to me of the jump from a simple, beautiful melody to the jazz improv. Bud Powell is also great to me too.

And the improv itself is so vast and open, it's great, I love it.

My question is, if I have a basic knowledge of chords and chordal harmony to begin with, that is, I can read all the chords on sight on the improv fakebook, what can I do beyond playing different inversions of the chord for that section? Can my melody take on a few passing/neighboring tones? And where should I go overall from here?

#1140183 - 09/26/08 07:12 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
knotty Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 3001
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)
Hi Ficciones,

Welcome to the forum.

Are you trying to play solo piano?
So a good way to start is play a simple bass line in the left hand, maybe Root + 7 alternate with Root +3 in the LH. Add some chromatism here and there.

With RH, play chords + melody. The RH chords don't include the root. Probably not the 5ht either. That leaves 3 and 7 (the shell). Experiment with color tones.
Try to hold this chords down while playing the melody above with top fingers. And where you have space, fill up with simple runs (move up and down the scales, or chromatically).

I think contrary to what one might think, tunes with less chords are more difficult to play than those with lots of chords (in general). Tunes with lots of chords kind of play themselves, so try stuff like Tenderly, Ask Me Now, Polka Dots ...

Record yourself and post it here. That will help you a lot focus.

Take care.

#1140184 - 09/26/08 07:44 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
Guy Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/30/07
Posts: 290
Loc: Massachusetts

Jazz is like learning a new language. You're building a vocabulary and are starting to learn a few idiomatic expressions. So, how do you form sentences and formulate entire paragraphs? Maybe you jump right in and try and converse with a "native speaker". Maybe you listen to some language tapes, and try and mimic situations on the tapes.

Or, jazz-wise: listening, transcribing, and jamming.

Listen, to the types of music you are trying to absorb.

Transcribe, especially artists and recordings that are accessible (my piano teacher gave me a long list of performers that he felt were accessible, and that list included Hank Jones, Wynton Kelly, Red Garland and others).

Jamming, by finding a like-minded group of people who are willing to learn and are willing to tutor. Apply the language lessons you have been learning.

#1140185 - 09/26/08 09:18 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 676
Loc: Chicago
I'd also suggest Jamey Aebersold play along CDs. They are recorded with bass, drums and piano, but you can set them so that you only hear bass and drums. It's like playing in a jazz trio. Improvising is so much easier when you have a rhythm section behind you.

#1140186 - 09/29/08 03:16 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
swingal Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/31/05
Posts: 1094
Loc: England
jjo, I like your suggestions. I must get some of Jamey's CDS. I play along with CDs a lot. It is good for the ear retention that 'by ear ' players need. At least that's my position.


#1140187 - 09/29/08 11:41 AM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
bbear Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/14/08
Posts: 17
Loc: Boise, ID
Speaking as a hopelessly left-brained, classically trained analytic, I would like to see a worked example. That is, a score that starts with a simple tune, and then adds Jazz variations. A Gershwin perhaps as played by a mellow Keith Jarrett or Dave McKenna. Does such a thing exist?

#1140188 - 09/29/08 01:07 PM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
knotty Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/01/07
Posts: 3001
Loc: Bethesda, MD (Washington D.C)

what's your level? there's ton of good stuff out there. There's a Steinway collection which contains tunes from PianoToday. The collection (called Piano Stylings) can be found here:

PianoToday also is a great subscription with things to play in various genres. (classical - Jazz - Latin). Tunes are arranged and explained.

If you are mostly a beginner, these are really easy to play and will sound good regardless of your level:

Ultimately, once you get acquainted with the various devices and sound, you should try transcription short portions from your CD collection. But first, I would get some good arrangements under your fingers.

Take care.

#1140189 - 09/29/08 01:24 PM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 676
Loc: Chicago

You can find something like what you've suggested in either of Mark Levine's book, The Jazz Piano Book, and the Jazz Theory Book. Both are highly regarded for explaining jazz theory. In the Jazz Piano Book, for example, he takes a beautiful Wayne Shorter tune, Infant Eyes, and first shows how to voice it with basic chords, and then more complex chords. The Jazz Theory book has a whole chapter on re-harmonization, which takes phrases from standards and shows how they have been re-harmonized. I think the key is that it's not that helpful to just play a written arrangement; you need a guide to explain why the arrangement works. Is it a tri-tone substitution that works? Is it adding a II-V sequence? To learn jazz, ya gotta learn some theory!

#1140190 - 10/11/08 08:14 PM Re: Jazz piano: Where to start?
William A.P.M. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/09/08
Posts: 554
Loc: Ecuador
For jazz piano, I highly recommend the music of Nikolai Kapustin and George Antheil. Their piano music is filled with that flavor of jazz that you are perhaps looking for. I even think George Gershwin's piano preludes are decent. They certainly do not fit in a classical genre.


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