How to Play Jazz Piano

Posted by: Making Music

How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 10:48 AM

We've just made this animated video explaining how to play jazz piano using the blues scale - hope you find it helpful! Any other good tips or resources for learning jazz piano?

Posted by: gooddog

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 11:05 AM

Welcome to Piano World. I think you would get a better response if you posted this in Pianist Corner - Non Classical. Although there is a Stride/Ragtime thread going, PC is focused on classical music.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 11:25 AM

I disagree. There are lots of classical pianists who wish they could play even basic jazz piano so I think this is an appropriate place to post it.
Posted by: Making Music

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 11:36 AM

Thanks for the input, though - I'll shoot it over there too!
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 12:44 PM

To be accurate, that's not 'playing jazz' per se, that's merely plugging in a scale over a handful (three actually) of chords\bass notes. It might get someone started in being interested in learning how to improvise, but I'd approach it differently.

That scale brings back memories of my fellow Temple University classmate Leon Bates 'improvising' using those same notes. He had much more technique than the rest of us and he could sure play that scale at breakneck speeds. It wasn't jazz though.

Sorry.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 03:46 PM

Goodness me, give the guy a break.
Yes technically jazz and blues are different, but one has to start somewhere.
Posted by: Damon

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 04:50 PM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
To be accurate, that's not 'playing jazz' per se, that's merely plugging in a scale over a handful (three actually) of chords\bass notes. It might get someone started in being interested in learning how to improvise, but I'd approach it differently.


How would you introduce a novice to the art? This seems a reasonable place to start.
Posted by: daviel

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 05:07 PM

Go over to the non-classical site and listen to Dave Frank. Dave Horne is right in that just running scales over chord changes really does not cut it.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 05:25 PM

Originally Posted By: Damon
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
To be accurate, that's not 'playing jazz' per se, that's merely plugging in a scale over a handful (three actually) of chords\bass notes. It might get someone started in being interested in learning how to improvise, but I'd approach it differently.


How would you introduce a novice to the art? This seems a reasonable place to start.


Since I've made my living as a jazz keyboard player (organ and piano), I can pass on how I started. My first experience with music was watching TV and paying along. Regardless of the style of music that one wants to become familiar with, the first step is to mimic it in real time ... play along with it whether it be the TV, radio, or other musicians. You learn a style and improve your ears at the same time. (Analysis on paper comes later, your ears and fingers come first.)

Plugging in a scale and playing over a chord is just plugging in a scale and playing over a chord.

I'll pass on a true story regarding this method. I played piano in a big band for 20 years. The bari sax player was not a jazzer and at one time studied with another jazz pianist to 'learn' how to improvise.

There was a jam session that I attended and this bari player sat in and played like there was no tomorrow. He sounded great, he really did. What he learned was to plug in scales over a chord, different scales for different chords.

Where I (and everyone else) could see where this method was flawed, the next time during a rehearsal where he had a solo, he sucked big time. He couldn't transfer that 'learned' information to a new setting. He would have been forced to go back to that teacher for each and every song and have help figuring out the scales for every solo. (He wasn't taught the big picture per se, he had to have every picture drawn for him.)

He wasn't taught how to think, he was taught how to be a student and I suppose that's great if you're the teacher and making your living from students. My two cents.


Posted by: debrucey

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 05:34 PM

You can't use your first experience with music as a blueprint for someone who has already studied music for a long time learning to improvise. It's quite a different thing when you are older and you can already play the piano to a high standard but you have no experience or knowledge of improvising. There can often be a lot of psychological barriers in the way. You need to somehow learn the rote knowledge of how chords are formed and which scales work with which chords etc in some way other than just intuitively. Also, your intuitive approach may not work for certain people who find it more natural for them to intellectualise music. Perhaps such people are destined never to be jazzers, but surely playing some rubbish pseudo blues is better than nothing at all.
Posted by: jmcintyre

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 07:18 PM

Originally Posted By: Damon
How would you introduce a novice to the art? This seems a reasonable place to start.


I think a key point that Dave made is that it's vital to train one's ear in order to play, and especially to improvise, jazz. An indispensable part of that, regardless of one's starting level, is to listen to other jazz musicians.

I also agree a good place to start for many people is to try to imitate what they hear. One absolutely must be able to "hear," and then play, musical ideas in order to improvise, and imitating other players in the idiom is a good way to begin to do that. Forming original ideas can come later.

It's a starting point, and just one approach at that. Nobody who tries it and struggles at first should feel they're not cut out for jazz.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 07:54 PM

I believe you also have to give someone something, simple, practical and deconstructable. To just say listen and imitate to a non jazz player is like throwing a non-english speaker into a vast library and saying 'research the great depression'.

I've seen numerous people be 'taught' improvisation quite effectively.
Perhaps not to the extent that they could become a full time jazz player, but certainly enough to satisfy their own personal creativity. The trouble with a lot of jazzers is that they take for granted just how much they know intuitively, so that when confronted with someone who doesn't have the same musical knowledge all they can say is 'go listen to music until you get it'.
Posted by: Damon

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 10:18 PM

Originally Posted By: jmcintyre
Originally Posted By: Damon
How would you introduce a novice to the art? This seems a reasonable place to start.


I think a key point that Dave made is that it's vital to train one's ear in order to play, and especially to improvise, jazz. An indispensable part of that, regardless of one's starting level, is to listen to other jazz musicians.


Yes, but you don't start with a 6 chord phrase with all sorts of extensions. You start simple. A beginner isn't going to be able to grab any old Herbie Hancock disc and mimic it. If mimicry is important, then where would you start? What are the easier jazz artists?
Posted by: jmcintyre

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/12/12 10:53 PM

No argument with that, Debrucey. A wealth of practical instructional material exists for beginners. Unfortunately I'm not really familiar with much of it.

To someone looking for resources, I might suggest the Jamey Aebersold play-along series, which is not so much a ground-up method as a practice tool. The recordings in the series are rhythm section tracks for all kinds of jazz/blues situations. In addition to serving as an obedient (if not unyielding) rehearsal accompanist, they provide a stylistic frame of reference that can help a player find their way to a sense of swing/groove in a way that a dissection or explanation could not possibly manage to do.

I'm more of a jazz bassist than a jazz pianist (but I'm in recovery now), and my formal musical training was in classical saxophone. I grew up before jazz education really became prevalent in the U.S., so what I really learned in school was mostly how to play big band charts. I learned a lot more on gigs. I would not for a minute take anything I learned, anywhere, for granted. If I have any sense of intuition, it's only there on the shoulders of what I managed to absorb and internalize - it certainly is not innate.

To be sure, doing nothing more than listening "until you get it" will leave one listening for a long time. I am suggesting that should be an integral part of any approach, though, even for beginners.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/13/12 03:25 AM

I wasn't suggesting it was innate. It's definitely learned. But it's often learned in a very naturalistic way from a young age to the point that it has become very intuitive, which can make it difficult to convey what exactly is going on in your head to someone who is older and less experienced.

You make a good suggestion though. To learn something you don't just need teaching methods but PRACTICE methods.
Posted by: btb

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/13/12 03:38 AM

"What's jazz, lady? If you don't know, I can't tell you."
FATS WALLER
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/13/12 06:14 AM

In addition to the comments I already made, what irritated me was the low post count of the original poster and then watching a video which I now see is from a web site.

This smacks a tad of self promotion coupled with the its slightly arrogant subject heading, ... but maybe I just haven't had my coffee. smile
Posted by: debrucey

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/13/12 11:55 AM

Given that he's not asking for money and his post is educational, I have no problem with his self promotion.
Posted by: Making Music

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/19/12 09:29 AM

Yikes! I just followed up on the thread from this. Looks like I should give my two cents. This video - sure, a little self-promotion - but we're interested in doing more how-to articles and videos on piano (especially jazz piano) in the future, so this was really a way to get a dialog going, and see if anyone pointed out any other tips or resources that could help get us thinking about what to do with our next piano feature. So, in that regard, success! Thanks for all the input - much appreciated. Hope you guys don't mind if we post a link for one of our articles here and there in the future. Not trying to be spammy -- just contributing in a way we hope is helpful.
-Drew
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: How to Play Jazz Piano - 11/19/12 12:11 PM

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