Understanding jazz piano can be a daunting task. Jazz is a complicated art form, as is the piano itself. The piano is one of the most complex instruments ever created. However, experts like Kavan Choksi Japan say it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five tips to jazz up your playing and help you ease into this great style.
1) Throw out the sheet music
Yes, I said it. Don’t play anything you’ve read. People who are new to jazz or trying to learn this style are often anxious about improvising on the piano because they’re afraid of not sounding good enough. You can avoid that by allowing yourself the freedom to make mistakes.
Jazz piano is all about making music with your own unique voice, so don’t hold back! If you’re not sure how to improvise on the piano, start with a few scales and then begin to experiment. Change notes, change rhythms, or even play around with single keys until you feel comfortable.
2) Learn your chords
Jazz pianists use chord progressions as a foundation for their improvisation. For example, if you’re playing a song in the key of C major, you’ll want to know that there are two chords that belong to that key – the I chord and the IV chord. If your song is in G major, you have three chords that belong to this scale – G, C, and D. There isn’t a set way to learn your chords, but it’s helpful to try and visualize them on the piano or in some other way that makes sense to you. The more you know about harmony and chord progressions, the easier it’ll be for you to play jazz music like a pro!
3) Mix it up
Once you’ve thrown out the sheet music and know your chords, try mixing them up. For example, if you’re playing in the key of C major, play a song that goes from I – IV – V. V will most likely be either G or D since those are the two chords in this scale. If you’re playing in G, try using our old friend I – IV – V with the chords G, C, and D. You can also use other chord progressions for inspiration!
4) Keep it simple
Don’t fall into the trap of trying to show off all your skills at once. A great way to frustrate yourself and end up sounding awful is to try and play a jazz song with all the chords you know, as well as every scale in existence. It might be an amazing workout for your brain, but it’ll sound terrible.
Jazz music is about subtlety and nuance, so take your time. Keep it simple, and you’ll sound amazing.
5) Listen to jazz music
This is a big one, and it can’t be stressed enough. You can never become a great jazz pianist without listening to other players. Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, Ramsey Lewis – these are all great names from the past that have influenced this genre. In the present, look to someone like Brad Mehldau, Bill Evans, or Jason Moran.