Many people stop playing and learning piano because they are disinterested in classical music. Some professional teachers may lead you to believe that it is essential to learn classical techniques before moving onto other forms of music.
However, it is perfectly possible to acquire lessons in specific genres of music. For example, jazz piano lessons are becoming increasingly popular.
Jazz is a form of music that has its origins in blues, but draws on almost every other genre of music. If you wish to begin learning how to play jazz on the piano, it is a good idea to start with early swing and, importantly, learn how to improvise, as this is one of the most fundamental skills used by jazz musicians.
Below you will find some hints and tips to help you improve your jazz playing skills.
Listen to as much jazz as you can get your hands on. The very best thing you can do is spend time listening to the masters you wish to emulate. If possible, listen to old and new styles of jazz.
Once you have mastered the very basics of music theory, ensure that you are familiar with all twelve major scales; this will prove very useful when it comes to improvisation.
Buy some sheet music. As mentioned above, if you are just jazz piano starting to dabble in jazz, purchase some of the old ‘swing’ greats, such as Gershwin or Porter.
Next, you will need to master the major 7th, minor 7th, dominant 7th, half diminished and diminished chords of every key. This could be tricky if you are unfamiliar with the basics of music, but you should be able to master this stage within a week or two.
Once you are happy with these chords, take your sheet music and begin playing. Use your left hand to play the melody and the right hand to play the chords. If you select a songbook with guitar chords, recognizing and playing the chords may be easier. Practice until this feels comfortable and, more importantly, sounds good.
Then, you will need to get back to the less fun stuff – learning chord inversions. For example, CM7 (C major 7th) could be played like so: C,E,G and B or E,G,B and C or G,B,C and E and finally B,C,E and G. There are four possible positions for every chord. Do not attempt to learn inversions until you are completely comfortable with the standard method of playing chords, because you will confuse yourself.
If you want to learn to improvise, begin by learning the pentatonic scale for your preferred key. Then, take a favorite song and mix it up by taking a few notes out and adding some from the pentatonic scale. Next, try mastering the blues scale and again add and remove notes from the original score.