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Jazz Piano Lessons – A Whole New Approach

By Edward Weiss

Jazz. Just the word alone sounds musical. If you’re looking for jazz piano lessons and a new way to play jazz piano, read on!

For the most part, jazz piano lessons begin with the study of chords. And that’s a good thing! But chords alone will not help you make music. Sure, chords are important. But so is the other half of learning piano improvisation and that has everything to do with TRUSTING YOUR INTUITION!

This is where the usual jazz piano lesson routine falls apart. You’re taught chords yes. But what do you do with these chords? You create music with them.

Now, most jazz students have as their goal, the ability to comp. They want to be part of a trio or duo or some other combination of musical group. The most common of these is the jazz trio. Here we have keyboards, bass, and drums. And this makes a very nice combo. But if you’re interested in playing solo, you have a different problem.

The solo jazz pianist has to not only know how to play chords, but how to read from a lead sheet. A lead sheet gives you the chord symbols and the melody line and that is all you need to create your own arrangements.

There are many fine books out there for the aspiring jazz pianist to learn the art of soloing. But one thing most of these books don’t teach you is how to improvise and compose YOUR OWN MUSIC!

It’s no surprise that there’s a shortage on this kind of instruction. It’s not in high demand. As I mentioned before, most jazz pianists in training want to learn how to play in a group setting. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to learn how to compose your own music?

If you understand and can play 4 and 8-bar phrases, you’re already aware of the importance of repetition and contrast in music. Repetition and contrast are the cornerstones of composition.

Listen, if you’re already taking jazz piano lessons and want to learn the art of composition on your own, study and learn how to play in 4 and 8-bar phrases. It will serve you well in the long run.

Jazz Piano Practice Tips That Work!

By Willie Myette

Warm up and stretch. Bill Evans used to put his arms under a hot-air dryer (you know the ones in the bathroom?) to help warm up his arms. Warm ups and stretching are very important. You can run your arms under warm (hot-as-you-can-take-it) water and rub them. You’ll be surprised how this helps a lot! Try running through 5-finger scales, Major scales and arpeggios.

Practice in “Chunks”. When you are learning a piece of music, break it into chunks. A good chunk is 2-4 measures for a difficult piece or 8 measures for an easier piece.

Vocalize Rhythms. I cover vocalization of rhythms on my DVDs. Basically, you assign a non-sense syllable to each rhythm and “sing” the rhythm. This helps you to really feel the rhythm rather than over intellectualizing it.

Practice slowly, then build up speed. Think about this: Every time you play something wrong, you are getting better at playing it wrong! Basically, you want to play slow so that you can play accurately.

I see so many students play fast and make the same mistake over-and-over again. Go slow, then build up speed. You’ll see a big difference!

Use a metronome. Digital metronomes are more accurate than the “wind up” kind. Set the metronome to a slow tempo to start, like 80 or 90. If you are playing jazz, try setting the metronome on 60 and think of this as beats 2 and 4. Beats 1 and 3 do not click. You think of them in your head.

Keep your eyes on the music. You do not need to look at the keys in order to play. If this were the case, how would people with impaired vision play? We look at the keys as a “crutch”. Try your best to look more at the music and less at the keys.

15 minutes a day is better than 2 hours on Sunday! There are several reasons why practicing throughout the week (even for 15 minutes, but try for 30) is better than the “big” practice session once-a-week.

First of all, most of us (me included) can only really concentrate for about 30-45 minutes on one task. So, I’d rather see you practice for a concentrated 15 minutes rather than a “What’s for dinner tonight? How much homework do I have? I need to call Jill after this….” 45 minutes.

Second, 15 minutes spread out over 7 days will help you to remember concepts. Imagine studying math for only one day a week, then taking a test? Practicing every day helps to “lock in” what you are learning.

Comfort. If you are uncomfortable, you will not want to practice. Remember:

  • Sit on a comfortable bench that is not too high or low.
  • Practice in a well-lit room. You do not want to strain your eyes to read the music.
  • Avoid a room with a T.V. in it. Too much temptation!
  • Try to practice at a set time every day. This helps you get on a schedule.
  • Sit up tall, but not stiff!

Patience. This should go without saying, but you need to remain patient with yourself. Learning to play the piano (or any instrument) can be frustrating. Some days you’ll amaze yourself at your progress. While other days you’ll feel like you have stepped backwards.

Learning is cyclical. It’s like the rising and falling of waves in the ocean. Some days you’re up, some you’re down. Once you realize this, and accept it, you’ll be able to step back and look at your musical journey in “perspective”.

This is a great way of looking at practicing. Remember the old saying that “It is not the destination but the journey?” Think about where you started and where you are now. You’ll probably be amazed at your progress.

If you are just starting the piano, I’d like to suggest that you record yourself on CD or video tape playing your first piece. Reason: when you feel down about where you are, pop in the video and look at where you were.

There are many other tips that can be added to this list, but this is a great start.

If you have not subscribed to the free E-Lessons, I’d like to encourage you to do so. I have created 20 video lessons that are absolutely free. The E-Lessons are for students of all levels.

Have Fun Practicing!

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