For some, learning jazz can feel to be an extremely difficult task. However, playing jazz on the piano does not have to be difficult. It does contain many complex harmonies and because of this, there is a demand for a certain level of high skill.When you can break down the basics and learn the progressions, it can be easy to learn jazz piano as a beginner.
There are some ways to play jazz piano without having to know a lot about jazz music, but you should have some knowledge of the initial jazz piano chords and terms. Though some of the chord progressions involved in jazz playing are at a higher level of difficulty, especially for those new to the instrument, you can still learn how to play them at a beginner level.
Let’s outline some jazz piano chords and jazz chord progressions that are common in piano playing, as well as some ways in which you can identify jazz chords and how to learn more about them.
IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW
Before beginning with jazz piano, there are some things you should know that many jazz pianists will use:
- The left hand of each of these chords is just a root and seventh. This is pretty much the basic concept of what’s known as chord voicings. It is also important that you understand the role of each note inside each voicing.
- You can always use one extension above the chord, known as the chord voicing.
- The major ii-V-I is easily the most important chord progression in jazz standards, so you will want to spend plenty of time working on ii-V-I’s (example below):
- Here’s a video tutorial from our lead piano teacher, Vincent, using the chords:
Then you can move them into more minor chords:
- Be sure to identify the 3rds and 7ths in each chord because you can use these when you improvise. Jazz improvisation is essential when you master your chords to work on – jam sessions are a fundamental part of becoming more jazz-oriented!
- You HAVE to have rhythm because jazz requires a lot of off-set rhythms within many of its songs.
- Harmonic analysis is important, so study and identifying the overarching keys within your chords, as well as the common chord progressions like the ii V I, which are outlined more below:
Related read: Top 5 Jazz Standards for Beginner Guitar Players
COMMON CHORDS AND JAZZ CHORD PROGRESSIONS
There are 5 dominant chords used in jazz. Basic jazz piano chords will contain a root position, a 3rd, a 5th, and a 7th (in major progressions it would be a major 3rd, major 5th, and major 7th).
You need to look at the chord progressions and know that once you have them mastered you can rearrange and reuse them in ways to make them sound different, while still holding onto the root of the chord.
A common chord progression you can start with is C7 – D7 – and G7 (major scale chords). Chord extensions in C major look like cmaj7 on sheet music. These are more blues sounds and are used in many popular songs such as Hit the Road, Jack and Feelin’ Good.
There are the minor 7th chords as well, such as fmaj7 which are also commonly used. Dominant 7th chords, diminished chords, major seventh, and minor scale seventh chords are also commonly used throughout jazz songs.
5 PIANO JAZZ CHORDS:
Here is an example of the 5 main jazz chords with a graphic of how to play the Am9 on the piano, so that you can practice the chords with a visual:
JAZZ PIANO LESSONS
One of the best and easiest ways to sound great with your piano playing in jazz is by taking online piano lessons. Many experts are well versed in blues piano and can help you learn how to read sheet music for jazz music.
Jazz musicians are typically the first piano players you might want to reach out to for jazz piano lessons more specifically, so they can assist you in learning and practicing the various chord types since they use them on a regular basis.
You can also check out some video tutorials that can demonstrate the typical c e g b chord progressions, the jazz chord symbols, and some 12 bar blues.
Also read: The Saxophone: Not just a Shiny Noisemaker!
ADVANCED JAZZ PRACTICE AND KNOWLEDGE
As you get good at jazz chords and progressions, you can start to challenge yourself more. Jazz musicians are always looking for new ways to reuse chords in new ways, creating new progressions.
For example, go through jazz standards that you know and identify VI-ii relationships. Then, you can work to replace the VI with a #i diminished. This is great practice for building the skills that you can utilize throughout all your other major chord progressions.
Creating new challenges is going to help with your improvisations, where you can create your own progressions into new blues riffs, and possibly even composing jazz songs if you feel compelled to write them out as you go!