Earning money as a jazz musician

Hello friends.Recently i have been trying to figure out how to earn some money playing jazz and using my jazz knowledge.I dont know if you are aware Hayden but i m a musician too…i studied and played clássical music a big chunk of my life…i played for teathers ,played for some bands and all that jam…but when i met jazz 3 years ago my overall perception of music changed and i started to get into this new art. I make a living teaching music but recently i moved to brazil to start a new adventure…I have found a really good musical market here in a touristic city i live near by…lots of fancy restaurants with background music etc.I need your helps guys i m
going crazy trying to figure out how to presente my material what to do how to do it what should i need…I want to make a good impresion só i can get more work opportunities…Last week i Talked with a lot of restaurants owners and generally a musician must play for 3 hours with 20 minutes breaks in between…i know how to play near 20 jazz standards i play them perfectly but there is no way they can cover 3 hours…some ideas i thinked of were to start faking a repertorie (i dont know how to do that) and the other one is to get to improvise them and repeat them a lot of times…i know how to improvise for blues and for boogie woogie and for some jazz swing style standards like straight no chaser ,take a take a train etc…but i dont know how to improvise for balads to get that atmospheric feeling…I wish someone with experiênce could guide me in this subject…my mentor had never played this kind of music…i know i can do it…i Just need a hand from a kind soul to guide me step by step. Thks


I suppose the main aspect is the scene and setting of where your playing. Jazz piano is an art form that can be expressed and regurgitated with endless possibilities. From a commercial perspective (say for example a bar/restaurant) I suppose it makes sense to integrate all your knowledge and experiment to create your own flow that suits the vibe/situation.

I suppose it’s like reading a crowd/environment for any type of creative performance. Take them on a journey and if they’re feeling one style, build on that etc, if not, create your own way of switching it up.

Good luck and keep us posted

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Yes it is entirely four restaurants. i have saw the post Hayden replyed to another user and i have been replyed a couple of times on some specific questions só i m sure Hayden is already hating me lol. But it is a really important subject for me right now because each day that passes i could be netwoking and closing good deals with this people. but instead i m here anxious about what could happen…i will be more direct and especific about my questions here they are…

Wich types of payments can be negociated with this venues?

How can i fake a song like i know it? I saw your comment about using the r 3 7 and playing melody with only the root…Some more tips about this?

How much repetitions should a song have?Here Hayden answered me 20 but i m not sure if it was related to a performance or a practice session

How many standards would you recommend me for my first work?

How can i reach that 3 hours Mark with 20 to 25 jazz songs?Hayden told me about the 1652progression and openings/endings só i have that on my current list.

I m olso planning to play tangos (i have some nice tangos under my belts) and some Ludovico like Hayden said…but this people are refering to me as the jazz pianist guy só jazz is my focal point after all.

Thks for your support Dan.Have a great night.

Hi Ivan,

It sounds like you are on an interesting adventure!

The first thing to understand is that in the setting you are talking about, 95%+ of the audience will not be listening to you. They don’t care if you play C13#11 UST, or just plain old C7 (R-3-b7) … because they are not listening intently to what you are playing.

Don’t get me wrong, you are still creating an ambience, but unless you are on a stage - ie. raised above and the audience facing you - then the audience will not be 100% listening to you.

I spoke about that here - I’d recommend you read it:

Improvising over ballads is the hardest of all. This is because it will show all of your weaknesses.

When playing swing in a trio, for example, there are so many other things going on, that a mistake or momentary pause from the piano would not be noticed.

However, when playing a ballad solo piano, if you pause, hesitate, or slip up, there is nothing to hide behind.

I think the 1-6-2-5 progression would be nice for you…

Try this Ivan:

Play a 1-6-2-5 in the key of Eb Major, the chords are:

—> takes you back to Ebmaj and the cycle starts again.

Then play a simple stride style by playing the root low down, and then come up and play a rootless voicing in your left hand.

Cycle around and around and experiment with your right-hand improvisation.

Add the 1625 to the end of a tune:

Play a song like Misty, then when you get to the end, cycle around the 1625 for 5 or 10 minutes, and then when you hit the V7… Bb7, start another tune in Eb, such as Tenderly.

Then repeat for other tunes in Eb major, here’s a list that we have covered:

You can use the 1625 progression to connect these tunes together and create a flowing set of jazz ballads. That would make it possible to create a 3 hour set of music with short breaks in between.

Perhaps you could do this for tunes in other keys too. Group the tunes together by key, learn the 1-6-2-5 progression in that key, and use it to connect them together.

Upcoming 5-Minute Masterclass:

I will create a 5 -minute masterclass on this shortly and demonstrate how you can cycle around this progression and improvise with simple scales, arpeggios, and lines/licks that you have transcribed.

It’s fun to do and i will share this with you shortly :slight_smile:

Finally, remember that the people in this setting are not listening to you intently, so you can actually get paid to practice :wink:

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Thks for your time and response Hayden…for each response you give me a m able to get a more solid understanding of this type of work.Its a bad feeling when you go to explore experiênces in total darkness só for each response you give me i get to see more Light on my path. It makes me feel more confident and professional and i stop second guessing myself.Have you looked at the response i gave to Dan here in this thread?.I have asked some more questions…If you are kind enough to answer them this thread can be closed because i have no more questions about this subject.Thks Today is my birthday só your answer could be a Nice birthday gift :slight_smile:

maybe… if you need 3 hours or repertoire
… you can also incorporate some classical music you learned… maybe it can add some minutes…
and some… emotional easy songs…
people in restaurants sometimes are a little bit romantic…

Yes marx i totally agree, and it is something that i have under my belt for reaching my 3 hours Mark…i m Argentinian só i know how to play some nice romântic tangos, olso some Debussy and chopen never gets old and Ludovico like Hayden said…But for what i saw jazz and bossa nova are the central background attractions when it comes to playing for a relaxing background gig.Thnks for your contribution. :slight_smile:

good… for 3 hours…take an ipad with piascore :wink:
it will be easier to have many music sheets with you

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Great suggestion @marc421812 … I always love to hear Debussy’s works being played as background music.

I’ve heard, of course… Claire de lune, many times, and also Arabesque No. 1 being performed as background music.

@ivan - Perhaps selected classical repertoire could be the finishing numbers for your 3-hour set. As a casual background listener, I would certainly enjoy the ‘journey’ of different genres of music. It’s down to you on how you structure this… perhaps the classical numbers would be nice to finish with.

Yes… certainly better than lugging around 10 editions of RealBooks :grin:

Hi Ivan, Happy Birthday and congrats on your bravery. It’s never easy to get in front of people to share your music. But for restaurant work, Hayden is right, it’s more important to give a nice feel to the music than get caught up in the particulars of your playing. It’s all about mood and ambiance… Not many people will be listening intently, if anyone. But that can also be the challenge at these kinds of gigs since you’ll need to stay focused and in the zone regardless of what’s going on around you - which can be chaotic.

I gig regularly for all kinds of events, including restaurants and they are all quite different. You never really know what to expect and it does take a lot of courage, every time. So it’s very normal to feel the way you do. In many respects, it will take a leap of faith for that first one. The more comfortable you can be with what you are playing, the better.

I typically count on 8-10 tunes per set (45min) And there’s no set rule on how long to play a song. You could do the head, then solo, then do the head again, then solo, then break down and do bass lines, then head again… intros, outros… it’s all good. Hayden give some great tips that will work beautifully. Also, I find that variety is something that people/venues like these days, so adding in a few Classical or other style tunes will only be more impressive in my opinion.

Once that first gig is over, you can write down all the things that went well, and all the things you need to improve on. And then you’ll be all the wiser for the next gig.

Another idea - if it just still feels like too much, is it possible to do a duo? With guitar or a singer? It can be nice to have a partner in these situations, especially if they have experience in this kind of work.

I can’t offer too much more advise because every venue is different, and every city and every country… ect. Just Trust yourself, and get creative. No matter what happens, congratulate yourself for taking this leap. Celebrate a bit, and then start working to be even better for the next one!


@ivan - Lyndol’s advice here is invaluable.

@Lyndol - thanks for sharing such great insights, I think the duo angle is an awesome idea.

Happy Birthday, by the way Ivan :tada: … that comment slipped past me earlier. I hope your day has been full of joy and happiness!

My 2 cents here…

From reading some of your questions above, I feel that only you can go out and find the answers.

By all means, there is a supportive community here to help and encourage you, but I feel that you must get out there and ‘test the water’ yourself, find your own style, find your own groove, and ultimately, find what works for you.

As musicians, we are all different.

You obviously have a lot of unique experience, skills and talents, and so just get out there and play!


Leave that with me… i will think about a nice way to present this as a course or series of lessons.

Hello friends thks for the advice.And thks Lyndol for sharing your knowledge with us. I got sick for the last 5 days só i was out of pianogroove…I have a little gems that i want to share…First i would suggets Hayden to get on reddit and start an AmA to promote pianogroove…lots of famous people take use of this way of communications…just today i saw one made by Lang Lang!And the second one is that following Lyndols advice i transitioned my repertorie a bit and started to integrate a lot of pop music… and the result is amazing lol.I dont know why but i never developed a taste of playing pop music…But now i figured out that pop music from the last 2 decades are structured a lot of times in the same way so i can play 10 tunes learning Just one lol…So by doing my research i found a you tuber by the name of Marcus Veltry…He plays a lot of pop…but the funny thing is that he play it all by ear! Basically he listens to the melody once and starts to play it…I digged deep to know how he does that and 1 day later i started to do the same!Not at the same level but i m getting the Magic of taking a tune and getting it right on the move. He basically uses presets of left hand patterns and the melody on top…it shares a lot of similarities with Lyndols course for acompaning singers…


Our pleasure Ivan.

This is a really nice idea for a thread and so thanks again for starting this awesome resource.

Sorry to hear that you’ve been sick Ivan and glad that you’re recovering and back in the forum.

Yes, that’s a nice realisation and I’m sure one that will help you with the goal of a “3 hour music set”.

I think you will be surprised with an audience’s response to playing pop music.

You may find that they recognise and connect with pop songs more so than songs from the jazz repertoire. So i think that is definitely something for you to experiment with.

Keep us posted how that works out!

I think that each style gives a different vibe.Listening to jazz on a restaurant makes you feel more high status or classy…The same with some classical…But with pop is more about feeling good…



Perhaps you can have different sets for different venues/audiences.

It will be fun for you to experiment with this stuff.

HI Ivan, this all sounds great! Playing pop in a jazzy way is very marketable these days. You can combine the elegance with jazz, with the feel good of pop. And with the ease that you are finding in playing these pop tunes - that will come thru, giving a nice vibe for your audience. Hope it’s continuing to go well for you. Cheers~


That‘s it, @Lyndol

… that‘s exactly my motivation why I subscribed to pianogroove two days ago.

Thanks for biringing that sentence into the world, Lyndol

Greetz from Germany

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I Love it! That’s too cool. Thanks for the fun message Michael and You are so very welcome! :rofl:
Happy pianogroovin’ and keep us posted on how things are going for you!
All the Best from Brooklyn,