I’m David from Vancouver, Canada.
I used to play the piano in high school jazz band back in late 80’s and early 90’s.
I learned to read sheet music note by note but I never learned to play by ear or
learn chords beyond the very basics (C, Cm, C7… and likes).
Never really grasped aug/dim, and other more complex chords).
Since I graduated from high school, there hasn’t been much attempts to improve my piano.
Carried on with my life, but I would always appreciated listening to good jazz artists,
as I grew up listening to a lot of smooth jazz / GRP-labeled cassettes and CDs.
My favorite artists are Jeff Lorber, David Benoit, Rippingtons, Joe Sample, & Hisaishi Joe.
Now, I’m taking a mini sabbatical and I finally have time to work on my skills.
Here’s where I am today (without any sheet music, and without any practice…) https://youtu.be/syYuEzqfqmU
but I’d like to be able to play a full hour of jazz music at a local bar I frequently visit.
It’d be nice if I could achieve it by coming Christmas.
I’m now reviewing Jazz Piano Foundations, and to be honest,
I find it a bit boring just to go over music theory.
I think I do okay in simple scales (C, D, G, maybe E), but not really motivated to
learn my chord positions for more complex scales.
I’m not sure if mechanically following the chord progressions and positions will
improve my skills or motivate me to move forward, either.
If I can commit 45-60 minutes each day on practicing my piano skills,
how would you recommend that I spend my time for the next 3 months?
PS. I don’t have the perfect pitch,
and I always wondered if it’s a skill that can be mastered by practice.
Welcome David. I’d recommend starting with the practice plans that are listed with each beginning group of lessons. It has worked for me. (And I had around 40 years of not playing anything. ) Those boring bits will pay off in the future. And as the plans indicate, at least half of your time is with the fun stuff.
At any rate, have fun. I think you’ll enjoy the experience and will progress if you stick with it.
Thanks for sharing your performance of “Over The Rainbow” - I like your chord choices and it gives me a much clearer idea of the most suitable courses for you.
A first recommendation would be to add some kind of intro and outro to each tune you are playing. We have an introductory lesson here on the 1-6-2-5 progression which I think you will enjoy:
I see that you are playing “Over The Rainbow” in the key of C Major, and so that would make your 1-6-2-5 progression:
Cmaj7 / A7b9 / D-7 / G7
Of course you can add any combination of extensions, alterations, passing chords to this basic progression. More info on this below.
It can be nice to cycle around that for both and introduction and an ending to extend the length of any tune you are playing. The V7 chord (G7) leads back to the Imaj7 chord (Cmaj7) and so the progression is a cycle, and when ready, you can drop for the G7 straight into the start of the tune.
Most jazz standards tend to start and end on the Imaj7 chord so this kind of intro/outro will will have you covered for most tunes.
That could help with your “full hour of music” goal for the local bar.
I would recommend that you start studying the following 2 courses simultaneously:
Extended Chords & Voicings
This course introduces 9s, 11s, & 13s, and we look at some common extended chord voicings that are very useful to have under your fingers:
Altered Harmony & USTs
This course introduces the concept of chord alterations. I did see you played some alterations in your arrangement of “Over The Rainbow” - for example, at 0:43 seconds, you play A7b9
This course will explain the different ‘colours’ you can add to dominant chords to create more harmonically-complex and sophisticated voicings and progressions:
Intros, Endings, & Turarounds (optional, focus on the above 2 first)
This is housed as an “Advanced Course” but based on your performance, I don’t see any reason why you cannot learn the arrangements. In all of these lessons I demonstrate different ways to create extended intros for jazz standards:
I agree with @scott1 that it would be good to check out the Foundations Practice Plan.
I understand and appreciate that some of those exercises are boring, but they will give you solid foundations for the more advanced theory, and perhaps even highlight weaknesses in your playing that you didn’t realise.
Aim to play the following 2 exercises in less than 5 minutes each:
All 12 major scales and identify the notes numerically ie. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 instead of: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C and you must do this for all 12 major scales. Don’t skip this!!
3 note 251 progressions with root in left hand, and then 3rd and 7th in right hand - being able to clearly visualise the 7ths falling to 3rds in 251s in all 12 keys will help you greatly. The 3rd and 7th are the essential components of the harmony and so it’s important to be able to see that half-step relationship which will also help you in creating improvised melodies.
If you can’t do that, I would recommend spending 10 minutes on it each day until you can.
The other exercises (minor scales, triads, 7th chords) are all still important, but the above 2 are in my opinion the most important to learn thoroughly before moving on. It will simply save you time in the future.
Once you encounter upper structure triads in the “Altered Harmony Course” I highlighted above, you will see how important it is to be able to invert and manipulate triad shapes around the keyboard, and so as @scott1 says, working on the foundation exercises will pay off in the future.
Here’s what I’d recommend:
If you could make that 45-60 minutes per day into 2 hours each day, you will see much better results. I found it very effective to do 1 hour in the morning before I went to work, and then I would play most of the evening. Aim for 1 hour in the morning, & 1 hour in the evening.
Revisit and stick to what you are practicing. The key is to dedicate yourself to a consistent practice routine. Use the downloadable PDF resources and practice plans to give you that structure.
Don’t forget to have fun with it… This is supposed to be a fun hobby after all!! You have a nice goal to work towards with your “full hour of music by Christmas time” but also understand that learning jazz is truly a lifelong pursuit, there is always more to learn. I find accepting that takes the pressure off and makes the whole process more enjoyable. I just try to get a little better each day.
Here’s 4 forum threads which you may find useful with your “full hour of music” goal:
my Name is Michael 55 years old and living in the southwest of Germany (Palatinate), surrounded by vineyards and forrest.
I´m here at pianogroove for my second day now and wanted to tell you a little about me:
I´ve been an accordion-player for many years now (not professional). Together with a saxophone player and a bass player we play Klezmer-Music most of the time.
Since 4 years I make coversongs together with my partner. She´s singing while I play guitar (acoustic) most of the time. But we also started to take some songs with piano in our repertoire (Adele, Norah Jones, Sara Bareilles …).
Now I found that the most interesting arrangements of modern pop-songs always almost contain elements of jazzmusic! And that´s when I started looking for online-courses on jazzpiano - and found pianogroove.
So here I am - still a bit confused with all that material offered - and looking forward to my “career as jazz-accompanist”
To work on your accompaniment skills, I’d first recommend checking out Lyndol’s course on “How To Accompany Singer”:
I’d also recommend working through our Beginner Jazz Courses, this information will give you the foundational information you need to be more comfortable and confident in all styles of music.
My opinion is that… No matter what style of music you want to play, having a good understanding of jazz harmony will always be as asset to you.
Jazz theory is the most complex and challenging to learn, and you will find that instrumentalists who play pop, funk, gospel, soul, R&B, HipHop, Neo-soul, etc… will have studied jazz harmony at some point in their musical development.
Ultimately, it will give you a deeper understanding of all music which will help with your performance/composition in any genre.
The jazz standards are simply nice ‘etudes’ in which to apply the theory and get familiar with basic harmony in all 12 keys.
I’m a half-decent pianist I guess, having done grade 7 about 20 years ago, and played on and off since. I studied music at degree level, as part of a music and sound recording course, but primarily played sax and cello when there. I now work with musicians a lot, but am a recording engineer for film and TV, rather than a performer, these days.
I have always wanted to play better jazz on the piano, but never really ‘learnt it’. Jazz, Soul, Funk and Blues are mostly what I listen to. I played in a soul band for about 5 years after uni, on Rhodes and Hammond, but always felt let down by solos and improv. I’m a fairly good accompanist, but really do stick to tried (or is it tired?!) and tested voicings and styles.
I’d love to expand my horizons in terms of scales, ideas, voicings, confidence in a solo, accompanying, etc. I’ve been lucky enough to play with some amazing keys plays in my time, and I know I don’t have the ability to hit those kinds of heights, but there’s still much room for improvement.
As I hit 40 this summer, I feel another mid-life crisis coming along and am attempting to reform my post-uni band. Hoping to break away from blues scales and play something that I’d like to listen to (even if the drunk people in the pub are usually appreciative anyway).
Be great to have a rummage around in here, although not entirely sure where I should start. I have a good understanding, up to a point, skill up to a point, and some experience. just not very much. Any pointers very welcome, and am perfectly happy to start right at the beginning if that’s the best approach.
Brilliant, your classical studies will certainly be an asset for you in terms of finger strength and dexterity.
I would imagine you have strong sight reading skills too. The key goals of the PianoGroove Course is to reduce reliance on notation and to help students understand harmony numerically… this allows us to be more spontaneous in our performance and improvisation… more on this below.
It’s also great that you have experience with other instruments… A nice variety of instruments too with sax and bass!
My opinion is that experience with any other instrument will broaden your musical perspectives, tastes, and influences which is always good when playing and exploring the jazz idiom.
However, there are a few things that are very important to have in place:
Learn major scales numerically, so that you see each scale as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 instead of the actual note names. This gives you the foundations for exploring extended harmony, and altered harmony and it will make it much easier for you in the long run.
Understand the theoretical underpinnings of jazz voicings which are triads and 7th chords. There are exercises such as inverting triads and 7th chords which take a lot of time to fully master, so don’t let this stop you from progressing further on in the course. As long as you understand how to construct all triads and 7th chords, just revisit the exercises in the foundations practice plan now and again.
We must be able to play 3-note 251 progressions in all 12 keys in Type A and Type B. Without notation. It’s important to be able to visualise the 3rd and 7th of each chord, and also the voice leading of b7 to 3 in all 251s. Again this takes time, do don’t let it stop you from progressing in the syllabus, but make sure you are revisiting this until you have it fully internalised.
Even after advanced classical studies, students may not have these foundation in place. So that’s a few things I’d recommend working on as a priority.
Next for voicings, check out these courses in the following order:
That is a lot of work/material there Richard, but the theory lessons in those courses will give you a huge pallate of new ‘colours’, ‘textures’ , and voicing techniques to add to your playing.
It’s hard to gauge your exact level, but perhaps check out this course first:
This is one of our advanced courses and builds upon many earlier theory topics.
I try to unite a lot of other areas of the PianoGroove syllabus to show an ‘end result’ of learning the different types of voicings, and studying/transcribing jazz solos.
The harmonic lessons in the course cover extended chord voicings, rootless voicings, and upper structure triads, and so if that stuff is new to you, then it would make sense to study the courses bullet pointed above.
Finally moving onto improvisation:
In my opinion, transcription is by far the most effective way to learn to improvise.
To become great improvisers, we must listen to jazz regularly - both live and off records - and we must also transcribe lines and solos from our favourite players. This is why we set up the listening area of our forum to allow our students to share and discover new records.
This is how we develop our ‘own sound’ when improvising. Everyones’ ‘sound’ is very personal to them because it is a manifestation of the musicians, artists, and recordings that they have studied and transcribed from.
When listening and/or transcribing, it might take months or even years for those sounds to show up in our improvisation, and so I like to look at it as a musical investment for the future.
We have a course on transcription here:
I recently made some blues transcription lessons too, check out the thread here:
Our 12 bar blues improvisation course covers some very important improvisation concepts:
Check it out here:
This course was designed for beginner students, but it should open your eyes to the other options aside from the blues scale improvisation and how this all ties together.
Throughout the course I talk about the importance of transcription and so it will give you some useful insight and guidance for this. The course currently finishes with the transcription study highlighted above.
I also teach the course with iRealPro as the backing track, and so all the voicings and concepts covered will be perfect for playing with your newly reformed uni band
A final note…
I hope this stuff helps give you some guidance Richard.
We have some new initiatives coming up soon in the forum to help students with improv. One of my goals for this year is to give students the structure, direction, and encouragement they need to become proficient improvisers.
wow thanks for such a long response. I will go through that a few times to make sure I’ve understood it all. I surprised myself that I could still more or less play all the scales, even tough I’ve not done any for 22 years! Not sure how much of that ‘finger dexterity’ remains! From the sounds of some of the scales, there’s a bit of work to do there.
I’ll take my time learning all those 251’s in each key, and then move on from there.
thanks again and I’ll ping in any questions I have as I go,
Wellcome Richard ! hoping hearing you soon your playing here …
Maybe you could join me in my practice plan so we could be encouraging each other, i would be happy to take the basic with you .
take a look and please contact me if you are interesting
:… i am looking for a little team to keep improving Here i expose the all idea :