are there books that tell you how to practice jazz and what to practice? i have no idea what to practice when it comes to jazz piano.  i still play piano from reading sheet music only. i don't know how to play piano any other way than to keep learning new songs from sheet music only.
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no really good ones and i own them all.
i know somebody is going to recommend the levine book, but i think it is so overrated, it does not really tell a beginner like you how to play jazz.
for a general idea, get 'how to play jazz and improvise' by jamey aebersold for starters.  'how to practice jazz' by jerry coker and 'jazz improvisation' by the same author are also mandatory.  'a classical approach to jazz piano improvisation' by dominic alldis is a good book for those who feel too tied to the printed page and will give you a few more ideas.
...and all three books by tim richards. 'improvising blues piano' (do this first) and 'exploring jazz piano' books 1 & 2.
i agree with the aebersold series as far as a gentle introduction for beginners.  what i learned was that even half an hour spent on arpeggios and scales can help.  i try to get with another musician from time to time and trade licks.  not really a formal practice, (and not always practical) but still pretty useful.
jazz+, do you also think the metaphors for the musician by randy halberstadt is not good either?  i just got that one and unlike most books, he actually has a lot of good practice ideas.  i can't say how effective they are since i haven't tried them enough.
levine's books are no good.  they don't help you play, they just help you know certain things, if that makes any sense.

and i've asked specifically about what to practice a lot recently, and the one consistent answer i get is to do transcriptions.  even if you don't do full-fledged transcriptions (writing it out), at least learn songs from recordings of your favorite guys.  this is answer i've gotten consistently when i ask what should i practice to get better.  do you agree, jazz+?
metaphors for the musician by randy halberstadt is a very good book, i recommend it over the others.

listening is essential, developing improvisational skills is essential, phrasing is essential, being melodic is essential, swinging is essential.  maybe transcribing could be good for you. "go transcribe" is an easy answer when advising somebody how to get better. a lot of students have come to me with a lot of transcriptions they have done but they still can't play anything melodic or swinging on their own. they transcribed but they did not understand what they transcribed which is easy to do.
the recommendations here are all good;there are a lot of books on the market now(see my thread below for a couple of others not mentioned here)that can help you get an approach together;however before you spend any $ i'd advise this-since you're hip to this site already,why not make a careful,thorough investigation of what's available over here,including checking out all the files/personal rooms/links/using search,etc......then try using a search engine to see what else is online...there is so much info you can download that you can easily come up with a comprehensive approach to what you want to work on,then decide which books might complement that.........

can you elaborate on this?  when i transcribe, i do it until i can play the transcription the same way i'm hearing on the recording (tempo, rhythm, syncopation included).  what else do you mean by understanding?  like, theoretically knowing why the artist chose the particular notes being played?
yes, i mean it's sort of like a classical player that plays masterworks well but does not understand the reasons or theory (rhythmic phrasing and note choices in jazz) of why it sounds so good. it's great that you can play your transcriptions from memory, that's an excellent for you.
jazz+
i know mark levine's book and it get's confusing reading through the chapters. i don't think that book is for beggining jazz players.  i bought abersold's how to play jazz and improvise book the other day. are there any books on how to voice chords?
the old books by john mehegan are good. he stress's roman numerals and also transposition.  

as others have metioned the main thing that helped me to play were the blues, much more than any book. even scott will tell you this!

i think jazz midi's are extremly helpful too, esp if you use vanbesco player. sadly, i believe that books cant teach you how to play.
for voicings i recommend:

metaphors for the musician by randy halberstadt
jazz keyboard harmony by phil degreg
stylistic ii v i voicings by luke gillespie
the jazz piano book by mark levine
"jazz piano, creative concepts and techniques"
by jeff gardner. superb 500 pages. do yourself a favour.
i think you're being pretty harsh on the levine books...i can only speak for myself but they have really led to a lot of progress in my playing
the levine's books are not for beginners. i bought his books two years ago, and still have not be able to understand and even apply many many things mentioned in his books. i would recommend them to anyone starting to play jazz. one book that's being helpful to me is metaphors for the musician by randy halberstadt.
sorry, i meant i would not recommend them
"metaphors for the musician" by randy halberstadt is the jazz piano method book i recommend the most for beginners, intermediate and even advanced players.
re- "and still have not be able to understand and even apply many many things mentioned in his books" above..like what for example???
i have had dozens of piano students come to me who own the levine book and say they don't understand how to apply it.
i think levine assumes a certain level of reading ability, as well as being familiar with a large body of recorded jazz music from the past.
in my experience i tend take away pieces to work on, only returning to the book when i have digested the small pieces.
i do not think there is any one book.  the idea of there being one book that could tell you the right way to practice jazz is against all that jazz is.  the idea that you are looking for such a book means that you have not yet quite grasped what jazz is.  each one of us to truly be a good jazz player has to have our own sound and we only get that from a somewhat if only slightly original and creative approach to practice.  if a piano player sounds just like bill evans or just like monty alexander that player has not succedded in becoming a good jazz player.  but if you listen to a player and you are saying to yourself "wow that sounds cool and i ain't heard anything like that before"  thats a good jazz player.  and i guarantee that player did has not been practicing how someone else told them to.
    with all that said i reccomend that you try to make some estimate as to how much time you have to practice and then divide your time in some way between the major food groups.
    for a jazz pianist the major food groups are:
chord voicings
scales
repetoire
theory
etc .... etc
add and create your own food groups
i am actually lucky enough to be a friend of mark levine, i actually asked him when he first published the book who it was aimed at.  interestingly the first couple of chapters on very basic things such as what a minor second, major third, etc, was a request from the publishers.  mark aimed it at a mature student who had a good idea and good understanding of music in general, however the publishers wanted to make the book more accessible to the novice player and mark was instructed to write a few chapters on basic music theory.  

i don't think - had he had it his way - it was ever intended for a complete beginner but those chapters on the basics of music don't really fit in considering the reading level that is assumed and the complexity of the chapters later on in the book.  

hope that helps.
yeah, i have a hard time understanding the jazz piano book. i just bought jamey aebersold's how to improvise play along.
littlerascal,  

i'm only a beginners, but... i think you might want to try playing some jazz from sheet. there are 2 things i can recommend at this point.  
one book i've been playing from, i know you'll have no problem going through it:
- jazz conception - advance music - jim snidero (for piano).  
it's 21 etudes. 60 bars or so each. famous standards.
i played the first 7 or 8:  
knotty75
from here, it's helped me a lot with 2 things:
  1) i actually enjoy those a lot. i feel like i'm able to make music. even though it's not mine, i can play it and i love it.  
  2) it forces me to play things i would not have played by myself. and now that's it's in my hands, the hands play those chords much more naturally. i think it's what randy halberstadt calls the censor in the brain. once you've played something, the brain no longer censors it.  

the 2nd thing you might want to try is download a few of doug mckenzie 's solo or trio video:
jazz2511
this is some of the finest piano on youtube, and, if you go to his site:
https://web.newsguy.com/dougmck
you can even download a pdf transcription for many of his tunes.  
now to be honest, i tried and stalled. i think it's just a little too advanced for me, i don't think i'm ready, but you certainly might be. the style is always elegant, well explained with a lot of variety.  

i'm suggesting this as an addition to what you're already doing, maybe spend 30 minutes a day on it?
when you do, you'll stop every now and then and say. wait a minute, stacked 4th with minor 3rd on top... isn't that so what chords? and i'm sure you'll want to try it on your own stuff.

have fun.
id agree with having a look at doug mckenzie's videos and i'd also agree with jmkarns that the jazz piano book - while a great book does demand a level of sight reading that many (myself included) havent got as yet.
but in terms of practicing - i don't know if its been mentioned but i'd definately check out hal crooks books. ready aim improvise and how to improvise - great tone and you'll reap rewards if you put in the time with them.
the degreg book is superb for self study. very practical and very user friendly. it is also highly structured - he approaches each new topic as an extension or modification of something you have already mastered.  

i think if degreg were a good businessman instead of being a good teacher, he would turn each chapter into a dvd sell each one for big bucks.

ed
i've yet to see any response to why transcribing doesn't work for any level of student.

you can learn theory by sitting in bed with a book and a pencil.  this is stuff you *need* to know, but you also *can* learn in your spare time, like doing a crossword puzzle.

you can learn to play piano by watching freddie redd in the film version of "the connection," or by listening to bud powell on the verve solo recordings he did, or down the street by buying a lesson from a player, or by playing along to a record.  *every* *single* player you've ever heard of did exactly this.
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