hi

i've always really wanted to learn jazz piano. i'm a diploma level classical pianist so i know my scales, etc. but have no idea how i should go about teaching myself jazz - i was thinking maybe i should familiarize myself with some useful chords - could anyone please give me any advise on what they think is the best way to start learning jazz piano???  

thank you so much!
There are 11 comments, leave a comment.
hi ratairline,  
i just saw your post there and thought i'd reply. i did the same, went the classical route, then moved into jazz piano. it's difficult at the beginning coming from a classical background because your mind is used to learning a different way ie:where the music is handed to you and you play it, or learn it, or maybe analyse its form/structure etc. i think when you get to diploma level in classical music, etc. you're pretty much playing a lot on auto pilot so learning jazz, for me anyway, was a whole new thing and meant that my brain had to get out of its comfort zone. i would first do simple stuff like familiarise myself with jazz terms, chord symbols, etc so that you don't waste time wondering why some lead sheets use one chord symbol, and another uses a different type etc. (i know that's very basic, but these things can waste time later on.) i remember i sat down and wrote out lots of jazz chords and thought i'd somehow assimilate them by doing this.  but i didn't. i never even looked at them again. in fact, the only time my jazz playing started to come on was when i sat down with a recording of something i thought there was no way i could transcribe (i think it was red garland) and then got through it and realised i could. it was really hard and felt like really hard work, until i had it. it's hard to dicipher what jazz chord is playing at the beginning. i wrote down lots of stuff in notebooks, manuscripts etc (an organised approach of a way) at the beginning but it was always the manual, throw-oneself-in-at-the-deep-end work of sitting at the piano with no music in front of me etc. that made any permanent changes. the reason i gave up on the whole analysing and writing down stuff of it was that i realised i wasn't really remembering it, even if i'd read it etc.maybe my interest wasn't in it fully, i think that could be part of it. or maybe it was just the way i needed to learn. funnily enough, i can still remember all of the transcriptions i've done. it seems they've been stored in a different part of my brain and i feel much more confident that i can remember them if i go to sit down and play then maybe some old classical music i'd learnt, unless i'd learnt it by ear. take into consideration the plusses and minuses of taking up jazz from a classical standpoint. the plusses are that you're probably a good sight reader/sight singer and can play a lead sheet off straight away. and the technique that goes with it. the minuses might be having to rewire your brain into a less spoon-fed approach.

well, i hope this will be helpful. i'd start a bit myself before engaging a teacher, because this way you'll have lots of questions and queries about stuff by the time you get to the teacher and will have a base upon which to work. and i suppose the best thing would be if you found you had an innate desire to learn about jazz chords and well just just the sound in general because then you can never go wrong, only improve and improve and you'll probably meet other jazz people along the way by default who can add to you knowledge. good luck! gill
the best way for you to start is without any doubt at all to find a good jazz piano teacher to study with.  the fact is that it is much easier for jazz pianists to make the transition to classical than it is for classical pianists to make the transition to jazz.  the reason for this is that all of us jazz pianists study classical piano when we start learning piano in the first place so we never really transition to it... we just go back to it.  but for a classical pianist to go to jazz is to learn something completely new.  there are a lot of things your classical training has taught you nothing about.  how to swing for example... all of the rhythmic aspects of jazz, the creative side in general a good teacher starts preparing you for from day one.  i have known at least a few classical musicians, (a couple of nationally successful symphony players) who have failed to learn jazz.  they failed in my view because they thought they already had enough training to pick it up on their own.
i understand why they would think that... they were amongst the most sought after muscians in the world... but they were wrong and were very frustrated.  their egos could never permit them to admit the reason why they failed... they went on to believe it was because of some mysterious thing about jazz they could not get.   that is bs.
the best way to learn any language is by ear.  learning to play jazz is really learning to play by ear.  start simple.  practice playing nursery rhymes in different keys using just your rh for melodies, then  add some simple chords.  as you get bored with simple melodies and chords, you will most likely develop a thirst for more complicated harmonies and such, which will then open doors to more interesting melodic concepts.

i don't think cramming lot of fancy "jazz theory" at the beginning helps much, if at all.  there has to be some relevance in order for concepts to stick.  i learned english by ear and learned to read and write it later.  i was taught spanish the opposite way and never did learn it.  

a great way to jump start your jazz playing is to start with simple jazz tunes like c jam blues or so what and wallow in what makes them tick.  there are a few very common "rootless voicings" that are used quite a bit and many different ways of explaining them.  once you learn a couple of those and listen for them in the music, the picture will start to come together.

of course a good teacher would really help.
i would suggest the book metaphors for musicians if you can't find a good jazz teacher right away - it points out some very good things to study on your own.
well, i didn't intend to counter mike's "the best way..." with my own...when i started my post, mike's had not yet been posted.  i would say all the suggestions in this thread are good ones.
the comments above are from much more experienced players/teachers than me, but re: books, see scot's review (on this site) of tim richard's "improvising blues piano" and "exploring jazz piano" where scot says, e.g. "classical pianists looking for ways to get into jazz and blues will also be happy with this book." and  

"if it sounds like i'm pushing this book, well, i am. i spent many years trying to learn jazz through books and if something like tim richard's "improvising blues piano" were around, i would have saved a lot of money looking for the right book."
well said g.... i second that
mike, i'm a jazz pianist who never studied a note of classical, at least not until the last couple years. i still massively struggle with it. i took up the piano with the specific intention of learning jazz on the instrument. i've had two piano teachers, one of whom is semi renowned, his name has popped up here, who did the same, never studied any classical.
that is certainly not unusual jw.  many great jazz pianists never studied classical music.  perhaps the greatest solo jazz pianist of all time  "dave mckenna"  never studied at all (was completely self taught) as well as never studied classical piano.  however the vast majority of well known jazz pianists studied classical music on some level at some point in their lives.  the great bud powell can be herd quoting bach in several of his recordings at blistering speeds,  so familiar with bach inventions and fugues in fact that he easily weaves them into be bop lines seemingly at will.   all of the new orleans stride and rag time players were heavily trained classical piano players.  and in modern times.. keith jarrett and chick corea are known for their abundant classical chops and are well recorded in that idiom as well.
i would second "metaphors for the musician" as my pick for a "learning jazz" oriented book.  having gone through several, it made the most sense to me.  and i would also agree with mcjazz! that one of the one of the most efficient ways to learn the language of jazz is to transcribe solos.  it's probably easier to start with blues and more sparse players (such as wynton kelly on "freddie freeloader" and horace silver, just to name a couple) and work up to bop and post bop solos.
first you already know the scales, but you need to put them into a right context

maj scale is    cmaj chord, or cmaj7 or cmaj 6 /9  or a-7 chord or d7 sus  or e-7 ( if you are in a key of c)

cmin (c d eb f g a b c  ) scale is cmin6 or cmin maj chord or  a-7 b5 chord  or f7 # 11 chord or b7 alt

now you can add g# note to any of these scales

pick 1 3 5 6 degrees of the scale and play them together in right hand this is the way you get one voicing
move the voicing on the scale

take away second note from the top and let that be note in your left hand  this is drop 2
move that voicing through the scale

instead of second second note from the top take away 3rd note from the top  from the top and let that be note in your left hand  this is drop 3
move that voicing through the scale

now choose any voicing and move any note up or down (and return)  play that through scale

pick up any 1 or 2 or 3 or 4  5 6 7  8 notes and move them through scale

instead of playing chords in right hand play it with left hand and move the voicing through a scale

practice scales in any way you find

you can chord with these scales or you can play melodic lines with them


now learn dom 7 scale plain old mixolidian and learn how to use them

learn other scales

in jazz rhythm is the most impotant
be rhythmic
say babadubidada this is rhythm or rithmic model or a phrase  and put notes to that rhythm  and now you get line

play one scale into another scale on a change using some phrase

make up as many phrases as possible
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