All That Jazz

There are countless books written about jazz. I'd like to recommend one in particular. It is called The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine. It is published by Sher Music Company.

This is not a book for the rank beginner, however. Some of the chapters are Scale Theory, Block Chords, Chord Substitutions, Voicings, Tritone Substitution, Salsa and Latin Jazz, and Suspension Chords. Lots of valuable information.

To play jazz, you need to know your chords inside and out. You always want to be practicing the 3 basic ones (major, minor, dominant). And that's just the very beginning of learning how to play jazz piano.

Don't feel that you have to know them all before you start playing music. Always use your songs as springboards for practicing. In other words, you will really learn your chords as you use them in songs. Chords are repeated over and over again in one song. And playing songs that you know and love will keep you motivated to practice.

This video shows you how to play a chord, the minor seventh chord, in a cool way. This is called a voicing. Watch!

There is a very popular chord progression in jazz music. You will see this progression all over the place. It is called ii - V7 - I..

Let me explain.

First, you want to write out a major scale in, well, let's take the key of C for starters.

Those notes would be C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C.

The chord built on the first note is called the I chord (major)

The chord built on the second note is called the ii chord (minor)

The chord built on the third note is the iii chord (minor)

The chord built on the fourth note is the IV chord (major)

The chord built on the fifth note is the V7 chord (dominant)

The chord built on the sixth note is the vi chord (minor)

The chord built on the seventh note is the viio (diminished)

So the ii chord in the key of C would be D minor. The V7 chord would be G7 and the I chord is C Major.

If you play the chord in the right hand (root position) and the root (bass note) of the chord in the left hand, you will get a pretty progression that is repeatedly constantly throughout songs.

Now let's figure out the ii-V7-I progression in the key of G Major.

The scale of G is as follows:


So the ii chord is A Minor, the V7 chord is D7 and the I chord is G Major. Play these chords in that order - Am, D7, G with the right hand and play the root of each chord in the left hand.

If you have a fake book, find a song in the key of G (the tell-tale sign that the song is most likely in the key of G is if the key signature has one F# in it)and see how many am-D7-G progressions you find. Probably a lot!

This next video is on How To Embellish a Melody. In jazz and popular music, it is expected that you will "play" with the melody to make it your own. This doesn't mean changing it completely like you might do for an improvisation, however. With an embellishment, you can still clearly hear the melody. Small note and rhythmmic variations are used to liven up and add nuance to the melody.

Share this page:
Enjoy this page? Please pay it forward. Here's how...

Would you prefer to share this page with others by linking to it?

  1. Click on the HTML link code below.
  2. Copy and paste it, adding a note of your own, into your blog, a Web page, forums, a blog comment, your Facebook account, or anywhere that someone would find this page valuable.