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I know there are a few somewhat related threads here already but I think my situation is a bit different from those so I thought I would start my own thread.

So I’m intrigued be the jazz world and would like to dip my toes in. I’m a beginner player following the RCM curriculum (grade 1), so you almost can’t get more “classical” than what I’m doing. I’ve always dreamed of being a classically trained pianist so that is something I will continue to pursue. However, I have found that I’m getting more and more interested in jazz music and every time I come across a piece of music in my repertoire book “in the style of jazz”, I’m really drawn to it and enjoy it very much. However, I find jazz extremely confusing and mysterious, like it doesn’t want newbies to enter its world. I tried to find a starting point by looking at method books (only a few exist) and online courses. Most of them, while you can tell are good quality aren’t presented in the straightforward, logical progression that I am so used to in the classical world and even in real life. After some more research, it appears that jazz exists as many different boxes of tools that you must learn to play jazz, but in which order do I learn them?

I have whittled down the online courses to 2: Jazz Piano School and Piano Groove. I chose these 2 because I found them to fit my need for a more logical progression rather than a mish mash of skills that I have no idea how to put together. I think all of the online courses are great but right now, at my very beginner phase, I need something just a bit more beginner friendly. I need a learning path. Again, I feel like the jazz world doesn’t want new entrants because it seems so difficult and confusing. I guess they want to keep it that way so as to preserve the allure? It’s almost as if jazz is the yin and classical is the yang.

I am aware of Mark Levine’s famous book Jazz Piano Book but even that might be a little too advanced for what I’m looking for. I also looked into Mark Davis’ Jazz Piano Method and think this series might be a better fit for me at the moment.

I’m trying to learn jazz parallel to classical. I don’t know if it can be done but I’m going to try. I can’t get a teacher due to financial reasons. I already have a classical piano teacher, a sax teacher and a concert band membership I have pay for, so I was hoping to go online or method book for jazz piano, at least until I know I want to continue learning it.

Thanks for any comments you might have.


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The good news is that given your classical training you probably are an adept reader. This is a helpful start!

If you were my student I would start you by teaching you the five basic seventh chords that are used in jazz: Major 7, Dominant 7, Minor 7, Minor 7b5 and Diminished 7. I have a free lesson on this here:

https://www.jazzpianoonline.com/courses/five-essential-7th-chords

(Don't be put off by the intro playing, it is for demonstration purposes and NOT something that you would be expected to do in this lesson!)

Once you have a handle on the basic 7th chords, I would introduce you to the Real Book (https://amzn.to/34zSnHj) which is the basic compendium of jazz repertoire. I would show you how to read the chord symbols and play them in your left hand while you play the melody in your right hand. I would have you read lots of repertoire at this step to help you solidify the chords into your head and hands. You really need to KNOW these basic chords before proceeding onto more advanced techniques.

Once you have the basic 7th chords ready to go (and you will know you are ready if you don't have to think about what the notes of the chords are when you read a lead sheet of short symbols) I would introduce rootless voicings within the context of major and minor iiVI progressions.

This is a big step that is very time consuming and takes a while to really master. BUT when you have mastered this you have made huge strides in sounding like you are playing real jazz.

I'll leave it there because this already represents many months and possibly years of work depending on the level that you are coming in at.

I'm happy to continue the conversation with you or anyone who wants to learn to play . . .


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Originally Posted by JazzPianoOnline
The good news is that given your classical training you probably are an adept reader. This is a helpful start!

If you were my student I would start you by teaching you the five basic seventh chords that are used in jazz: Major 7, Dominant 7, Minor 7, Minor 7b5 and Diminished 7. I have a free lesson on this here:

https://www.jazzpianoonline.com/courses/five-essential-7th-chords

(Don't be put off by the intro playing, it is for demonstration purposes and NOT something that you would be expected to do in this lesson!)

Once you have a handle on the basic 7th chords, I would introduce you to the Real Book (https://amzn.to/34zSnHj) which is the basic compendium of jazz repertoire. I would show you how to read the chord symbols and play them in your left hand while you play the melody in your right hand. I would have you read lots of repertoire at this step to help you solidify the chords into your head and hands. You really need to KNOW these basic chords before proceeding onto more advanced techniques.

Once you have the basic 7th chords ready to go (and you will know you are ready if you don't have to think about what the notes of the chords are when you read a lead sheet of short symbols) I would introduce rootless voicings within the context of major and minor iiVI progressions.

This is a big step that is very time consuming and takes a while to really master. BUT when you have mastered this you have made huge strides in sounding like you are playing real jazz.

I'll leave it there because this already represents many months and possibly years of work depending on the level that you are coming in at.

I'm happy to continue the conversation with you or anyone who wants to learn to play . . .


Thank you for your detailed response, Bill! Much appreciated.

Funny, I actually already know how to read a lead sheet, and have learned to play with them as a child (on a Yamaha Electone organ), with a couple of very basic chords (memorized). So I guess I kind of know what that’s all about (kind of). Lol.

I will need to learn the 12 major scales first - I only know a couple right now. Then, I will watch the Five Essential 7th Chords that you linked, and then go from there.

Thanks again!


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You may want to look at Willie Myette’s “No Bull Jazz Piano’ on YouTube. If you want to join it is very inexpensive.



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Originally Posted by TomLC
You may want to look at Willie Myette’s “No Bull Jazz Piano’ on YouTube. If you want to join it is very inexpensive.

Thanks for the suggestion, TomLC. I will take a look!


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He did a webinar last week that I can not find except on the Jazz Edge members dashboard. It lays out the path for classical players to learn jazz. I thought of all the folks on PW that are looking for the best method. But I can not paste it here because it is a webinar and not a YouTube video. You could email Willie and ask him how you can access that.



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I just reread your post. If you are really new to the piano. Join Home School Piano on the Jazz Edge web site. The other "Jazz" sites are not very good (IMHO) for a new player. When you are done with that, you can join Jazz Edge or any of the many other great courses on the internet. Or even just watch Aimee Nolte of YouTube. She is a phenomenal musician, piano and voice. And a great teacher with a lot of personality. But I would finish HomeSchoolPiano first.



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I offer some thoughts as someone who studied classical and then switched to jazz, although unlike you I was a fairly advanced classical player when I switched.

Jazz and classical piano are similar technically in that the same finger strength and dexterity apply to both. But mentally, they are two completely different ways of playing. Classical is all about playing what's on the written page; jazz is about understanding chord progressions and using your ear.

I say this because trying to learn both at the same time is a tall order. If you're studying classical piano, there is certainly no harm is dabbling in jazz, but at some point you're likely to have to make a choice and throw yourself into jazz full time if you really want to be get serious with it. Both are wonderful and both are very demanding disciplines.

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Both are wonderful and both are very demanding disciplines.

Which is why after six years I can't do either very well. frown
But I do keep trying.



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Originally Posted by TomLC
He did a webinar last week that I can not find except on the Jazz Edge members dashboard. It lays out the path for classical players to learn jazz. I thought of all the folks on PW that are looking for the best method. But I can not paste it here because it is a webinar and not a YouTube video. You could email Willie and ask him how you can access that.

Originally Posted by TomLC
I just reread your post. If you are really new to the piano. Join Home School Piano on the Jazz Edge web site. The other "Jazz" sites are not very good (IMHO) for a new player. When you are done with that, you can join Jazz Edge or any of the many other great courses on the internet. Or even just watch Aimee Nolte of YouTube. She is a phenomenal musician, piano and voice. And a great teacher with a lot of personality. But I would finish HomeSchoolPiano first.

I will look into both, thanks again TomLC!

Originally Posted by jjo
I offer some thoughts as someone who studied classical and then switched to jazz, although unlike you I was a fairly advanced classical player when I switched.

Jazz and classical piano are similar technically in that the same finger strength and dexterity apply to both. But mentally, they are two completely different ways of playing. Classical is all about playing what's on the written page; jazz is about understanding chord progressions and using your ear.

I say this because trying to learn both at the same time is a tall order. If you're studying classical piano, there is certainly no harm is dabbling in jazz, but at some point you're likely to have to make a choice and throw yourself into jazz full time if you really want to be get serious with it. Both are wonderful and both are very demanding disciplines.

I totally understand that. I think at this point, I will be dabbling in jazz, with classical still my main thing. But in a few years, that may change. I really do want to get a start on it early, because I don't want to get too stuck in the classical way. I also understand learning both at the same time is a tall order. I have a tendency to bite off more than I can chew. Maybe that is what I am embarking on here, especially since I also have a second instrument...and a full-time job.


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WeakLeftHand , It is possible to combine both directions; but here it is required to clearly understand what is common between them and what differs fundamentally. You can’t do without a teacher here. In my college, students are required to study both; and then I divide the lessons into work on jazz and work on a classical piece. These are two completely different types of work: in the field of jazz - chords, scales,real book, improvisation, swing feel , blues, etc ; in the field of classics - truly thorough work on each phrase, playing movements, analysis of music and musical structures. 4-8 bars of musical text can take an entire hour lesson, and I do not see anything extraordinary in this. Such work certainly ennobles the sound; just listen to Bill or Chick, or Keith, or Herbie, or Fred. The idea is that you bring the best practices in classical music to jazz (not the manner), but not vice versa.

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Originally Posted by Nahum
WeakLeftHand , It is possible to combine both directions; but here it is required to clearly understand what is common between them and what differs fundamentally. You can’t do without a teacher here. In my college, students are required to study both; and then I divide the lessons into work on jazz and work on a classical piece. These are two completely different types of work: in the field of jazz - chords, scales,real book, improvisation, swing feel , blues, etc ; in the field of classics - truly thorough work on each phrase, playing movements, analysis of music and musical structures. 4-8 bars of musical text can take an entire hour lesson, and I do not see anything extraordinary in this. Such work certainly ennobles the sound; just listen to Bill or Chick, or Keith, or Herbie, or Fred. The idea is that you bring the best practices in classical music to jazz (not the manner), but not vice versa.

Thanks for your thoughts! That makes sense to me.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 04/14/20 11:44 AM.

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You could try working with a teacher through the ABRSM Jazz Piano Exam books. They will be quite easy because of the amount of structure in them, and they already write arrangements for you as sheet music (so it won't be that much of a jump from your classical studies). For the improvisation sections, they also have "training wheels" in the sense of writing the range of notes you should play in each bar.

ABRSM use 5 grades for their "Jazz Piano" syllabus (1-5), and they also have some books of scales and aural practice. So it could be a good structure to work through with a teacher, even if you don't plan to take the exams.

Last edited by 3am_stargazing; 04/25/20 11:39 AM.

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Originally Posted by 3am_stargazing
You could try working with a teacher through the ABRSM Jazz Piano Exam books. They will be quite easy because of the amount of structure in them, and they already write arrangements for you as sheet music.

ABRSM use 5 grades for their "Jazz Piano" syllabus (1-5), and they also have some books of scales and aural practice. So it could be a good structure to work through with a teacher.

Thanks for this. This is very interesting because it fits very well with my need for structure. But living in Canada, it will be difficult to find a teacher who will be able to teach out of the ABRSM jazz curriculum. Maybe I should look into this a bit more. Also, there are very, very few jazz piano teachers around here as compared to classical teachers (and I live in a big metropolitan area already). Almost none near me, so I’d have to travel a bit far. That, and a concern about finances, has gotten me thinking maybe I should start online or buy a book to see where I get to first. I’m learning through various online sources now and see which one I click with most and then go from there. There’s a lot of free content before a subscription is required. I’ve also ordered a few method books but due to the pandemic, delivery is very slow.

Last edited by WeakLeftHand; 04/25/20 11:45 AM.

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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
... I tried to find a starting point by looking at method books ...

Here is one I would highly recommend ....

https://www.halleonard.com/product/131102/hal-leonard-jazz-piano-method

Good Luck


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Music is a language and like like spoken word there are many difference language. A key to learning a language is spending a lot of time listening to it to pickup the things that can't written down and internalizing them. Jazz is a musical language so you need to listen to a lot of it to get it into your ear and into your gut. You'll hear people talk about Swing feel, but it the nuances that make Swing feel how it does can't be written down you learn by listening and listening, clapping the beat, and singing the beat. The same goes with learning the vocabulary of Jazz the phrases and phrasing you have to listen and listen then sing it to get it into your ear and gut.

So listen to a lot of Jazz artists piano and other instruments and pick some favorites. Listen to the ancestors like Louis Armstrong how they started by embellishing the melody. The early piano players need to hear the evolution. Remember you study the past, but play in the present.

Saxophone player and improv teacher Jerry Bergonzi when asked... What are the the 10 most important things to do to learn to improvise? Jerry's answer is... The first 9 and listening.

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Originally Posted by dmd
Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
... I tried to find a starting point by looking at method books ...

Here is one I would highly recommend ....

https://www.halleonard.com/product/131102/hal-leonard-jazz-piano-method

Good Luck


Thanks dmd for the recommendation. I had already purchased this one a few weeks ago but due to COVID-19 it has still not arrived. I guess piano method books are just deemed non-essential right now. It will take almost 2 months to get here. I’m awaiting anxiously.


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Originally Posted by MrShed
Music is a language and like like spoken word there are many difference language. A key to learning a language is spending a lot of time listening to it to pickup the things that can't written down and internalizing them. Jazz is a musical language so you need to listen to a lot of it to get it into your ear and into your gut. You'll hear people talk about Swing feel, but it the nuances that make Swing feel how it does can't be written down you learn by listening and listening, clapping the beat, and singing the beat. The same goes with learning the vocabulary of Jazz the phrases and phrasing you have to listen and listen then sing it to get it into your ear and gut.

So listen to a lot of Jazz artists piano and other instruments and pick some favorites. Listen to the ancestors like Louis Armstrong how they started by embellishing the melody. The early piano players need to hear the evolution. Remember you study the past, but play in the present.

Saxophone player and improv teacher Jerry Bergonzi when asked... What are the the 10 most important things to do to learn to improvise? Jerry's answer is... The first 9 and listening.

Yes, listening will form a part of my learning process, thanks!


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Originally Posted by WeakLeftHand
Yes, listening will form a part of my learning process, thanks!

A big part and not just passive listening what people call active or serious listening. Digging into the details of the rhythms and vocabulary, but in group the interaction between players. Jazz is spontaneous music and need to listen to how players work off each other. Especially the drummer the the others in the group. The ride cymbal is key to whats going on.

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I agree about serious listening; it's very different than just listening for pleasure. I find that i can only really focus on one aspect of a piece each time I listen for study purposes. Maybe it will be listening for what notes are accented. Maybe it'll be listening to hear how they use space, by which i mean pauses in solos. Maybe it'll be listening for how the piano comping works with a horn solo. Indeed, i find that after a dozen years of studying jazz, I can hear things I couldn't hear years ago, and hopefully in future years I'll hear things I can't hear today.

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