Learn to play jazz piano

What is jazz ?Sarah

From the musical forms of blues and ragtime, this genre of music called ‘jazz’ emerged in the late 19th century in the South of the United States, and from it arose a number of other derivatives of music that are enjoyed the world over. It is generally recognised as a free flowing form in which musicians create riffs and sequences, in the moment, based on a given progression.

How is jazz performed ?

Because of the different cultural influences of the performers, this genre of music can be played on horns, rhythm guitar, drums, piano, organ, and double bass. For variety and entertainment, it is usually delivered by a group of instrumentalists who play together, and who take turns doing thier own individual solo expressions to delight their audiences. Jazz has also been made popular by vocalists like Ella Fitzgerald, Roberta Flack and more recently Norah Jones. As you would observe from these performances there is a bluesy vibe going through which identifies the genre.

The role of the piano

piano hands

Of all the instruments, piano/organ can produce the greatest variety in styles, expression and arrangements because piano/organ are played with the permutaions and combinations using ten fingers. A pianist can play jazz by himself and embody rhythm, melody, harmony, and even a bass line. The piano is the whole orchestra.

What does the pianist play ?

Jazz is not confined to named songs. It is more of a style and a form which can be applied to everyday popular songs and labelled as jazz. Listen to this jazz pianist turn a simple, well- known song like “Happy birthday” into jazz by changing the progressions, altering the chords and introducing different grooves. What is interesting to note is that while he is playing the different styles, we are hearing the melody of the song within the arrangement. How does he do this?


He plays the basic chord progressions but in between these basic chords, he uses ‘passing chords’ to add interest. He  chooses to add one chord or several chords, as long as he stays within the rhythm and keeps the form of the song.


Usually, jazz is recognised by the sound of the chords. Whereas in regular songs the chords are based on the first third and fifth notes (basic triad), in jazz other notes of the scale ( 6th, seventh, even flat 5th or flat 9th) are added to provide a degree of dissonance and a little suspension to make the chords sound more bluesy. To some, this might sound involved, but it is a skill that can be learned and developed over time and it really does enrich the music.


The melody is the ‘tune’. In a simple song the right hand plays the melody and together with some lower notes in the melodyright hand, the left hand plays accompaniment. In jazz the melody is played to identify the song but later the pianist may play scales and riffs and licks while the chords are heard. The important thing is that he just does not play anything. He has to play these scales and licks in harmony, based on musical patterns, and in rhythm with what is going on.


Jazz may seem involved , and it can be but learning jazz piano can make your keyboard experience and your depth of expression even more profound and enjoyable. You can start with very simple songs, add a few notes, change styles and later develop those same songs even more. The best tool to encourage your jazz skills is that of listening. Spend time listening to various vocal and instrumental artists and you will get familiar with the additions they provide to make songs that much more entertaining. Are you ready to enrol in a jazz program ? It might be the best give you give yourself this year !

For more information about learning piano, visit  https://www.mypianohobby.com/

Please follow and like us:


  1. Wealthfather

    Great Content and Information!

    What a concise and thorough article. I found the post very detailed and Informative. So so many useful tips and tricks all on one page!  I bookmarked to look further. I am in my intermediate stage of learning piano and am learning really fast.  This is an eye opener for me because I have added to what I knew with this article.

    Thanks for sharing 

    1. Joy (Post author)

      Hi. thank you for your comments. Learning piano is like a journey. You need to listen to all types of music and who knows? In the future you might just find yourself playing some jazz.

  2. Adamu2

    I absolutely love this insightful article because it is full of great information. This is fascinating and intriguing to me.Jazz music is always interesting and melodious. Your article gave an insight about jazz music, melody, chord and progression is what makes jazz music. I would love to know more about music. Thanks for the review about jazz music. Best regards 

    1. Joy (Post author)

      Hi Adam, you say you would love to know more. How about enrolling in a class and learning in the style you like? Thanks for your comments

  3. Seyi

    The piano is one of the most interesting instruments for me. I know this because I started learning the piano few months ago and in those few months have developed a special type of love for the piano. Even tho I can’t play jazz yet, this piece of article just increased my interest in jazz. Thanks for this article, it sure blessed me

    1. Joy (Post author)

      Hi Seyi, you are welcome. You will never regret taking time to learn piano. I hope you will play jazz in the future. Listening to jazz will spark your interest and you will begin to understand and master the features. Best wishes.

  4. Vapz

    Great article on jazz and jazz piano. I usually envy people who play instruments, even though I used to think it was easy to learn, I never really wanted to learn any instrument,I had no interest in learning until 9years ago when  my sister started to learn to play the ascoutic guiitar and  I got somewhat enamoured by playing instruments. I have been planning to enroll in a jazz class and this article was a good encouragement for me. I’m feeling like “Let’s do this!”

    1. Joy (Post author)

      Vapz, you sound like you really love music but just haven’t gotten around to learning to play. You need to enrol in a class. Just do it !

  5. Seun Afotanju

    Thanks for interesting post, The point is that a Classical pianist can very well excel at Jazz if they have the time and desire to learn the Jazz language, but many times they’re just too busy. Instead of thinking of it as a Classical pianist being “bad” at Jazz, try thinking that Classical pianists are just unfamiliar with Jazz,  the pleasure of coming across this site is all mine.

    1. Joy (Post author)

      Hi Seun. I know that so well. I was trained in classical and later studied jazz. The difference is in where the music comes from, the music sheet (outside), or the awareness (inside). Jazz can be learned. Thank you for your comments.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *