Guest Post: Tips for Playing Jazz on Piano and Keys

Guest Post Mark sheet music

Jazz embraces everything a piano has to offer. It combines interesting chord harmonies, rhythms, and allows total creative freedom. While this might sound liberating, it can be overwhelming especially if you are just starting out.

Fortunately, if you are really interested in learning jazz on your piano or keyboard, here are a few steps to guide you through the necessary parts of this lifelong journey.

A Quick Note Before You Start

There’s a big difference between acoustic and digital instruments. They sound and feel different and your experience on each instrument will greatly influence how you perform.

With the acoustic, you will get a nice, full sound. This will particularly affect how your chords will sound. Digital instruments, on the other hand, offer tonality across the notes because of their build.

As a jazz player, you should go for a good 88-key piano with fully weighted keys that has few effects and is a lightweight model (without compromising the keyboard action).

Step 1: Learn the Basics

Begin by learning the language of music: chords and scales and how they are applied. Scales are the foundation of jazz music. Once you can play all the major scales, you are ready to go onto the major and minor triads. This will help you build up to the rich sound that comes from the 7th chords.

You’ll also need to learn the intervals between notes (and how to differentiate between half and whole step intervals) to understand chord progressions; and to understand the space between the notes to create melodies.

Step 2: Be Creative

Improvisation is one of the most important aspects of playing jazz. There are two types of improvisation.

You can go with literal improvisations, where you come up with your own riffs and rhythms. There’s also implied improvisation, where the music you play is written to sound as if it’s improvised.

If you choose to go with the literal improvisation, start by changing the rhythm. For example, you can take a simple quarter note melody and turn it into a complex jazz tune by adding notes, syncopation and playing with dynamics.

You can add a 5th note to the 7th sound to form a 9th chord, creating new sounds with more complex chords. While this might sound demanding, it’s actually very simple to learn. All you need to do is pick your scale and remember the key signature to form your foundation chord.

Step 3: Add the Voicing

To complement the melody and create extra style, you can add voicings to your music by, for example, changing the structure of your chord. Use inversions in chord charts for new voicings. This enables you to take the notes of the chords and restructure them.

Let’s say you have a chord of 1-3-5-7 and you want to add voicings to sound better. We can change that to 3-5-7-1.

Step 4: Practice

To help you out as you’re learning, find a jazz chord chart such as this one. You can even download software that will guide you on the chords to familiarize you as you practice.

For more information, visit

Guest post (c) Mark DPJ.




Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Website Powered by

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: