5 tips for playing jazz waltzes on piano

Have you ever played a jazz waltz? If you have, you may have experienced the thrill of playing jazz piano in a way that’s kind of a cross between a ballad and an uptempo swing groove. Or, you may perhaps have found yourself a little bit “out of your element,” with none of your usual jazz rhythms working quite as well as you’d like.

I love playing jazz waltzes, and I’ve found that the key to enjoying them fully is to develop a fluid rhythmic approach to them that combines some elements of ballad playing with the swinging rhythms of medium jazz playing.

Here are 5 tips for playing jazz waltzes on piano:

1. Avoid “over-swinging.
2. Learn to “stretch the rhythm” while always keeping in mind the underlying 3 beats per measure.
3. Alternate jazzy rhythms with a more traditional waltz feel.
4. Use a stride-like left hand pattern at times.
5. Generate some rhythmic interplay between your hands.

You can hear (and see) me use all 5 of these approaches in my rendition of the jazz waltz “I’m All Smiles,” which you can find in The Real Book. Listen to my explanation about playing jazz waltzes, and see how I’ve put all five of these tips into play during my version of the tune.

I’m All Smiles: Journey Through The Real Book #171

Once you get the groove going, jazz waltzes are a lot of fun to play!

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”


PS – If you want to improve your bebop piano playing, I’m starting a new 10-week Zoom or Skype course called Bebop Blast. The idea is that you and I will meet each week for a 30-minute lesson, for 10 weeks. We’ll dive deep into bebop together and internalize the melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic concepts of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and the rest of the bebop greats, and apply them to bebop tunes like “Confirmation” and “Blues For Alice.” The fee is $350 for ten 30-minute bebop piano lessons. If you’ve always wanted to get past the “bebop learning curve” and dive deep into the great music that’s the basis of modern jazz, just let me know and we’ll get started right away.

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