With all the available jazz piano instructional materials readily available these days, it may seem ironic that so many aspiring jazz pianists feel “stuck” at their current level. But perhaps this is inevitable, because becoming a fluent jazz pianist isn’t simply a matter of learning more and more scales, licks and chord voicings which is mostly what we see in books and on the internet.
Instead, you’ll attain your jazz piano dreams by following these 5 ways to becoming truly fluent with jazz:
1. Aim for Flow first, Complexity later
This mind-shift completely reverses the mistake most beginning and even intermediate jazz pianists make these days, which is to start with complex chord voicings and modes. Instead, start by playing melodies and 7th chords and enjoy the process of becoming rhythmically flexible when playing jazz standards. This will actually make you sound much better and also enable you to learn the more complex skills in a more natural way.
2. Jam with your peers
Yes – get out and play music with living, breathing musicians. Not just computer-generated playalong tracks.
3. Play professionally
It’s simpler than you may think! Just find a party or event that can benefit for having background music, such as a relative’s birthday party, and hire a bass player and drummer to perform with you. They’ll gladly do it since they’re getting paid, and you’ll gain priceless experience. Remember – you don’t have to play anything fancy. Just chords, melody, and simple melodic solos will make the event enjoyable for everyone!
4. Take jazz piano lessons
Every single great jazz pianist has studied with someone, formally or informally, at some point in their lives (whether they admit it or not.) With the right teacher, you’ll progress faster than you think possible.
5. Have a “growth mindset”
I spent 5 years sounding “not so good,” but I still loved every minute of playing jazz. I enjoyed it because I firmly believed that someday I’d “get it” and sound better. “Growth mindset” will get you to where you want to go with your jazz piano playing.
One of my piano students, Mike Brose, has utilized all 5 of these ways to take his jazz piano playing up to the professional level. Here’s a video of Mike and I jamming together on a Jazz Blues in C. Listen to how clear and confident his phrasing is!
If you want to see what Mike’s been doing professionally, here’s his website:
Good luck with your own jazz piano playing. As you incorporate these 5 ways into your own musical activities, remember to always enjoy the journey and “let the music flow!”
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