I think it’s a good idea to begin this Intermediate-level Curriculum by watching a video that’s in the Intro To Jazz Series. (I’m including it here because it will make your jazz playing much easier and you may not have needed to go through the whole Beginning Jazz Curriculum.) I’ve made this lesson to clear up a lot of the confusion that exists about figuring out what scales to use on different chords in the context of a jazz standard. This will make your jazz playing a lot easier!
Intro to Jazz 14a: “Autumn Leaves” (Beg/Int): The easiest way to decide which scales to use
Let’s start learning ways of voicing chords that are a little more advanced than we’ve done before. This first lesson will get you thinking creatively so you can come up with your own voicings as you play tunes.
Intermediate Jazz 1: Rootless dominant 7th voicings: Jazz Blues: A creative approach to chord voicings
While it’s good to stay creative, at the same time it’s beneficial to learn the standard chord voicings that many jazz pianists have used through the years. This will give a repertoire of voicings you can rely on while also having the option of creating your own voicings “on the spot.” Let’s start with the famous A and B one-handed voicings in the key of C Major.
Jazz Harmony 6: A and B voicings in C major (LH): Improvising over rootless chord voicings
Jazz Harmony 7: A and B voicings in C major (RH): Playing rootless voicings over a walking bass
Now you’ll see how these one-handed voicings can be spread out between your two hands. These two-handed voicings are most commonly used when playing with a bass player.
Intermediate Jazz 2: 2-handed voicings: ii/V/I: ‘A’ and ‘B’ rootless voicings
Intermediate Jazz 3: ii/V/I 2-handed voicings in several keys: Comping in C, F, Bb, and G
As we continue to study voicings in various keys, these lessons will also increase your hand independence by suggesting different rhythmic combinations between the hands.
Jazz Harmony 8: A and B voicings in Db major (LH): Comping on the “and” of beat 2
Jazz Harmony 9: A and B voicings in Db major (RH): Playing chords while walking bass lines of varying complexity
Now we’re going to look at more advanced improvisational techniques you can use on tunes. When you’re first learning to improvise with scales, you aren’t necessarily thinking about which scale tones are in each chord. But the best jazz musicians are sensitive to this, as much of jazz improv is related to the underlying chords. Let’s begin this important study by looking at a minor blues progression from the point of view of chord tones and passing tones. Together, they make up a scale.
Intermediate Jazz 6: Soloing on Dm Blues: Improv with chord tones and passing tones
Let’s practice a well-known jazz standard the same way.
Intermediate Jazz 7: Soloing on “Take The ‘A’ Train”: Improv with chord tones and passing tones
This next lesson will give you a good workout on Take The ‘A’ Train, including soloing and chord voicings.
We already learned A and B voicings in C and Db. Now let’s continue up a half-step to D Major, rhythmic flexibility while we’re at it.
Jazz Harmony 10: A and B voicings in D major (LH): Varying your LH rhythms
Jazz Harmony 11: A and B voicings in D major (RH): Varying your RH rhythms
In the Beginning curriculum, the Flowing Water lessons contributed to fluency and ease of improvising. Lessons 19 and 20 get you improvising over a more active left hand pattern.
“Flowing Water” Lesson 19: An exciting LH pattern using continuous 8th notes
“Flowing Water” Lesson 20: A flowing melody over continuous 8ths in LH
Here’s example of how to use the Blues Scale in a jazz context.
‘F’ Blues Scale Etude: A jazz groove inspired by Miles Davis
Keith Jarrett is famous for improvising over repeating left hand patterns, also known as “vamps.” These next 2 lessons are a good introduction to this exciting style of solo piano playing. The notes will be easy at first, but you may have a good challenge while developing your hand coordination!
The Art of Keith Jarrett Lesson 1: Intro to LH vamps
The Art of Keith Jarrett Lesson 2: More RH possibilities
Jazz Ballad playing is a wonderful, expressive style to play! The next five lessons will take you through several ways to practice a ballad so you can play it with rhythmic flexibility. The goal is to learn each tune so that you don’t have to think so much about the chords anymore. At that point your improvising can become much freer in terms of melody, harmony, and rhythm. Bill Evans and Herbie Hancock are good role models in this regard (but then again, so is Art Tatum!).
Jazz Ballads: Lesson 1: Learning a tune’s chords thoroughly (Part 1): “Indian Summer”
Jazz Ballads: Lesson 2: Learning a tune’s chords thoroughly (Part 2): “Indian Summer”
Jazz Ballads: Lesson 3: “Indian” Summer” (Chords and melody)
Jazz Ballads: Lesson 4: A full ballad texture
Jazz Ballads: Lesson 5: Extended harmonies in the right hand
Every now and again it’s helpful to take a deep breath and take a bird’s eye view of jazz. The next 4 lessons are a look at the “big picture” of learning jazz tunes. You’ll get a lot of ideas on possible directions you may want to go with your jazz playing and individual style from these lessons.
Intermediate Jazz 17: How to Learn a Jazz Tune (Part 1): Chords and Melody
Intermediate Jazz 18: How to Learn a Jazz Tune (Part 2): Musical style and pianistic texture
Intermediate Jazz 19: How to Learn a Jazz Tune (Part 3): Improvising a solo
Intermediate Jazz 20: How to Learn a Jazz Tune (Part 4): Use the tune to learn something new
Let’s continue learning more A and B voicings, this time in Eb Major. The more keys you know these in, the easier you’ll find it when you encounter them in the tunes you play. You’ll also get some good experience playing Bossa Nova rhythms with these two lessons!
Jazz Harmony 12: A and B voicings in Eb major (LH): A Bossa Nova rhythm
Jazz Harmony 13: A and B voicings in Eb major (RH): A fun Bossa accompaniment
Now we’re going to to take a “global” look at the great jazz standard “Whispering.” (Dizzy Gillespie based his tune “Groovin’ High” on these chord changes.) You’ll learn how to look at a song and understand which scales to use when improvising, and how to play it using a variety of chord voicings and pianistic textures. My goal is to give you lots of options when you sit down to play a song.
Great American Songbook 1: An overview
Great American Songbook 2: “Whispering” (Part 1): Chords and melody
Great American Songbook 3: “Whispering” (Part 2): Varying the melody
Great American Songbook 4: “Whispering” (Part 3): Chord voicings for ballad-style playing
Great American Songbook 5: “Whispering” (Part 4): Creating Chopin-like LH accompaniments
Great American Songbook 6: “Whispering” (Part 5): Stride LH
Great American Songbook 7: “Whispering” (Part 6): Chords and melody in RH
Here’s a fun, rollicking way to play the blues!
Classic Blues and New Orleans Piano Styles 9: “Goin’ to the Mardi Gras”
Here are two full pieces that use the Flowing Water concepts. Enjoy learning them as written, and then improvise over the left hand accompaniments.
“Flowing Water” Lesson 21: “Daydreaming”
“Flowing Water” Lesson 22: “Rushing Stream”
The Flowing Water lessons you’ve just learned take us very close to Keith Jarrett’s style when he plays solo piano concerts. Let’s look at some of his techniques in detail.
The Art of Keith Jarrett Lesson 4: A single, rhythmic note
The Art of Keith Jarrett Lesson 5: Using the root and 5th
One of the great things about learning jazz chords, scales, etc. is that some songs will come very easy to you now. Here are two “Smooth Jazz” grooves that use very simple chords. Once you get comfortable with the rhythms, you can start jamming!
Smooth Jazz/R&B/Funk 1: Getting started
Smooth Jazz/R&B/Funk 2: Grooving on just 2 chords
Some tunes, like “All The Things You Are,” briefly go to the key of E Major. Those spots will be much easier for you after you practice Jazz Harmony 14 and 15. It’s a wonderful moment when this key begins to feel more natural!
Jazz Harmony 14: A and B voicings in E major (LH): A rhythmic workout!
Jazz Harmony 15: A and B voicings in E major (RH): Developing more rhythmic flexibility
Now it’s time for a “Bebop Blast!” As you learn each lesson, play the same exercise on another jazz tune of your choice. This will help you assimilate the bebop language more completely.
Intermediate Jazz 9: Bebop Blast (Part 1): Charlie Parker Blues: Focusing on one chord tone at a time
Intermediate Jazz 10: Bebop Blast (Part 2): Approaching chord tones from below
Intermediate Jazz 11: Bebop Blast (Part 3): Approaching chord tones from above
Intermediate Jazz 12: Bebop Blast (Part 4): Circling below and above
Intermediate Jazz 13: Bebop Blast (Part 5): Circling above and below
Intermediate Jazz 14: Bebop Blast (Part 6): Mixing it up
Intermediate Jazz 15: Bebop Blast (Part 7): A Miles Davis lick
Intermediate Jazz 16: Bebop Blast (Part 8): Combining techniques over a Charlie Parker Blues
I got the idea for this concept from reading an interview with saxophonist Ornette Coleman. It works with all styles of jazz.
Intermediate Jazz 21: Think Like a Drummer: How to give your playing more rhythmic life
Here’s another way to improve your rhythmic approach.
Here’s another way to learn from bebop pioneer Charlie Parker.
Intermediate Jazz 23: A Charlie Parker lick: Learning a bebop phrase in all 12 keys
Intermediate Jazz 24: Applying a Charlie Parker lick to a tune: “All The Things You Are”
We looked at melody a bit in the Intro To Jazz series. Now we can “take it to the next level!”
Intermediate Jazz 25: Melodic interpretation and variation (Part 1): Personalizing a song melody’s rhythm
Intermediate Jazz 26: Melodic interpretation and variation (Part 2): Repeated notes, passing tones, and neighbor tones
Intermediate Jazz 27: Melodic interpretation and variation (Part 3): Changing the melody at will
Intermediate Jazz 28: Melodic interpretation and variation (Part 4): Basing your solo on the melody
You’ve already learned a wide range of ways to use your left hand in jazz. Here’s a recap and overview.
Intermediate Jazz 29: The role of the left hand in solo jazz piano: An overview of what to play with your LH
I’ve found that jazz pianists (as opposed to horn players) tend to use stepwise motion between chords naturally, since the keyboard is so visually laid out. Even so, it can he useful to practice exercises that show us how to improvise melodies that connect chords in a logical way. Try these licks in a few different keys.
Intermediate Jazz 30: A bunch of ii/V licks that use “guide tone lines”: Licks that are created around the stepwise motion between chords
Intermediate Jazz 31: Bill Evans-style accompaniment Part 1): Comping on “Autumn Leaves” without a walking bass line