Learning to improvise jazz piano fluently, right from the beginning

When you’re learning jazz piano, it’s very important to work on fluency right from the beginning. And I’m hesitant to say this publicly, but practicing exercises over ii/V chord progressions isn’t going to get you there. In fact, it’s probably going to inhibit true fluency, because the level of theory involved requires too much thinking at every moment.

Yes, it’s helpful to practice. Yes, it’s helpful to learn theory. And yes, it’s helpful to think about music intellectually.

But none of us ever learned to speak a language fluently like this.

We learned our language by doing it. By immersion. By speaking to our friends and family in a lively, meaningful way, right from the beginning.

We don’t tell a 2-year old child to only use words they can spell, right? That would be ridiculous! But ironically, this is the way many of us are taught to learn jazz: Lesson – memorize this ii/V voicing in all 12 keys. Then go on to the next lesson in 12 months when you’ve done that! I’m not exaggerating here; I hear from people who have spent decades doing this, and still can’t sit down and play “Autumn Leaves” with any degree of joy and fluency!

If you’re at the level that you can play jazz with an easy sense of flow… congrats! You’ll pick up some tips and inspiration from my new Journey Through The Real Book video, on Wayne Shorter’s great tune “Fall.” If you know the version on Miles Davis’ album Nefertiti, you know what a wonderful yet unusual tune it is. I’ve made this video to help you “open the door” to making some sense of how to approach such a non-traditional chord progression and musical form. Here’s the video:

Wayne Shorter’s “Fall”: Journey Through The Real Book #113

And if you’re at the beginning or intermediate stages but don’t yet have an easy sense of fluency while playing jazz standards, here’s a link to some free beginning jazz piano lessons to enjoy. It’s taken me over 3 decades to figure out how to provide a fun, lively, and immersive environment for learning jazz piano, right from the beginning, and here it is. In addition to learning the basics in a theoretical way, you’ll get some good practice improvising right away. In addition, I’ve included a supplemental video for each lesson that gets you developing a solid sense of jazz rhythm, hand independence, and an understanding of soloing techniques that will serve you well as you continue to improve and develop as the jazz pianist you’ll eventually become.

You’ll find these lessons here:

Free Beginning Jazz Piano Lessons

Free Beginning Jazz Piano Lessons

Have a great time with these lessons, and as always, “let the music flow!”


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