Why is it that so many rock and pop musicians respect jazz and cite it as an influence on their musicianship? Yes, jazz if fun to listen to. But I think the main reason it’s influenced these musicians so much has more to do with the infinite possibilities jazz offers in terms of improvisation and musical expression.
In other words, learning to play even a little bit of jazz keeps us growing as musicians and keeps our musical universe expanding.
When Bruce Springsteen praises his band’s playing the instrumental section of “Born To Run” by saying “That’s really hard to play. They sound like jazz musicians there,” it’s a big compliment. When Keith Richards inserts a chromatic dominant 7th passing chord during The Rolling Stones’ arrangement of Bob Dylan’s “Like A Rolling Stone,” it’s because he knows more than we might think about jazz (check out his autobiography for more on this). And when Stevie Wonder writes song after song using ii/V/I chord progressions with advanced 9th and 13th chords, it’s because he grew up studying and playing tunes by Duke Ellington and other jazz composers of that generation. (Wonder also likes to perform Chick Corea pieces in concert.)
No matter what genre of music is closest to our hearts, we can benefit from learning a bit of jazz improvisation. Eddie Van Halen and Billy Joel are two more rock musicians who can attest to this.
Here are a few fun, easy, free beginning jazz piano lessons to give you some experience improvising in a jazz context.
Free Beginning Jazz Piano Lessons
Give them a try. They’ll expand your melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic horizons.
Enjoy, and “let the music flow!”
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