To learn jazz, do you have to start with the blues?

Hey Improvisers,

I get a lot of new piano students who are into jazz, but have been told by someone that “if you want to learn jazz, you have to start with the blues.”

On the surface, this sounds logical, right? After all, blues music predated jazz during the late 1800s and certainly influenced jazz in a huge way. In fact, Buddy Bolden, the cornet player who was the earliest great jazz musician we know of, is credited with bringing the blues into the dance hall. That was one of his big innovations that led to the creation of jazz. But does this mean that we pianists today have to start with the blues before we learn jazz?

The key phrase here is “before.” Do you have to spent months or years learning the blues “before” you learn jazz piano? In other words, is there any reason why you have to delay learning the jazz you love while you study the blues?

The great news is that you can dive right into jazz right away!

Jazz is steeped in the blues. Even non-bluesy styles, such as Bossa Nova and some fusion, contain bluesy elements which will lead you to the blues in one way or another.

Here’s a video I’ve made to help you understand how to get started playing jazz piano in a fun way, and how this will lead you to the study of blues piano in one way or another, naturally.

Piano Myth #10: “To learn jazz, you have to start with the blues”

Good luck with your jazz (and blues) piano playing!


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