Piano Jazz Improvisation

By: Jerry A. Greene

Question: I would like to start learning how to improvise in the jazz piano styles. How can I start learning piano jazz improvisation?

Answer: Learning to improvise at the piano takes many long hours of hard work. There is quite a different viewpoint one must take when venturing away from music that is written out note-for-note, especially when "reading music" is all you have ever learned how to do. You may have even had a teacher that frowned upon playing by ear.

There are many ways of going about learning jazz improvisation, but the first thing you must do is listen to as many different jazz pianists that you can get recordings of. You absolutely must immerse yourself in the jazz style (or any musical style for that matter) by hearing it as much as you can. Better yet, if you get the chance, watch a great jazz pianist up-close-and-personal! Being able to watch someone's hands dance all over the keyboard is not only a learning experience, but an inspiration. I can't begin to tell you how amazed I was, when seeing someone that really knew how to improvise, sit at the piano and start making things up! I had no clue how they were doing it...I just knew that I wanted to do it too!

The next thing you may want to do is learn some of the typical "improvisational scales", such as the blues scale. I will be posting up another article about that here, shortly, but if you have never played one before, let me give you a quick one to try, since it is REALLY EASY:

Play all of the black keys, starting from the Eb, going up to the next Eb. Add an "A natural" in there, and you'll have a blues scale (Blues in Eb to be exact). The chords that are usually used to accompany are the Eb7 , Ab7 , and Bb7. Again, I will be posting another article about that on here shortly, but just try that for now.

There are also a lot of great books out there on learning to play jazz piano. Even if you are a complete beginner and feel that you "just don't have it", give it a shot! You may be surprised how easy it starts to become, once you have immersed yourself in the jazz style.