Introduction to Learn Jazz Piano eBook 4

The best way to use this jazz piano eBook is in conjunction with my learn jazz piano video course.


Over the years, many accomplished classical pianists have asked me to teach them jazz improvisation. It has never ceased to amaze me that they can sight read a Mozart Sonata, yet are usually totally unable to improvise. They are equally amazed that ‘we’ can just sit at the piano and make up stuff. Apparently, for a number of these talented classical musicians, the subject of improvisation was virtually ignored in a three-year music degree course, even though great composers such as J. S. Bach were famed for their improvisatory skills.

These gifted classical pianists yearn to improvise, but often become fearful at the prospect of no longer reading the notes in front of them. They marvel at the way we seem to be conjuring flurries of notes out of nowhere, as though we’re performing magic. And in a way, we are, although a lot of work has been put in before the magic can be created.

It could be said that improvisation is the highest form of music. We seem to be creating new and spontaneous compositions, but the truth is that our improvisations have both structure and logic. There are certain rules that we are following (or breaking). Moreover, our seeming spontaneity is  both consciously and subconsciously influenced by the generations of master jazz musicians that have gone before us.

Much has been written about the harmonic language of Bill Evans, and indeed, behind the sheer beauty of his playing, there lies a logical structure. But a more interesting case is Thelonious Monk, with his alleged eccentric approach and wrong-sounding notes. Yet, when analyzed, everything Monk plays has logic and structure.

In order to create a meaningful solo, two seemingly contradictory skills need to be in place: harmonic and rhythmic understanding, alongside an empty mind. Once the understanding is in place, this empty mind takes over and is totally alert, like an antenna. Once you have put in the preparation and are fully awake, you are ready for anything.

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