Tag Archives: diminished scales

Diminished-scales are symmetrical. They move up a whole step then a half step.

Learn to play a jazz piano solo

Learn to play a jazz piano solo

The following article was first published on WikiHow. 

Learn to Play a jazz piano solo

Is it possible to learn to play a great jazz piano solo or  can you play just by instinct? The story goes that Errol Garner   couldn’t read music, but unless you’re  a genius, you need more than just good instinct.


  1. Gain a sound knowledge of each chord and its extensions. A good deal of the excitement of jazz comes from the concept of tension to release. This is created by the dominant seventh chord moving to its tonic: V – I: known as ‘The Perfect Cadence.’ Let’s take G7 moving to Cmaj7.
  2. All the tension is contained within the G7, and we first create this tension with notes known as extensions. These are notes not within the chord but within the scale. So we have 9, 11 and 13. The remaining notes: b9, #9, #11 and b13 are known as alterations. In the case of G7, the three  extensions are A, C and E. The four alterations for G7 are Ab, A#, C# and Eb. By combining these extensions and alterations with the basic notes of G7 (G, B, D and F) you create the tension that will release into the tonic chord of Cmaj7.
  3. Get to know your way round the scale or mode of each chord. Again, taking G7, the basic mode that fits any dominant seventh chord is the the Mixolydian mode – just play the major scale but flatten the seventh note. So the Mixolydian mode of G7 is G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G – all the white notes. But to create more tension, and bring in some extensions you could try some other scales. The diminished scale ( just play alternative half step/whole step from the root of any dominant seventh) works really well, as it creates a b9, #9 and #11. The notes for G7 would be G, Ab, A#, B, C#, D, E, F, G. Other possibilities are the whole tone scale (whole steps) which gives you the #11 and b13 and the Lydian Dominant (same as Mixolydian but with a raised 4th) which gives you just the #11.
  4. Combine a knowledge of the chord’s 3 extensions and 4 alterations with scales and modes that fit the chord. Yes, this involves a lot of work that needs to become second nature before ‘instinct’ kicks in.


Well, that’s what I wrote. When I posted my article on the Linkedin forum ‘Jazz Piano’ it created quite a fuss, with the usual extremes from “let’s have more theory” to “who needs theory?” I feel pretty much the same as I did when I wrote it. For most of us, the work and preparation has to be put in before we can push it back into our subconscious for a performance.

So now click here and learn from my online video lessons how to do it!

eBook Learning Jazz Piano book 3

eBook Learning Jazz Piano book 3

Learning Jazz Piano book 3

My eBook ‘Learning Jazz Piano book 3’ is now available at the link below
This third book focuses on practical advice and strategies for the learning jazz pianist.
You can either purchase this eBook separately or as a 3-book set at discount.

Here’s the link to buy all 3 jazz piano books.

eBook Learning Jazz Piano book 3
Learn jazz piano book 3

To give you a flavour of the contents, here’s the list of chapters:

  1. Bebop blues
  2. Using rootless voicings with tritone substitutes
  3. Decoding jazz standards
  4. Simplifying lead-sheets
  5. Navigating chord charts
  6. Stride piano, part 2
  7. Playing with other musicians
  8. Working with singers
  9. Building a repertoire
  10. Suggested listening
  11. Recommended books

Jazz piano lesson 16: Tritone Substitution

Jazz piano lesson 16: Tritone Substitution

Jazz piano lesson 16 now available: tritone substitution

Jazz piano lesson 16 of my online video course, Learn Jazz Piano, is all about tritone substitution.
I start by showing you how diminished scales weave through dominant 7th chords and how you can solo over 8 chords using just 1 diminished scale.This leads us to tritone substitution: replacing one 7th chord with another.
The tritone, also known as the devil’s interval, is the key to unlocking a new and more advanced way of soloing.
tritone substitution
Original chord & tritone