how to play jazz piano

You’ve probably seen expert jazz pianist play and reshape the melody and rhythms of a song and you are hoping to know how to play jazz piano as much as they do? Congratulations, you have come to the right place. Jazz seems like a trick or an illusion to a beginner or an outside observer and the reality is learning how to play jazz piano.

Are you a beginner or do you have the basic jazz piano knowledge and willing to sharpen your jazz piano skills? This article will open your eyes to things you need to do and take you through some helpful tips, exercise, and instructions to follow in learning to play the jazz like the expert you ought to be.

Things You Need to Know to Follow This Tutorial

How to Read Piano Notes

I understand learning to play jazz piano may seem like such a big task, but it doesn’t have to be so daunting. Tutorials often seem like an extended form of classes and can be termed boring by many. But with this tutorial, you get to experience the practicality behind playing the jazz piano which I know is bound to keep you mesmerized and eager to learn.

In this tutorial, there is going to be an accurate list of necessary skills of sorts you must know to get the best results. Now, take a breath and go through this list religiously because they will be the backbone to helping you do the best at playing jazz piano. Perhaps you already know some of them even.

In no particular order:

  • Scaling: One of the first things I did was learn to play all 12 major scales. Note that there are twelve assumed different sounding scales, but in theory, B/Cb, F#/Gb, and C#/Db are unique on their own.
  • Song Book: Songbooks of famous players of the piano is a must have for you if you are taking this tutorial seriously.

You have to find time to practice at least daily and learn the jazz piano chords. It helps you learn outstanding notes and with learning them accordingly. Be sure to get a song book that has the guitar tabs and chord symbols written directly over the melody line.

Most importantly, your commitment and passion are needed as they will be instrumental in keeping you on track even when you think you are not making progress as you should.

How To Play Jazz Piano With Step By Step

Step 1: Learn To Read Music

reading music piano

I believe this is a pretty obvious thing to know. The ability to read music helps you train your ear and distinguishes from the average listener. You can pick up on a lot of otherwise unnoticeable sounds this way.

Step 2: Listen

This step is crucial to learning the jazz piano. Get yourself as many recordings as you can without discriminating in favor of the old or the contemporary ones. Listen to the recordings, take the aspects that appeal to you and apply them to your own playing.

You can equally perform the ear training exercise to perfect your listening skills. Frequent listening and application to your playing will help you on the way to becoming an excellent jazz pianist.

Step 3: Horrible Practicing

don't memory music

Yes, you read that right the first time. A very positive attitude that will help you is that you cannot always get it right the first time. You might not understand a few concepts in the tutorial, but you should not be fazed. I was crap too at first, but I tried and retried until I got better. Where’s the fun in getting it right the first time, right?

Step 4: Learning Chord Inversions

CM7 chord


It is important also to learn to play CM7 like (C, E, G, B), (E, G, B, C), (G, B, C, E), and (B, C, E, G). Learn these positions for every chord and what the chords represent. You can also follow this exercise to fine-tune your skills.

Step 5: Learn Your Major and Minor Triads

Whenever you hear those musical smooth sounds, it is the effect of the 7th chords. And the primary chord that brings about that effect? The major and minor triads are the answer. Once you’ve mastered the major and minor triads, you are just one note away from being a full-fledged professional. They are essential in building jazz chords.

Step 6: Learn The Swinging Rhythms of Jazz

Without the rhythms, there is no jazz to be played on the piano, and that is where swing comes in. That tapping of your feet, the nodding of your head is because of the swing entity of jazz. Eight notes can be swung in jazz piano learning and these eight notes are delayed on the second term so you can have the notes sound like a triplet without the middle beat.

Step 7: The Ability to Improvise

Commonly considered a life skill, it is advantageous to have the mentality to improvise when you are not getting the right result. With a few tweaks of your own, you might stumble across a great note or chord. Freeing yourself from the constraints associated with the page you’re given and being creative will help you be better with this tutorial.

Step 8: Basic Jazz Theory is Key

Understanding how the jazz theory works is a huge factor in understanding the tutorial. Just like learning a new language, you need to first start out small, with a few conjunctions and chords. It is an absolute must to understand how chords and harmonies fit together and the likes.

Learn more at video below:


Tips for learning how to play the Jazz piano

  • Consistently practice the piano. You learn to play jazz piano by playing and practicing the piano, and not by reading a guide. The trick is to train your hands to play, not just your brain.
  • Don’t be afraid to make mistakes, sometimes the wrong notes you play might even sound good. It is important to realize that you do not have to get it right the first time. Pace yourself and be open to self-criticism.
  • Listen to jazz music as often as you can. Don’t neglect other music too; they can help you during improvising sessions
  • You need to understand that there are no rules to playing jazz piano like a pro, so experiment and make alterations if you want to. This form of practice will improve your improvisational skills.
  • Follow a mentor. Consider why your mentor is called the best pianist and gradually work towards achieving their status.


The steps mentioned above are quick-fire ways to get you to that elevated status of manipulating the jazz piano as you wish to create soulful music. With the right level of dedication, I can easily see you reach the very top level.

The most important part of any learning process is to remember you are doing this for fun and not lose that personal thrill while learning. The best music is always produced under zero pressure, and you would do well to remember that.