What is the best way of understanding jazz piano?

Question by july_exodus: What is the best way of understanding jazz piano?
I have been classically trained since the age of 4 (I’m now 28), and I think of music in terms of “do-re-mi”, within a key centre (e.g. in D major, D is “do”, E is “re”, F# is “mi” and so on).

But jazz music modulates with almost every chord, and very often there is no discernible key centre.

I therefore have problems with figuring out the chords and sometimes the melody. In fact, I don’t even know if you can call some jazz music as having a “melody” at all.

Is there a good way to understand jazz music and play it by ear?

Right now, I am able to play both the melody and chords by ear for conventional pop songs (e.g. I can tell if it’s a Chord III moving to a Chord VI, then going to a Chord II and so on). However, jazz music continues to elude me, and I can’t figure out what the jazz pianists are doing.

P.S. I have read about modes (e.g. Ionian, Dorian, etc) and scales (e.g. blues, pentatonic, etc) but have no clue as to how they may be used to understand what’s going on!


Best answer:

Answer by Skurliss
This may not help, I am no jazz expert, I just listen to it. I think of jazz compositions as loose frameworks all the participants agree to play within. I can’t imagine being able to pick it out by ear. If you can I would say you are most peculiar. I would have to have the sheet music.

What do you think? Answer below!

I need help piano in keys other than C, F, and G. I play scales repeatedly but cant connect it to the music!!

Question by mmikle: I need help piano in keys other than C, F, and G. I play scales repeatedly but cant connect it to the music!!
I play my scales every day like I should but when it comes time to play music in other keys I have to literally mark each note on the page (circle it, underline, etc) or else ill play the natural note and make a mistake. Is there some type of mental pattern I need to learn? What exercises can I practice? Should I know the note is flat/sharp due to the sound (ear training?)? Is there somewhere on the web that has music sorted by key so I can practice one key at a time over several songs? Im good at transposing but I want to play songs as they are written..

Best answer:

Answer by Alliepants!
Know what key you are in before you start the piece. It shouldn’t be a matter of having to look back at the beginning of the line and see what flats/sharps there are. Do you have the circle of fifths memorized? Here is a picture of the circle of fifths: http://numbera.com/musictheory/theory/images/fifths2.gif
Memorize what keys have how many sharps/flats. I would try practicing some pieces in C major, then F (1 flat), then B-flat (2 flats), etc.

Here is a site that might help you with memorizing key signatures (if you don’t have them memorized already). Just knowing them and being able to look at it and immediately know what key you’re in will help you alot, I think.


This site has Trainers – Note, Key, Interval, and Triad, where it shows you a staff with a note, key signature, interval, or chord and will ask you what it is, and then there are the ear trainer where it plays a scale, interval, or type of chord and ask you what it is. You can set it to be pretty tricky – for example, on the Scale Ear Trainer, you can set it so it will play not only Major, minor, and harmonis minor, but also all of the modes, such as Dorian, Lydian, Mixolydian, etc. As for the key signature trainer (which will be the one which will help you with your “problem” the most), once you’ve mastered treble clef, you can move onto bass clef, and then there’s tenor and alto clef, which I find very difficult to read.

Anyway, good luck with your piano playing! <3allie

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