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Online course

Learn Jazz Piano: II. Improvising on Jazz Standards

Explore improvisation in jazz music and further develop your ability to improvise jazz piano.

Learn Jazz Piano: II. Improvising on Jazz Standards

Start improvising jazz piano

This online course follows the course Learn Jazz Piano: I. Begin with the Blues from Goldsmiths, University of London. It’s ideal if you can already play the piano and scales, and have a basic ability to read music.

You’ll learn more about the blues and jazz standards and explore in more depth the nature of improvisation.

You’ll learn the basics by watching an overhead video of the keyboard — so you can try for yourself at home — and by playing along to pre-recorded bass and drum tracks.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 secondsIn Part I - Begin with the Blues - I introduced the idea of a basic blues, or skeletal blues as I called it, and then we met the 3 blues “Things Ain’t What They Used To Be” which was in in C, “Now’s The Time” which was in F and “Blue Monk” which was in B flat. I then introduced my 4 routes to improvisation scalic, chordal, motivic (the most important) and special devices. We met the 2 tunes “Inch Worm”, a jazz waltz, and “Blue Room” our first real jazz standard.

Skip to 0 minutes and 47 secondsIn Part II - Improvising on Jazz Standards - we start off by extending the notion of a blues chord sequence to a standard blues sequence - the sort of thing that you would meet if you played in a jam session. We then look at minor blues sequences and two tunes by John Coltrane “Equinox” and “Mr PC”. We then look at the important topic of Modal Jazz and the original example of “So What”. On the theory side we look at something called the “Clock of Keys”. The “Clock of Keys” enables one to analyse chord sequences and thereby simplify improvising on them.

Skip to 1 minute and 34 secondsWe use that to introduce 2 important jazz standards - key jazz standards - “All The Things You Are” and “Autumn Leaves". In fact we meet 9 jazz standards in all - including one called “Moanin’” which I show you how you could play as a solo piece if you wanted to. But the most important thing of all is we have a detailed investigation of Improvisation. Let me finish with a few snippets from Part II of the course to give you an idea.

What topics will you cover?

  • Rhythm changes and the jazz standard “I Got Rhythm”
  • Minor blues sequences and the examples “Equinox” and “Mr PC”
  • Modal Jazz and the important example “So What”
  • The nature of improvisation in modern jazz
  • The Clock of Keys and its application to “All The Things You Are”
  • Playing left hand voicings and its application to “Autumn Leaves”

When would you like to start?

  • Date to be announced

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you'll be able to...

  • Recognise rhythm changes and be able to improvise on them
  • Improvise over a minor blues sequence
  • Appreciate the importance of Modal Jazz
  • Explore the nature of improvisation in modern jazz
  • Understand the Clock of Keys and its application
  • Play left hand voicings in three distinct ways

Who is the course for?

This course is ideal for any interested pianist, but may be of particular interest to university or college piano students studying music.

We recommend you complete the previous course Learn Jazz Piano: I. Begin with the Blues before you begin this one.

What software or tools do you need?

You’ll need to have access to a piano or keyboard, and have a computer, tablet or smart phone set up next to it.

Who will you learn with?

Ray d'Inverno

I have been a jazz pianist and educator for over fifty years and have developed this online course on learning jazz piano.

Who developed the course?

Part of the University of London, Goldsmiths has a world-class reputation. Study creative and inspiring courses and learn from leading minds in the arts, humanities, social sciences and computing.

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