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Learn Jazz Piano: Improvising on Jazz Standards

Improve your jazz improvisation with this course on jazz piano, where you’ll learn to play along to bass and drum soundtracks.

4,044 enrolled on this course

  • Duration

    6 weeks
  • Weekly study

    3 hours

Start improvising jazz piano

Good improvisation draws on a range of tools and techniques to respond to existing beats and music whilst adding your own unique interpretations.

Understand and apply the basics of jazz improvisation

This course will teach you the art of improvisation in modern jazz, and give you the skills to improvise over a minor blues sequence and through rhythm changes.

You’ll respond to different pieces of music, and build your confidence and fluency when improvising.

Explore blues and jazz theory

You’ll delve into both the practical and theoretical side of music as you study tracks by John Coltrane.

You’ll also discover modal jazz and its importance, with a specific focus on the songs ‘The Clock of Keys’ and its application in ‘All the Things You Are’.

Discover jazz standards

The final sections of the course will introduce you to, two jazz standards and develop your understanding of the inner workings of improvisation to a higher level.

By the end of the course, you’ll have a good understanding of how to improvise on jazz standards, through a mix of theory and practice. You’ll get to grips with improvising over rhythm changes and playing left hand voicings in three different ways.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds In 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 seconds In 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 seconds We 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”

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

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 requires a basic ability to read music, play the piano, and familiarity with scales. It may be of particular interest to university and college piano students studying music or jazz piano.

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

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?

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?

Goldsmiths, University of London

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.

Learning on FutureLearn

Your learning, your rules

  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
  • Join the conversation by reading, @ing, liking, bookmarking, and replying to comments from others

Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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