Week 3 – How to Play Jazz Piano (The struggle is REAL)

Wow. What. A. Week. I know distractions are a part of life, but this week was something else. First we had (multiple) Thanksgiving dinners, followed by a teething baby who wouldn’t nap then a stomach bug that knocked our household out flat for 3 days. My classmate Melinda talks about her challenges with learning piano, like getting her own keyboard to practice.  It just goes to show that everyone has different struggles and we are all working towards our own goals!

Unfortunately I didn’t complete all my goals for practice this week. But, I managed to squeeze in short daily practice sessions and learn at least one new skill.  My vlog recap will give you a snapshot into my practice attempts this week!

After getting bored with the basic blues scale practice (mostly the shuffle pattern in the left hand), I googled “blues shuffles pattern piano” and came across this video:

I was so happy to see that it was:

  1. less than 5 minutes long
  2. a simple lesson with an outline (and part of a series, so potential for further learning)
  3. included music notation (sheet music)

Yes, I know my goal was to stay away from sheet music and focus on learning by ear, but I couldn’t resist.  I realized that I am very much a visual learner, and I was feeling frustrated by trying to learn only by ear. But, trying to stay true to my goal, I decided to make a compromise.  I used the sheet music for a brief moment to initially understand the pattern and voicings in the right hand.

  • LH = play the root and 5th of the chord
  • RH = play the 3rd and root of the chord (in that voicing)

From there, I was able to use audio only to figure out the pattern in each hand and easily put the whole lesson together.  Overall, I really enjoyed this practice because it felt like I understood the pattern and form. I could easily learn this arrangement in another key, which helps explain why you can’t just rely on reading sheet music – you have to really understand what you are playing so you can transfer the skills to other keys.

What I worked on:

  • Reviewed C Blues scale with shuffle pattern in LH
  • Learned a C Blues scale lick with a new shuffle pattern in both RH and LH

Wins:

  • I learned something new (C Blues lick) despite the chaos this week
  • Starting to feel very comfortable with the Blues form and scale
  • Found a good YouTube channel that may be helpful for future Blues practice.

Fails:

  • Only accomplished one of my goals this week (Blues scale) and didn’t do a lot of work on the 2-5-1 progression

Resources used:

This week I plan to tackle the lead sheet and learn how to read it like a real jazz musician. I am also excited by the David Magyel YouTube channel, so I will try another lesson. After the half-way point in our learning project, it will be useful to evaluate our progress. Maybe it will mean changing our end goals? What are your plans to reflect on your learning so far?

8 thoughts on “Week 3 – How to Play Jazz Piano (The struggle is REAL)

  1. I think learning the piano would be a huge undertaking, my hat is off to you. I have moved a piano to three different houses telling myself that I would learn to play it one day (that was more than ten years ago). Let me know when you have the blues under control and we can do a virtual jam:)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Making the shift from classical to jazz has definitely been a challenge, but I think it is helping me catch on to the ideas quickly. Jamming is the ultimate goal!

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  2. I commend you in this new undertaking, learning new musical skills is often a question of putting un the time and I share the feeling of how difficult it can be considering how busy our daily lives can get. I have found over the years that short frequent practices can be just as effective as long less frequent ones. Good luck and look forward to hearing your progress!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think another key is to make the short practice sessions effective. For me, this means slowly things down and practicing correctly instead of repeating mistakes and making bad habits. Five minutes of detailed, intentional practice will serve me better in the long run. I think of my days studying piano and I always started hands separately or with a metronome. I should take some of my own advice! Thanks for the feedback 👍🏻

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  3. I can totally relate to the baby distractions lol! Looks like you are making some great progress. I like that you decided to change up the parts that you were becoming bored with. Boring work is tedious work and I don’t think that is the point of this learning project so it’s good to adjust where needed. I second Brad’s virtual jam suggestion. I’d be interested in seeing what this looks/sounds like!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You make a good point about boring work being tedious. I realized I could be my own boss and do what works for me, which is what makes this project so fun! I am still a little unsure about what my end goal will be. My original ideas feel a bit lofty now that I’m in the thick of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hey Catherine, don’t get discouraged!!! Life often gets in the way and messes our plans up. You sound so beautiful! I listened to David Magyel briefly and I find his music very cool. Thanks for sharing! His name sounds so Hungarian, tried to Google him but didn’t find any details.
    Enjoy having a couple of assistants by your side cheering for you. 🙂

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