Instructor
Jonny May
Quick Tip
Intermediate
12:34

Learning Focus
  • Basslines
  • Songs
Music Style
  • Jazz Swing
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When the average person sits down at the piano at a party, 9 times out of 10 they’ll start picking out Hoagy Carmichael and Frank Loesser’s famous Heart and Soul. This is because of the fun rhythm, nice chords, and catchy melody that everybody instantly knows! Now, what if you wanted to play it in a different way than everybody else to stand out, with a fresh and more advanced take on the song and make everyone turn their heads and say “Wow, that’s cool!”? That’s why in this lesson, we’ll go over how to play heart and soul in a swing jazz piano style.

This song was actually released way back in 1938 and the original style was, well, jazz! In particular, the style of swing jazz which was at its pinnacle in the ’30s and ’40s. Today, the song has often been simplified both to match closer to later styles like rock, pop, and R&B, as well as to be easier to play for beginner pianists. In a sense, we are actually taking the song back to its roots by playing heart and soul in a swing jazz piano style.

In this tutorial, you’ll learn:

  • The chords that actually makeup heart and soul, as well as some jazzy substitutions.
  • How to play a swing walking bass line in the left hand (easy and a more advanced/hard version)
  • Right-hand melody and harmonizations
  • Overview of how the different parts of this heart and soul-jazz piano arrangement work
  • Downloadable sheet music PDF of the arrangement for reference

Ready? Let’s dive in!

Getting Ready: The Chords for Heart and Soul Jazz Piano

This tune is commonly played in a few different keys. In this lesson, we will be playing in the key of F. The chords are pretty simple, although we will be altering one of them for a jazzier sound (circled). Check it out below, and make sure to play through and become familiar with them if you haven’t already:

Heart and Soul jazz piano chord progression, in one measure we will substitute a D minor 7th for a D dominant 7th (circled) for more color
Heart and Soul jazz piano chord progression, in one measure we will substitute a D minor 7th for a D dominant 7th (circled) for more color

As you can see, Heart on Soul mainly consists of a 2 bar pattern of F major 7th, D minor 7th, G minor 7th, and C dominant 7th chords. Pro musicians usually call this a I-vi-ii-V chord progression. Notice how these are all 7th chords instead of triads. This makes a big difference in getting a richer sound. If you aren’t familiar with all your 7th chords then check out Intermediate Piano Foundations.

Chord Substitution

The circled chord in measure 3 is our little modification for a jazzier/ more colorful sound. Normally, as in the other measures, there would be a D minor 7th, but we changed it to a D dominant 7th. This is actually quite a common modification in jazz on this chord, because dominant chords love to resolve to a chord an interval of a 5th below (4th above) the root. Since D and G are a 5th/4th apart, changing from a minor to a dominant chord works beautifully, even if not all the notes are in F major.

The D to A chord progression is already a 4th up (5th down) since dominant 7th chords like to resolve to the chord the same interval it's easy to substitute in this context for more color
The D to A chord progression is already a 4th up (5th down) since dominant 7th chords like to resolve to the chord the same interval it’s easy to substitute in this context for more color

If you want to know more about reharmonization and similar techniques possible in music, then check out Passing Chords & Reharmonization (Beginner/Intermediate, Intermediate/Advanced). 

Step 1: Learn the Swing Walking Bassline for Left Hand Piano

Now that we know our chords, let’s get swingin’! Here’s what our walking bassline looks like all by itself. Be sure to watch the recommended fingering as well, notated on the sheet music:

Left hand walking bassline for swing jazz piano on the heart and soul arrangement lesson, with fingering (easy)
Left hand walking bassline for swing jazz piano on the heart and soul arrangement lesson, with fingering (easy)

Cool, right? If you want a more driving and advanced sound, you can add little pick up notes on every other beat, which on piano usually consists of repeating the note we just played. On a real bass, it’s more of a ghost note (a soft percussive sound without pitch). In any case, it really adds to the swing and groove:

Left hand walking bassline for swing jazz piano on the heart and soul arrangement lesson (hard)
Left hand walking bassline for swing jazz piano on the heart and soul arrangement lesson (hard)

Remember any 8th note on in upbeat (the “and’s”) is literally “swung” or delayed a little bit. That’s why it’s called swing!

Now some of you may be wondering, how does this walking bass line work?

Building A Walking Bass Line

Jazz bassists are required to devote their whole craft to making a great walking bassline, so there of course are many ways and possibilities. But there are only a few basic principles we need to know if we want to get started making a walking bassline that works and that is convincing. Here they are:

  1. Always land on the root of the chord on the downbeat, every time a new chord is played.
  2. The note preceding the new chord (which as stated in #1 is always the root) is almost always a half step above or below the next root. In our example, it will always be above. This half step passing tone builds a tension that makes us want to resolve to the root in which we are aiming for.

Check the above two principles in action below in this bassline:

Walking bassline technique #1, landing on the roots each new chord for swing jazz piano left hand
Walking bassline technique #1, landing on the roots each new chord for swing jazz piano left hand

Walking bassline technique #2, approaching the roots by a half step, in this case from above for swing jazz piano left hand
Walking bassline technique #2, approaching the roots by a half step, in this case from above for swing jazz piano left hand

Of course, there are a few more things to building a walking bassline in different contexts. If you want a deeper dive then check out Jazz Walking Basslines (Beginner/Intermediate, Intermediate/ Advanced). 

Step 2: Right-Hand Melody and Harmonization

Take a look at the right-hand part now of the Heart and Soul jazz piano arrangement. This includes the familiar melody we all know and love, as well as some harmonizations on it that follow the chords. Circled is a roll to embellish the melody a bit, it can be done as written (A♮), or as an Ab for a more bluesy sound.

Right hand melody and harmonizations for the heart and soul swing jazz piano arrangement tutorial
Right-hand melody and harmonizations for the heart and soul swing jazz piano arrangement tutorial

Melodic embellishment roll using Ab instead of A natural for measure 7, attaining a more bluesy sound for the heart and soul swing jazz piano arrangement for right hand
Melodic embellishment roll using Ab instead of A natural for measure 7, attaining a more bluesy sound for the heart and soul swing jazz piano arrangement for right hand

Most of these harmonizations follow close note voicings with 4 notes, also called blocked chords. Check out an analysis of the chord tones these blocked chords are covering:

Analysis of the right hand blocked chord voicings and guide tone harmonizations for the heart and soul jazz piano arrangement
Analysis of the right hand blocked chord voicings and guide tone harmonizations for the heart and soul jazz piano arrangement

Notice how all the voicings contain the 3rd and 7th (or 6th possibly instead of 7th if a major chord) (Guide Tones), this is important to convey the sound of each chord. If you want to know more about blocked chords, and other harmonization and accompaniment techniques, then check out Jazz Swing Accompaniment (Beginner/Intermediate, Intermediate/Advanced).

Step 3: Putting The Hands Together

Be sure to practice each hand slowly and carefully until they are easy separately. Then we can put them together, and don’t forget to swing!

Sheet music for full heart and soul swing jazz piano arrangement for both hands (easy)
Sheet music for full heart and soul swing jazz piano arrangement for both hands (easy)

Sounds cool now, right? Let’s take a look at the more advanced version with the pickup notes in the bassline:

Sheet music for full heart and soul swing jazz piano arrangement for both hands (hard)
Sheet music for full heart and soul swing jazz piano arrangement for both hands (hard)

Summing It All Up

That’s it for this lesson on Heart and Soul for jazz piano! This was a fun lesson as we took a look at some ways to spice up the tune from the way we usually hear it.

Be sure to download the sheet music below for a reference and if you’re a PWJ Member you can download the smart sheet music to transpose the arrangement into any key you wish. There are many other great benefits available for members as well including live workshops, weekly challenges, unlimited access to courses, and a piano community committed to learning.

If you want an even deeper dive into this topic, including a full in-depth version of this lesson on Heart and Soul with more playing styles and variations, then check out some of the following courses:

Thanks for checking out this Quick Tip. See you in the next one!

Blog written by Daine Jordan/Quick Tip by Jonny May

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