Instructor
Jonny May
Quick Tip
Beginner
Intermediate
Advanced
59:44

Learning Focus
  • Practice Tips
Music Style
  • Jazz Ballads
  • Jazz Swing
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Are you eager to learn how to play jazz piano, but you don’t have a clear road map of what to practice?  Well, in today’s Quick Tip, Jazz Piano 1-Year Practice Plan, Jonny May shares a practice blueprint that will help you crush your jazz piano goals in the next 12 months! In this lesson, students of all levels will find daily exercises for honing the 5 Pillars of Jazz Piano. You’ll discover:

  • The Five Pillars of Jazz
  • Twelve-Month Practice Outline
  • Daily Practice Exercises
  • Criteria for Moving On
  • Tips & Tricks to Grow Faster

If you’re ready to take the guess work out of your practice time, then this lesson is for you!

Introduction

It’s important to state at the outset that this is not your typical Quick Tip. In fact, Jonny’s featured instructional video for this lesson is nearly an hour long. In addition, the lesson sheet PDF for this lesson contains 18 pages! At this point, you might be wondering, “Is there anything quick about this Quick Tip? Yes, there is! In fact, the practice routine outlined in today’s lesson can be completed in as little as 25 minutes per day!

Jonny’s road map for each skill level shows students just like you what and how to practice each day to maintain a balanced practice routine. In fact, the exercises in each level focus on the 5 Pillars of Jazz Piano that Jonny identifies:

  1. Scales
  2. Chords
  3. Voicings
  4. Lead Sheets
  5. Improv

As you complete the daily exercises in your road map, you’ll strengthen each of your jazz pillars. This will enable you to make significant gains in your jazz proficiency over the next 12 months!

Lesson Materials and Sequence

As we already mentioned, today’s lesson is packed full of materials. However, it’s also organized into bite-sized pieces. Just a note…the order of the lesson materials in this blog follows a different sequence than Jonny’s instructional video and the lesson sheet. For example, in the video, Jonny covers one pillar at a time, demonstrating multiple exercises for beginner, intermediate and advanced students. Then he moves to the next pillar and provides additional demonstrations for each level. This approach allows the viewer to gain a rich breath of perspective on each pillar. Moreover, it helps newer students understand how these core concepts will be applied in different ways as their playing matures.

So why change the order of the materials in the blog? This has been done to make this page more useful for daily practice. Here, you’ll find all the exercises for your playing level grouped together in a common subheading. Just use the hyperlinks below to get started, and be sure to bookmark this page for future use.

Select Your Plan:

If you’re already a PWJ member, be sure to download the complete lesson sheet PDF from the bottom of this page after logging in with your membership. And when you’re ready to try these exercises in another key, PWJ members can access our Smart Sheet Music to easily transpose the lesson sheet materials. Not a member yet? Click here to learn how to get started!

Beginner Jazz Piano 1-Year Practice Plan

Welcome to Jonny’s Beginner Jazz Piano 1-Year Practice Plan. Here you’ll find exercises and performance demonstrations to help you build each of your 5 Pillars every day! If this is your first time here, we recommend that you practice the exercises in this section in sequential order. However, if you’re a returning student, you can use the links below to jump directly to the exercises that correspond to a specific pillar.

Quick Navigation for Beginner Pillars:

Pillar 1: Beginner Scales

The first pillar of jazz piano is scales. That’s because scales contain the DNA of jazz harmony. This also mean that scales play an important role in improvisation.

If you are a beginner piano student who is serious about learning jazz, then you’ll have to master scales…and not just a couple! However, it all starts with a couple. Initially, a good goal for beginner jazz piano students is to master all of your major and minor scales. This goal can be accomplished in a year’s time by focusing on one key center per month, as long as you bundle the parallel major and minor scales together (such as C major and C minor). In fact, that’s exactly the approach we’ll take in this section.

First, let’s examine the major scale starting on the note C. This scale uses all white keys.

The Major Scale

Jazz Piano Practice - Beginner Pillar 1 - Major Scale

Some beginners may already know the C major scale and may even be able to play it with both hands simultaneously. That pedagogical approach is common with students who are studying classical music. However, as jazz piano students, we benefit more by practicing our scales a bit differently. For example, rather than playing both hands in octaves, the following exercise combines a major scale in the right hand with diatonic triads in the left hand over the Charleston rhythm. This will help you develop your technique, your hand coordination and your swing feel all at once!

Beginner Major Scale Exercise

Jazz Piano Practice - Beginner Pillar 1 - Major Exercise

Next, let’s consider a minor scale. When  compared to the major scale, the scale formula for the natural minor scale is 1–2–♭3–4–5–♭6–♭7. Here is the C Natural Minor Scale.

The Minor Scale

Jazz Piano Practice - Beginner Pillar 1 - Minor Scale

Now, let’s play a minor scale jazz exercise that is similar to the one that we used above. Keep in mind that you’ll also need to modify the left-hand chords to coincide with the key signature.

Beginner Minor Scale Exercise

Jazz Piano Practice - Beginner Pillar 1 - Minor Scale Exercise

Great job. Check out the following recommendations to work these exercises into your daily practice routine. Be sure to change keys as indicated.

Beginner Pillar 1 Jazz Piano Practice Plan

If you need a quick refresher on your major and minor scales, we’ve got you covered with our All Major and Minor Scales Reference Smartsheet.

On the other hand, you’ll find a more thorough exploration of the most important major and minor keys for beginners in our Early Beginner Piano Foundations–Level 1 Learning Track.


Pillar 2: Beginner Chords

The second pillar of jazz piano is chords. While jazz harmony typically uses chords with four or more notes, it’s important for beginners to first master triads. In fact, our beginner 1-year plan for pillar 2 focuses on major and minor triads and their inversions. The example below shows a C major triad in each inversion followed by a C minor triad in each inversion.

Major & Minor Triads with Inversions

Major & Minor Triads with Inversions

Now, let’s examine a fun way to practice our major triad inversions with characteristic swing rhythms.

Beginner Major Triad Exercise

Beginner Major Triad Exercise

Great job! Now, let’s play the same exercise with minor triads.

Beginner Minor Triad Exercise

Beginner Minor Triad Exercise

Nice work! Use the following recommendations to work these exercises into your practice routine, periodically changing keys as indicated.

Beginner Pillar 2 Jazz Piano Practice Plan

For a quick and comprehensive catalogue of all 48 triads, check out our Piano Triads–Major, Minor, Diminished, Augmented Smartsheet.


Pillar 3: Beginner Voicings

The third pillar of jazz piano is voicings. The term voicing refers to a specific arrangement of chord tones that results in a stylized harmonic sound for a particular genre.

Jazz pianists spend lots of time studying and mastering all kinds of voicings—traditional voicings, contemporary voicings, rootless voicings, spread voicings and so on. In this section, we’ll focus on the simplest type of jazz piano voicings, which we call chord shells.

The term chord shell is broad and describes any 2 or 3 note voicing that provides the essential tones needed to imply a given chord. In most cases, chord shells contain any combination of root, 3rd and 7th. However, sometimes the 6th is used in a chord shell in place of the 7th.

Three-note chord shells that use the root, 3rd and 7th come in two common formats—closed shells and open shells. A closed shell is similar in sound and shape to a root position 7th chord, except that the 5th is omitted. These voicings are considered “closed” because all of the notes span less than an octave. We sometimes label or describe closed shells with the formula R-3-7 (or R-3-6 when appropriate). On the other hand, with open shells, the notes are spread out across a distance that is greater than an octave. This is accomplished by arranging the 3rd an octave higher, so that it is technically a 10th above the root. Therefore, in open shells, the 3rd is spaced above the 7th. As such, we sometimes label or describe open shells with the formula R-7-10 (or R-6-10 when appropriate).

Now, let’s examine some closed shells and open shells for the most common 7th chords you’ll encounter in jazz music.

Major 7th Chord Shells

Major 7th Chord Shells

Dominant 7th Chord Shells

Dominant 7th Chord Shell

Minor 7th Chord Shells

Minor 7th Chord Shell

Now that you understand how to construct various types of chord shells, let’s play an exercise that applys these voicings to a familiar jazz progression —the 2-5-1 chord progression.

Beginner Chord Shells Exercise

Beginner Chord Shells Exercise

Great job! Here is your road map to master your all of your chord shells within the next 12 months.

Beginner Pillar 3 Jazz Piano Practice Plan

To learn even more about chord shells, check out our course on Chord Shell & Guide Tone Exercises (Int).


Pillar 4: Beginner Lead Sheets

The fourth pillar of jazz piano is learning how to play from lead sheets, a type of shorthand music notation that only contains the melody and chords of a tune. On a lead sheet, the chords are not written out for the left hand in the bass clef. Instead, lead sheets use chord symbols to instruct the performers which chords to play, and when. In fact, it’s up to the pianist to decide what type of voicings he or she wants to use.

If you are a beginner, then an essential skill that you’ll want to master is playing lead sheets with chord shells. Here is an example.

Jazz Standard with Chord Shells

Jazz Standard with Chord Shells

Although chord shells can sound a bit thin when the voicings begin to straddle Middle C, they can also sound rich and full in the lower register, especially open shells. Another benefit of chord shells is that they allow pianists to connect their chords smoothly from one measure to the next. As such, chord shells are a foundational jazz piano skill for learning to play from lead sheets.

Here is your jazz piano practice plan for strengthening your proficiency in playing from lead sheets.

Beginner Pillar 4 Jazz Piano Practice Plan

For additional examples of how to add chord shells to jazz melodies, check out the PWJ course Play Piano Lead Sheet with Shells & Guide Tones (Int).


Pillar 5: Beginner Improv

The fifth pillar 5 of jazz piano is improvisation. Although many beginners find this topic intimidating or downright dreadful, it really is all about having fun. In fact, with consistent and intentional practice, even beginners can enjoy learning to improvise.

In this section, we’ll improvise over the 2-5-1 chord progression. To keep things simple, we’ll play simple 2-note chord shells in the left hand. For example, try playing the C major scale over the following 2-5-1 progression in C major.

Beginner 2-5-1 Progression with Major Scale

2-5-1 Progression in C major

Great job! Now, let’s start creating some original phrases. But first, it’s helpful to have some sort of mental framework when starting to improvise. We don’t just want to go fishing for notes. Instead, let’s try using a simple approach that we call chord tone targets. In this approach, we aim to end our phrases on chord tones, hence the term chord tone targets.

Here is an example of four short phrases that each target the 3rd of the chord.

Beginner Exercise 1 – Targeting 3rds

Beginner Soloing Exercise 1

Next, we have an example of improv lines that target the 5th of each chord.

Beginner Exercise 2 – Targeting 5ths

Beginner Soloing Exercise 2

Finally, here is an example of chord tone targets that are aimed at the root of each chord.

Beginner Exercise 3 – Targeting Roots

Beginner Soloing Exercise 3

Once you feel comfortable with all 3 exercises above, you can mix-up the target tones. In other words, it isn’t necessary for each chord in the progression to end on the same target tone.

Now you can start incorporating pillar 5 into your daily practice according to the following guide.

Beginner Pillar 5 Jazz Piano Practice Plan

Check out our full-length course on 2-5-1 Soloing with Chord Tone Targets (Int) for additional exercises and examples on soloing with chord tone targets.


Intermediate Jazz Piano 1-Year Practice Plan

Welcome to Jonny’s Intermediate Jazz Piano 1-Year Practice Plan. This is where you’ll find exercises and performance demonstrations to help you work on all 5 Pillars every day! If you’re new to this level, we recommend that you begin by practicing these exercises in sequential order. However, once you become familiar with these materials, you can use the links below to jump directly to the exercises for a specific pillar.

Quick Navigation for Intermediate Pillars:

Pillar 1: Intermediate Scales

If you are an intermediate level player, chances are, you already know your major and minor scales. The next consideration then is to learn to play all the modes. Modes are scales formed by starting on a different degrees of a source scale or parent scale. While this principle can apply to any type of source scale, musical modes are most commonly associated with the seven modes of the major scale.

Modes of the C Major Scale

Modes of the C Major Scale

The study of modes helps musicians classify and refer to different types of musical sound in the same way that colors allow us to describe spectrums of hue, brightness and saturation. In fact, musicians are even known to use coloristic vocabulary to describe particular modes as “dark,” “bright,” or even “blue.”

Initially, it can be hard to understand the value of modes. However, if you look closely in the example above at each mode individually, you’ll discover that each one represents a unique scale construction. For example, the Ionian mode is equivalent to the major scale. Similarly, the Aeolian mode is another name for the natural minor scale. However, the remaining five modes represent five additional scale constructions.

Let’s transpose each mode in the example above so that all the modes begin on the note C. We call this “parallel modes of C.” Now we can better analyze and compare the unique construction of each mode. The scale formulas in the example below indicate how each mode compares to the major scale.

Parallel Modes of C

Parallel Modes of C for Jazz Piano Practice

In the next exercise, we’ve changed the order of the modes so that, beginning with the major scale, we’ll lower one note every measure to create a different mode. However, you’ll notice that the Lydian mode at the end of the exercise breaks this pattern.

In the left hand, we’ve added a 7th chord that corresponds to each mode in the right hand. Jazz musicians call these chord/scale relationships. Can you begin to see how modes help jazz musicians improvises over chord changes? For example, modes identify the passing tones that connect each chord tone. Sometimes, there is even more than one mode for each type of 7th chord.

As you add the following short exercise to your daily routine, you will begin to gradually understand more and more why modes are so important.

Intermediate Level Modes Exercise

Intermediate Jazz Piano Modes Exercise

Here is your jazz piano practice plan for learning to play all the modes from any staring note.

Intermediate Jazz Piano Practice Plan

To learn more about the most commonly used modes in jazz and pop music, check out our Soloing Fundamentals–Track 1 learning track.


Pillar 2: Intermediate Chords

The second pillar of jazz piano is chords. For intermediate level students, a great goal is to learn to play each of the 5 types of 7th chords from each of the 12 possible roots. These are the 60 Essential Chords for Jazz Piano.

To get started, let’s play all five types of 7th chords using a common root of C.

Types of 7th Chords

Types of 7th Chords

Now, let’s play an exercise in which we’ll explore all twelve major 7th chords. In the example below, the chords are ordered according to counter-clockwise movement around the circle of 5ths. In other words, the root of each chord resolves downward by a perfect 5th interval. However, instead of playing each chord in root position, we’ll alternate between root position and 2nd inversion. This inverted 7ths exercise demonstrates how to connect chords with smooth voice leading.

Intermediate Chords Exercise 1 – Inverted 7ths

Jazz Piano Practice - Intermediate Chords Exercise 1

This exercise can be repeated with the other types of 7th chords as well, as indicated in the road map below.

Intermediate Jazz Piano Practice Plan - Pillar 2a

Since the plan above only requires five months to complete, you’ll switch your Pillar 2 focus to diatonic 7th chords in month six.

Unlike the inverted 7ths exercise above, the following diatonic 7ths exercise is placed squarely in a single key, which is another important way to practice 7th chords. Here, we encounter 4 of the 5 types of 7th chords as they naturally occur in C major.

Intermediate Chords Exercise 2 – Diatonic 7ths

Jazz Piano Practice - Intermediate Chords Exercise 2

Use the following guide to learn diatonic 7th chords in all 12 keys for the remainder of the year.

Jazz Piano Practice Plan - Intermediate Chord Study

For a deep dive on 7th chords, including theory, application, ear training and more, check out our Early Intermediate Piano Foundations–Level 4 Learning Track.


Pillar 3: Intermediate Voicings

The third pillar of jazz piano is voicings. As an intermediate student, you should have some prior knowledge of shell voicings, which we covered in pillar 3 of the beginner level. Now, at the intermediate level, our jazz piano practice plan will help you to learn all of your rootless voicings.

Even though the name rootless voicings seems to suggest that the absence of the root is the most important characteristic of these voicings, there’s much more to it than that! Rootless voicings are some of the most luscious-sounding, colorful jazz chords that jazz pianists play…especially with a single hand.

The rootless voicing style was pioneered by pianists like Bill Evans, Red Garland and Wynton Kelly in the mid to late 1950s. By omitting the root in the left hand, these pianists were able to incorporate additional chord colors, such as chord extensions and chord alterations. Depending on the playing context, rootless voicings may also be played in the right hand.

Rootless voicings are classified as either Type A or Type B, depending on which chord tone is on bottom. When the 3rd of the chord is the lowest note in a particular voicing, we call it an A voicing. By contrast, when the 7th of the chord is the lowest note, we call it a B voicing. Now, let’s examine some example of rootless voicings for the most common chord types that you’ll encounter in jazz music.

In each example, the voicings are play simultaneously in both hands. This is for efficiency of demonstration and practice. However, rootless voicings are more commonly played in one hand or the other. To hear how the voicing sounds in its full harmonic context, try playing the root in one hand while playing the voicing in the other hand.

Major Rootless Voicings

Major Rootless Voicings for Jazz Piano

Minor Rootless Voicings

Minor Rootless Voicings for Jazz Piano

Dominant Rootless Voicings

Dominant Rootless Voicings for Jazz Piano

Now that you have a general understanding of what rootless voicings are, let’s learn how to apply them to a common 2-5-1 chord progression. The trick is that when the roots of our chords are a 4th or 5th apart, we must alternate between Type A voicings and Type B voicings in order to achieve smooth voice leading. In the following exercise, measures 1 and 2 follow an A–B–A format. Afterward, measures 3-4 follow a B–A–B format.

Intermediate Rootless Voicings Exercise 1

Intermediate Rootless Voicings Exercise 1 - Jazz Piano Practice Routine

Now let’s try another exercise with rootless voicings. In this case, we switched the voicing to the left and have a simple C major scale in the right hand.

Intermediate Rootless Voicings Exercise 2

Jazz Piano Practice Routine - Intermediate Rootless Voicings Exercise 2

Use the following practice plan to cover all of your rootless voicings in twelve months in as little as 5 minutes per day.

Intermediate Pillar 3

Check out our Late Intermediate Piano Foundations–Level 6 Learning Track to learn additional varieties of rootless voicings and to discover how they are commonly applied.


Pillar 4: Intermediate Lead Sheets

The fourth pillar of jazz piano is learning how to play from lead sheets. As an intermediate student, rootless voicings make for the perfect approach to playing tunes from a jazz fake book. For instance, the following example features what we call a stride piano technique. Notice that the left hand plays the root in the lower register and then shuttles to the middle register to play a rootless voicing. Meanwhile, the right hand plays the melody on top.

Jazz Standard with Stride Rootless Voicings

Use the following road map to build up your lead sheet playing chops as a part of your daily jazz piano practice routine.

Jazz Piano Practice Routine - Intermediate Level

For additional examples of how to add rootless voicings to jazz melodies, check out the PWJ course Play Piano Lead Sheet with Rootless Voicings (Int).


Pillar 5: Intermediate Improv

To develop the fifth pillar of jazz piano at the intermediate level, our goal is to learn how to improvise with neighbor notes. These are notes that approach a chord tone with stepwise motion. However, there are several different types of neighbor notes that jazz musicians can use. The first way we classify neighbor notes is to differentiate between upper neighbors and lower neighbors. In addition, neighbor notes can either be diatonic (within the key) or chromatic (outside the key). Keep in mind, diatonic neighbors can approach a chord tone by a half-step or a whole-step, depending on the context. In other words, a neighbor note that approaches a chord tone by a half-step is not necessary “chromatic.” For the purposes of our lesson today, all of our neighbor notes will involve a half-step approach. Therefore, some will be diatonic and some will be chromatic.

Let’s start by identifying the neighbors for each chord tone of a major 7th chord.

Neighbor Notes for Major 7th Chords

Neighbor Notes for Major 7th Chords

Next, let’s use a similar approach to identify the neighbors for each chord tone of a dominant 7th chord.

Neighbor Notes for Dominant 7th Chords

Neighbor Notes for Dominant 7th Chords

Finally, let’s identify the neighbors for each chord tone of a minor 7th chord.

Neighbor Notes for Minor 7th Chords

Neighbor Notes for Minor 7th Chords

Admittedly, the exercises above which contained multiple neighbor notes in each measure sound a bit awkward or contrived. In actual practice, jazz musicians use neighbors a bit more sparingly. As you begin to employ neighbor notes in your improv, keep in mind that neighbor notes are frequently placed on upbeats so that they resolve to a chord tone on a downbeat. Of course, neighbor notes needn’t be placed exclusively on upbeats.

Here is an example of an improv line with lower neighbors.

Intermediate Improv Exercise 1 – Lower Neighbors

Intermediate Soloing Exercise 1 - Lower Neighbors

Next, we have an example of an improv line with upper neighbors.

Intermediate Improv Exercise 2 – Upper Neighbors

Jazz Piano Practice - Intermediate Soloing Exercise 2 - Upper Neighbors

Our last example combines upper and lower neighbors in some interesting ways. In some cases, the chord tone target is preceded by both its upper neighbor and its lower neighbor, a melodic technique that jazz musicians refer to as enclosure, surround, encircling, or rotation.

Intermediate Improv Exercise 3 – Upper & Lower Neighbors

Jazz Piano Practice - Intermediate Soloing Exercise 3 - Upper & Lower Neighbors

Use the following recommendations to practice improv with neighbors as part of your daily routine.

Intermediate Pillar 5

For more examples of jazz improv with neighbor notes, check out our course on 2-5-1 Soloing with Upper & Lower Neighbors (Adv).


Advanced Jazz Piano 1-Year Practice Plan

Welcome to Jonny’s Advanced Jazz Piano 1-Year Practice Plan. Here, you’ll find exercises and performance demonstrations to help you work on all 5 Pillars every day! If you’re new to the advanced level, we recommend that you practice these exercises in sequential order at first. However, as you become familiar with the materials, you can use the links below to jump directly to the exercises that correspond to a specific pillar.

Quick Navigation for Advanced Pillars:

Pillar 1: Advanced Scales

The first pillar for jazz piano is scales. As an advanced student, there are simple exercises that you can incorporate into your daily practice routine that will make exotic improv scales much more familiar. In this section, we’ll explore 3 of the most common altered dominant scales: (1) the Whole Tone Scale, (2) the Dominant Diminished Scale, and (3) the Fully Altered Scale.

3 Common Altered Dominant Scales

3 Common Altered Dominant Scales

In today’s featured Quick Tip video, Jonny demonstrates how he quickly and efficiently practices resolving each of these scales in a similar manner. In fact, he gets through all 3 of the following exercises in about 8 seconds! Initially, however, it may take quite a bit longer to gain familiarity with these scales.

Let’s start with a whole tone scale exercise.

Advanced Scale Exercise 1 – Whole Tone

Advanced Scale Exercise 1 - Whole Tone

Next, let’s try the dominant diminished scale exercise. Note, another name for this scale is the half-whole diminished scale because it is constructed from a pattern of alternating half-steps and whole-steps.

Advanced Scale Exercise 2 – Dominant Diminished

Advanced Scale Exercise 2 - Dominant Diminished

Finally, let’s try the following fully altered scale exercise. As an aside, other common names for this scale include the diminished whole tone scale and the super locrian mode.

Advanced Scale Exercise 3 – Fully Altered

Advanced Scale Exercise 3 - Fully Altered

Use the following parameters to continue working on these scales daily.

For more hip jazz improv scales and examples, check out our course on Scales for Improv on 7th Chords (Int/Adv).


Pillar 2: Advanced Chords

After scales, the second pillar 2 of jazz piano is chords, and at the advanced level, pillar 2 is all about chord extensions and chord alterations. These are the color notes that jazz pianists add to their chords to make them sound rich and complex.

When it comes to chord extensions, there are only three—the 9th, the 11th and the 13th. As for chord alterations, there are only four—the ♭9, the ♯9 the ♯11 and the ♭13. However, some jazz musicians speak of the ♯11 and♭13 as the ♭5 and ♯5 instead.

Jazz Piano Practice Routine - Extensions & Alterations

Just for the sake of clarity, we don’t just use any extension or alteration with any chord. For example, on major chords, we use the 9th and the 13, but not the 11th because it clashes with the 3rd. On the other hand, for minor chords, we often use the 9th and 11th, whereas the 13th is less common. On dominant chords, it’s common practice to employ a wide variety of extensions and alterations in various combinations.

If you are an advanced student, then you are probably already quite familiar with extensions and alterations. However, you may be still missing opportunities to apply these sounds to your playing. In this section, we’ll practice 3 advanced chord exercises in which every chord is voiced thick with color notes. By adding these exercises to your daily routine, you’ll supercharge your mind, ears and fingers to find these notes more instinctively.

Let’s begin by playing the following Ⅱ→Ⅴ→Ⅰ in F major in which the melody begins on the note C, the 11th of Gm11.

Advanced Chord Exercise 1 – Start on 11th

Advanced Chord Exercise 1 - Start on 11th - jazz piano practice plan

Well done! Next, let’s play the same progression, but this time the melody will begin on the note F, the 7th of Gm11.

Advanced Chord Exercise 2 – Start on 7th

Advanced Chord Exercise 2 - Start on 7th - jazz piano practice plan

Great job! Lastly, we’ll play the same progression one more time, but this time the melody will begin on the note A, the 9th of Gm11.

Advanced Chord Exercise 3 – Start on 9th

Advanced Chord Exercise 3 - Start on 9th - jazz piano practice plan

As you can see, that didn’t take all that long. Why not use the following practice plan to implement these exercises in all 12 keys throughout the year.

To explore additional chord progressions with colorful extensions and alterations, check out our Mid Intermediate Piano Foundations–Level 5 Learning Track.


Pillar 3: Advanced Voicings

Pillar 3 for the advanced student is all about quartal voicings. These voicings are constructed primarily by stacking perfect 4th intervals. Quartal voicings are typically described as having a sound that is hip, modern, hollow or ambiguous.

A quartal voicing can have as few as 3 notes or as many as 6 notes. When more notes are included, it is not always possible to use 4th intervals exclusively.

Check out the following major, minor and dominant quartal voicings. All of the perfect 4th intervals are labeled. In addition, notice that a dominant quartal voicing will contain at least one tritone, which may be spelled as an augmented 4th or a diminished 5th.

Quartal Voicing Examples

Quartal Voicings Examples

One of the ways that jazz pianists frequently use quartal voicings is to harmonize a melody. Therefore, advanced jazz piano students usually practice quartal voicings in scale form, so that they have a quartal voicing ready for any melodic tone.

Let’s begin by practicing quartal voicings for C▵.

Quartal Voicings Exercise 1 – Major Chords

Quartal Voicings Exercise 1 - Major Chords - jazz piano practice plan

Next, let’s practice quartal voicings for C minor (Dorian).

Quartal Voicings Exercise 2 – Minor Chords

Quartal Voicings Exercise 2 - Minor Chords - jazz piano practice plan

Lastly, let’s practice quartal voicings that create a pure, unaltered dominant C7 sound.

Quartal Voicings Exercise 3 – Dominant Chords

Quartal Voicings Exercise 3 - Dominant Chords - jazz piano practice plan

Can you imagine having these incredible voicings under your fingers for all 12 keys? Here’s your road map to make it happen.

Advanced Jazz Piano Practice Pillar 3

Check out our Late Advanced Piano Foundations–Level 9 Learning Track to find additional course materials featuring quartal voicings exercises and applications.


Pillar 4: Advanced Lead Sheets

The fourth pillar of jazz piano is lead sheets. At the advanced level, you may want to create your own solo arrangements or accompaniments that imitate a larger ensemble. To accomplish this, it’s great if you can voice the melody with block chords while playing a walking bass line, like the following example.

Jazz Standard with Walking Bass + Block Chords

Jazz Standard with Walking Bass Line + Block Chords - jazz piano practice plan

To build these jazz piano skills into your practice routine, use the following road map.

Advanced Jazz Piano Practice - Lead Sheets

For a in depth study of block chords, check out our Early Advanced Piano Foundations–Level 7 Learning Track.


Pillar 5: Advanced Improv

The fifth pillar of jazz piano is improvisation, and one way to take your improv sound up a notch is to be able to use multiple improv scales when soloing. In this section, we’ll explore improve lines that use 4 different improv scales over a Ⅱ→Ⅴ→Ⅰ→Ⅵ progression.

First, let’s look at the scales we’ll be using for each chord in the progression. Keep in mind these are not the only scale choices that are available for these chords, but we’ll limit ourselves to these four scale for now.

Ⅱ→Ⅴ→Ⅰ→Ⅵ Progression with Multiple Improv Scales

Advanced Jazz Piano Practice with Multiple Improv Scales

Using these four scales, let’s look at some sample improv lines from today’s lesson sheet. Jonny has organized these examples according to their contour. In other word, in addition to improv scales, Jonny is also intentionally thinking about the melodic shape of his lines. For example, the first phrase is a down line that uses all four improv scales.

Advanced Improv Exercise 1 – Down Lines

jazz piano practice plan

Next, we have an example of an up line.

Advanced Improv Exercise 2 – Up Lines

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Finally, our last example represents a combination of an up line followed by down line. Here, Jonny is also thinking rhythmically and incorporates extensive use of triplets.

Advanced Improv Exercise 3 – Combined Lines

jazz piano practice plan

Use the following recommendations to build multiple improv scales into your practice routine.

Advanced Jazz Piano Practice Pillar 5

For a deep diving on soloing with multiple improv scales, check out our Jazz Ballad Soloing Challenge (Beg–Int).


Conclusion

Congratulations, you’ve finished reading today’s lesson on the  Jazz Piano 1-Year Practice Plan. Of course, we expect to see you back here soon to keep your progress going.

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Michael LaDisa

Michael LaDisa graduated from the University of North Texas with a major in Music Theory & Composition. He lives in Chicago where he operates a private teaching studio and performs regularly as a solo pianist. His educational work with students has been featured on WGN-TV Evening News, Fox 32 Good Day,...

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