Jonny May
Quick Tip

Learning Focus
  • Chords
  • Exercises
Music Style
  • Jazz Ballads
  • Jazz Swing
Free Lessons

Get free weekly lessons, practice tips, and downloadable resources to your inbox!

Are you looking for a high-leverage jazz piano exercise that will take your playing to the next level? Whether you’re just getting started learning jazz piano, or you’ve been at it for a while, you’ll love today’s Quick Tip. The Most Important Jazz Piano Exercise¬†is designed to help new jazz piano students master their diatonic 7th chords and for continuing students to keep their skills sharp. This exercise covers:

  • The 7 Diatonic 7th Chords
  • Left Hand Comping
  • Right Hand Line-building Vocabulary

Adding this exercise to your daily practice routine will prepare you to play jazz standards from a fake book and develop your swing feel at the same time.

What Makes a Good Jazz Piano Exercise?

Let’s face it, time is a finite resource. While you might like to spend hours at the piano everyday, that’s not realistic for most people. If you’re going to get anywhere, you’re likely going to have to get there in 30-minute increments. So how should you spend your time? For starters, you need a concise jazz piano warm-up that simultaneously develops multiple skills, without being too complicated. Today’s exercise will help you master essential jazz vocabulary and improve your feel.

Diatonic 7th Chords

The overwhelming majority of chords found in a jazz fake book are diatonic 7th chords. Therefore, the sooner a student masters these chords in every key, the more prepared they are to play jazz standards. The example below shows each of the diatonic 7th chords in C Major. Jazz pianists require the skill to play these chords in both hands as well visualize their shape on the keyboard.

Diatonic 7th Chords in C Major Jazz Piano Harmony

It is important to note that many jazz standards contain secondary dominants or a bridge section that uses modulation. Therefore, once you feel comfortable with these chords in C Major, you’ll want to gradually add additional keys. To do this, try using our Smart Sheet Music which allows you to easily transpose all the content of this lesson to any key with a single click. The lesson sheet and backing tracks are also downloadable from the bottom of this page after logging in with your membership.

Two Birds, One Jazz Piano Exercise

Most jazz piano educators agree that the rhythmic aspects of jazz music are even more important than jazz harmony in developing a good jazz sound. Therefore, it is important to take the diatonic 7th chords from the previous section and place them in a rhythmic context. The following jazz piano exercise will allow you to get more mileage out of your practice time by simultaneously adding in typical swing rhythms.

The Most Important Jazz Piano Exercise

That sounds great! Did you notice that the left hand comp pattern is using a syncopated jazz rhythm? This should be played “short, long…short, long.” The right hand is also using common jazz phrasing that mixes a triplet figure with swung 8th notes. Outlining 7th chords like this is a great way to begin jazz piano improv lines.

If you want even more exercises to master your diatonic 7th chords, check out our full-length course on Diatonic 7th Chord Exercises which contains a total of 48 exercises covering all 12 major keys.

You may also enjoy the following jazz swing courses:

Thanks for learning with us today. We’ll see you next time!


Blog written by Michael LaDisa / Quick Tip by Jonny May


More Free Lessons

Learn to transform the melody and chords for your favorite classical tunes like Beethoven's "Fur Elise" into a jazz piano style.

Learn how to craft a beautiful solo piano arrangement of Rodgers and Hart's "My Funny Valentine" from a lead sheet.

Explore 5 steps on how to create and play magical piano music reminiscent of your favorite adventure film soundtracks!

Looking for downloads?

Subscribe to a membership plan for full access to this Quick Tip's sheet music and backing tracks!

Start Your Free Trial

Join Us

Get instant access to this Quick Tip and other member features with a PWJ membership!

Guided Learning Tracks

View guided learning tracks for all music styles and skill levels

Progress Tracking

Complete lessons and courses as you track your learning progress

Downloadable Resources

Download Sheet Music and Backing Tracks

Community Forums

Engage with other PWJ members in our member-only community forums

Become a better piano player today. Try us out completely free for 14 days!

Get Started