With jazz showing up more and more in pop culture people are wondering if it is hard to learn. Jazz piano is a really cool type of music and is worth learning, if you have the time. I often get asked, how long does it take to learn jazz piano?
It takes several years to learn how to play jazz piano. Jazz is a genre of music that is mostly improvised. This means you can’t just learn jazz piano by reading music, you must also learn how to improvise.
At the beginning of this article I just want to say, if you're actually interested in learning jazz piano you can do it! It is possible to learn jazz piano in just a few years. It will take a lot of work and dedication though. Jazz is possibly the most difficult genre of western music to learn because it relies so much on improvisation.
Just for fun here's an album made by a comedian who didn't learn how to play jazz piano before making a jazz album:
As you can hear from that recording H. Jon Benjamin clearly doesn't know how to play piano, he should stick to voice actor work!
But on a more serious note let's discuss a little bit about jazz and what makes jazz so unique. Jazz is a genre of music that relies heavily on improvisation. Improvisation is where you spontaneously create the music. This means you're not reading music or writing out the music before performing. It's a genuine spontaneous creation. This means a lot of practice is required before performing jazz.
It can be confusing because the way jazz songs are setup is that at first you play the melody that has already been pre-written. Then everyone takes turns improvising and finally you play the melody again. So in some cases Jazz Melodies are very simple because it's all about improvisation. so everyone plays a simple Melody and then they express themselves by improvising. Here is an example of a very simple jazz song called C Jam Blues, you can hear at first the piano is only playing 2 notes.
The whole melody is just 2 notes. You could technically learn to play this song in 1 minute. But I'm not sure if that really counts as learning jazz piano. So in order to actually learn how to play jazz piano you'll first have to learn all the notes on the piano and develop some level of technique and proficiency playing it. A great way to do this is to learn all your scales. Then you will have to learn all your chords.
A great place to start if you want to learn how to play jazz piano is to listen to a lot of jazz piano. You will need to internalize the rhythms and melodies of jazz in order to be able to improvise. Make sure to start off simple with perhaps a blues because that only contains three chords. One nice part about jazz is you don't necessarily need to learn how to read music before you can play it. If you just learn your chords and you develop a good ear for learning melody you can play jazz piano.
I've played with some really great jazz musicians who don't know how to read music. The way they balance out this lack of knowledge is that they have incredible ears and learn extremely quickly. This can sometimes be frowned down upon oh, but these players play better than most people who do know how to read music. Even though not being able to read music will stop them from getting some gigs, so I don’t necessarily recommend that.
If you have the patience and dedication it's absolutely worth learning jazz piano. Just keep in mind that it's a long road and it takes daily practice. You should be willing to put in at least 30 minutes of focus practice a day. You can also not get discouraged if you hit certain difficulties or plateau at certain points. I teach piano lessons in Bethany and I've seen some of my students make tremendous progress over the course of three years!
It can feel extremely liberating to be able to improvise and express yourself at a moment's notice. This is well worth putting in the time and effort to learn how to do it. Another way you can practice outside of your set practice time is by actively listening to jazz piano recordings. I do not mean casually have music on in the background while you are driving or doing dishes. I mean sitting in a room and listening very closely to Jazz recordings.
This might not sound like practice but if you are actually focusing end listening to what is going on you will learn. This is a great way to start internalizing the sounds and rhythms of jazz.
You do not have to be young to learn jazz piano, but it does help to start as soon as possible. It is most likely that the younger you are the quicker you will be able to learn it. On the other hand the older you are the more you know about yourself, this can be extremely useful while learning new skills.
The most important thing to remember when learning a new skill is to persist in the face of challenge. If you are older and you want to learn jazz piano you will have to make sure to learn in the most efficient manner possible. This means you have to schedule out your practice time and make sure you're practicing very efficiently. Here's a link to another article about how often you should practice piano:
So it is possible to learn jazz piano when you are older, you just need to make sure you understand how your brain works and put in the effort to learn in the style that works for your brain. When you're younger your brain is more absorbent to new information which is an advantage but the disadvantages are you have no clue how to optimally learn oh, it's like drinking from a firehose.
Also this is a huge undertaking so don't I have unreasonably high expectations. A lot of people will tell you you cannot learn jazz piano in a few years, but I assure you can if you stick with that in practice every day. Lots of other forms and online publications will say this is impossible and I'm not saying that you will be able to be a true jazz artist after a few years but you will be able to play music. I don't think you'll be able to get a record deal after three years of practice. Check out this guys story:
Even though the title says he spent ten years learning piano, if you watch the video clearly he only spent a few months learning this song. Some might argue that he's not a true jazz pianist and I would agree but he only spent a few months learning that song.
So use this video as motivation and proof that it is possible to learn something in a short period of time. The question this article is answering is not, how long does it take to become a jazz master but how long does it take to learn jazz piano.
So stick with it and don't give up. You will eventually learn how to do it. Just remember this is how you learned everything in your life and it is always hard work to learn something new. Don't listen to people who are trying to discourage you but they're just aware that they would not be able to learn how to do it. If you dedicate just a half an hour a day of focus and effort you will be amazed at the results as they compound over the years.
Thank you so much for reading this article. I am quite passionate about piano and piano education. I wanted to write this article to encourage people to take the leap and try to learn jazz piano. There are a lot of people out there who will go out of there way to tell you that you cannot learn jazz piano in a few years. I say, if you can learn a new language in a few years you can certainly learn the basics of jazz piano in a few years. Please never let others limit what you think you are capable of, they are normally telling you what they are actually capable of. If you enjoyed this article feel free to check out this article about: Do You Tip Your Piano Teacher?.