Chords 101

People often ask me how to begin to learn to play jazz piano. Unfortunately, even if you are (or were once) a fairly skilled classical player there is no one semester class or latenight video infomercial lesson series that is going to work for this. You need to become somewhat obsessed – listening to a lot of jazz and also spending significant time at the piano learning chords, voicings and theory. Both of these will feed into your playing in a noticeable way if you keep the intensity up. To get started learning ‘jazz chords’ I recommend first learning to play all root chords by their notation symbol in all keys. You really can’t begin to tackle a leadsheet and understand jazz piano voicings and harmonies until you can bang these chords out on demand, picture them in your head when you see the symbol and hear them when they are played to you. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I will point you to places that convey these concepts well.

Chord construction/shortand

Mike Titlebaum’s Java Applet Ear Trainer

Chord Visualizer

If you feel you have this down you should be able to answer the questions below without much thinking and you are ready to think about how to voice these chords for piano.

What notes are in the following chords?
Ab major

Gm7

Fmaj7
G+

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