The Big Piano Switch: Taking the Leap from Classical to Jazz

Jazz and classical genres have very different focus and traditions. No one style is easier than the other. While classical music is all about theory, jazz is about the integration of a lot of elements. If you are a classical musician, should you take the leap and give jazz a chance? Here’s what you should know if you’re about to make the big jump from classical to jazz piano playing.

Classical music is strict—playing a piece should be according to how the composer designed it to be. Defiance from the music piece should be avoided at all cost, as it might turn out to be an injustice from the original composition. Jazz is more free-form because it is oral in nature. A lot of stylistic jazz elements cannot be written out on paper.


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Jazz involves a lot of ear training. While classical piano players are trained to read notes while anticipating sounds (from an orchestra, maybe), jazz piano players play it as they sing it. Improvising is key, and jazz musicians build their own arrangements on-the-spot. Jazz does a lot of chord extensions.

Learning jazz is like learning a new language. These vocabularies are far from what classical music mentors and teachers have introduced to us. Read more about licks are and know the names for common patterns.

Playing jazz brings you to a world full of creative possibilities. Christopher J. Keehner here. Follow me on Twitter to know more about jazz music.