Piano and Keyboard lessons from Glenn Sutton in Poway and San Diego

Easy-to-Play Jazz Piano Songs

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Get Started Playing Jazz

Jazz is known for its improvisational nature and occasionally complex song structure. For a beginning pianist, trying to play a jazz tune can seem rather daunting. But there are several jazz songs, many of them standards, which are actually fairly easy to play. After reviewing these songs, you may find a few that you will be willing to try.

Please note: Almost any song can be simplified for a beginner, so this is somewhat subjective. Not all of these songs may appeal to you. They are presented as examples.

Autumn Leaves

This Jazz standard, composed in 1945 by Joseph Kosma, has been recorded countless times, in both vocal and instrumental versions. Artists covering this tune included Nat King Cole, Edith Piaf, and Roger Williams, whose piano instrumental version was a number one hit. "Autumn Leaves" offers a popular way for beginning jazz musicians to become acquainted with jazz harmony as the chord progression consists almost solely of ii-V-I and ii-V sequences which are typical of jazz. It was originally, and is most commonly, performed in the key of E minor, but is also played in G minor and other keys.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nN8J0-ZibxY

Summertime

This brilliant Gershwin tune from the classic opera PORGY AND BESS has become one of the all-time great show tunes, and a fine example of elegance in music. This is one of the most-covered songs in history, with over 25,000 different recordings made.

George Gershwin intended for this to be a folk song of sorts, with pentatonic scales and a slow, bluesy progression. This makes it easy for a beginner, as playing it slow is possibly the best way to play it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGvZK2xMwgs

Fly Me to the Moon (aka In Other Words)

This jazz favorite, which has been recorded by Kaye Ballard, Frank Sinatra with Count Basie, and Michael Buble, among others, is a fun, swinging song that’s easy to play. Like the other songs in this article, the song can be played in a number of different styles and tempos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzWms6logdE

So What

This song was written and recorded by the legendary Miles Davis on his groundbreaking 1959 classic KIND OF BLUE. It is a great example of what is called Modal Jazz, where the harmonic framework is set up with musical modes rather than traditional chord progressions. If this sounds scary, don’t let it bother you. It allows you to improvise a bit more freely.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Tzl5N5cwcc

Blue Bossa

This hard bop standard was first released by Joe Henderson in 1963, and has been covered a number of times. It has a fun-to-play bossa nova rhythm, and has easy minor chord changes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8TJ1Xa9E-I

Misty

Erroll Gardner’s classic composition has been recorded by many great singers, notably Johnny Mathis and Frank Sinatra. It is a very simple melody which is best played slowly, with easy-to-play chord progressions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zB0eNNS-aKU

Have Fun!

This is but a sample of many great Jazz songs you can learn to play on the piano after just a small bit of effort. Ask your music teacher for more suggestions.

For keyboard and piano lessons contact Glenn Sutton at: 619-306-3664.

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