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The Joy of Jazz Piano Lessons for Kids: A Beginner’s Guide to Styles and Techniques

Jazz is a unique music style that experiments with new rhythmic patterns. It originated in the 20th century and has been a massive part of African-American cultural expression since then. Since people of all ethnicities and backgrounds can enjoy the unique patterns and sounds of this musical variety, jazz piano lessons are a great way to enrich any child’s life.

Jazz Piano Lessons for Kids

If you’re a parent who wants your little one to learn the joys of music, jazz piano lessons are a great choice. Read on to learn why this is the case and how you can find a music school to teach them the top techniques and styles of this rich genre.

Why Jazz Piano Lessons for Kids?

Learning to play any musical instrument has cognitive benefits. It can enhance memory, boost brain function, inspire critical thought, improve language and mathematical skills, and provide a mood boost. It’s also challenging and rewarding at the same time.

Jazz also has specific benefits unique to its genre. Johns Hopkins University studies found that those playing jazz had more activity in the brain sections that promote creativity. They also had more emotional reactivity to music.

Considering jazz’s unique historical and cultural roots, it can also help children get in touch with their own culture or others’ roots. Jazz piano lessons are a great way to embrace all forms of music and understand its significance across the world.

The Basics of Jazz Styles and Techniques

Jazz uses the same notes and sounds as classical piano and other modern music genres. The first step to learning jazz is understanding basic major and minor chords

These two types of chords are the most common across all musical genres. A major chord has a major third followed by a minor third. A minor chord is the opposite: a minor third followed by a major third.

Jazz Styles and Techniques

This may sound complex, but these chords are extremely easy to make (or teach a child to make.) All the player needs to do is skip every other note on the keyboard of their piano.

Chords are the backbone of all piano pieces, including jazz pieces. But the difference between jazz and other piano genres lies in the rhythm.

The “swing” rhythm means that the player lingers on a beat a bit longer than they would with a “straight” rhythm. You play notes in a long-short, long-short configuration. It sounds kind of like a drawl.

Understanding the characteristic rhythms of jazz music is easiest when you listen to some jazz and move to the beat. Play some when driving in the car with your child or dance together while at home!

Hand Shapes and Movements

Your child will likely have a rudimentary understanding of piano posture before applying their skills to jazz.

Developing finger speed and strength is one of the most important first steps toward playing piano in any genre. This only happens with practice that gets players used to the feel of the keys. The pressure needed to strike them will eventually be intuitive, which is when children can move on to more specific jazz techniques. 

Beginning jazz players should use diatonic 7th chord hand shapes for their right hands. Diatonic chords are those built from the main notes in a song’s key. A 7th chord is made from four notes: the first, third, fifth, and seven tones in a main scale.

This is what will create the tunes that make up the basis of a jazz piece.

The player’s left hand needs to develop an 8th-note swing. These are uneven rhythms that make all eighth notes into a triplet-like rhythm.

In other genres, all note lengths have a 1:1 ratio; in jazz, eighth notes specifically have a 2:1 ratio. The first eighth note is two times the length of a second subsequent one, which gives jazz music its characteristic swing property.

Some kids find it easier to switch the actions of the right hand to the swing and the left hand to the chords. This is up to the individual player, but most right-handed kids will find it easier to try chords on the right. Still, their piano instructor will help them experiment!

Understanding Lead Sheets

Lead sheets are the main type of sheet music used for beginning jazz learners. If your child already knows how to read sheet music, they may be a little confused by the differences between standard songs and lead sheets.

The main distinction is that they have symbols over the notes where chords change. They denote both the piece’s melody and these jazz shifts. Kids play the melody with their right hands and the chords with their left.

Some common chord symbols include:

  • Cmaj7 for a Major 7th Chord
  • Dm7 for a Minor 7th Chord
  • G7 for a Dominant 7th Chord
  • D#dim7 for a Diminished 7th Chord

Improvisation and Experimentation

Understanding hand movement and lead sheets is important for new players looking to brush up on technique. But learning and latching onto jazz’s style requires a bit more experimentation.

Improvisation and Experimentation

Luckily, playing around on the piano is extremely fun when you improvise during jazz piano lessons!

After your child has a good understanding of chords, they can start improvising their own swing melodies. They can think about various keys and come up with chords that fit together well in those keys. Using the chords as building blocks, young players can create their own tunes!

Jazz is an especially fun genre to improvise in because it relies on creative rhythms. There’s no real rule book for the types of melodies and rhythms you can create. Limitless possibilities within the genre mean that kids will never get bored of improv!

This is a great way to make at-home practice a fun and exciting experience. It’s expressive, creative, and lets kids express their individual musical tastes with their jazz piano lessons.

Helping Your Child Thrive Jazz Piano Lessons

Some styles and techniques can only be learned under the tutelage of a great music teacher. Children can learn the basics of jazz music on their own, but mastering underlying jazz techniques is challenging when no one is giving out pointers.

Understanding various styles and how to make the most of them is nearly impossible when no one is pointing new players toward styles they don’t know about yet. Plus, since music teachers help kids step outside their comfort zones, it will really broaden their horizons when playing different jazz styles.

Broken Chords

Broken chords are one of the most important jazz piano skills that beginners need to know. They’re used for slower, drawn-out rhythms, making them perfect for jazz’s swinging nature.

A “broken chord” means that not all notes are played simultaneously. These techniques usually play the notes of a chord sequentially. The pattern can ascend or descend depending on the desired configuration.

Broken chords are similar to arpeggios in many ways. However, they’re distinct because they let the notes of a chord ring together.

These are challenging to master on your own, and it’s even harder for kids to get the hang of it. A music expert who’s well-seasoned in jazz can help your child take chord techniques a step further. Jazz-style pieces will come more naturally once broken chords are intuitive.

Jazz Scales and Exercises

Instructors can help budding jazz pianists learn the basics by assigning them exercises. You can’t get top-notch exercises or assistance completing them without a professional to move you along.

Jazz Scales

Playing scales improves the player’s technique by forcing them to understand notes and intuit chords. They’ll also get a feel for posture and finger strengths.

Jazz pianists use specific starting pitches and move forward from there. Music very rarely starts and ends with the root of the same chord, so jazz players need to learn how to stop playing from root to root. Getting help doing this helps the new player understand melodies, their beginnings, and their endpoints.

Group and Individual Lessons

Learning to play jazz piano is challenging, but a great music school offers multiple lesson types to make it easier.

Group lessons are a popular starting point for new players. Kids are matched into small groups with only a few other students within their age range. They then work together to learn new jazz piano skills and techniques.

Group lessons are great because they foster a sense of community. Kids in the group motivate each other to do well and collaborate to create great music. They can all put their heads together to learn each other’s strengths.

Private lessons are a little more expensive. Instead of being collaborative, your little one will get one-on-one attention.

This lets them focus on their own strengths and improve in the precise way they need to. Plus, individualized classes are easier to adapt to your specific child’s learning style.

Work With a Great San Diego Music School

Now that you know some styles and techniques that kids can learn at jazz piano lessons, it’s time to find a high-quality instructor. Staump Music School offers both individual and group classes to young musicians so their interest can grow into passion.

We’re excited to discuss your specific needs and help place you with the perfect music teacher to match your child’s learning style and age group. Reach out to our instructors for more information and get your first month of jazz piano lessons free.