How Do We Begin Learning About Basic Jazz Piano Chords?

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Start familiarizing yourself with basic jazz piano chords by practicing ii-v-i progressions in each key, then add Csus2s and half-diminished sevenths for further study.

Understanding scales and how they relate to chords are both integral parts of jazz. To accomplish this, you'll need to learn interval counting techniques.

Dominant Seventh Chords

Most jazz chords feature a seventh interval above their root note. To form a dominant seventh chord, begin with its root note and add an extra note that shares this interval above it; this step is known as chord extension and should be indicated with a number that includes seven letters like Csus7 or Gmaj7.

A dominant seventh chord can be broken up into thirds, like triads. When done this way, its notes appear like snowmen - with three bodies connected by three middles and an indented head (see figure below).

To play the left hand in this example, first master a basic shell voicing consisting of just the root and seventh notes of each chord. With this knowledge in hand, practice creating melodies using it using Skoove or another piano-and-voice accompaniment app; chord tone soloing melodies will help develop your jazz piano abilities immensely!

Major Seventh Chords

When writing out a major seventh chord, its structure typically begins in the treble clef with the root note doubled one octave lower (C maj 7 = C-C-G). This structure is known as shell voicings; novice jazz musicians usually start out learning this technique because it allows both hands to play an accompanimental bass line while the right hand adds all harmonies simultaneously.

Most often, 7th chords will feature one or more chordal extensions for added color and texture. Furthermore, these chord extensions help produce the signature jazz sound.

To understand these voicings, a strong knowledge of interval arithmetic is required. I suggest watching my "Interval Arithmetic" video before continuing this article.

Minor Seventh Chords

An added seventh can make any chord sound fuller and is great way of leading listeners through progressions; for example, C7 chords lead well towards F major.

Contrary to triads, which may be written with either lines or spaces on the staff, seventh chords must always be represented with closed-spaced notes due to their notes always stacking into thirds.

There are various voicings for seventh chords, but one of the more popular methods involves adding a minor seventh note onto any major triad and writing it as Gm7 (or Gmin7) in sheet music.

Practice chord voicings in every key, as familiarizing yourself with them will make lessons on chord progressions easier and will also enable you to play chord shells with proper voice leading for right-hand comping skills development.

Common Chord Progression

Are You Playing Jazz Standards Or Writing Your Own Music? These basic chord progressions will serve you well whether playing jazz standards or creating original compositions. Memorize them, and you can move freely chromatically as you make unique arrangements of them. Moreover, use them as a starting point to add sevenths and create bluesy-sounding chords from these types (minor, major, dominant).

Be sure to practice chords with precision and technique; this will enable you to get the most from these voicings, leading to stunning chord progressions. As your jazz playing evolves, having this knowledge of chord progressions and voicings at your disposal will allow you to improvise or read jazz lead sheets without needing notes written out for you will set you apart from other pianists as well as increase confidence when collaborating with other musicians.

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