If you want to learn how to play jazz piano well it’s incredibly important that you invest some time into learning jazz standards.

To help you get started building your repertoire I’m going to teach you how to play one of the most requested jazz standards of all time…George Gershwin’s Summertime.

If you love the sound of George Gershwin’s music then you’ll really have fun with this beginner jazz piano lesson.

Watch the video below to get started learning Summertime right away. Then, scroll down for a bunch of extra tips to help you learn even more jazz piano skills.

Summertime Lesson Video

5 Tips To Help You Learn Summertime

1. Summertime Has A Unique Song Form

Most jazz standards are 32 measures long but Summertime is a tune that is only 16 measures long.

It’s for that reason that you’ll often hear musicians play at least 2 complete choruses of the melody before they start improvising on it.

2. Left Hand Jazz Piano Voicings

I use a combination of several voicings types in my left hand.

You’ll find a mix of root position 6th and 7th chords, inversions of 7th chords, shell voicings, and rootless voicings.

By the way, we learn and explore all these voicings in depth inside The Premium Jazz Lessons Membership Course

Having a blend of different types of voicings in your jazz arrangements is a great way to add variety and spice to your tunes.

Each type of voicing has it’s own unique mood and emotion. Choosing the right voicing to play is both an art and a science.

There is definitely a strategy to choosing the right kind of voicings though and the thought process can definitely be learned.

3. Summertime’s Chord Progression

The most popular chord progression in jazz is the ii-V-i chord progression. It’s such a powerful chord progression that you’ll find it in almost every single jazz standard.

Summertime is packed with ii-V-i’s in both minor and major keys.

Since Summertime is in the key of Dminor in this arrangement you’ll see this chord progression many times throughout the whole tune:

  • Em7(b5) –  A7 – Dm6.
  • This is a iimin7(b5) –  V7 – i in the key of Dminor

Also, in bars 12 and 13 you’ll find a II-V-I in the key of Fmajor.

  • Gm7 – C7  - Fmaj7.
  • This is a ii –  V7 – I in the key of Fmajor.

4. The Rhythmic Techniques In This Arrangementjazz rhythm

Great jazz piano playing is just as much about rhythm as it is about harmony.

If you look at a typical lead sheet for this tune you’ll find Summertime written with everything on the downbeat and very little syncopation.

It can get kind of boring if you play it that way. That’s why it’s important that you learn how to put the right rhythms into your playing.

This brings style and sophistication and most importantly musicality to the way you play!

I’m talking about rhythmic techniques like anticipations, delayed attacks, strolling, stride, inner outer, walking bass, etc.

You can learn more about anticipation and strolling in the first few minutes of the video above.

I also teach you how play all these rhythmic techniques inside The Premium Membership Course.

5. The Outro

I use a cool little technique to end this tune called the tritone substitution.

Since the tune is in the key of Dminor so I’ll eventually want to end on some type of Dminor chord voicing.

I set up the ending by playing a dominant chord a half step higher than my last chord.

So, I play Eb7 and then resolve down into a Dm6 at the end.

You can use the same technique to end pretty much any jazz standard. Just find the last chord and play a dominant chord before hand a half step higher. Then, resolve down.

Your Next Step

I hope you had fun learning the first part of Summertime. There’s a lot of cool techniques and voicings in here that should get you started.

If you want to learn more right away you can get immediate access to:

  • The complete set of Summertime video tutorials (3 different arrangements for players of all skill levels.)
  • Full note for note notation of the lesson.
  • Downloadable MIDI files of the lessons.
  • Plus immediate access to over 16 hours of the most in depth jazz piano video tutorials online today (Must know tunes, essential chords, killer licks, improv drills, pro jam tracks, & more)

buttonIt’s all inside The Premium Membership Course.

Thanks so much for watching. If you have any questions please feel free to leave a comment below in the comment section. Keep practicing and I’ll see you soon!

Steve Nixon is the proud owner of Freejazzlessons.com. He is a world touring jazz and blues keyboard player and educator.

Steve is the author of Premium Jazz Lessons Elite Membership (A comprehensive all-in-one online jazz piano course.)

He is also the author of the The Jazz Masters Method DVD (A study of 9 legendary jazz piano players).

If you are a blues piano fan you can also check out his popular Learn Blues Piano DVD Course.