Is Jazz Piano Hard?

This is the question we’ll do our best to answer today.

Let’s get started.

One Common Misconception About Jazz Piano

Anecdotally speaking, I have encountered numerous people who say that jazz piano is hard.

It’s tempting to say “Yes” to that question right off the bat.

This is especially true if you’ve been exposed to the likes of Art Tatum, Mary Lou Williams, and Oscar Peterson with their mind-blowing virtuosity.

It’s true that their superhuman feats on the piano appears barely reachable.

However, that’s far from the truth.

Let me explain further.

Two Elements That Make Jazz Piano Something Within Everyone’s Reach

In my mind, there are two things that every person can do build the necessary skills:

  1. Learn basic building blocks (i.e. musical vocabulary, etc.) in jazz.
  2. Invest practice time.

Given that any average person can do these two things, we can say that in this sense, jazz piano is not hard.

Dealing With Some Objections

Again, people would easily object, saying that no average mortal can stride like Art Tatum or have their fingers flying 100 Miles High like Chick Corea.

Yes, that is true in a lot of ways. Each pianist has his or her own take on the instrument, a personal voice so to speak.

I do not say this to discourage you. It is fact that we can easily accept.

However, that doesn’t mean you cannot acquire the same level of fluency and virtuosity.

The reality is that what makes Art Tatum, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, and Barry Harris different from any of us is, again:

  1. The basic building blocks of jazz piano they have learned.
  2. Amount of time invested in learning and practicing.

It is how we allocate whatever God-given time we have that actually matters and how efficient and efficacious we are in doing so that matters.

is jazz piano hardThe simplicity of it seems easy, so in that sense jazz piano can be easy.

Now, let me give you another disclaimer:

While it can be easy in that sense, jazz piano still requires hard work.

The requirements are easy in the sense that everybody has the capacity to do it.

But, but, but, but — you have to put in the time for the hard work of practicing daily.

While it may be hard, there are a lot of things you can do to make it easier and a lot more enjoyable for you.

Read on.

One Thing You Need Before Proceeding Further

I would just like to check one thing: Do you already have some basic piano knowledge and skills?

If you’ve already have the equivalent of at least Grade 1 piano skills (ABRSM, Trinity Guildhall, RCM, Rockschool, etc.), then I suppose you can proceed.

If not, you can learn some rudimentary piano lessons via Piano Lessons Online.

It’s also great to start with some of our resources such as Piano Chord Theory and How To Read Piano Sheet Music for some additional fundamental guidance.

With that out of the way, let’s continue.

Learning Jazz Piano Is Easier With…


Yes, you heard it right. It’s all about developing your ears at first.

You need to become familiar first with how things sound.

Start listening to various jazz piano tunes.

Think about it this way: Learning how to speak as a child requires being immersed in your family or culture’s native tongue.

The more familiar you become with it, the more you have the capacity to imitate it.

Start by:

  1. Listening to your favorite tunes.
  2. Group your favorite tunes according to level of difficulty.

The second step is important. Why?

It’s because when you actually want to attempt learning how to play the tunes, you want to succeed.

How To Start Playing Jazz Piano Songs

is jazz piano hardIt is easier to succeed in jazz piano by learning the easy tunes first!

Which tunes? I’m glad you asked.

Start with learning easy blues piano songs such as “Spoonful” and “C Jam Blues”.

By playing some blues tunes, you can discover keys to progressing in jazz piano.

In jazz piano, learning important chord progressions gives you the ability to play plenty of tunes.

With that being said, learning the blues is one key, but here is another.

Two Important Jazz Tunes You Should Learn

Whenever I teach jazz piano, there are two tunes I always recommend.

One is Autumn Leaves, and the other one is Fly Me To The Moon.

Why? It’s because they feature the most important chord progression in jazz: the 2-5-1 chord progression, in both major and the relative minor.

This should now build the backbone for your ever growing jazz piano skills. Sure there are many easy jazz piano standards to learn, but these 2 are a great, simple place to start without getting overwhelmed!

A great place to learn Fly Me To The Moon is to go from Zero to Jazz Piano Hero.

Zero to Jazz Piano Hero is a beginner jazz piano course that will help you kickstart your jazz piano journey.

Inside Zero To Jazz Piano Hero, you’ll discover:

  • Over 4 Hours Of Beginner Jazz Piano Secrets Filmed In HD
  • Sheet Music For Every Chord, Chord Progression, & Song Inside The Program
  • Step By Step Method To Go From Zero To Playing Songs You Love In 30-60 Days

Go from Zero To Jazz Piano Hero right here.

Once you learn one of these two songs, what are you supposed to do next?

How To Make Progress

Making progress in this area also involves just two steps:

  1. Learning the 2-5-1s in all 12 keys. This can be easily done by learning Autumn Leaves or Fly Me To The Moon in all 12 keys.
  2. Figuring out where 2-5-1 exists in every jazz tunes.

When you keep on repeating these two steps, what you’ll realize is:

  1. You start hearing where 2-5-1s happen in most tunes…,
  2. …you get to hear where songs deviate from 2-5-1s…,
  3. …and then you begin to wonder why it’s so.

From thereafter, it should become a nagging thought that will make you want to discover how the jazz greats do such things.

Here inside, we can help you make progress in this regard with our free lessons in chord theory and chord substitution.

Now, the next step involves spontaneously creating music on your own.

Overcoming The Improvisation Hurdle

Jazz cannot be jazz without improvisation.

Therefore, it is a must that you need to know how to improvise.

Fortunately for you, we tackle improvisation heavily here inside

Get started with jazz improvisation using our 12-step-method right here.

You can also learn Steve Nixon’s step-by-step method to improvising jazz melodies and solos via Premium Jazz Lessons.

Final Thoughts

Let’s ask that question again: Is jazz piano hard?

Let’s be realistic: Of course, it can be hard since it involves a good amount of work. However, with a systematic approach, it can be so much fun and rewarding that it feels easy.

The path may be hard at times, but the rewards outweigh the effort at the end of it all.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson so keep practicing.

Posted in

Mark A. Galang, OTRP, MAM-MT(c)

Mark Galang is one of our contributors at He loves teaching all styles of music especially jazz, blues, rock, classical, and Christian music. Mark is also a licensed occupational therapist in the Philippines that combines music therapy intervention with occupational therapy.