Jazz Harmony: How To Learn Chords More Quickly

jazz harmonyGot a great email question from Joe about how to make learning jazz harmony and jazz chords easier.

“Hey Steve, Love your playing man! Ok, so I’ve played mostly rock in my life but I’ve always been a sucker for those jazzy chords. It’s time to finally up my chord game.

I don’t have a million hours a day to practice but I still want to get good. How should I spend my time? What would you recommend I do if I want to get good at jazz harmony and chords?”

Here’s my response.
jazz harmonyMucho gracias my brother! Appreciate the kind words and happy to inspire.

There are many ways of playing different chords.

So, lots of musicians feel intimidated when they first start learning jazz harmony.

But, most people make practicing chords and jazz harmony way harder than it needs to be.

A lot of the process is simplifying and organizing new chords you learn into what I like to call a ‘jazz harmony’ filing cabinet.

So, let me make the organization process easier for you.

Steve’s Jazz Harmony Filing Cabinet

Here’s a streamlined way to think about learning new chords.

For the most part there are only 5 main chord types.

•    Major 7th chords

•    Minor 7th chords

•    Dominant 7th chords

•    Minor 7(b5) chords

•    Diminished chords

And 99% of tunes will only have these 5 types of chords in there.

So, the smart musician will spend their time learning as many voicings as they can for for each chord type.

They’ll organize every new chord they learn in the ‘file box’ of the 5 chord types above.

Also, each new voicings you learn has it’s own flavor and helps you express yourself more.

And ultimately, we all play jazz so we can express ourselves more and feel more creative at the piano. 

What Do You Do Once You Learn The Chords?

Now, lets say you learn several voicing types for each chord. What do you do next?

Well, from there you can put those chords together into jazz chord progressions.

It can be fun to sit down and just loop great sounding chords in context of a common chord progression. You could even take that chord progression and transpose it into several different keys.

This is great if you want to continue to build your jazz theory skills.

I also highly recommend you throw them into real songs and build your own jazz piano arrangements.

This is a fantastic way to build deeper jazz harmony skills as well.

So, I would set a goal of learning at least 7 different voicings for each of the 5 chords types above.

Then start inserting them into real music.

How I Learned Lots Of Beautiful Chords

Now, the way that I personally learned all these different chords was by sitting down & figuring out the exact voicings the jazz masters were playing.

I’ve learned chords from Oscar Peterson, Bill Evans, Brad Mehldau, Sonny Clark, Dr. Billy Taylor, & Marian McPartland, and many other great musicians.

You can use the list of jazz masters that I listed above as a starting point.

Yes, it will take some time but the process can be very rewarding.

Is There Any Easier Way To Learn Jazz Harmony?

I’ve been working with students for over 20 years now.

So, I understand that not everybody has hours a day to sit at the piano and practice.

I also understand that not everybody trust their ears quite yet.

Ear training may be new to them or they don’t know how to transcribe music or grab complex chords off recordings yet.

It took me years to learn these chords. So, I wanted to create a solution for my students to make it easier for them to learn great chords quickly but not have to sacrifice learning the best materials.

jazz harmony

Click here to learn how over 15,000 musicians in 52 countries have learned to play jazz piano.

That’s why I created The Premium Jazz Membership Program.

I wanted to create a whole jazz piano training system that would to teach students hundreds of the best voicings.

And show you how to use those chords in context of the best jazz tunes in the world.

So, students could save a bunch of time, learn tons of amazing chords, see how they all work in pro jazz arrangements, and learn them in a step by step method.

It’s a fun program and thousands of musicians all over the world have learned how to play jazz piano using the method taught inside.

If you’d like to make a big jump in your playing quickly then I think you’ll really enjoy what you learn in there.

You can learn about the program right here  https://www.freejazzlessons.com/premium

Jazz harmony doesn’t have to be complicated if you practice it in a smart way.

I believe in your musical gifts.  Now, go make it happen for yourself!


jazz harmonySteve “5 Chord Types” Nixon.

P.S. Yes, there is downloadable sheet music if you like to learn away from the computer.

And yes, If you like to learn by ear, I demonstrate every chord so you can watch every move I make.

You can also read more about our students who’ve used the program and their success right here —-> Premium Jazz reviews.

Steve Nixon