Ask Me Any Questions You Want

jazz piano lessonsI’ve had the pleasure to spent the last 13 years of my life as a full time musician.

From day 1 of my music career my goal has always been to constantly push myself as an artist, learn, and continue to grow while simultaneously being able to put food on the table and pay my bills.

Now, there have been times through the years when I’ve had to play some really crappy gigs to continue on my artistic path and put a roof over my head.These have not always been fun. They happen sometimes though.

Fortunately, there have been many incredible times as well.

I’ve also had the privilege to travel, perform all over the world, receive recognition, share music with millions of people, and play music with some of the best musician’s in the world (here’s just a few things I’ve done so far).

Although I’ve failed a lot, I’ve been lucky enough to learn from each of my failures.

I truly believe my past failures have allowed been the key to any current success I have now! 🙂

For that reason, I want to do something unique today, in which I share with you what I’ve learned over the years to help you succeed.

But instead of just making a huge list of what I’ve learned or creating an individual lesson on just one topic, I want to share what I’ve learned by answering your questions.

The way I am going to do this is through a simple question and answer format. All you have to do is leave a comment with a question and I will answer it.

Whether it is a question about jazz piano, music in general, or just something you want to know about me, feel free to ask me anything.

Don’t worry about holding back or feeling like your question is not a good one either. You can ask me literally any question that you want, no matter how foolish it may sound. No matter what, you will get a response.

This is your jazz forum. Ask away…

Steve Nixon


  1. Rob on June 6, 2013 at 5:09 am

    you posted a lesson autumn leaves using the blues scale, can you post the chord sequence used please.

  2. Pierre on June 6, 2013 at 6:25 am

    Great website, and great topic!

    My question: Most of the time, as a Jazz pianist, your left hand will do the comping, and the right hand the melody/improvisation.

    What kind of exercices to you do to practice your left hand for comping?


    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      You could practice vamping over various rhythmic patterns. Red Garland used the Charleston rhythm quite a bit behind his solos. You could also listen for comping rhythmic pattern you like on a recording and turn that into an exercise as well. I’ve done that several times with Wynton and Barry Harris.

      • Pierre on June 6, 2013 at 7:45 pm

        Thanks for the answer!

        An extra question if I may: Is it only by practice that you end up being able to concentrate on your improvisation and stop thinking about what to do with the comping? Or do you have some tips to practice this as well?


        • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 11:11 pm

          Well, really being in control of what you want to say with your improvisation allows you more freedom to make good comping choices.

          That being said master the rhythms techniques I mentioned above and that should really free you up to think more about your improv. It will also help your groove.

  3. LMW7 on June 6, 2013 at 12:35 pm

    I have a simple question. What resources do you use or would recommend when it comes to understanding and using chords for any kind of music?

    And thanks for the lessons. I learned a lot and improved my piano skills. 🙂

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 12:50 pm

      I do a ton of transcribing. There are some solid voicing books on the market. I’ll be coming up with my own in the near future but in the meantime you could check out this book.

      • LMW7 on June 6, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        Thanks a bunch.

  4. joshua on June 6, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    What are the simple major and minor jazz scales and chords to learn jazz

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 12:48 pm

      There are tons of scales you could explore. A good starting point would be to learn your modes of the major scale and your modes of the melodic minor.

      Chords are a very deep topic and not necessarily simply organized. Start with learning major chords, minor chords, dominant chords, minor 7b5, diminished etc.

  5. Frank on June 6, 2013 at 12:53 pm

    Sir< I have a lingering question that I have not yet found the answer to. How do pianist make that big sound just near the end of their music, usually with an orchestra? They seem to encompass the entire keyboard. Could you give me the keys they hit? some of their songs are, 'Old Man River' or 'It must Be a Miracle', or maybe 'The Impossible Dream'??? Thanks a million! Frank

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 1:30 pm

      Hi Frank,
      Not sure exactly what you’re specifically referring to in terms of big sound…it’s a bit vague. There are so many ways of creating a big sound 🙂 Perhaps you could provide a reference recording? It would be very easy for me to answer that way. That being said if I was take a guess of what I think you mean… A lot of it is arpeggiation patterns across the whole keyboard with the pedal down. The other thing is playing chord voicings that literally feature 8-10 fingers.

  6. Ani Lordvalen Offiong on June 6, 2013 at 12:54 pm

    Dominant chords tend to lead to minor and major chords. Do some dominant chords lead to other dominant chords?
    And how can I identify them??

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      Yes, dominant chords in modern harmony don’t necessarily need to be resolved in a V to I relationship. There are hundreds of tunes that feature this concept. Check out a tune like There Is No Greater Love ,Sweet Georgia Brown, or the bridge to Rhythm Changes for examples. Those feature dominant chords moving in fourths.

      For another example of a dominant chord that doesn’t resolve check out bars 2 and 3 of Stella By Starlight. They’re all over jazz 🙂

  7. Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Lots of ways to go on this one. Here are 2 examples…Try playing the related II of your tritone sub. So, if the normal chord changes are Dm7-G7-Cmaj7 try Abm7-Db7-Cmaj7

    You could also change the qualities of the minor and dominant chords through different alterations on the dominant or play minor major 7 for minor chords.

  8. anon123 on June 6, 2013 at 1:03 pm

    Dear Steve — Here is a question. I am a new to piano, having studied for about year now. What is the quickest and easiest way to learn all 12 major scales? What is a good daily practice routine? I try to practice 2 scales per day and then all 12 on the 7th day each week. I have seen all kinds of exercises. But, I only have about 1 or 2 hours per day to practice all my band’s repertoire, do some composing, and practice arpeggios and scales. My approach has, therefore, been to simply play tunes in different keys and thereby cover and practice all 12 scales. This works but I am finding that I cannot play as fast as I want. I can play interesting stuff, from the head and heart, but I cannot play all of what is in my head because I cannot play fast enough. HIromi and Jordan Rudess come to mind, not that I expect to play as good as them, but they play “fast stuff” and I want to get there. As compared to Bill Evans and Keith Jarrett, who are fast in their own right, but not of the same degree as Jordan Rudess or Hiromi, at least IMHO. So, maybe my question really is “what are some practical daily exercises a new pianist can use to learn how to play faster?”. Thanks. Love your site and style and teaching. You are truly great. Thanks again.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 1:20 pm

      When I was trying to learn my modes many years ago I would practice 4 keys per day with all my modes (major and minor) plus arpeggios and then add a new key everyday and then remove one. So, for example:

      Monday: C, Db, D, Eb
      Tuesday: Db, D, Eb, E
      Wed: D, Eb, E, F
      Thursday: Eb, E, F, Gb
      Friday: E, F, Gb, G

      etc. etc. until I was all done.

      Once every few days I would review all 12. This took a long time though and although scales and technique work is important I needed to work on other things in my playing too.

      Technique and speed is important but don’t make it your #1 priority when playing jazz. Focus on execution, learning tunes, chords rhythm, and learning the vocabulary just as much. Lots of guys can play fast scales but can you swing your ass off? 🙂

  9. anon123 on June 6, 2013 at 1:11 pm

    Dear Steve — What are some quick tips and tricks to make my playing sound more outside/ modern/ contemporary/ fusion/ angular/ avant-garde/ non-straight/ etc? For example, I listen to a lot of Brad Mehldau and John Medeski and they have a lot of playing that does not sound like “straight ahead swinging jazz” in any way, but at the same time it seems to come from the jazz tradition, but in an “outside” kind of way. What do you suggest? Thanks.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 1:26 pm

      Wow great question. Personally, I would transcribe 4-8 bars of their music that really moved me and really try to break down and figure out what they’re doing.

      You don’t have to write it down just use a slow down program and loop it over and over and try to grab as much as you can by ear.

      When I transcribe an area of music I love it becomes a true study. I create tons of new exercises from this.

  10. Nuno Rivera on June 6, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Hi Steve!
    Thanks for your site and for this opportunity. I’m 39 years old and I’ve been learning piano for three years now. I know many of the theoretical concepts but my hands aren’t fast enough and I still sound like a beginner. I practice almost every day but I cannot make a run up and down the keyboard, or play independently both hands. I know scales, modes, chords and their functions but i cannot sit on the piano and make it sound fluent. If I’m playing in a band I can pass as a musician, but when it comes to piano soloing I think I’m awful. Is this normal for three years time? Maybe I’m practicing the wrong way.
    Thanks in advance,
    Nuno Rivera

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      Hi Nuno,

      I think you’re problem is a very common one. I will use a metaphor of speech to demonstrate. You’re practicing a lot of ‘words’ so to speak (chords, scales, etc.) but not putting those words into sentences or putting them into a conversation.

      So, the sentences would be actually applying these chords to real pieces of music in time.

      Play with a metronome, jam track, or consistent time keeping device. Putting your ideas into rhythm is one of the fastest way to get more musical.

      I would also recommend trying to play along with some simple solos of master musicians. Start with Miles Davis solo on So What. Check out this lesson Listen to how Miles builds his ‘sentences’ so to speak. That will help your concept of building phrases and helping you play more fluently.

  11. Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    It’s an interesting question. Finding your own voice in a style that has so much tradition can definitely be a challenge. I don’t necessarily think you should never be thinking about theory when you’re playing though. For example, when I’m transposing on the fly on a gig I’m definitely thinking theory!

    That being said I try to practice a concept so well that i don’t need to think about it. It becomes second nature. There is so much repetition that needs to happen in order for something like this to happen. So, it’s not that you ‘forget’ everything it’s just rather you know it so well that it becomes automatic or natural.

    I think the general intent behind a statement like that is to always be open to the moment and keep your ears ‘wide open’ so to speak. A lot of people who go into a gig or a playing situation with preconceived plans aren’t listening as deeply as they should to what’s going on around them.
    The music can be stale as a result. IMO at the highest level it’s a very in the moment style.

    I don’t think everything has been done already. Keep digging within yourself and trying to expand on your influences. Take them in new directions and try things.

    You have to remember that when you do things your own way there will be lots of people who won’t get it and won’t accept what you’re doing. It’s a scary but a beautiful road.

    I’m not necessarily sure if I have my own style or not. My family say they can recognize my playing a mile away but to be honest i don’t concern myself so much with that. I just try to be progressive as a musician and let the chips fall where they may so to speak 🙂

  12. dare on June 6, 2013 at 2:24 pm

    I need to know how to play progressively to songs ..I mean teaching on progression is needed,and how to identify which progression to use when i hear a song..

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 3:20 pm

      There are a few very common chords progressions that are used all the time in music. In jazz the most common chord progression is the ii-V-I. Learn to hear progressions like ii-V-I, I-IV-V, I-VI7-ii-V-I etc. 98% of songs I’m asked to play feature common chord progressions.

  13. Gordon Francis Blaney Jr. on June 6, 2013 at 2:30 pm


    With a BM in Composition from Berklee, I appreciate the time/space/resources involved in owning and operating a business that provides invaluable goods and services to a plethora of colleagues with dissimilar background and skills. I seek to find an answer, via humbling questioning, which is:

    “As a composer/arranger/orchestrator/copyist (I’ll offer or be asked, and no compensation is considered, more often than less often), performer (gigs are far and few: attempting to get several accounts), and educator (I’ll offer or be asked, and no compensation is granted, due to student financial hardship) the quantity and/or quality of competition is a truism that all career musicians must cope with, ergo how does one cope with it all? (the current business model I’ve got isn’t providing me with wages to live: I’m, at present, in a position where I’m working a low wage high stress non-musical job that requires me to work harder and smarter to meet and exceed company expectations as well as be reliant on family and friends to aid me in these dark times).

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 7:14 pm

      The business of music is not an easy one. As I’m sure you know it requires a large amount of talent. Talent is really just a starting point though. You also need good social skills, money management, financial literacy, punctuality, networking skills, etc. etc.

      When i first started my career I recognized that i needed to do more “commercial stuff” at least in the beginning and play music that people wanted to hear. People pay money to people who play music they like.

      So, I started my career playing lots of funk and 70-90’s rock covers and i did church gigs. I actually had fun doing this but it wasn’t my first choice of music to play. None the less I was able to generate income using my talent. The money I made allowed me to continue to work on my own art (jazz and blues) and build my career.

      So, sometimes early in our career we need to find a happy balance between ‘commercial’ based music and more artistic music.

      Some of us get lucky and can combine both right away.

  14. Charles Moritz on June 6, 2013 at 2:30 pm


    I’m a classically trained musician who really enjoys Jazz but am having trouble putting all of the pieces together when soloing. I can recite things I hear and play all of the written scales, etc. but playing without notes seems to elude me. Perhaps its years of teachers making sure I playing what’s on the page. Any suggestions for moving outside the lines – so to speak?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 7:19 pm

      I understand Charles. Lots of my students come from a classical background. When you learn tunes in the future try to apply more music theory while you’re learning. Don’t just memorize notes. Memorize patterns and the relationships of the notes to the key, the chords, and the notes around them. Start by thinking chord progressions and scale degrees.

  15. ralph sirvent on June 6, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    My question is related to chord progressions. I’m looking at a sheet of music. Normally a 2 5 1 progression would be a D Major chord, a G7 chord and a C Major chord. My question is a two parter: What do you call the chords that some musicians put in between the chords that make up the regular chord progressions? Secondly, can any chords be thrown in between the regular chords that make up the progression or is this left to the discretion of the musician?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 7:21 pm

      If you’re in control of the harmony you can always put passing chords in between other chords and add substitutions in.

      I wouldn’t say that any chords can be put’s always about forward motion and driving the harmony forward. So, anything I put in between or instead of the written chords is meant to propel the music forward…into the next measure or into the next phrase.

      By the way a 2-5-1 in C is Dminor G7 Cmaj7 🙂

      • Ralph Sirvent on June 7, 2013 at 7:07 am

        Thanks for a great answer to my question and for a better understanding of the 2 -5-1 progression. It looks like the passing chords need to move in the same direction that the chord progression is moving in with respect to the circle of fifths. Is that correct?

        • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 8, 2013 at 1:59 am

          Not always circle of fifths..could be half step resolutions or other intervallic combinations. Root motions in 4th/5ths are very common though 🙂

  16. Matt Lawton on June 6, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    Hey Steve!

    I’d like to know what you look for in a bassist?


    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 7:35 pm

      Hey Matt,
      Here’s my answers for bass. How about you leave your answers for what you look for in a piano player too in response?

      1) Great time…hopefully even better than me…ala Ray Brown. 2) Knows their role as a rhythmic section member (mostly as an support instrument). I don’t say that as a limiting thing. As a piano player I’m in the rhythm section trenches too 🙂

      3) Big ears. Can they follow me if I do reharms?

      4) Hopefully they play melodically too. Not just laying down 100% walking bass cliches…ala Ron Carter or Phil Lesh from the Grateful Dead.

      I really love the playing of Stuart Zender too from Jamiroquai.

      Actually I could write like 5000 words on bass players I love 🙂

      • Matt Lawton on June 7, 2013 at 2:50 am

        Hey Steve,

        That’s awesome, Stuart Zender is one of my favourites too.

        As for as keys players, I’m always looking for some kind of Bill Evans/Herbie Hancock crossover but I’ve got a feeling I may have set my sights a bit high!

        1. Gotta keep it tasteful, just because you can shred it doesn’t mean you have too. “Where’s the melody, man?”

        2. If you’re on a keyboard please still treat it like a piano and not a toy!

        3. I love interesting chord voicings.

        4. I like to take a lot of solos (unfortunately haha). So I think I pianist that can comp like a champ and fill in that low end.

        I’m with you on the big ears thing too, I think that’s one of the things in music that probably applies to every instrument!

        Cheers Steve!

        • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 10:51 pm

          Forgot to tell you Matt…I just had a gig in London. I was only there for 2 days (rehearsal, gig, and sleep was all I sadly had time for). Hopefully next time we can hang!

          • Matt Lawton on June 9, 2013 at 6:49 am

            Yeah man definitely! Hope you had a good gig while you were over here!

  17. TONY on June 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm



    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 7:03 pm

      Hey Tony,
      Granted I’ve never heard you play before but there are 4 practice devices that I usually have my students do. 1. Slow down the metronome to a tempo you can play cleanly at. 2. Hands separately. Master each part that you plan on playing one hand at a time. If you can’t play 1 hand by itself it’s really hard to play 2 hands together! 3. Take smaller chunks of music. If you have problems playing 4 bars of a piece break it down to 2 bars or just 1 measure and 1 beat.

      The basic principle is try to break it down into manageable chunks. Master those areas and then build from there.

      • TONY on June 9, 2013 at 4:07 pm


  18. David on June 6, 2013 at 3:28 pm

    I am a classical/gospel piano player who is taking on jazz piano to compliment what I do as a gospel musician, however I am all over the place in what to practice first to improve in my efforts at becoming a better jazz pianist. What should be my initial focus for learning jazz piano and determining when and how to move on to the next step. Bottom line “STRUCTURE” is
    what I need. Thanks

  19. Tim Martin on June 6, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Hi Steve,

    I’m in the same boat as Joe above and I’m sure like many others. I’ve been playing for 25 years and know a little about everything but lack the steady practice routine. I can whiz around scales, arps and pentatonics but i really don’t have solid language. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

  20. John on June 6, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    What scales do you play over altered chords?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      I usually use the altered scale over altered chords if I decide to go the scalar route.

  21. Nico on June 6, 2013 at 5:07 pm

    Hi steve,
    I am work on playing jazz piano ballads, and i feel that i dont have that much resources to play it, may you help me o that?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 7:28 pm

      Hi Nico,
      I’m actually in the process of developing a ton of new lessons on ballad and solo piano playing. I will definitely help you but it will be a couple months before they’re out.

      In the meantime listen to somebody like Hank Jones or Marian McPartland. They are deep players but their solo piano playing is perhaps a bit more accessible than someone like Oscar Peterson or Art Tatum.

      I try to grab moves and concepts from my favorite players and then turn them into my own thing. For example, yesterday I took a Tatum pattern and now I’m trying to slowly work it into my playing but in a different way.

  22. Curtis on June 6, 2013 at 5:29 pm

    wow I have allot of questions, but I know you don’t have all day. So I’ll ask one. In reference to creating a jazz ballad. Not in an arppegio sense but where the whole song is mostly 2 handed chords(spread voicings) with the melody on top. Similar to the classical piece “Morning Prayer” by Tchaikovsky. I was told it isn’t wise to do that in a jazz piece. I’m having a little trouble trying to voice lead the song “Besame Mucho” with some rich jazz chords in the key of Bb. Perhaps if you don’t agree with what I’ve been told, maybe a lesson on “voice leading melody” Thanks

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 7:25 pm

      It’s absolutely 100% ok to play the melody on top of chords when you’re playing the head. Melody is very important for a tune and should be stated otherwise how would we know what tune it is? 🙂

  23. Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Hi Joe,
    One of my favorite zen sayings is from
    Miyamoto Musashi. He said “from one thing, know ten thousand things” The basic principle is that having a deep understanding of one topic and shed light and understanding on many other topics.

    So many musicians spread themselves too thin and work on 75 different topics and jump around with no structure. They end up not being able to play very well or just never in control of anything in their playing. Just work on a few things and really try to get good at those. The skills you develop there will truly pay off in other areas of your study.

    Here’s an also article on how you may want to organize your practice time. You could even simplify from here.

    • Joe on June 9, 2013 at 9:57 am

      Thanks Steve I will follow your advice. Here are some of the topics that I find exciting.

      How does one learn to transcribe other people’s solos?
      Your examples of riff’s starting on every note of a chord scale was very instructive. I got to see where and how you change the direction of your improvisations.
      I would like also to see some material on improvisation off of pentatonic scales.

    • Azande on June 17, 2013 at 11:55 pm

      In my teaching practice I ask students to use a timer, giving 15 – 20 minutes to each topic/concern. Select 5 books covering different topics (scales, solos, chord voicings, etc). Set the timer & get to work1

  24. Ed on June 6, 2013 at 6:59 pm

    How to create an interesting improvised melody line for a standard tune? The melody line should tell a story and must not be incoherent rambling. In addition to using licks or clichés, what other tools can be used to form long fresh coherent phrases.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 7:51 pm

      You could start by playing more vertically and also using bebop concepts like approach patterns. Licks can be very useful if you know how to learn from them. I teach my students to use great licks as a vehicle for learning how to craft a jazz line. Learn the building blocks and the concepts behind the licks and then come up with your own improvisation using these building blocks.

      My DVD the Jazz Masters Method goes really into depth on how to do this.

  25. Vicente on June 6, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    Greetings Steve!

    Very good and gentle idea to open this space.

    I have in mind two questions about jazz piano, from two diferent natures,

    1 – About patterns of descending and ascending runs and how to inteligently have them in mind to fill up spaces, mathematically.

    2- Using quartal harmonies. Can you give some words?

    Also I thought in using to this space to thank you for this contribution you make by sharing this whole lot of knowledge with all the world.

    Blessed Love!

    P.s: Sorry for my english, im Brazilian and i do not dominate English very well!

  26. Deacon Don on June 6, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Would you provide an example of a minor seventh being used as dominant seventh.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 11:00 pm

      Hi Deacon I’m not exactly sure what you mean here…Minor 7th chords are 1 type of chord quality and dominant 7ths are another. Can you reword?

      • Deacon Don on June 6, 2013 at 11:32 pm

        I wish I could reword or even elaborate. John Patitucci used that example several years ago. He simply mentioned to Thomas Martin, yes THE Thomas Martin, that a minor seventh can be used, or substituted, as a dominant. I believe he was only implying the chord as such but I can’t verify since I wasn’t there. A student of mine, who later became one of John’s for a couple of years, hasn’t provided an answer, either. Just trying to learn. Maybe Chick or Clarke can answer this.

        • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 11:41 pm

          You actually did elaborate! I know exactly what you’re talking about now. You’re referring to the related II chord. So, if you have a G7 chord you can just go up a 5th and play a Dmin7 in front of it or instead of it.

          So, bottom line…go up a 5th from your dominant chord and play your minor 7th chord from there.

  27. Gib on June 6, 2013 at 10:35 pm

    Steve: I am a newcomer to your lesson site. Thank you for offering them for free. I have played keyboards for a number of years (mainly gospel, evangelical and “cocktail” type piano accompaniment). I started to study jazz about 4 years ago as I was at a bit of a plateau in my playing. I love, absolutely love the use clever chord substitution to make the piano sound as dreamy as possible. (I don’t know any other way to describe it) The way Herbie Hancock accompanies Dexter Gordon in the movie “Round Midnight” is possibly the closest I can come to illustrating my goal in playing. Can you put together a lesson (or lessons) on taking a chord like a sharp 11 and showing as many possible occasions on how to use it in passing chord, 2-5-1 or 6-2-5-1 and how it could resolve to another chord in both major and minor key signature songs? There are a lot of chords that can result in wonderful chord substitutions, but my problem is ‘hearing’ where to use those chords even tho I have no trouble in playing them. (chords ideas, flat 9, sharp 5, sharp 9, sharp 11, diminished, major 7, 9, etc.)

    Thanks so much

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 11:06 pm

      Great idea Gib and welcome to the site. I’ll add that on the list of future lessons.

  28. Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    Thanks Ron and thrilled to hear you’re enjoying the Jazz Masters Method!

    I’ll add circle of fifth/fours content to the list of future lessons. In the meantime listen to a tunes like Autumn Leaves, There Is No Greater Love, Fly Me To the Moon, All The Things You Are to hear examples of the circle of fifths/fourths being used in real pieces of music.

  29. Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 10:51 pm

    Hi Garrett! Welcome to the community. Tons of ways you could voice this one. Try…
    LH. Db F B
    RH: Eb G Bb

    Let me know how you like that one… Cheers!

  30. Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 6, 2013 at 10:54 pm

    They’re all good questions Nicholas…including yours! 🙂 Most of the time if you’re playing extensions in your left hand you’re going to use rootless voicings. Use the search bar at the top of the site to search for my lessons on rootless voicings.

  31. Uyi on June 7, 2013 at 12:08 am

    I know tritones but how can I apply it in a song to make sense. Should I try to relate the left hand components of the tritone to the original notes in that part of the musc or should relate the right hand components. Secondly, whether left or right, how do I do so?

  32. BHARAT on June 7, 2013 at 2:01 am

    Hey Steve.. I try very hard but i Just can’t read sheet Music…When i sit to read any piece i do it for first 4 bars then i think that it restricts my freedom of playing independently and creativity so i quit it… More over i try a lot but just cant play jazz …the way you do…How to decide which scale to use in an improvisation for any chord progression?

    Thanks Bharat!!

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      Hi Bharat,
      I understand. Not everybody likes or enjoys reading music. My suggestion would be to really study some jazz music theory. This will help you understand more about the relationship of chords to scale. Start by googling the term chord scales or read many of the lessons on this site that feature scales.

  33. user 4 me on June 7, 2013 at 3:01 am


    I have 2 questions. One – how do you explain that there are so few women in jazz (piano or otherwise)? Two – how do you see jazz being used in Christian worship, or any other religion for that matter? (other than Ellington sacred music)

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 10:48 pm

      I wish I knew why there were so few women in jazz. It’s really a shame honestly. The only thing I can think of is that people follow role models. In the past there have been so many more male jazz musicians than female.

      Hopefully this will change! With role models out there like Hiromi, Anat Cohen, Esperanza Spalding, Terri Lyne Carrington, and so many other great female jazz musicians.

      I absolutely think jazz can be used in church or any religion. In my opinion music is an expression of the soul and that can tie very nicely into so many different religions.

  34. Frank on June 7, 2013 at 3:59 am

    Steve, looks like you have opened a popular blog.
    My question is whether, when you are learning improv, you should have a basic source of notes such as the pentatonic scale and then color various measures using the blues scale, approach notes, passing notes, and altered notes? The same question with the left hand bass. I know you “have to hear it” to develop a motif but is it better to have an established set of notes to work from for some period of time?
    Thanks and great idea if you can get to everyone.
    PS I’m overseas and can’t remember my password so am signing in as a guest

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 10:40 pm

      Yeah, I suppose it is popular 🙂 I feel blessed 🙂
      When I practice improvisation I always give myself limits. Freedom eventually comes from limitation.

      Now, on a gig I wouldn’t try to force anything in there and I’d just let it fly…but in the practice room I just do a lot of repetition of focused and individual concepts. One thing at a time. I may play approach patterns over a tune for 2 hours straight.

      I don’t try to practice 47 things at once. I just work on 1-2 skills at at time and then repeat, repeat, repeat.

  35. David on June 7, 2013 at 6:13 am

    Many jazz standards often have 2 chord changes per bar.One is confronted often by a different set of chord tones every second or so unlike the blues where you can concentrate on less notes for much longer because of many fewer chord changes. .How do you approach improvising when the cords are changing frequently. ?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 10:34 pm

      It’s all about reduction and simplification. Often times these quick 2 beat changes are just 2-5-1’s So, If you have em7 A7 2 beats each you can just A7 the whole time.

  36. John K on June 7, 2013 at 6:30 am

    Hi Steve,
    At the “memorizing 4-bar licks” stage now. How do I make the transition to fluid, flowing, improvised jazz piano? By the way, I am attending the Jamey Aebersold jazz workshop in Louisville later this month!!

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      Hey John,
      Great to hear you’re learning some new vocabulary. Study the building blocks behind the licks you learn. Grab little pieces of them and add them into your own playing. Try to also analyze and model them and come up with your vocabulary based off what you see. Look for things like arpeggiation, bebop scales, approach patterns, chord tone placement, swing rhythms, and many other classic vocabulary ideas.

      This is in essence what the Jazz Masters Method DVD teaches you how to do. Study a lick and use it as a vehicle for infinite amount of new possibilities!

      Congrats on attending the Aebersold camp by the way!

  37. Will on June 7, 2013 at 7:03 am

    Hi Steve, just wondered what major the half diminished is related?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 7:09 pm

      Hi Will,
      I’m not sure if understand your question 100% because of the wording but I’ll take a guess at what I think you mean. The half diminished seventh chord is built of the 7th scale degree of the major scale.

  38. Ayeni mayowa on June 7, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Hi Joe, have not been practicing many of the lessons because i lacked a piano of my own sir.

  39. Pedro on June 7, 2013 at 6:52 pm

    Hi, Steve. In your manual, ¿Is there a logical sequence in the lessons, in the case of beginers?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 7:07 pm

      Hey Pedro,
      There isn’t a single place to start per say in jazz. Jazz is a language and so the more ‘words (chord voicings, licks, harmonic information, substitution, scales, groove information etc.)’ and information you can pick up the better.

      Start with a lesson that seems interesting to you and really try to master that one. If there are things you don’t understand inside the lesson or you want to go further in depth on certain info you learn use that as a springboard for searching out and acquiring new and specific information. Hope that helps and thanks!

      I wrote this article as sort of a starting point for how to proceed on this journey. It’s not for beginners but rather it’s sort of a basic template for people at different places

  40. Mike Roads on June 7, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    Hopefully nobody have asked this question: in the process of changing from one key to another, what would be that special melody or notes that would lead me-smoothly- into the new key? In advance-Steve- thanks so much for sharing your invaluable knowledge.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 7, 2013 at 10:56 pm

      Hi Mike,
      One of the most fundamental relationships in harmony is V to I or in jazz II-V-I. So, if you wanted to shift keys you can quickly play the V chord in your new key right before and then resolve to I to set up the new key.

      Example: If you start in the key of C and want to get to Ab you would play an Eb7 before hand to set up the sound of the new key.

      You could also play a Bbmin7 Eb7 before hand too (II-V-I).
      If you’re trying to do this melodically you could use the notes from the chords (arpeggios or try to use the scales from these chords too)
      Hope this answered your question.

  41. glenn gula on June 8, 2013 at 8:05 am

    I think your readers would like you to see you take 4 bars of

    frankie and johhny or Wont you come home
    bill baily and stylize it to sound jazzy.

  42. Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 8, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Hi Cherry,

    Thanks for the kind words. I think you’ll benefit from this starter article. Also, I recommend you really spend some time trying to learn some jazz music theory. Check out this book

  43. Holly on June 8, 2013 at 5:03 pm

    Hi Steve,
    When I transcribe & run into a brick wall at not being able to figure out what somebody played, I find it difficult to move on. I am afraid I’ll forget what I’ve gotten so far, so I play from beginning & become sick of the tune! Is it best to go through whole tune & get as much as you can & correct rough spots later? I would really give up if I had to write it down because writing rhythmic figures has always been a weak point for me. I feel I do fairly well getting most of the stuff at full speed but it’s hard to tell things low in bass line, cluster chords, or fast right hand runs. Any tips? Thanks in advance!

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 18, 2013 at 12:07 am

      Hey Holly,
      I think there has to be a balance between hard work/sticking with things and also knowing when to take a break and come back to a section later.

      I’m the type who tends to always keep going no matter what but it’s not always healthy for your psyche lol!

      It sounds like you need to do some additional training doing ear training. Even though I read music well and no theory etc. I truly believe my ear has been the #1 thing that’s helped me in my music journey.

      I spent a ton of time training my ear and I encourage you to do the same.

  44. Garth Nisson on June 8, 2013 at 7:26 pm

    Do you have any tips on overcoming stage fright? Frozen fingers and elbows?

  45. janou on June 9, 2013 at 6:20 am

    I am a student in jazz (I am 60y old).I seem to have a problem getting familiar with II V I. Could you give some tricks to make it easier for me (and maybe many people like me) in C-, D-, E-,…etc. some easy gimmicks perhaps?
    thanks and congratulations for your clear lessons : really easy to follow, clearly explained just GREAAAAT

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 9, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      Hi Janou,
      Usually if someone is struggling with playing or seeing 2-5-1’s it’s because they need to learn their scales a bit deeper. Practice recognizing scale degrees 2, 5, and 1 in various keys. Start with just a few keys and get good at those. Then, move on till you’ve mastered all 12. Hope this helps.

  46. rico on June 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm

    Steve, since i use only lead sheets to play, i really have no knowledge about the base clef. is this used just to form a base line such as a base player would do or is it a substitute for the chords shown on a typical lead sheet. Would learing the base clef be of any advantage in my playing? or advancing in jazz piano?
    thanks and thanks also for your continuing great lessons.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 9, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      Hey Rico,
      If you ever wanted to read some arrangements that someone had fully notated this may be a problem for you. It would only take you 10 minutes to learn to read bass clef. It’s very easy. Just go for it my friend!

  47. nellie on June 9, 2013 at 7:49 pm

    I have been a church organist for many years. I guess, thus, I have had more of a classical background. About 5 years ago I began taking lessons with a wonderful Jazz professor. Jazz theory is very complex. Sometimes, I feel like he must think I am a complete idiot! How long does it take a classically trained pianist to understand the Jazz theory. I think going from Bach to Brubeck takes a bit of time?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 9, 2013 at 8:41 pm

      Hi Nellie,
      There isn’t a definite answer for how long it takes to learn jazz theory. I’m certain you’re not an idiot 🙂 I think with your classical background you should continue to progress nicely. As they saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day! It can take some time. My advice would be to take various patterns you want to master and really try to learn them in all 12 keys.

      Practicing transposition has done amazing things for my understanding of music and jazz. I still transpose almost everyday.

  48. Tendai on June 9, 2013 at 8:18 pm

    Hey, Steve

    I checked out your post on the guitar website. Very helpful. However, what I seem to be having trouble with is knowledge of the keyboard. What I mean is, I practise chords very regularly, but when I try to play a simple progression, incorporating these chords and their inversions quickly or naturally in different keys is challenging. I’m well aware that there’s no quick fix to my problem, what I would like is a suggestion on some effective methods to really get familiar with my instrument as far as knowing where everything is.



    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 9, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      Hey Tendai,
      Thanks. I would take very simple chord progressions and see if you can play them in all 12 keys. This will be immensely helpful for you in learning the layout and feel of different keys. Start w/ progressions like I-IV-V, ii-V-I, I-vi-ii-V-I, etc.

      Also, make sure you know all your major scales in all 12 keys very well too. This will help you see the patterns.

      • Tendai on June 18, 2013 at 10:10 am

        Ok, will do. Thanks a lot, Steve, I really appreciate the help 🙂

  49. Doug on June 10, 2013 at 10:34 am

    I’m curious about alternate voicings for Dominant 9th and 13th chords, upper voicing structure combinations. I want to play those unique combinations I hear a lot in jazzy/soul music…

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 10, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      Hey Doug,
      I’m going to be featuring a ton of those chords in my next product. In the meantime check out my lesson on Here’s that Rainy Day and the Bill Evans minor chords lesson. That will give you a great start.

  50. Rudolf on June 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm

    Hi, so I’ve been practicing piano a few months now from what I’ve learned on youtube, though I’ve playing guitar since I was about 8. At this point I know my major chords, minor chords, major scales, minor scales, etc. I would really like to get as comfortable with expressing myself and having that relationship the same way I do with the guitar. So when I go to jam out and try to play some music, I’m basically just playing different major and minor chords trying to have a cool progression going, but I’m getting bored of these chords, and don’t really know when to use what certain chord, I just play by what sounds ok to me at that time. I would like to start just creating my own chords, but don’t really know how to go about this. I’ve heard to basically just take random notes from a scale that sound good together, but it’s been hard for me to find the right ones that fit perfectly, and also to switch into another chord this way without literally just playing whatever random notes my fingers hit. If you can help give me some sort of direction that would be really awsome man. Thank you.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 10, 2013 at 9:31 pm

      Hi Rudolph,
      It sounds like you need to study more on chord scale theory. This will help you figure out what extensions you can add on to your chords.

      You could start with literally any of the chord lessons on this site and start studying those. I always add extensions on these chords. Make notes on what notes (theory wise) I add on each type of chord (major, minor, dominant, etc.).

      • Rudolf on June 11, 2013 at 12:52 pm

        Ok, cool. I must have missed those ones. It seems like every video on
        youtube I watch is just different progressions of the same minor/major
        7th chords or whatever, so I probably got your videos mixed up and
        thought I had already watched them or something, so I’ll definately
        check those out now. Any specific one you by any chance might think
        would be a good one to start from that fits whats I’m looking for? Also, completely forgot about switching up the intervals, so now that I’m practicing those, it’s making things a lot better.

  51. ally love on June 11, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Hi do you jazz piano lessons help with jazz flute?
    I’ve played classical flute for six years and I have an interest in starting jazz flute any tips?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 12, 2013 at 7:57 pm

      In my opinion understanding harmony is essential to playing jazz on any instrument. There’s no better way to learn harmony than to study piano and chords.

      As far as jazz flute goes I would spend time listening to and studying the playing of Herbie Mann.

  52. rajiv on June 12, 2013 at 12:42 am

    1.I have learned Jazz music on piano for 2 years and playing piano for last 15 years in recordings,but i have a biggest problem,whenever i am called to play live,i cannot improvise specially when drumer is playing any beat other then normal 4/4 2/4,,i cannot catch pickups and bridges,and also very weak in rythm pattern like 7/8,or any other odd patterns,,how shud i come out of this problem,particularly if i am practising alone?

    2.i want to learn modern jazz styles,i do have lots of videos cds,but hardly i sit and learn,dnt know which way to go??

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 12, 2013 at 6:26 pm

      Hi Rajiv,

      There is an Aebersold play along in which you can practice playing in odd time signatures. This will give you an opportunity to gradually build your skills in 7/8, 5/4, etc.

  53. uche on June 15, 2013 at 9:52 am

    Hello steve, thanks a lot for your lessons, i’m grateful. What scales do i use to solo over a ii-v-I progression?

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 18, 2013 at 12:07 am

      Hi Uche,
      There are a ton of different scales you could approach. Check out any of the scale lessons on this site (use the search bar) and I can promise you’ll there will be a mention of the II-V-I somewhere!

  54. Pat on June 16, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Hi Steve,
    Something that has been bugging me awhile are tritones. I know, for example, that
    the tritone for a G7 is Db7. But can a tritone for Gm7 be Dbm7 or a tritone for a GMaj7 be a DbMaj7? If not, please explain why not.

    Thanks a lot,


    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 18, 2013 at 9:51 pm

      Usually tritone substitutions has to do with both chords having the same 3rds and 7ths. So, theoretically in order for it to be a pure tritone substitution you’ll need dominants. If you use half step chromatic movements though you could do any quality you wanted.

  55. Terry on June 16, 2013 at 6:21 pm

    Hey Steve. Many thanks again for all that you do to educate us music lovers. I’ve written before, and have thoroughly enjoyed your lessons, videos, and music tips on the various subjects….allowing me play so much better than ever before. I participate in a Jazz Masters Workshop to learn about playing in an ensemble, and have played some gigs with the Workshop group. I have since ventured outside of the workshop, forming my own jazz band. We’ve been together for almost 2 years now practicing each weekend. Forgot to mention that we are each retired from other careers, and now have the time to do what we love at this stage in life…to play music together.
    That said, we are preparing for our first gig as a group, and I’ve noticed that some of the members are a bit nervous, and are concerned about being able to sound perfect in front of an audience. We are not professional musicians, so I try to address their concerns…with aim to calm them down as they experience their version of possible stage fright. My question is: How do (did) you overcome the nervousness, anxiety and the “all to unrealistic” fear of not being perfect for a performance? Again we are not professional performers…thus mistakes and skill limitations come with our reality….but we do love to play! Any suggestions or thoughts on how best to address/discuss this within the group is greatly appreciated. FYI. I’ve been able to grow from public speaking experiences and some amateur music playing over the years (I use to play drums earlier in life into adulthood), where playing a gig does not worry me as it seems to for some of the other band members. It’s really interesting to see how they each handle stress as we begin to play out. Thanks for any response. Terry

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 18, 2013 at 12:16 am

      Thanks Terry! Well from the most fundamental level there is no such thing as perfection in art. It’s a forever elusive goal and that can be a lot of pressure on people psychologically.

      I know it’s easier said than done but try to advise others to keep their mind on the simple concept that “the process is the thing”. Meaning that the process of improvement and growth is the only thing to focus on and a gig is just one step along this long and infinite journey.

      I admit I was very nervous the first few gigs I did but I learned how to redirect that energy the more performance experience I got. Ultimately it’s all about exposure and experience. Eventually people realize there is nothing to be afraid of really at a gig. 99.9% is an overactive mind.

      I also recommend you check out this article i wrote

  56. Hansen on June 19, 2013 at 8:08 am

    hi Steve,

    I always combine jazz chords in most pop song and it works quite well… is it good ?? and can u give me any tips and tricks for me so i will be better and better…


    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 25, 2013 at 9:14 pm

      Sure, you can put jazz chords in pop songs. People like John Mayer, Maroon 5, Stevie Wonder, Jill Scott, any many others do this all the time.

  57. ally love on June 20, 2013 at 12:03 pm

    Hi Steve, I’m a Christian and I wandered if you know of any Christian jazz flute artists????????????

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 25, 2013 at 9:12 pm

      I know some flute players but I’m not sure what they’re religious affiliations are. Sorry 🙂

  58. Amon on June 25, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Hey Steve,

    Thanks for all your lessons!!!

    I started playing piano seriously about 2years ago and I have fallen in love with jazz piano. I have never had a teacher (well, for more than 2days) and i have acquired most of my skill by either trial and error or reading literature. Is there a way i could learn piano systematically so that i am not stuck with three keys (scales)???


    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 25, 2013 at 9:17 pm

      I would really dig into some of the easier lessons in this site. See if you can master them. Also,learn as much music theory as you can. That will help you start learning more keys. Taking some lessons with a good local teacher will really be helpful too. It’s can be very hard to completely teach yourself.

  59. Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on June 25, 2013 at 9:13 pm

    Hi Veronika,
    First and foremost I would really dig into some of the easier lessons in this site. See if you can master them. Also,learn as much music theory as you can, work on your rhythm, learn a few jazz tunes, and start trying to improvise on those tunes.

    • Bruce Griffin on August 9, 2013 at 1:37 pm

      And , Veronika, listen listen listen!

      Good luck! Bruce Griffin

  60. Brian on June 26, 2013 at 5:40 am


    In an earlier Turnaround Lick Lesson ( 1,6,2.5,1) you used C7alt as the 6. Is this to suit the Eflat Major key and if so how does the E natural fit? Many thanks for your excellent lessons and tips.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on August 30, 2013 at 1:48 am

      Hi Brian,
      Great question. The C7alt functions as a secondary dominant of the Fmin7 chord. It’s a pretty cool sound 🙂

  61. btomrita on July 1, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    What can I use as a fill over a Major 7th chord when the melody note is held for a long time – for example I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face from My Fair Lady, the melody note is F the chord is Eflat major 7 (in the key of Eflat). Thanks
    Tom Bennett

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on July 1, 2013 at 8:08 pm

      Hey Tom,
      Check out my Misty lesson on the site. Take a look at how I use a diminished passing chord as a harmonic fill. It’s also in the key of Eb.

      • btomrita on July 2, 2013 at 8:35 am

        Thank you. The diminished works very well.

        Sent from my iPad

  62. btomrita on July 6, 2013 at 10:29 am

    Hi Steve,
    You gave me a nice harmonic fill using a diminished chord to give some harmonic movement over a long held major 7 th passage in “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Her Face” (Efat).
    Would you have a suggestion about what might be used as a fill for the long held Fminor 7th that follows?

  63. Gib on July 16, 2013 at 8:04 pm

    Hi Steve: I have two questions. The first is improvisation; which I have been trying very hard to accomplish. As I listen to others improvise I’m amazed at what they can do and find it very pleasing and fascinating to listen to. My question is what do they hear or feel when they improvise? Are they as entertained and fascinated as I would be listening? I have yet to find my own improvisation to be fascinating and clever to me. Yet someone else listened to me and asked what did you do there?… that was really good. But I don’t even remember what I did. I would love to get into the head/ear space where I could literally sit down and enjoy listening to myself.

    My second question is… Being more classically trained I am having a hard time to get that swing feel in my improvisation. Do you have any tricks or ideas on how to practice the swing timing in jazz?

    (I am having trouble sending this so I clicked guest)

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on August 30, 2013 at 1:52 am

      Hey Gib,
      I can only answer based off my experience as an improviser. For me, I try to follow my ear and emotions. Those are my guide points. Now, to open up both of those requires lots of discipline and study of the more technical parts of the style. Through freedom comes discipline.

      As far as improving your swing feel… I would try to play with musicians who are better than you rhythmically and also play along with recordings of master musicians. Your rhythmic placement will greatly improve from this!

  64. Mark on August 6, 2013 at 6:46 am

    Hi Steve.
    I have the sheet music for duke ellingtons “I’m begining to see the light” and would like to improvise a solo. Can you recommend any swing licks that would fit the style. Thx. Mark

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on August 6, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      Every single lick on this site has source material or at least a part of it that will work over the song.

  65. Todd on August 6, 2013 at 8:25 pm


    When you come up with an arrangement do you write down the voicings that you are using or do you just use the chord symbol? I find that after awhile I have forgotten what I originally worked out to sound best and am using my more comfortable voicings, especially if I leave the tune alone for a period and then come back to it.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on August 6, 2013 at 8:37 pm

      Hey Todd. I usually don’t write down the individual voicings I use. For me, just the chord symbols will suffice. Please keep in mind though that I’ve spend a ton of time practicing voicings though so many of the voicings I play are like old friends at this point. For some people I think it would definitely help them to write out stuff. It can aid their learning and help retain information for longer. I have some private students who really benefit from writing out their voicings. Eventually they memorize them and it becomes more automatic but the writing out in the early stages really helps. So, in your case I would recommend you write out the voicings especially if you’re forgetting them. Hope this helps.

  66. Gib on August 19, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    Hi Steve: I would like to know what vanilla chord chart you used to springboard off for your session in two handed chords and comping. I have looked all over for a lesson like that and was delighted to find yours. I need to see the comparison between the original and what you used for your routine. It would just help me to visualize what to do over the 7ths and 2-5-1’s.
    Thanks so much

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on August 19, 2013 at 10:33 pm

      Hey Gib! I was just comping over a jazz blues chord progression. There is a lesson on this site where I talk more about this chord progression. You can use the search bar on top to find it.

  67. Heather on September 3, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    Hi Steve, I was wondering if you had any tips for playing chords in a small jazz ensemble in an interesting way.
    I find myself playing exactly the same way in nearly every piece. I also struggle playing rhythmic ‘stab’ chords and wondered if you had any ideas on improving this style of chord playing.

    • Steve Nixon (freejazzlessons) on September 3, 2013 at 9:20 pm

      Hey Heather,
      For voicings and rhythms you can check out my free Bb jazz blues comping lesson. Try to emulate some of the rhythms I’m using there. I think a lot of other musicians have questions on rhythms and voicings in smaller ensembles and trios. So, I’ll also definitely addressing this in the new premium membership.

  68. jhighland99 on September 10, 2013 at 9:23 pm


    Can you recommend a good affordable recording device?

  69. Kay. Y. on October 27, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    In your article “6 Steps to an Organized Practice Routine”, you mentioned etudes as a component of technical exercises. I’m quite unfamiliar with etudes. Are there any composers/books which you would recommend in that area?