Jazz Piano Riffs – 2 Super Sweet Licks For Greatness

jazz piano riffsWould you like to learn how to play 2 sweet-sounding jazz piano riffs? You’re in the right place.

In the video below, Steve teaches you how to spice up your improv with these two jazz piano riffs.

These two licks sound killer over many tunes. Since one lick is minor and the other major, these riffs will improve your versatility.

Take 6 minutes and watch the video below. Steve will break down these jazz piano riffs for you.

Jazz Piano Riffs Video Tutorial

5 Tips To Master This Jazz Piano Riffs Tutorial

Now that you’ve taken a few minutes to watch the video above, Let’s get further into these jazz piano riffs.

1. Do Your Fingers Get Tied Up When Learning Jazz Piano Riffs?

jazz piano riffsA big stumbling block when learning licks is awkward fingering. It leads to frustration, a lack of flow, and even injury.

You don’t want to sound bad and hurt yourself in the process, right?

Let’s take some time to learn some piano fingering principles.

Whenever you’re dealing with some jazz piano riffs, use these fingering pointers:

  1. Fingering should feel easy and natural.
  2. It should (more or less) maintain the functional position of the hand.
  3. The wrist must be kept in a neutral position.

To realize how this is done, let your fingers rest on the E, F#, G#, A#, and B keys.

Do you see how fingers 1 and 5 rest on white keys and fingers 2, 3, and 4 rest on the black ones?

By doing the exercise above, we learn some practical fingering ways for anything on the piano:

  1. Let fingers 2, 3, and 4 deal with the black keys as much as possible.
  2. Let fingers 1 and 5 deal with white keys most of the time.
  3. Fingers should be slightly curved.
  4. Use the closest finger to the target key while maintaining a natural hand position.

One last thing: When you’ve figured out a fingering for the riff, stick with it. If you keep on changing fingerings, you won’t master the lick.

With some practical fingering tips, discover more ways to be comfortable with them below.

2. How Chord Inversions Help You Play Jazz Piano Riffs

jazz piano riffsOne secret to why jazz piano riffs sound so cool is that they make use of chord tones.

In fact, Steve’s licks follow common chord shapes.

With that in mind, it makes a lot of sense to learn chord inversions.

As an example, let’s break down the first lick and find some chord shapes:

  1. Over the Dm7(b5) chord, the notes of the lick are a D diminished triad and a C and Eb.
  2. You can easily play the D diminished triad with fingers 1, 2, and 3.
  3. Play C and Eb with fingers 1 and 3.
  4. Over the G7 chord, we find the G augmented triad in arpeggios. On beat 1 and 2, we find the 1st inversion. Beat 3 and 4 features the same chord in root position.

Now that we’ve found some chord shapes, what does this tell us? Learning how to play jazz piano riffs is easier when you master chord inversions.

This is one big reason why you need to spend time learning chords and their inversions. In doing so, you’ll find yourself hungry for more piano chords to learn.

The Way To Discover More Chords

jazz piano riffsIf you want to learn more sophisticated chords and licks, check out the Premium Jazz Lessons Elite Membership program.

The Premium Jazz Lessons Elite Membership program has a chords library and improv drills designed to help you play jazz like a pro.

Even if you just play by ear or rely solely on reading music, our Premium Jazz Lessons provide step-by-step ways to enjoy and master jazz piano.

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Fingering and chord inversions aren’t enough to master these jazz piano riffs. There’s more you need to know so read on.

3. The Best Way To Get Jazz Piano Riffs To Groove Right

jazz piano riffsIn jazz (and other styles of music), jazz rhythm reigns supreme.

If you make a small melodic mistake, very few people care.

If you play the groove wrong, everybody knows it’s a disaster.

Now, how do you make sure your rhythm and feel are solid?

To get your groove on, check out these rhythm hacks:

  1. Listen well to how Steve plays the lick.
  2. Use a metronome or backing track at a slow tempo when practicing your jazz piano riffs.
  3. Play the lick along with Steve’s performance. Do your best to match Steve’s rhythm precisely.

Once you are able to play the lick with the same groove and feel without mistakes, you are close to mastering it.

If you think this is the end of it, you are clearly mistaken. You need to know when to play the lick.

How do you know when to play the licks you have learned? I reveal how to do it in the next tip.

4. How To Make Music With These Jazz Piano Riffs

jazz piano riffsIf you can play the lick at this point, it’s time to take a step further. Try it on one of your favorite tunes.

To play the lick correctly over any tune, you need to know the chord progression where the lick fits.

Let’s look at a good example:

One of the jazz piano riffs that Steve plays in the video is over Fm7, Bb7, and Ebmaj7. This is a ii – V – I chord progression in Eb.

Because there are many jazz tunes in the key of Eb, you can easily find where to fit this lick in.

When you’re improvising, all you have to do is play the lick whenever those chords come up.

Some tunes that have that particular chord progression include “Misty“, “That’s All”, and “There Will Never Be Another You.”

You also need to learn these jazz piano riffs in all 12 keys. If you can play these licks in all 12 keys, you can apply them to any ii – V – I in any song.

jazz piano riffsSo, are you looking for more ways on how the masters transform licks into mesmerizing solos?

The Jazz Masters Method provides a step-by-step solution that great jazz pianists employ.

Even if you can’t read music or a jazz newbie, this course will unlock your inner artist in a fun and inspiring way.

Here’s a link to get instant access.

Did you know that you can also create your own licks using these jazz piano riffs? Continue reading to find out.

5. How To Create More Licks Out Of Two Jazz Piano Riffs

jazz piano riffsTo learn how to create more licks out of the two you just learned, you need to know how to create variations.

Creating variations is a jazz piano technique that has been used by composers over many years.

This involves a musical idea being transformed in different ways to make more music.

What are some of the ways that you can create your own variations? Check these out:

  1. Play the lick in different rhythms and insert more chromatic approach notes towards chord tones.
  2. Play the lick backward.
  3. Invert the lick. Inversion simply means flipping the lick.
  4. Decorate the lick with notes from fitting scales for every chord.
  5. Merge the lick with a different idea from another lick.

When you’re playing variations, make sure that you are playing notes that match the prevailing chord.

Now, this leads me to ask one more thing:

Warning: Are You Making This Classic Jazz Piano Mistake?

jazz piano riffsHave you learned a ton of licks? But, you still play boring improv every night?

Have you tried every trick out there only to realize that your playing still lacks conviction?

You may have worked with every lesson you can find online. You may have spent years experimenting with them.

The problem is that you don’t know how to put them all together. Afterward, you end up with a performance that is aimless and uninteresting.

The good news is that the solution is right in front of you.

jazz piano riffsThe Jazz Improvisation Super System has all the road-tested hacks and tricks to turn all that knowledge into awe-inspiring performances.

Even if you don’t know where to start or have lost confidence, this course will get you on the fast track to jazz improv success.

Inside the Jazz Improvisation Super System, you’ll discover:

  • How the best players really use scales to create beautiful melodies & improvisation
  • David’s trick for playing confidently over fast chord changes
  • Simple scale hacks that let even total newbies play solos that sound fluid, creative, & musical.

Get instant access to the course here.

Enjoy learning these two jazz piano riffs from Steve. If you have any questions or suggestions about this lesson, feel free to leave a comment below.

All right. Now it’s time to go to the piano and start practicing. If you need help in becoming the musician you’ve always wanted to be, you know where to find me.

“Saxophone Musician Performance Band Concert Music” by Gavin Whitner is licensed under CC BY 2.0
About The Author

Mark A. Galang

Mark Galang is one of our contributors at FreeJazzLessons.com. He loves teaching all styles of music especially jazz, blues, rock, classical, and Christian music.