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How to go about learning jazz organ for the beginner?!?


Melodious Thunk

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I am a long time jazz organ fan and finally purchased a Nord C2D a few months back so that I could learn how to play.

 

I have no music training, but made my living for a few years playing self taught acoustic guitar (singer songwriter / indie band) so I have a little bit of an ear.

 

Anyway, I am hoping for some pointers on how to go about learning jazz organ. As far as keyboard skills go, I can play all the major scales with my right and left hands and that's about it! Should I bother learning how to read music? Are there any books or DVD's that are must haves (I have Eddie Landberg's "7 Secrets" and most of Tony Monaco's DVD's)? Would the Jamey Aebersold books be good for someone who wants to play organ (left hand bass)? Any help or info would be great!

Thanks,

Ryan

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Virtually every big name organist from the past and present all took piano for years before learning organ. I'm sure someone here knows an exception but that's pretty much it.

 

What you're talking about is basic keyboard technique 101. Scales, practice, simple songs, practice, theory, practice, sight reading, practice. I wouldn't pay for courses right now, there's tons of very good free YT vids that will get you started.

 

If you want to just focus on organ alone then as a guitarist you know bass lines. Learn those in your left hand then using the basic blues scale (again it's all over YT) start playing basic blues licks with your right hand against your LH bass SLOOWLY at first.

 

Here's a great Tony Monaco vid about the blues scale. Start here, keep it simple for now.

 

 

Bob

Hammond SK1, Mojo 61, Kurzweil PC3, Korg Pa3x, Roland FA06, Band in a Box, Real Band, Studio One, too much stuff...
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Listening to jazz, and jazz organ as well. Also to Blues, Gospel.

Specific players B3 players, like Dr Lonnie Smith, Jimmy Smith, Booker Tee's early hits. Chester Thompson from Tower of Power . More modern Larry Young, Larry Goldings, Joey De Francesco.

Lots and lots and lots of listening to jazz in general. Do not skip music from 1940's onward. If you can't stand it, try 1950's and so on!

 

Another perhaps less likely tip... Organists play bass lines- Chester T plays funk bass lines!! amazing. So listen to organ bass lines, string bass players from older school, like Ray Brown and more modern Ron Carter, and elec bass players like Chuck Rainey, not exactly known for jazz, but a great bass playing legend, as are all these cats.

 

For me, the bass line and then the voicing of the chord just above the bass line, is a place you should be spending a great deal of time.

The organ can be a thick sound, ( If I am not offending anyone here ) and as Chester Thompson suggests, one must be careful to not make a muddy chordal voicing. aka too thick a chord voicing.

 

It is not mandatory to study or play piano.. sorry Bob! P

 

Summing up my advice ( added to whatever else is useful here )

Listen listen listen to jazz from the past to present, do not skip past. You should be loving this advice! B3 players of all genres. Bass players too.

Spend a lot of time observing and learning bass lines on B3 as Bob and Jim Alfredson said, and paying attention to every single NOTE in your chords - the chords just above the bass notes.. very common with B3 playing. The chords, that are higher, are less critical in my opinion, than the chords just above the bass. When done correctly, they resonate wonderfully. A real thrill !!!

basically the lowest note of chord is usually a a seventh or tenth above the bass note. Same as in SATB choir music ( SATB music is certainly NOT limited to 7th's and 10th's between the Bass and the Tenor,, I was just making a broad generalization that is a tad more useful for jazz than for SATB choir music!! And a 7th is kind of low ) . You must learn that resonant sound between the Bass and the tones just above the bass. You will love it, once you catch on with your studies.

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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I am a long time jazz organ fan and finally purchased a Nord C2D a few months back so that I could learn how to play.

 

You spent good coin on a good instrument, and you appear to be looking for a $30 solution to learn how to play?

 

Get a teacher. Invest the time. There are no fast solutions here. Sorry.

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Virtually every big name organist from the past and present all took piano for years before learning organ. I'm sure someone here knows an exception but that's pretty much it.

 

Not really. McDuff was a bassist. Earland played tenor sax. Joey D started on the organ, picked up piano and trumpet later. Groove Holmes was a bassist as well, irrc. Dr. Lonnie Smith sang in vocal groups before taking up organ (no piano). Rhoda Scott started on organ as well.

 

To the OP, YouTube is your friend. It's an incredible resource that I wish I had when I was trying to learn. I had Jimmy Smith records and an EQ to filter the high-end out so I could try and hear his basslines! :)

 

As mentioned, the Tony Monaco DVDs are good. Brian Charette also has a DVD or two that are good.

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You spent good coin on a good instrument, and you appear to be looking for a $30 solution to learn how to play? Get a teacher. Invest the time. There are no fast solutions here. Sorry.

I was laid off for 2 years and then decided to go back to school (which I have been doing for almost 3 years now). This has left me quite poor! I sold 5 guitars and 2 banjos to be able to afford the Nord rig (which I got a super good deal on). I would love to have a teacher, but there isn't anyone local and like I said I am pretty low on funds and most likely will be for some time to come. I was thinking that there would be plenty of things that I could work on without a teacher. I am also not looking for a fast solution. Although, I would like to stay on target and not purchase items or waste my practice time on things that are not relevant to achieving my goal of playing jazz organ!

 

For jazz organ, Jimmy Smith is the place to start.

I am pretty sure I have somewhere around 300 jazz organ recordings including most of Jimmy Smith's output. I have been listening to this stuff for years!

 

 

As mentioned, the Tony Monaco DVDs are good. Brian Charette also has a DVD or two that are good.

I actually have Brian's video download as well!

 

 

 

I can pick out some bass lines by ear, but many are hard to decipher. I guess I should try to EQ them like Jim said. With a little work I can also slowly pick out melody lines. The hardest things for me are the chords! One of the issues is that I don't know many to start with, so I need to work on that so that I have references. I also just find chords played on the organ harder to pick out. Another thing that I struggle with is fingerings. If I figure out a riff or a bass line, I don't know how I should go about fingering it!

 

 

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The deepest and most annoyingly difficult book on old school harmony is Theory of harmony by Schoenberg. Far deeper than most I have encountered.

Modern book seems to be Mark Levine.

Or do it yourself

start with triads in a major key center eg in C major C Dm Em F G Am Bo

inversions of these

chord progressions using these

later spread out voicings for these

add seventh

add sixth

suspend the 3rd, eg instead of C E G the E is the 3rd in this C triad , instead replace the E with an F that is a Csus4. ( Note there are more than one way to indicate chord names, unfortunately )

So much to do with harmony.

 

How much time do you have for Organ jazz study, a half hour or 8 hours a day?? makes a big difference how much time you have- what you would study.

 

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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First, learn "Green Onions", then maybe "Worksong"!

 

Then continue with the blues - scales and chords. Then jazz blues (I'm sure google will explain the difference).

 

Start to learn some nice rootless chord voicings for your RH. Learn about 2-5-1's. And 1-6-2-5's. Start working through the cycle of 5ths, learning your blues scales and chords as you go. Popular jazz keys are C, F, Bb, Eb... go figure.

 

Get a realbook and work on some repertoire.. Then start learning some solo's. Go for easy, bluesy stuff as this will make most sense. Bit by bit the secrets will be revealed and the magic will evaporate.. Then prepare for brief mood swings and periods of depression and/or alcoholism :wave:

We are all slave's to our brain chemistry!

 

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For jazz organ, Jimmy Smith is the place to start.

 

+1

 

I love the guy, but he seems to have this same small handful of licks that he often recycles. By no means a bad thing, but it's good for grasping some techniques and phrases in different contexts.

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Start with very simple bass lines. I always get beginners on what I call the "Charles Earland" bass. Root, octave, fifth, sharp above root, all on quarter notes, then repeat.

 

So if you're playing an F blues, the line would be:

 

F1 - F2 - C2 - F#1

 

Again, all on quarter notes. The next chord of the blues would be Bb, and it would be the same line, just moved up a fourth.

 

Bb1 - Bb2 - F2 - B1

 

You can see me doing it here (ignore the grace notes with the thumb for now.)

 

 

BTW, in the second chorus of the sax solo, I'm playing a variation on the classic Jimmy Smith Comping Chord Of The Gods that he used on pretty much every F blues he ever played. It's a 6th chord, voiced on the organ as A3 - D4 - F4. I put an Eb on the bottom just for fun, but it doesn't need to be there. The nice thing is that when you change to the four chord on a regular 12 bar blues, you can just lower that bottom note a half-step from A3 to Ab3 and there's your four chord. Keep the other two notes the same. Economy of motion. For the five chord, you're just using the same shape up a half step from the four. Bb3 - E4 - G4.

 

Walking up the scale for a bass line is a bit more complex but the key is to use passing tones to get where you want. If you start to analyze Jimmy, you'll realize that he's utilizing about a half dozen stock patterns that he just cycles through. That's how organists can seemingly do two things at once; the bass lines are on auto-pilot because for the most part they are a handful of memorized patterns.

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Thanks Jim! I'll start working on that tomorrow!

 

How much time do you have for Organ jazz study, a half hour or 8 hours a day?? makes a big difference how much time you have- what you would study.

Because of school, the time I have available for practice varies, but I can usually squeeze in at least 2 hours. While on winter break which starts on Friday I hope to practice around 6 hours a day.

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The hardest things for me are the chords!

 

I hate to say so, and I certainly didn't learn this way ('cause even as a child, I had an above average "ear"), but

since you've made it clear that you don't have enough of an ear to "hear" the chords and copy them, I think you're going to have to learn to read, at least well enough to figure out what is written out in books and lessons. I'm with Sven on this one. DO you want to get good at it? Find a way to cut back elsewhere and get a teacher. Even if it's only for a little while, you'll learn a lot more than you'll get from Youtube alone.

Don't rush me. I'm playing as slowly as I can!

 

www.stevenathanmusic.com

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Where are you going to school? Because if you can take classes at UW-Madison, the head of jazz studies there was my first jazz teacher. I can recommend him without reservation, if you have the opportunity to sit under his instruction.

I go to school in Milwaukee.

 

I hate to say so, and I certainly didn't learn this way ('cause even as a child, I had an above average "ear"), but

since you've made it clear that you don't have enough of an ear to "hear" the chords and copy them, I think you're going to have to learn to read, at least well enough to figure out what is written out in books and lessons. I'm with Sven on this one. DO you want to get good at it? Find a way to cut back elsewhere and get a teacher. Even if it's only for a little while, you'll learn a lot more than you'll get from Youtube alone.

Unfortunately I've seriously already cut back on everything! If I can get some chords under my hands I'll start to be able to pick them up off of records. Another thing is that I have dyslexia which makes reading music quite the chore! Although not impossible.

 

You just got me thinking a bit though! My brother Scott is a decent jazz pianist (Here's one of his tunes: Jack's Blues) He's pretty busy and he lives a little ways away from me, but I am sure that I could get together with him at some point and have him show me a few things.

Ha!... I just checked out his Soundcloud a little bit more and he's playing the organ (minus left hand bass) on a tune: Theme from Sanford and Son

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Where are you going to school? Because if you can take classes at UW-Madison, the head of jazz studies there was my first jazz teacher. I can recommend him without reservation, if you have the opportunity to sit under his instruction.

I go to school in Milwaukee.

 

I hate to say so, and I certainly didn't learn this way ('cause even as a child, I had an above average "ear"), but

since you've made it clear that you don't have enough of an ear to "hear" the chords and copy them, I think you're going to have to learn to read, at least well enough to figure out what is written out in books and lessons. I'm with Sven on this one. DO you want to get good at it? Find a way to cut back elsewhere and get a teacher. Even if it's only for a little while, you'll learn a lot more than you'll get from Youtube alone.

Unfortunately I've seriously already cut back on everything! If I can get some chords under my hands I'll start to be able to pick them up off of records. Another thing is that I have dyslexia which makes reading music quite the chore! Although not impossible.

 

You just got me thinking a bit though! My brother Scott is a decent jazz pianist (Here's one of his tunes: Jack's Blues) He's pretty busy and he lives a little ways away from me, but I am sure that I could get together with him at some point and have him show me a few things.

Ha!... I just checked out his Soundcloud a little bit more and he's playing the organ (minus left hand bass) on a tune: Theme from Sanford and Son

 

I agree with the original poster, if he can learn some chords to begin with he WILL be able to pick them up off records. As it is, he can only play a major scale, and no chords, so its a tall order to expect him to be able to pick out Jimmy Smith chords etc. One step at a time, you can get there. your ear will become better able to recognise chords and harmonic movement once you have some of it under your own fingers. I still recommend starting with some simple tunes, and trying your best to learn them. You mightn;t get every nuance down perfectly, but you'll discover a whole lot en route. I disagree that learning to read should be a priority if you want to learn to play jazz/blues organ. Sure, its a great thing to read, but the ear training is the essential ingredient in creating a good student of jazz. Just a suggestion, but if you could pick up a cheap digital piano it might be good to practice some on that. Just by the fact that the notes dont sustain when you hold them down, it might be a nicer tool for working out harmony etc, even if you intend organ to be your principle instrument.

We are all slave's to our brain chemistry!

 

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By the way, had a listen to your brothers blues... errr.. he has all the answers... so just talk to your bro, he is indeed "pretty decent"! Now, having listened to him I am pretty damn sure you will be able to work anything out in time, as music tends to run in families, if you have a quarter of your brother natural ability you will be rockin with practice

We are all slave's to our brain chemistry!

 

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Learn to read music, even if it is only in a basic way.

 

You need hand independence: it will take several years of daily work: get a teacher for a year at least (good hand position and finger control is important). Talk to your brother about this.

 

I am amazed you are being "told" to learn by listening to Jimmy Smith (sure, everyone should, but try learning painting from Da Vinci), or harmony from Schoenberg.

 

For some immediate information, including fingering: http://www.organforum.com/forums/showthread.php?24682-Left-Hand-Bass-Comping-Grooves-and-Soloing

 

and also:

 

http://www.organforum.com/forums/showthread.php?26184-Playing-Pop-Organ

 

Good luck. Post questions, but remember, you stand at sea level, and Everest is over there.

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I am amazed you are being "told" to learn by listening to Jimmy Smith (sure, everyone should, but try learning painting from Da Vinci), or harmony from Schoenberg.

 

I stand by this. You don't need to cop his blazing runs, but the entire standard approach to jazz organ was invented by him. There's simply no way around it.

Moe

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Start with very simple bass lines. I always get beginners on what I call the "Charles Earland" bass. Root, octave, fifth, sharp above root, all on quarter notes, then repeat.

 

So if you're playing an F blues, the line would be:

 

F1 - F2 - C2 - F#1

 

Again, all on quarter notes. The next chord of the blues would be Bb, and it would be the same line, just moved up a fourth.

 

Bb1 - Bb2 - F2 - B1

 

You can see me doing it here (ignore the grace notes with the thumb for now.)

 

 

BTW, in the second chorus of the sax solo, I'm playing a variation on the classic Jimmy Smith Comping Chord Of The Gods that he used on pretty much every F blues he ever played. It's a 6th chord, voiced on the organ as A3 - D4 - F4. I put an Eb on the bottom just for fun, but it doesn't need to be there. The nice thing is that when you change to the four chord on a regular 12 bar blues, you can just lower that bottom note a half-step from A3 to Ab3 and there's your four chord. Keep the other two notes the same. Economy of motion. For the five chord, you're just using the same shape up a half step from the four. Bb3 - E4 - G4.

 

Walking up the scale for a bass line is a bit more complex but the key is to use passing tones to get where you want. If you start to analyze Jimmy, you'll realize that he's utilizing about a half dozen stock patterns that he just cycles through. That's how organists can seemingly do two things at once; the bass lines are on auto-pilot because for the most part they are a handful of memorized patterns.

 

Excellent advice Jim. What is that grace note and E or a D right before the F#1? Are you playing one grace note per measure or two?

Harry Likas was the Technical Editor of Mark Levine's "The Jazz Theory Book" and also helped develop "The Jazz Piano Book." Harry spends his time teaching jazz piano online and playing solo piano gigs.

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I am amazed you are being "told" to learn by listening to Jimmy Smith (sure, everyone should, but try learning painting from Da Vinci), or harmony from Schoenberg.

 

I stand by this. You don't need to cop his blazing runs, but the entire standard approach to jazz organ was invented by him. There's simply no way around it.

 

OP Listening is number uno. Listening.. lots of it.. is familiarizing self with the "language" of music. It is a matter of degree.. A LOT of intensive listening. This is invaluable.Trappers advice to read and independence are fine, if you have the time. Follow all the advice here, but listening to the language of jazz is indispensable. Reading is not, nor is playing piano, and taking independence apart from the actual thing you are trying to learn is not necessary. Trapper suggestion about independence is divorced from say for instance what a few others here are likely saying.. start simple - Blues is the beginning of improv for most. So take a Blues tune. THAT is more specific. You save time with specificity. You don't need to buy an independence book, or a two part invention of Bach to learn about independence. Nothing wrong with it, if you have 5- 8 hours a day, but you do not. So specificity is important. Let a Blues based tune be your starting point. You will learn a bass line and how to comp to it.

Bass is foundation of western music. above the foundation there are chords and melody. Without bass lines that are swinging, you will sound like an amateur ( I have no idea how YOU sound, just making a generalization )

Bass Chords melody that's it. HOW you play them takes time. The feel, the groove, is learned from listening and from specificity on a simple Blues based kind of music. There are a large number of songs... someone wisely suggested Work Song.... use You Tube to listen a LOT to Cannonball Adderley play Work Song. Find the chords.. one of us here will help you with chords...

The only problem with Work Song, is it might be better to precede it with a more simple Blues tune. WHILE listening intently to Work Song, be practicing your simpler Blues tune ( Work Song slightly breaks away from the 12 bar Blues - so slightly more advanced.. but you will be doing it soon )

 

Boogie Woogie style is a piano style, does anyone here know something analogous to Boogie but for Organ?? Boogie may not work on an Organ!!

I had suggested Boogie tune, but thought better of it... what Blues tune has the built in independence of Boogie Woogie ( boogie is for piano !! )??

 

What I am suggesting is, listening to songs that are well in advance of what you will be practising. You listen to jimmy Smith tunes and Work Song, for weeks before actually tackling.

A TEACHER/Player who can play blues well and jazz too.. not an academic, a real player can show you in one or two lessons, which Blues tune to tackle. Show you the voicings for the chords. Show you a bassline.

Record him playing it, and imitate him.

 

Re: Schoenberg harmony book. That book is the deepest book on fundamental harmony I know of. It is a long term book. I think it can be downloaded for free. It is tough reading.. but it is brilliant.. once again. Schoenberg is a real composer, not a poseur academic, he can really write music on a high level. he understands harmony. The book has zero to do with what we normally associate with Schoenberg's music. His book is pre jazz harmony.. but it is foundational. If you have the time to study it, I recommend it. It is free!!

You don't have ideas, ideas have you

We see the world, not as it is, but as we are. "One mans food is another mans poison". I defend your right to speak hate. Tolerance to a point, not agreement

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OP Listening is number uno. Listening.. lots of it.. is familiarizing self with the "language" of music. It is a matter of degree.. A LOT of intensive listening. This is invaluable.Trappers advice to read and independence are fine, if you have the time. Follow all the advice here, but listening to the language of jazz is indispensable. Reading is not, nor is playing piano, and taking independence apart from the actual thing you are trying to learn is not necessary. Trapper suggestion about independence is divorced from say for instance what a few others here are likely saying.. start simple - Blues is the beginning of improv for most. So take a Blues tune. THAT is more specific. You save time with specificity. You don't need to buy an independence book, or a two part invention of Bach to learn about independence. Nothing wrong with it, if you have 5- 8 hours a day, but you do not. So specificity is important. Let a Blues based tune be your starting point. You will learn a bass line and how to comp to it.

Bass is foundation of western music. above the foundation there are chords and melody. Without bass lines that are swinging, you will sound like an amateur ( I have no idea how YOU sound, just making a generalization )

Bass Chords melody that's it. HOW you play them takes time. The feel, the groove, is learned from listening and from specificity on a simple Blues based kind of music. There are a large number of songs... someone wisely suggested Work Song.... use You Tube to listen a LOT to Cannonball Adderley play Work Song. Find the chords.. one of us here will help you with chords...

The only problem with Work Song, is it might be better to precede it with a more simple Blues tune. WHILE listening intently to Work Song, be practicing your simpler Blues tune ( Work Song slightly breaks away from the 12 bar Blues - so slightly more advanced.. but you will be doing it soon )

 

Boogie Woogie style is a piano style, does anyone here know something analogous to Boogie but for Organ?? Boogie may not work on an Organ!!

I had suggested Boogie tune, but thought better of it... what Blues tune has the built in independence of Boogie Woogie ( boogie is for piano !! )??

 

What I am suggesting is, listening to songs that are well in advance of what you will be practising. You listen to jimmy Smith tunes and Work Song, for weeks before actually tackling.

A TEACHER/Player who can play blues well and jazz too.. not an academic, a real player can show you in one or two lessons, which Blues tune to tackle. Show you the voicings for the chords. Show you a bassline.

Record him playing it, and imitate him.

 

Re: Schoenberg harmony book. That book is the deepest book on fundamental harmony I know of. It is a long term book. I think it can be downloaded for free. It is tough reading.. but it is brilliant.. once again. Schoenberg is a real composer, not a poseur academic, he can really write music on a high level. he understands harmony. The book has zero to do with what we normally associate with Schoenberg's music. His book is pre jazz harmony.. but it is foundational. If you have the time to study it, I recommend it. It is free!![/Quote]

Thanks I-missRichardTee! I have been listening to jazz organists for years now and I have the Nat Adderley CD with Work Song on it somewhere.

 

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A couple of questions?!

 

Do you guys just make up fingerings as you go, or is there some sort of method on how things should be played? I've been somewhat afraid to pick out riffs from records, play them with bad fingerings, and then learn/ingrain bad habits!

 

Second, are there certain chords that are used in this style? Is it best for me to learn how to construct chords on my own or to pick up a book?

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A lot of great advice in this thread. For the theory part, you can't beat Mark Levin's "The Jazz Theory BooK" This is as good as it gets for a modern approach. I also highly recommend Tony Monaco's videos. In your case you might want to look at Blues 101 and 201. While these are largely Blues oriented, a lot applies to jazz. And if you follow his 101, you can quickly get up to playing something useful. I was fortunate to spend a day with Tony working on my technique, and I will tell you he is an excellent educator.

 

And my take on your question for fingerings. Yes, there are some standard fingerings you should know. But in the long run, you need to develop fingering that best works for you. There are no "fingering police" that will get you as long as the end result sounds good.

 

On chords, the structure is presented well in Levine's book (and a lot of others). Learn the rules and spend time building the variations on your keyboard. A book will help you in learning how to "build" the chords.

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A lot of great advice in this thread. For the theory part, you can't beat Mark Levin's "The Jazz Theory BooK" This is as good as it gets for a modern approach. I also highly recommend Tony Monaco's videos. In your case you might want to look at Blues 101 and 201. While these are largely Blues oriented, a lot applies to jazz. And if you follow his 101, you can quickly get up to playing something useful. I was fortunate to spend a day with Tony working on my technique, and I will tell you he is an excellent educator.

 

And my take on your question for fingerings. Yes, there are some standard fingerings you should know. But in the long run, you need to develop fingering that best works for you. There are no "fingering police" that will get you as long as the end result sounds good.

 

On chords, the structure is presented well in Levine's book (and a lot of others). Learn the rules and spend time building the variations on your keyboard. A book will help you in learning how to "build" the chords.

 

I actually have all of Tony's DVD's (I purchased them the same day I bought the C2D), but haven't got to the blues ones yet. I guess I'll take a look at them soon.

 

As far as fingerings go, are there books on these?

 

As far as Levine's book goes, can you understand it with minimal music reading abilities? I was also wondering if his book "The Jazz Piano Book" might be a better option?

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