Common Intervals Used in Jazz Piano
It doesn’t have to take long for an ear to be trained to recognize intervals.
Piano students can recognize melodies by ear and replay them simply by being familiar with scales and
replicating the intervals that they have heard.
One additional tool in a pianist’s tool belt is knowing ahead of time what common intervals are used so that
whether playing a piano song by ear or
improvising an original piece, the fingers can almost
automatically go into the correct keys.
This is especially true for jazz piano, a style of music that relies on a unique blending of chord and melody
While a student’s standard music education typically begins with learning the basic major and minor chords on piano, learning the common intervals used in jazz piano requires that they
expand on their chord knowledge. The most common interval the aspiring jazz pianist needs to learn is the
Frequently, you will see chords in jazz written like V7 or iii7, referring to both the note of the scale the
chord begins on but also the additional seventh tone. If required to play a C7 chord, for example, you need to play
the standard C, E, and G triad of the scale as well as adding a Bb.
Adding a seventh in a C7 chord means finding the seventh note of that chord’s scale – in this case a B – and
lowering it by one half step to a Bb. This is true for any major seventh chord: an F7 means adding an Eb to the
The seventh interval in jazz chords adds a unique flavor to the sound of the
chord that helps distinguish it from other styles’ sounds. Other intervals in addition to the seventh also
contribute to jazz’s definitive sound quality.
You’ll also see chords like Fadd9, F9, F11, meaning for each of these chords you add the note in the F scale
that corresponds to the number written. A ninth in F would be G, and can be played by stretching fingers to play F,
A, Eb, and G, or by playing F, G, A, Eb (the seventh is included in 9 or 11 chord).
Other common intervals used in jazz piano include what are known as diminished or augmented intervals. If
beginning on middle C, a diminished fifth, for example, would be the fifth note from C lowered half a step – in
this case it would be Gb. Augmented works just the opposite – an augmented notes raises the tone half a step.
You will likely encounter chords written like G7b5. The flat (“b”) sign indicates that the third of this chord
should be flatted, or diminished; so this chord would be played with the notes G, B, Db, and F. In the same way, a
G7#5 means to raise the fifth a half step, producing G, B, D#, and F.
Each interval within chords have their own unique names and ways they are written. Learning how to accurately
play these common intervals used in jazz piano means to familiarize your eyes in looking at these chords and
familiarize your fingers with landing on them and all their inversions. Learning these intervals means you are well
on your way toward comfortably playing your own jazz
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