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Jazz piano is the use of an acoustic piano or electric piano as an improvising instrument in a jazz group or jazz fusion ensemble. The piano has been an integral part of the jazz idiom since its inception, in both solo and ensemble settings. The instrument is also an important tool in the understanding of jazz theory and arranging for jazz musicians and composers because of its combined melodic and harmonic nature. Along with jazz guitar, and Hammond organ, the piano is one of the few instruments in a jazz combo which can play chords, rather than single notes only, as with the saxophone or trumpet.
Jazz chord voicings are one of the building blocks of learning jazz piano. Jazz piano playing uses all of the same chords found in Western art music, such as major, minor, augmented, diminished, seventh, diminished seventh, sixth, minor seventh, major seventh, sus 4, and so on. The second skill of importance is learning how to play with a swing rhythm. The next step is improvisation - making something up on the spot; this takes tremendous skill and one has to know one’s way around the piano. Jazz piano is very culturized and was mainly devised in American pubs and bars, and is a great swingy form of music.
The jazz pianist requires a unique set of skills. The extended range of the piano as an instrument offers soloists an exhaustive number of choices. One could use the bass register to play an ostinato pattern, such as those found in boogie-woogie, or a melodic counterline emulating the walking of an upright bass. In a style known as Stride piano the left hand alternates positions rapidly playing notes in the bass register and chords in the tenor register. This is also done in more syncopated variants. The right hand will often play melodic lines, but might also play harmonic content, chordally or in octaves, sometimes in lockstep with the Left Hand using a technique called “Lock Hand” voicing, which was often used by George Shearing.