Comparison of Jazz and Classical Piano

Topics: Piano, Music, Pianist Pages: 2 (469 words) Published: April 30, 2013
The differences between the training styles of classical and jazz piano are fundamentally different; this is due to the requirements faced by each individual performer whilst playing in their genre and the requirement these contrasting genres demand of the pianist. In jazz the pianist can assume many different roles whether it is melodic, written or improvised, harmonic or at times a rhythmic function (Rosental, Nov-Dec 1996). This requires a certain set of skills or technical fluency which may or may not be required in a classical pianos repertoire. Firstly, as melodic function the ability of improvisation is crucial and is the heart of the jazz genre. Hence the jazz pianist is required to have a thorough understanding of various modes, scales and progressions including the diminished traids, chord extensions (#11) and the ability to smoothly interchange between these in a spontaneous situation (Durrant, 2010). These patterns and scale figures then must be transposed across all twelve keys (major and minor), with high level fluidity in each. Additionally the role of improviser also requires the pianist to apply somewhat unorthodox methods of playing the piano to create varying interest; techniques such as muting the piano strings with one hand to create a ‘plucked’ sound, and using the body of the piano as a percussive device. In terms of harmonic roles the importance of voice leading when defining chord structures are paramount forming a principle feature of the piano’s role in jazz pieces (Rosental, Nov-Dec 1996).

In contrast to this the role of the classical pianist is greatly rooted in the reading and execution of a score with precision and expertise. In contrast to the improvisation skills of the jazz pianist, the classical pianist must be versed in a variety of musical notation and often obscure musical interpretations. As the classical pianist is concerned with older pieces from various ages in which we have great developments and variety in the...
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