Jazz Waltz

How to Play a Jazz Waltz

Beginning Jazz Waltz for Solo Piano

A traditional waltz is a piece played in 3/4 time, with a heavy accent on the first beat of the measure. A musical waltz is closely associated with dancing, in particular a romantic, smooth style of dancing. Popular traditional waltzes include Blue Danube and the Skaters’ Waltz.

A Jazz Waltz is a waltz played in a syncopated 3/4. It’s this syncopation, along with an extended harmony, that differentiates a jazz waltz from a traditional waltz. Many of our adult piano students in particular enjoy adding some jazz waltz selections to their piano repertoire.

Here I’m going to show you the basics of playing a jazz waltz. We’ll take the Disney tune Someday My Prince Will Come and follow its evolution from a traditional waltz to a jazz waltz. Note that although some of the notes examples below are written as 8th notes, you will want to play them as jazz 8th notes.

 


Example No. 1 – Demonstrates Someday My Prince Will Come with a traditional waltz accompaniment. This kind of accompaniment is often referred to as an “Um-pah-pah” accompaniment. It’s a common piano or orchestral accompaniment for a traditional waltz.

 


Example No. 2 – Demonstrates Someday My Prince Will Come with a with jazz waltz chord pattern. Note now the use of syncopation in the left hand accompaniment. While now clearly “jazzier” than the first version, it still lacks a certain something to make it complete.

 


Example No. 3 – Demonstrates Someday My Prince Will Come with a 10th System accompaniment. In this example, the use of syncopated rhythm is continued but the harmony has been extended past the 7th. Also, it incorporates using more of the piano in the recorded accompaniment.

Maybe you’d like some more help in playing the jazz waltz and other types of jazz on the piano? Take a look at information on our Piano Lesson Programs.  We’re here to help you Learn to Play the Music You Love.

Music Education Blog

Diana Mascari has also written a number of Jazz Waltz blog posts as part of her Conversations at the Piano Music Education blog.