In this article we’ll take a look at some excellent jazz piano tips and apply them to the classic jazz standard “Body and Soul.” These jazz piano tips can be used on any tune, provided you understand the core concept. Gaining that understanding is exactly what we’ll focus on here. These jazz piano tips are commonly employed by the pros to achieve that authentic jazz sound. Practice each of them separately and check out our full length video lesson.
Jazz Piano Tips #1: Using the “Dominant 7 Flat 9” Chord
The “dominant 7 flat 9” chord is a powerful chord that often gets labeled or named incorrectly. At first glance many mistakenly call this chord a diminished chord. But its function as a dominant chord is undeniable. What chord does this look like to you?
If you said an “A-flat diminished 7th” chord you’re not wrong. But also realize that this chord could be inverted to be a “B diminished 7th, D diminished 7th, or F diminished 7th” chord.
Now, what happens if we put a Bb, Db, E, or G in the bass below this same chord?
So this single diminished chord can also function as one of four different ‘dominant 7 flat 9’ chords. Notice that in each chord the notes in the treble clef function as the 3rd, 5th, 7th, and flat-9th.
So let’s check out how this info helps us on “Body and Soul.” In the opening 2 measures we see a back-and-forth from Eb minor 7 to Bb7, a “i” to “V7” relationship.
If we harmonize that passage using the Bb7(b9) chord, we get something like this:
Practice playing through the 2-measure excerpt above and notice the sound of the dominant 7 flat 9 chord. Then, practice playing that same chord with different roots in the bass to hear the sound of the Db7b9, E7b9, and G7b9 chord.
Jazz Piano Tips #2: “Flurry” Arpeggio Using the Dominant 7 Flat 9
Ok, now that you understand that the dominant 7 flat 9 chord is really a diminished chord in disguise, let’s talk about a really flashy way to embellish a passage. This is mostly just a little piano parlor trick, something flashy that sounds much harder than it actually is. Still it’s a very effective and useful trick to have under you fingers.
Quite simply, we are going to stylize the first two measures of “Body and Soul” and create a long “flurry” arpeggio by playing the Bb7b9 diminished shape (same as above) all the way up the keyboard. On a tune like “Body and Soul” (a ballad) we can get away with some rubato playing, which means that we don’t need to have a very rigid sense of time but instead can have sort of an expressive sense of the time.
Here’s an example of what we might play:
Now the idea is that you want to be able to play this “flurry” quickly. But like everything we do at the piano, we begin simply and slowly. So practice being able to play that diminished chord up 3-4 octaves at a slow tempo, gradually increasing your speed as you improve.