Learning to play jazz piano for the first time is very exciting, but can be very intimidating if one starts with the wrong songs. Make sure you select pieces that are nice and simple rhythmically and melodically, also with harmonically simple structures (in the chord changes). This is very important if a beginner jazz pianist expects some significant performance results.
All the following pieces contain the elements just mentioned above and are very suitable for any jazz beginner.
1. Autumn Leaves: Beautiful melody in simple rhythms,it has II-VI chord changes in the key of G major and its relative E minor in a 32-bar AABC form. This is “mandatory” standard jazz is often played in ballad and / or medium swing style. It is also common to find this song played in G minor.
2. Blue Bossa: Descending melody line with slight syncopated Latin rhythms, II-VI in C major and minor Db of 16 bars of form AB. This piece is great in two ways: a great introduction to bossa nova, and also to changes in a minor chord.
3. Fly Me to the Moon: Another beautiful descending melodic line, with a rhythm that can be interpreted in swing or latin; diatonic chords and mainly related to C major, another form of 32 bars ABAC. An old Sinatra favorite and, of course , re-popularized by Michael Buble. This song not only has a catchy tune, but also interesting chord progressions, it also moves very well in the circle of fifths. Do note however, even though the C major scale is the easiest to understand. It may not be the easiest to play since the white key don’t really follow the natural finger movement across the keys.
4. So What: A simple modal melody and classic 32-bar AABA, starting with 16 bars of D Dorian, moving halftone 8 bars of Eb Dorian and back to the last 8 bars of D Dorian again.
5. Summertime: A classic Gershwin blues melody in simple rhythms, mainly diatonic and related chords of D minor 16-bar form AB. Another great piece of minor chords and also a “must”, with a tinge of blues. This gives an opportunity to learn about the cliches and applications to chords Imi and IVmi.