The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine: Review

Endorsed by Kenny Barron, Jamey Aebersold, Richie Beirach, and more, this book presents all the information a student of jazz piano needs in an easy-to-understand, yet thorough, manner. For intermediate to advanced pianists, written by one of the acknowledged masters of jazz piano playing.

If you’re a jazz musician, The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine is like a compass for navigating the vast ocean of jazz music. It’s as essential to your journey as a map is to a traveler or an anchor is to a ship. Like the North Star guides sailors through rough seas, this book will guide you through the complexities of jazz theory with ease.

The Jazz Theory Book is like having your own personal professor, patiently guiding you through basic and advanced music theory concepts that are specific to jazz. Levine writes in such a clear and concise way that even if you’re new to music theory, you’ll be able to understand it without feeling overwhelmed. He takes complex ideas and breaks them down into bite-sized pieces that are easy to digest. So whether you’re just starting out or have years of experience under your belt, this book has something for everyone.

Overview of The Jazz Theory Book

You’ll quickly discover that The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine is an essential resource for any jazz musician. This book offers a comprehensive overview of the genre’s theory and practice, making it the perfect guide for those looking to improve their jazz improvisation skills. From its historical context to its modern-day applications, this book covers all aspects of jazz theory in a way that’s both informative and engaging.

One thing that sets this book apart from others is its attention to detail when it comes to historical context. Levine takes readers on a journey through the evolution of jazz, exploring how different styles and techniques emerged over time. By understanding the history behind each aspect of jazz theory, you’ll gain a deeper appreciation for the music and be better equipped to incorporate these elements into your own playing.

In addition to covering advanced topics like chord-scale relationships and reharmonization techniques, The Jazz Theory Book also includes a section on basic music theory. This serves as an excellent refresher for those who may not have studied music theory in depth before or need a quick review before diving into more complex topics. With this foundation in place, you’ll be well-prepared to tackle the rest of the book’s content with confidence.

Basic Music Theory

You probably know that scales and modes are the building blocks of music theory. But do you understand how they work together to create beautiful melodies and harmonies? In this discussion, we’ll explore the relationship between scales and modes, as well as how they relate to chords and progressions. You’ll gain a deeper understanding of these fundamental concepts and learn how to apply them in your own musical creations. So let’s dive in and unlock the secrets of basic music theory!

Scales and Modes

If you’re feeling stuck in your soloing, try experimenting with different modes to add some variety. Major vs. minor modes are a great place to start. For example, the Dorian mode is a minor mode that has a natural sixth instead of a flat sixth like the Aeolian (natural minor) mode. This can be used over minor chords to give it a more jazzy or latin feel.

Modal interchange is another concept that can spice up your solos. This involves borrowing chords from parallel modes and using them in your current progression. For example, borrowing the IV chord from Lydian (major with raised fourth) instead of the regular IV chord in major key progressions can add an interesting color to your playing. Keep experimenting with these concepts and see what works best for you! Moving on to chords and progressions, understanding how they work together can take your improvisation skills to the next level.

Chords and Progressions

Understanding the relationship between chords and progressions can bring a new level of excitement to your playing and help you create more dynamic solos. In “The Jazz Theory Book”by Mark Levine, he breaks down chord progressions into their basic components, giving you an in-depth understanding of how they work together. By learning about chordal substitutions and harmonic analysis, you can take your playing to the next level.

Chordal substitutions involve replacing one chord with another that serves a similar function. This technique can add variety to your playing and make your solos more interesting. Harmonic analysis involves breaking down a piece of music into its individual chords and examining how they interact with each other. By understanding these relationships, you can anticipate where the music is going and create more cohesive solos. Overall, gaining a deeper understanding of chords and progressions will enhance your improvisation skills and help you become a better jazz musician.

Moving on to advanced jazz theory, it’s important to continue building on this foundation in order to reach greater levels of musical proficiency.

Advanced Jazz Theory

As you delve deeper into the world of jazz theory, you’ll find that advanced concepts such as modal interchange and reharmonization become essential tools for creating complex and sophisticated harmonic progressions. Modal interchange occurs when chords from one mode are borrowed to create a progression in another mode. For example, using a chord from the parallel minor key in a major key progression. This technique opens up new possibilities for chord substitutions and can add unexpected flavors to your compositions.

Reharmonization takes this concept even further by altering the harmony of an existing melody or chord progression. This can be done by replacing chords with substitute chords that have similar functions but different qualities, or by completely changing the underlying harmony to create something entirely new. Reharmonization is often used in jazz improvisation to keep familiar melodies fresh and interesting.

To truly master these advanced jazz theory concepts, it’s important to practice them through exercises and examples. The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine provides numerous examples of modal interchange and reharmonization techniques in action, along with exercises that allow you to apply these concepts on your own. By practicing these techniques regularly, you’ll gain a deeper understanding of how they work and be able to incorporate them into your own compositions with ease.

Exercises and Examples

Get ready to take your jazz compositions to the next level with these exercises and examples that will help you master advanced concepts in a way that feels natural and exciting. The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine provides numerous practice techniques and improvisation exercises that are essential for any aspiring jazz musician looking to improve their skills.

Firstly, Levine’s book offers a variety of chord progression exercises that help build muscle memory, allowing you to play complex progressions with ease. These exercises also train your ear to recognize chord changes quickly, an essential skill for any improviser. Additionally, there are plenty of examples of solo transcriptions from famous jazz musicians such as Charlie Parker and John Coltrane, which can serve as models for developing your own improvisational style.

Secondly, the book includes harmonic analysis exercises that teach you how to break down a piece of music into its component parts. This knowledge is crucial when it comes to composing or arranging your own music since it allows you to understand how different chords function within a given key or harmony. Furthermore, the analysis sections provide insight into various harmonic devices used in jazz such as modal interchange and secondary dominants.

The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine provides an abundance of rhythm exercises aimed at improving your sense of time and phrasing while playing. These drills range from simple subdivisions like eighth notes all the way up to complex polyrhythms found in modern jazz styles like fusion or avant-garde. By incorporating these rhythmic concepts into your playing, you’ll develop a more sophisticated approach that will elevate your overall musicianship.

With all these practice techniques and improvisation exercises provided by The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine at your disposal, you’ll be well on your way towards mastering advanced concepts in no time! Next up: instrument-specific applications for putting all this theory into action on your chosen instrument.

Instrument-Specific Applications

Now that you’ve gained a solid understanding of the exercises and examples provided in ‘The Jazz Theory Book’ by Mark Levine, it’s time to dive deeper into instrument-specific applications. This section is where you’ll learn how to apply the theory concepts to your specific instrument, whether it be piano, guitar, bass, drums or horns.

One of the most valuable aspects of this section is the improvisation techniques provided for each instrument. For example, pianists will learn about various comping styles and chord voicings while guitarists will discover new ways to approach soloing over jazz standards. These techniques are not only practical but also serve as a source of inspiration for players looking to expand their musical vocabulary.

Furthermore, this section includes detailed analysis of jazz standards from various eras such as ‘All the Things You Are,’ ‘Giant Steps,’ and ‘Stella By Starlight.’ By breaking down these tunes harmonically and melodically, you’ll gain a much deeper understanding of how they work structurally and musically. This information can then be applied to your own playing as you navigate through other jazz tunes with similar harmonic progressions or melodic motifs. Overall, this section is an essential resource for any serious student or musician looking to improve their knowledge and skills in jazz theory and performance.


Overall, The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine is an excellent resource for anyone looking to improve their understanding of jazz theory. With a comprehensive overview of basic music theory and in-depth discussions on advanced jazz concepts, this book provides a wealth of knowledge for musicians at any level.

The exercises and examples throughout the book are also incredibly helpful in applying these theoretical concepts to practical playing situations. Plus, with instrument-specific applications included, every musician can benefit from this book regardless of their primary instrument.

Now, some may argue that the book can be overwhelming or too dense for those just starting out in jazz theory. While it’s true that there is a lot of information packed into these pages, Levine’s writing style and clear explanations make even the most complex concepts accessible. Additionally, the organization of the book allows readers to easily navigate between more basic and advanced topics depending on their personal needs and goals.

Overall, if you’re serious about improving your understanding of jazz theory and want a comprehensive resource to guide you along the way, The Jazz Theory Book is an excellent choice.

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