Category Archives: Piano

Downbeats and Upbeats Workout

Struggling with your rhythm?  In this workout video, I show you a super easy way to build your comprehension and ability with rhythm.  Clap along with Brenda and tap along with the “foot cam”.

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Want to learn jazz piano?  Check out my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment, which teaches you everything I list in this blog post.

Vocal Jazz Introductions

Every singer and instrumentalist should have an arsenal of great introductions at the ready. In this video, I will show you how to play 9 of the best introductions, which are perfect for instrumental or vocal jazz!

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Want to learn jazz piano?  Check out my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment, which teaches you everything I list in this blog post.

How to Count Off the Jazz Band

Counting off the band is a really important skill that every musician should have.  Singers and instrumentalists alike should feel comfortable counting off the band in any tempo and groove, as should choral directors, band directors and anyone else who might work with a live band or even just a pianist.  The ability to count off the band is an important skill that shows that you know how to address the musicians and speak their language.  It also puts you in greater control of how a musical experience will work out, since you will get to decide the tempo and the groove of the piece. Learn how!

**Make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and leave a Like!**


Want to learn jazz piano?  Check out my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment, which teaches you everything I list in this blog post.

How to Walk a Bass Line

Calling all jazzers (or aspiring jazzers)!  This awesome video is going to teach you how to walk a bass line on any jazz standard.  It is super easy and straight ahead and I will take you step-by-step into how to walk and authentic jazz bass line.

**Make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and leave a Like!**


Want to learn jazz piano?  Check out my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment, which teaches you everything I list in this blog post.

3 Cool Bossa Nova Vamps

This video is designed to teach you how to play 3 cool vamps that sound great on Bossa Novas. Taught by performer/educator Brenda Earle Stokes, the video shows chord progressions, gorgeous piano voicings and even the scales that you need to sound great improvising on the vamps. You will also get a great close up look at the piano keyboard.

Free Download:  Three Cool Vamps for Bossa Novas

**Make sure to subscribe to my YouTube Channel and leave a Like!**



Want to learn jazz piano?  Check out my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment, which teaches you everything I list in this blog post.

Getting Started: How to use the Teachable Platform

Welcome to the courses!  Here is a quick-and-dirty tutorial on how to utilize the Teachable Platform.  Teachable is such a user-friendly and intuitive platform, which is why I chose it as the home of my entire suite on online courses!  Check out this short tutorial to get oriented!

Want to check out the courses? 

CLICK THIS LINK to see the entire suite of online courses and get started learning piano TODAY!

Which Piano and Voice with Brenda online course is right for me?

Now that there are FOUR courses live at Piano And Voice With Brenda, I have been getting a lot of questions about which course to choose.  This quick little list should help you get started choosing the perfect course to help you get secure at the keyboard.  If you have any other questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at brenda(at) pianoandvoicewithbrenda (dot) com. I’m here to help!

Piano Skills for Singers Level 1 is for you if:

  • You have never played piano before
  • You haven’t taken piano lessons in a long time
  • You want a simple starting point
  • You want to get back into a practice routine and regain some technical fluidity

Piano Skills for Level 2 is for you if:

  • You have completed Level 1
  • You have piano experience, but there are a lot of gaps in your ability
  • You need to learn how to play chords
  • You need to learn how to create your own accompaniments
  • You need to learn how to play voice exercises in 12 keys easily

Do you have to be a singer to take Piano Skills for Singers?

Absolutely not!  Although these courses are geared towards singers, anyone would benefit from these well organized and easy-to-use courses.

Jazz Piano Accompaniment is for you if:

  • You have taken Level 2
  • You are a classically trained pianist and want to learn jazz
  • You want to learn how to play from a fake book
  • You can play chords and you want to play authentic jazz accompaniment

*If you can’t play chords fluidly, you can purchase the “Learn to Play Chords Symbols” course at a deep discount.

Piano Improvisation for Everyone! is for you if:

  • You are a classically trained pianist who wants to learn how to improvise
  • You are looking for a fresh new way to explore your creativity at the keyboard
  • You are a piano teacher looking for a new bag of tricks to share with your students
  • You want to develop your technical fluidity on the piano in a more creative way
  • You are a jazz player who wants to develop a deeper connection to improvisation
  • You are a circle singer or vocal improviser who is looking for a deeper toolkit
  • You are a songwriter or a composer looking for more inspiration

Private lessons are best for you if:

  • You are having technical difficulties, like tension, discomfort when you are playing, etc.
  • You have a specific set of concerns that are not covered by the courses
  • You prefer one-on-one instruction
  • You want to kick start your online course experience
  • You want to work on your singing (I teach that too!)
  • You have completed one or more of the courses and are keen to find the next step
  • You want to take occasional or regular lessons via Skype, FaceTime or Zoom

If you need help deciding which Piano Skills for Singers Course is right for you, please email me at and I’ll help you!

VIDEO: 7 Reasons you should improvise at the piano

Improvisation is not just for jazz musicians! Improvisation is an incredible tool to build and expand your skills at the piano, while exploring your own creative voice.


Want to learn to improvise?  Check out my new online course Piano Improvisation for Everyone!

What does a jazz pianist need to know?

Playing jazz piano is one of those scary mysteries that can keep people from exploring and excelling.  Whether you are a classically trained pianist who is “jazz curious”, a jazz vocalist who wants to develop some useful keyboard skills or an educator who needs jazz training in order to support their students, it can really seem like a huge mountain to climb.  This blog post is meant to break down the various skills and knowledge base required to become a confident jazz pianist.

Jazz Pianist Bud Powell

I started classical piano lessons as a child and discovered jazz at age 15.  My first lessons were with my high school band director, a saxophonist who taught me everything he knew from 2 semesters of mandatory piano class during his undergrad.  I attended York University in Toronto with a BFA in Jazz Piano and then went to the prestigious Manhattan School of Music in NYC for my Master’s in jazz piano performance.  I have since taught hundreds of people to play jazz piano, teaching for 8 summers at the New York Summer Music Festival, teaching at several colleges, and running a busy private studio.  After all these years, I have been able to formulate a method for teaching jazz piano that is clear, direct and masterfully effective for

Jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams

students of all imaginable skill levels.  Many of my students are professional jazz singers who have been able to take gigs singing and playing the piano, because my method is so efficient and user friendly.

So, what does a jazz pianist need to know?

1.  How to read a lead sheet.  A lead sheet is a form of abbreviated sheet music.  (Show an example). Instead of having all of the music fully notated, a lead sheet consists of the melody, chord symbols and sometimes, the lyrics as well.  Lead sheets provide the general structure of a song – the form, the melody and the harmony, but also leave room for interpretation and improvisation.  In order to play from a lead sheet, you need to be able to play chord symbols.  (Learning chord symbols is always my first step when teaching jazz piano!)

Jazz pianist Bill Evans

2.  How to walk a bass line. Part of the fun of playing jazz piano is that we can replicate what an entire jazz band is doing.  For this reason, I always teach everyone how to walk a bass line in their left hand.  The “walking bass” consists of playing the chord tones in quarter notes to lay down a rhythmic and harmonic foundation.  Add the right hand playing chords and you have the starts of a jazz rhythm section sound!

The unforgettable Thelonious Monk.

3.  How to play chord voicings. Chord voicings are often misunderstood, because they are not just inversions of chords.  Voicings are actually ways of implying the harmony rather than playing the whole chords and we choose certain notes that represent the chords and provide different qualities of sound.  I always teach my students a simple strategy that we build on to create a huge library of authentic jazz piano voicings.

4.  Comping is the rhythmic way we play chords or voicings.  Short for “accompanying”, we learn a variety of comping figures that can be mixed and matched to create a rhythmic accompaniment for the melody and improvised solos.  Once you have mastered several figures, it is easy to improvise the comping based on what is happening in the song.

Jazz legend Oscar Peterson

5.  Improvisation.  This is usually the concept that terrifies people about jazz and is often the reason people won’t even attempt to play it.  When you think about improvisation, you might be frightened by the prospect of creating something out of nothing.  (Where do you even start??). The good news is that there is a great way to learn how by improvising on one simple concept at a time.  Improvising on chord tones, using one rhythmic idea, or even just paraphrasing the melody is a way to get started without being overwhelmed.

6. Jazz Styles. Jazz music includes a variety of styles, including ballads, medium swing tunes, jazz standards, blues and grooves like Bossa Nova and Afro-Latin.  Each of these styles utilizes a different approach, including different bass lines, comping figures and even approaches to improvisation.

Jazz Pianist Wynton Kelly and his trio

7. The great jazz pianists. In order to expand as a jazz pianist, you need to be listening to the great masters including Wynton Kelly, Bud Powell, Oscar Peterson, Mary Lou Williams and Bill Evans.  Jazz is an aural tradition, which means to need to hear it to really get the music into your ears.  There are so many wonderful resources to listen to great jazz and discover your favorites.

Learning jazz piano is such an exciting and enriching journey and one that I think every piano should take.  You don’t need to become a jazz master to reap the benefits of this incredible music, but the skills you gain from learning it will fill your ears with new sounds and empower your hands to play with a new fluidity.


Want to learn jazz piano?  Check out my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment, which teaches you everything I list in this blog post.

VIDEO: Learn to play a blues in record time!

Learning to play on the blues is a lot of fun and is a wonderful gateway into jazz improvisation. The Blues is a style of African American music that came into popularity in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Some important figures are Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, John Lee Hooker as well as Buddy Guy and B. B. King. Singing and playing the blues is very expressive, as the style was created to express sad and frustrating feelings through music.

The blues shows up heavily in jazz and is widely known to have been the precursor to rock and roll and R&B. Understanding the blues not only gives you a snapshot into this important musical style, but it also provides a structure for deeply satisfying improvisations. In this quick tutorial you will learn:

  1. The 12 bar blues form
  2. How to play the chords
  3. How to walk a bass line
  4. How to improvise on a blues

Easy to understand and addictively fun to play – and you learned it in under 15 minutes!

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Want to continue learning jazz piano?  Check out my online course Jazz Piano Accompaniment and build authentic jazz skills in a fun and easy way!