Learning to play jazz piano can easily become overwhelming. Sometimes the hardest thing is just deciding what exactly to practice. With so much to do (technique, ear training, voicings, listening, repertoire development, learning solos, etc.) we can freeze up into a state of non-developmental paralysis.
But scales are one thing we can always work on, knowing we will be spending our practice time wisely. And the most foundational scale to practice for jazz piano is the chromatic scale, as it can be used in conjunction with virtually any chord or other scale.
I would even go so far as to say that having a mastery of the chromatic scale is probably the most important technical endeavor we can make as jazz piansists. The diminished and altered scales are great for specific harmonic situations, but the chromatic can be used in almost any situation. And it’s a fantastic connector to other scales.
Ways to practice the chromatic scale? There’s hundreds of creative ways to practice the chromatic scale.
Some of my favorites are hands together in 3rds (parallel motion), contrary motion starting at middle C, and contrary motion starting at various intevrals (minor 3rd, diminished 5th, etc.) The possibilities are endless, so we should have no trouble practicing the chromatic scale daily without getting bored.
So next time you aren’t sure what to practice, start running thru some creative chromatic scale practice.