Jim Funnell

Category Names: 
Jazz Piano, Piano, Audition Prep from Berklee Alumni, Improvisation
Featured Teacher on Lessonface Since December 2016

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Jim Funnell instructs privately (both jazz and classical piano), teaches small ensembles, and conducts workshops and master classes on jazz performance, harmony and improvisation. He strives to answer questions that arise during his own practice or that are addressed by his students, and share the conclusions of his research as efficiently and practically as possible!

He is also an active pianist/keyboardist in New York City as well as in Europe and Japan, leading his own jazz trio, Jim Funnell's Word Out, with which he has notably released two albums, won the Composition Prize at the “Trophées du Sunside” in Paris, played and taught workshops in Europe, Japan, and the United States. Rhythm sections for the trio have included drummers Jeff Boudreaux, Ryo Noritake, Dan Pugach and bassists Mátyás Szandai and Takashi Sugawa.

Finally, Jim co-leads AfuriKo, a Paris-born, New York-based African infused jazz duo, with percussionist Akiko Horii. Together, they have released two albums since 2014, both of which were chosen to receive full funding by SACEM, the French Society of Authors, Composers, and Music Publishers. They have toured extensively in Japan, the UK, Europe, Nepal, and the United States, and collaborated with artists such as Bill Sims, Jr., Eddie Parker, Bruno Wilhelm, Hiroshi Fukutomi, and Chris Hayward.


- Philippe Lopes de Sa / Jim Funnell, Woandering, 2017

- AfuriKo, Style, 2016

- Jim Funnell's Word Out, Spirit of the Sn@il, 2015

- AfuriKo, On the Far Side, 2014

- Word Out, Word Out, 2009

Music Industry Awards

- Funding from the SACEM (“aide à l’autoproduction”) for the album Style by AfuriKo (2016)

- Funding from the SACEM (“aide à l’autoproduction”) for the album On the Far Side by AfuriKo (2014)

- Composition prize at the “Trophées du Sunside” with Jim Funnell’s Word Out (Paris, 2011)

These lessons are well suited for pianists of course, but also for all instrumentalists who wish to strengthen their fundamentals (in harmony, arranging, composition, improvisation…) as well as singers who wish to hone their piano accompaniment skills.

In addition to the actual lessons, make sure to check out my “in the shed” blog posts regularly for in depth study of many hot jazz topics as well as tips and ideas on what and how to practice!


The goal is to bring out the student’s musicality within the realm of jazz aesthetics, through musical training based on thorough and attentive listening. The following practices will help us improve on this path:

- playing everything in all 12 keys;

- oral and written melodic/harmonic transcriptions; rendering of these transcriptions (with the voice or on the instrument);

- singing (themes, solos, guide tone lines, bass lines) along with recordings of the jazz masters and/or while playing a different part on the instrument;

- independence exercises (being able to hear and render several musical elements simultaneously) ;

- etc…

Technical ability (instrumental as well as jazz technique) is thus not seen as an end, but merely as a tool, admittedly indispensable, used to serve each and everyone’s musicality. We will therefore also spend some time practicing the following:

- harmonic progressions (II-V-Is and others…) in all keys;

- “So What” and quartal voicings, upper structure triads, drop 2 block chords, …;

- study and use of the chords and modes that stem from major and minor harmonies, symmetrical scales (diminished, whole tone), pentatonic and hexatonic scales;

- practice of melodic motifs derived from various tetrachords and chord tones;

- etc…

Finally, let’s always keep in sight the essence of jazz and its concrete application: the musician’s self-fulfillment within the jazz community (study of performance in various contexts: solo and ensemble playing, at jam sessions…). The student will thus develop the following skills:

- building a repertoire;

- interpreting and harmonizing a melody;

- accompanying a soloist;

- improvising.


The repertoire studied during the lessons can be as vast as jazz is diverse… Examples of material include:

- jazz standards (Great American Songbook), Brazilian & Latin jazz standards… Tunes composed by past and present jazz musicians;

- free improvisations;

- pieces from the AfuriKo and Word Out repertoires.

Books & Methods

- Jamey Aebersold, Charlie Parker Omnibook: for C instruments (treble clef) (Alfred Music Publishing)

- Charles-Louis Hanon, The Virtuoso Pianist in Sixty Exercises for the Piano (Schirmer)

- Mark Levine, The Jazz Piano Book (Sher Music Co.)

- Mark Levine, Jazz Piano Masterclass: The Drop 2 Book (Sher Music Co.)

- Mark Levine, How to Voice Standards at the Piano: the Menu (Sher Music Co.)

- Frank Mantooth, Voicings for Jazz Keyboard (Hal Leonard Corp.)

- Stephen Nachmanovitch, Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art (Tarcher/Penguin)

- Neil Olmstead, Solo Jazz Piano: The Linear Approach (Berklee Press)

- Kenny Werner, Effortless Mastery: Liberating the Musician Within

Jim Funnell was awarded a full tuition scholarship from Berklee College of Music (Boston), where he went on to study under JoAnne Brackeen, Laszlo Gardony, Danilo Pérez, David Fiuczynski, Greg Hopkins, Joe Lovano, Hal Crook, Dave Santoro, George Garzone (to name a few...) and earn a bachelor's degree in performance and jazz composition (summa cum laude, 2007). While still a student, he had the opportunity to perform with Russell Ferrante and Marcus Baylor from jazz fusion quartet the Yellowjackets, bassists Meshell Ndegeocello and Marcus Miller, trumpeters Dave Douglas and Tiger Okoshi, and guitarist David Fiuczynski (notably on KiF Express, released in 2008, and at the JazzQ Festival in Saint Petersburg, Russia). Jim also holds a music diploma (DEM) from the Conservatoire in Evry (France) where he studied classical piano, chamber music, piano accompaniment, harmony and music theory.

Academic Awards

- Berklee College of Music Professional Writing Division Wayne Shorter Award (Boston, 2007)

- Berklee College of Music Professional Writing Division Arif Mardin Award (Boston, 2006)

- Berklee College of Music Piano Department Achievement Award (Boston, 2006)

- Berklee College of Music Piano Department Chair Award (Boston, 2005)

- Berklee College of Music Full Tuition Scholarship (American School of Modern Music, Boulogne-Billancourt, 2003)

Reviews of lessons with Jim Funnell

Soren, Verified Student
September 16th, 2017
Jim is fantastic. I was self taught for a while and my progress was stalling. Under Jim, I feel progress every week and practicing is much more fun again.
Peter, Verified Student
July 2nd, 2017