Welcome to this practice guide for our Jazz Piano Foundations Course.
Below you can download the PDF practice planner which covers all of the important exercises and drills to master the foundational theory of jazz piano.
Foundations Practice Guide.pdf (3.5 MB)
The document contains 6 different theory areas. Depending on how long you have to practice, you will either spend 5 minutes or 10 minutes on each of these theory areas.
The benefit of splitting your practice time into small chunks, is that in just 1 sitting, you can cover a wide selection of different theory topics.
Here is the video lesson and demonstration which covers all 6 practice areas in the PDF Plan:
and below you can find a breakdown of the drills in each 5 minute slot.
There are only 12 of these to learn, and they really are the foundation of all future study of harmony. Learning them thoroughly at this stage will help greatly as you are exposed to more challenging jazz theory and concepts.
In this practice slot, we cover the following drills:
- Play scales in right hand – around the circle, then pick randomly
- Play scales in left hand – around the circle, then pick randomly
- Play scales hands together – around the circle, then pick randomly
- Interval ascending & descending – 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths
We know that every major scale has a relative minor scale. If we want to find the C Natural Minor Scale, we simply play the major scale from a minor 3rd up. A minor 3rd up from C would be Eb major, and if we play the Eb Major Scale from C to C we get the C natural minor scale. This relationship works in every key.
Now the natural minor scale can be played over minor chords, but there are other scales which can be used to access other ‘colours’ and ‘flavours’:
- Play natural minor scale – associate with major scale a major 3rd up
- Play the Dorian mode – natural 6 gives you the Dorian colour
- Play the Melodic minor mode – natural 6 & 7 gives you the melodic minor, or jazz minor colour
The major and minor triads are the most important at this stage of your development. In the triads lesson in this course we did look at the other types of triads which are diminished and augmented triads.
It’s useful to understand what these are and how they are constructed, but learning the major and minor triads is our priority.
- Play major triad moving to minor triad
- Take this up the keyboard chromatically
- Practice the inversions of each major & minor triad
- Arpeggiate each major and minor triad
A 7th chord is a triad with the 7th note of the scale added to create 4 note chord. When we get to the 7th chord and beyond, our chords start to sound rich and jazzy.
- Play the 5 types of 7th chord for each key
- Drill through the inversions of each chord
- Notice the relationship between dim7 chords a minor 3rd away
Diatonic means “belonging to the key” and remember a key is effectively a scale and so diatonic chords, means the chords of the scale.
- Pick any key and play the major scale
- Analyse the notes of the scale numerically
- Build a 7th chord of each degree of the scale
- Learn and memorise the quality of each scale degree…
In every major key, the diatonic 7th chords share the same quality… 1 & 4 are always major 7th chords, 2, 3 & 6 are always minor 7th chords, 5 is always a dominant chord, and 7 is always a minor7b5 chord.
This is the most important exercise so far. Pretty much every jazz standard contains a 251 in some form and so when you know this progression in all keys, you will be better prepared to read from lead sheets.
- Pick any key
- Find the 2, 5, & 1 chords, and play them in root position
- Turn them into 3 note voicings
- Play the 251 in Type A (3rd on the bottom)
- Play the 251 in Type B (7th on the bottom)
- Strip the 251s down to just the 3rd and 7th in your left hand
- Visualise the voice leading of b7ths dropping to 3rds