Instead of working on one or a few scales in each session and then moving on to different ones in the next session, wouldn’t it be preferable to work on just one scale and “master” it before moving on to another scale. Pros and cons?
Great question here.
Both approaches have their merits, here are my thoughts:
For beginner students, the priority is to learn all 12 major scales numerically.
Once we see every major scale as 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 we then ‘make all keys equal’ in the sense that we no longer have to rely on the note names.
This gives us the following benefits:
- we can quickly find voicings in any key by learning the voicing numerically
- we can quickly visualise common progressions in any key (such as 251s and 1625s)
- it helps us visualise patterns, lines, and melodies in all 12 keys
- it provides the foundations for extended and altered harmony
I personally found that aiming to get through all 12 keys in each sitting was the most effective and efficient way to achieve the goal of learning the 12 scale numerically.
But that’s not to say this approach is best for everyone.
The other side of the story:
Even the best musicians will revisit the basics such as playing their major scales.
We can always improve on our major scales and how we play them.
There is a potentially infinite number of drills, variations, patterns, and exercises that we can do.
For example, things like:
- intervals drills as outlined in the lesson (3rds, 4ths, 5ths, 6ths, 7ths)
- diatonic triads within the scale - upwards, downwards, alternating, inversions, etc…
- diatonic 7th chords - - upwards, downwards, alternating, inversions, etc…
- just to name a few
We can always improve at this, and so I think that the point of “mastery” you are referring to is the long term goal, whereas, learning the scales numerically is the short term goal which will then unlock the information we need to progress in jazz harmony.
Finally, I may have digressed there so to summarise the key points:
The practice guides are split into slots of 5 minutes so that we can get through many different exercises and theory areas in 1 sitting.
If it takes us 5 minutes to work out the notes of 1 scale, such as Db Major, then that’s fine and that is time well spent
The next sitting, we should find the notes of the scale quicker, and before long we will be able to get through all 12 scales in the 5 minute slot
Perhaps in the future, come back to the practice plan, and spend the whole 5 minutes working on the different variations outlined above for just one scale.
Let me know if that helps Guy, and if you’d like me to elaborate just let me know
Today i was drilling through the jazz plan foundations #1 and the 5th slot (with diatonic chords) is really becoming too easy for me. How can i make the exercice harder or put something else at this slot.
Good question Guillaume.
Here’s some ideas to add variety and complexity to that exercise:
Extend the chords to include the 9th, so Cmaj9, Dm9, E-9, Fmaj9, G9 etc… Perhaps play the root with your left hand and 3-5-7-9 in your right hand. Take through all 12 keys.
We could vary the above exercise by playing the right hand in closed position, so for Cmaj9 we would have the root in our left hand, and 7-9-3-5 in our right hand. Continue this up the scale. Take through all 12 keys.
It’s nice to work out the 1625 progression in all 12 keys. Check out this lesson:
@Lyndol also created a great lesson where she takes the 1625 through all 12 keys:
You could also play 2516 which is essentially the same thing just in a different order. The nice thing about this progression is that it’s a cycle, and so you can cycle around experimenting with different inversions, extensions, alterations.
Another fun thing to do is experiment with inner voice movement over the major, minor, and dominant chords. Here’s a short lesson where we explore the common moving voice options.
Let me know what you think of those ideas
Awesome ! I’ll watch them on the next jazz foundation session ! also what i’ve been starting to do is ask my self some harder intervals like: what is the #5 of Cmaj, what is the 13th of Gb, etc…
For the “7th chords” and “diatonic chords” part of the practice, which I also find “easier” than some other parts, I am currently doing the following: up circle of fifths and back, in thirds up and down, in whole steps up and down, and chromatically up and down, with a fixed click (currently I can do about 60 bpm, I want to get it up to 120). Also I often set myself a pattern of inversions “C first inversion F second inversion Bb third inversion Eb second inversion Ab first inversion” or some such, and again practice at tempo. It’s quite challenging for me!!
That’s a great exercise Manuel.
The primary chord tones 1-3-5-7 play an important role in the improvised line, and so this kind of exercise is brilliant to help us visualise the different inversions and ‘pathways’ we can take.
I added a note in the “Practice Tips” section of the foundation practice plan lesson page:
This exercice feel kind of strange because on the 3rd minor degree we can only add the b9 to the chord, And also the 7th half-dim degree we add the b9 which gives a m7b5(b9) chord
Good point Guillaume, let me explain…
When we extend chords past the 7th, some of the chord extensions fall outside of the diatonic scale…
For example, E-9 would be E-G-B-D-F#
and B-9b5 would be B-D-F-A-C#
We cover this theory in more detail in the upcoming courses.
Also, you will see in the lesson on the 1625 progression, that the 6th degree minor is often played as a dominant chord. So in the key of C, we would typically play A7, and not A-7 in a 1625 progression.
The C# in A7 is outside of the C Major Scale, however, we would still be playing in the key of C Major.
When I play a progression - let’s use a 36251 in C Major - in my head I’m thinking E-7, A7, D-7, G7, Cmaj7, but there is a wide selection of colours and tensions (extensions/alterations) that we can apply to the harmony.
For example, a 36251 progression in C Major could look like this:
Look how many notes we have outside of the C Major Scale!.. but… it is still a 36251 in C Major.
Here’s the audio of that progression:
I think there are 2 routes to take here.
@manuel3’s idea is nice on inverting the chords. Play up and down the scale with inversions of the 7th chord:
- play each 7th chord in root position - up and down the scale
- then play each 7th chord in 1st inversion - up and down the scale
- then 2nd inversion
- then 3rd inversion
That is a tricky exercise but a very useful one for visualising the chord tones in their different inversions.
Another route to take would be study the course on extended harmony and the course on altered harmony and then apply the theory to progressions with diatonic root movement, such as 251s, 1625s, & 36251s - as in my example above.
By all means take both of these routes, but i think it would be nice for you to check out some of the theory on extended and altered harmony… that’s some of my favourite stuff to teach. Enjoy!
Thanks Hayden! I have a quick question. I was thinking of approaching these exercises by choosing 2 keys per day and going through the 6 parts: 1 major and its relative minor, and then changing to two new keys the next day and so on. Is it good to do it this way, or do you recommend jumping around more randomly from key to key while doing the exercises?
There is no set formula to this.
I’d say it’s whatever works for you but remember the goal is to get through all 12 keys in the 5 minute slot.
Of course, we have to build up to this so don’t expect to do this right away.
If starting with just 2 keys feels right, then do it, but gradually aim to cover more each time and it will make your practice sessions more productive eg…
- 3 keys per sitting and then you have gone through all 12 keys in 4 sessions.
- 4 keys per sitting and then you have gone through all 12 keys in 3 sessions.
- 6 keys in 2 sessions
- 12 keys in 1 session
It’s a gradual process, but once we can take something around all 12 keys in a short amount of time we have then created a new ‘process’ or ‘habit’ for anything new we learn.
This is an extremely important habit to form when learning jazz… Gaining fluency, control, and mastery of everything we learn in all 12 keys. Then move on.
This applies to chords, scales, progressions, lines, patterns, turnarounds, etc…
Easier said than done I must admit, but doing this ensures that there are no ‘holes’ or ‘gaps’ in our playing.
Also enjoy playing the jazz standard lessons Andrew. Too many theory drills can take the fun out of it all… It is supposed to be a fun hobby for most of us which is easy to forget sometimes!!
Hope this helps and any other questions let me know.
Yeah, I figured we all go through them in our own ways. My main concern so far is time. I usually only have about an hour a day to sit down and play, and some days no time at all. And seeing as getting through the 6 parts takes me about 45 minutes right now (just doing 1 major and the relative minor), I’m not left with much time to play other things. I’m sure it gets faster as time goes by, so I was curious if there was a specific approach you recommended.
Also, with the 3rds, 4ths, etc. intervals going up and down, is there a proper way to finger those?
For many of us - myself included - finding the time to practice consistently can be a struggle with other commitments.
Here’s some extra info to laser-focus the limited time you have.
The 5 essential things to take away from the Foundation Course are:
To be able to play the major scales in all 12 keys and view them numerically
To understand the difference between the 3 minor scales
To understand the 4 types of triads and visualise major and minor triad inversions
To understand the 5 types of 7th chord and how they are constructed
To be able to play 3-note major 251 progressions in all 12 keys
Treat these 5 areas as above as a priority
Once you can do the above, I’d recommend diving into the course on Chord Extensions whilst still watching the beginner course. Perhaps to 2 days on Beginner Practice Plan, and then 1 day on Extended Chords Practice Plan.
Whilst working on chord extensions, we are revisiting all of the theory above. This continues throughout the syllabus so we are always revisiting the theory we have covered in previous courses.
The 2 most important things are learning the major scales numerically in all 12 keys, and also learning 3-note 251s in all 12 keys.
Then we can start '‘getting our toes wet’ the next courses.
It would depend on the scale and the interval being applied. I’d recommend using what is comfortable and feels most in-control for you.
I’ve never used a set fingering, but I do follow some general ‘rules of thumb’ … such as, if possible play the black notes with my fingers; if the thumb moves up to the black notes then a certain degree of hand mobility is lost.
Of course it is some times unavoidable for example in keys such as Gb Major, Db Major etc. But this tip may help you make more informed choices in other keys.
To reiterate the points above Andrew…
Don’t think that you must be able to do this in all 12 keys flawlessly before moving on. The same with many of the other drill variations.
I gave these drill variation for extra inspiration. They can be revisited at any point, now, or in 5 years time.
With the limited time you have available, this is the essential information you need to have mastered before you progress in the syllabus:
- To be able to play the major scales in all 12 keys and view them numerically
- To understand the difference between the 3 minor scales
- To understand the 4 triad types and visualise major and minor triad inversions
- To understand the 5 types of 7th chord and how they are constructed
- To be able to play 3-note major 251 progressions in all 12 keys
Treat these 5 things as a key priority, you should not move onto Chord Extensions until you have those mastered/understood.
Hope this helps!
Using the Foundations Schedule, do you practice all the drills in one key and then move on to the next key, or do you practice one drill in all the keys and then move on to the next drill? For example, do you practice key C: right hand, left hand, together, intervals, and the move on to D. Or do you practice all the keys with the right hand, then all the keys with the left hand, …
After watching the video again, it answers my question. Learn all keys right hand, then all keys left hand, then all keys together, …
Glad that you found the answer.
We have a document here with all of the fingerings and some useful tips to group and memorise the fingerings:
Major Scale Fingerings.pdf (3.8 MB)
Here are some other important points:
The most important thing is to learn the major scales numerically. This is the foundation for learning jazz harmony and it will allow you to visualise common progressions such as 251s, 1625s, 36251s etc… it will also allow you to transpose quickly and learn voicings in all 12 keys.
One of our students built this handy “Major Scales Quiz Tool” - https://major-scales.bartkozal.com/ - we need to be able to get the answer in our head almost instantly. This takes time but utilise the tool and also quiz yourself on this whilst away from the piano.
The goal is to get through all 12 keys in the 5 minute slot. This might be difficult at first so you can group the keys into groups of 3 or 4, and alternate the groups each day. Soon you will be able to get through 6 keys in a 5 minute slot, and build up to covering all 12 keys.
Master the main exercise first, and then move onto the exercise variations.
Remember that we can alternate the practice plans. I recommend students to study the first 2 courses together, so also get stuck into the Chord Extensions Course and the associated practice plan.
Perhaps do 2 days on the Foundation Plan, then 1 day on the chord Extensions Plan, then repeat. You can modify this to allocate more time to different plans as you become more confident and comfortable with the foundational material.
I hope this helps George and if I can be of further assistance just let me know.
This is my 5th time starting piano lessons again. I restart about every decade (I’m 68) for a few years and get to level 4. I’ve had three piano teachers and used other online lessons. Finally I found what I want to learn at Piano Groove.
To get started and work on Tune Up, the following keys in all six practice areas seem like a good start: C, F, Bb, G, D? Looks like Tune Up uses D, C, Bb. I understand that all 12 keys are desired, but are these five keys (2 sharps and 2 flats) a good start?
I was referring more to the theory drills when I said to break the keys down into groups. ie. major scales around all 12 keys, 7th chords around all 12 keys, major 251 3 note voicings around 12 keys etc…
The nice thing with jazz standards is that with just a handful of tunes we can find progressions in pretty much all keys. There are some keys which are less common in jazz, usually the # keys such as E major and B major. It’s much more common to find jazz standards written in the keys of C, Bb, Eb, F, and G and so you will find lots of 251s in these keys when playing jazz standards.
I’d recommend studying multiple jazz standards at once.
In addition to working on Tune Up, pick some of the arrangements from our “Beginner Jazz Arrangements Course”:
Perhaps choose 2 or 3 tunes to be working on at the same time.
Let me know if that helps and any further questions just let me know.
I keep going back to this thread - such great lessons! and love this tool - practice planner - and all things considered - I love practising even if the inversions (especially on the 7th etc chords. are quite challenging ) Thank You!
Hi, a few things to share which might be of help to someone (even though I’m
absolutely not an expert)? Firstly I like using a random generator, I for example found this simple one on the internet (there are more)
https://www.randomlists.com/list-randomizer and then with the edit icon I just enter the name of the twelve tones. Then I can use this random order in many of the exercises here at Pianogroove (of course for instance substituting d sharp for e flat whenever needed).
Also I think that the more you are able to visualize and hear tones, chord structures, progressions etc in your head, the more you are able to play in a really conscious and musical way. So instead of just learning to play scales and progressions faster and faster, I try to use quite a lot of my practice time trying to imagine the tones and chords in my head. Also singing beforehand what I intend to play. It can all be really quite time consuming, but I really think it pays off after a while.