Cocktail Piano Improvisation Course

Hey everyone :wave:

The last 2 months I’ve been working on my new course “Cocktail Piano Improv For Beginners”. Many students have asked me for a new improvisation course and so here it is. I’m happy with how the course has come together and look forward to hearing your thoughts.

I have just published the first version which contains 17 lessons. Find the course here:

The course focuses on the tune “Misty” which was the first jazz standard that I learnt. I still get tonnes of enjoyment from playing the tune and developing the arrangement I hope this course will help others to enjoy playing it too.

There are a few more lessons to be added to the improv module (modal scale improv, diminished scales, and developing motifs) and a lesson to the harmony module on left hand 10th voicings.

Currently there are no downloads except the basic chord chart. I will get the rest of the lessons edited, uploaded, and the downloads added ASAP.

In November I will start a new course that follows a similar structure (harmony module then improvisation module) but focusing on a new tune.

If anyone has any other feedback, ideas, or suggestions please post them here, and enjoy the lessons!


I have been looking forward to this course. I learned Misty from your YouTube lesson (first jazz standard I learnt) and fell in love with jazz just that little bit more!

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This new course looks fantastic!! Would it be possible to attach a backing track to the course, perhaps something like you have for the Days of Wine and Roses Challenge?


Yes that’s a really great idea @james18

I will add the backing tracks in mp3 format to the “Downloads” section of the lesson pages.

This will be particularly useful for the improv drill lessons (targeting 3rds and 7ths) where it’s important to keep a steady pulse when practicing the exercises.

Thanks for this great suggestion! :sunglasses: :+1:


Wonderful! Thanks so much @Hayden !!

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Does this make Misty next months challenge?

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This is great! Love how most of these newer lessons go full circle on the tunes (arranging the head + improvising a solo). Keep up the great work Hayden! :grin:


Hi Hayden

A fantastic course and definitely links many of the elements that you and Tuomo have been teaching. Definitely compliments Tuomo’s workshops and the live seminars that continue to add value to one’s playing. Do you also include as a reference or mention about sus chords as this would also be of value.

Well done! :grinning:


Yes that’s a great idea @TimD - I will create the challenge page today.

I was planning for “Beautiful Love” to be this month’s challenge but thinking about it, it makes sense to have that tune in December as Tuomo is covering 2 workshops on minor harmony and improvisation this month.

Thanks @paul1523727 - yes I agree that a dedicated lesson on Sus chords would be a great addition.

I do touch upon some sus voicings in the improvisation module which you will see.

I will get the last few improv lessons added and then tie up any loose ends such as this. :sunglasses:

Awesome Hayden. This a exactly what I need. Looking forward to see what yo have planned. Thank you Sir.

Adam Powell

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Pumped about this new course! Thanks Hayden


Yes likewise @clif - it’s been 2 months in the making and there a few more lesson to be added to the improv module to tie up the loose ends on scales and scale running exercises.



I don’t feel any pressure to post now.

Hi Hayden. Will the new course (tune) be in a different key signature?

Yes exactly @John_A

I was planning on the tune “In A Sentimental Mood” for the next course. The A Sections are in D Minor and so the harmony module would cover the diatonic voicings and progressions in minor keys which we haven’t covered in much detail on the website.

The B section then modulates to Db Major and is comprised mostly of the 1625 progression. I think this would work well as we can repurpose lots of the material that we applied in the A Section of ‘Misty’ to show how this can be used in other tunes which is important.

We can also dive deeper into soloing over minor progressions such the minor line cliché and the minor 251 which are both present the A Section of “Sentimental Mood”.

The top level plan is to create new 3 courses:

I think that those 3 courses, each with around 20 lessons would be great to give new students more structure and direction when starting to build out their repertoire both from a harmonic and melodic/improv standpoint.

The nice thing with this style of course is we can incorporate lots of more advanced theory without it being too overwhelming in the sense of “learn this in all 12 keys”. Instead we learn to apply the concepts to 1 tune, and then provide links to the related theory lessons where we can learn more about the theory and start to drill around all 12 keys (which takes time!).

You will notice that I added both of the above courses in the beginner section of the website even though as the courses progress they cover some intermediate/advanced concepts. My view is that once we have a strong foundation from analysing and understanding the harmony and voicing options, it then becomes much easier to apply more advanced theory, arranging techniques, and experiment with improvisation.

Let me know what you (or anyone else) think(s) about using “In A Sentimental Mood” for the 3rd course and I will get started on it this month.


@Hayden That sounds perfect. Another familiar tune from the beginner courses. Gets my vote!

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Sounds good to me. When making a solo piano arrangement for Georgia, I noticed I have a hard time harmonizing/improvising over simple triads and slash chords so IASM would be a great tune for the next lesson!

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Thank you for the clear presentations. Really good material.

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Here are a couple of solo piano recordings that I like for “Misty”.

The first is by Kenny Barron. His improvised solo incorporates lots of the topics that we have covered in this course such as targeting chord tones, arpeggios, approach patterns, targeting alterations, and altered licks/altered scale passages. Check out the recording here:

and here is a YouTube video which shows a transcription of Kenny’s solo:

The second recording I like is by a pianist called Simon Mulligan. This recording is very different to the Kenny Barron version. I like Simon’s simple yet elegant melodic ideas, often just rephrasing the original melody and targeting chord tones as strong landing points. He develops lovely motifs which is something I’d like to discuss in the seminar on Wednesday, check out the recording here:

Cocktail Piano Improv Seminar

In the “Cocktail Piano Improv Seminar” on Wednesday we will delve a little deeper into the topics covered in this course and examine the melodic material in the above recordings.

Here’s the seminar page for those interested:

Hope to see you there!