New "Novice" Lesson Category

Hey everyone :wave:

Over the past couple of months I have been quietly building a new “Novice” section which can be accessed from the jazz piano lessons index page:

There are currently 30 lessons here which cover 7 jazz standards and more to follow.

These jazz standard lessons are designed to be the most accessible on the website to help students learn to read lead sheets and build out their repertoire of standards as quickly as possible.

So far there have been no requests for transcriptions which is exactly what I wanted to achieve with these new courses :grin:

When teaching these standards I pay special attention to the numeric harmony and the form of the songs with the goal to help students to memorise these tunes as quickly as possible without becoming over-reliant on transcriptions. So far so good!

In all of these new courses, we stick exclusively to root-3-7 voicings when arranging the jazz standards and introduce some subtle melodic embellishments. Of course chord extensions and alterations can be present in the melody itself, but our chord voicings stick exclusively to chord tones to teach the essential components of jazz harmony.

Whilst we keep the voicings simple, these tunes are still beautiful to play with simple harmony and set strong foundations for the more advanced lessons on the same tunes which are available on the PianoGroove website.

I wanted to make this formal announcement here and if anyone has any feedback, song suggestions, or other requests - don’t hesitate to let me know.

I’m aiming to have around 20 tunes in the “Novice” section when it’s finished. If there are any specific tunes that you would like to see here just let me know and I will try my best to accommodate all requests.

Talk soon!


Just wanted to say, that I’m exactly the type of student this content was made for, and I love it! Keep up the great work.


Hi Hayden

I think this is awesome to enable students to learn and build a repertoire of jazz standards. Also linking to relevant lessons will help to pick up some of the more common and advanced concepts at an early learning stage.

Would also be useful as a refresher for students

Well done!



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Here are some suggested jazz standards to add to the Novice section:
The Very Thought of You
In A Sentimental Mood
All The Things You Are
The Novice courses are great for beginners and a great back to basics review for those a bit more advanced.

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Thanks for these suggestions @Humberto - I will cover all 3 tunes.

They will work nicely for the Novice courses as I group standards by the original key and start each course with diatonic drills and exercises.

“The Very Thought of You” and “All The Things You Are” will be perfect for a course on the key of Ab Major, and perhaps I will group “In A Sentimental Mood” with “Body & Soul” to explore the key of Db major and also modulations.

I will post updates here in this thread.

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Thank you Hayden for these wonderful Novice courses.
I am enjoying them.

For key of F (?), how about Smile ?


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Thanks, Hayden, I purposely chose tunes in keys other than C or Bb.
The melody and chord progression in the bridge of In A Sentimental Mood are among the loveliest I have ever heard.

Fantastic, thanks! This is a huge help to completing Moon River. As I go through the courses, I am an exhaustive studier. For example, I stay on the Foundations course until I can do diatonic 7ths in both hands in 12 keys. I did not want to proceed through the course until finishing the entire Moon River piece, and this novice category with the lead sheet lesson is invaluable for learning Phase B and Phase C. I am going through it now with a goal to do Moon River in all 12 keys.

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Thanks for letting me know @dan3 - glad to hear you are enjoying them!

Yes “Smile” is a lovely tune.

Here’s a Spotify playlist that you might like. If you don’t have Spotify you can search for the song/artist names on YouTube and you should be able to find them all.

I just did a quick scan through the playlist and most of the recordings are played in the key of F. Beegie Adair’s version is in the key of G, and the versions by Simon Schott and Edward Newton are in Bb, and the rest are in the key of F. It would be a useful exercise to try to play along with the recordings and try to emulate the melodic embellishments.

One thing to notice is that the harmony of “Smile” is very spacious in places with multiple measures on a the same chord. See the 1st 5 bars of Fmaj7 below as an example:

Usually, I would approach this harmonic situation with a stride left hand and rootless voicings so that the left hand creates movement and outlines the pulse. This then gives a little more freedom to the right hand to ‘pull and push’ on the placement of the melody, and also to add melodic embellishment such as turns and trills.

I’ll create a simple arrangement using stride and chord tones, and perhaps this lesson can be a nice ‘gateway’ into our full course on rootless voicings.

Another thing to notice is the step-wise melody where the melody is walking up and down the notes of the F major scale:

Block chords/4-way close voicings would work great here which isn’t a beginner topic but perhaps we can incorporate some or use these in a more advanced tutorial. The block chord sound really suits this ‘older style’ of jazz standard too, in my opinion.

Leave it with me and I will add this to our Novice section. Thanks for the suggestion!


Yes agreed - it’s one of my favourites tunes too.

Perhaps you already saw this seminar on “How To Play Like Eddie Higgins” - he has multiple recordings of “In A Sentimental Mood” and they are all very beautiful. His versions are probably my favourite interpretations of the tune.

Check out the chapter at 50m18s “The Bridge Reharmonistaions” of this seminar :

As you say, the bridge/B section sounds lovely with the original harmony and melody, and in fact that’s what I play most of the time, but it’s also nice to have some other options. I have actually forgotten these reharms so I need to study the lesson myself! :grin:

Thanks @joseph - I’m glad to hear it’s useful.

Originally I included more lessons for Moon River which was the first “Novice” jazz standard that I created. These lessons touched upon chord extensions and other beginner/early intermediate topics.

Feedback from some students was that it can be intimidating to introduce chord extensions in the Novice section as it makes them wonder how difficult “Beginner” and onwards would be which is understandable, so I’m sticking exclusively to basic chord tones in these lessons.

I moved a lesson here which covers melody harmonisation and chord extensions and the rest of our Moon River lessons can be found with the search box:

That’s a great goal - you will learn a lot when transposing tunes and it certainly helps with memorisation and internalising the chords and melody.

The more we do transposition, the easier it becomes. Understanding numeric harmony is important and so your time spent on the diatonic 7th chords and diatonic harmony will be a great aid when you are transposing this tune.

Try to ‘let you ear guide you’ when trying to find the melody in the new keys.

Have fun!

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Hayden, thanks for the link to Eddie Higgins seminar and time stamp for the reharms, I had come across the seminar before but not gone through it in its entirety, certainy will do now!

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