Tune Up harmonic notation

Hi, I’m practicing Tune Up, and to avoid having myself memorize notes, or hand positions, or even voicings, I am trying to play it in a different key everyday. I have experimented a bit with notation. Let’s take the lead sheet for Tune Up in the real book. I “pretend” it’s in D major. I would write it as:

  • D: (ii V7 I %)
  • down 1 whole step in C (ii V7 I %)
  • down 1 whole step in Bb (ii V7 I IV)
  • back to D (ii V7 VImaj ii V7)

Then for the melody, I write it in a “tab” fashion, so I can have the rhythmic values, but instead of the notes, I write (11 b3) (b5 5) (3) because A is 11 of Em7, G is b3 of Em7, Eb is b5 of A7, etc… That way I can take the melody and the chords into an arbitrary key, and I very slowly have to work wout what the 11 and b5 (it’s easier for 3 and 9 and 7 :slight_smile: of the chords are.

Is there a better way to do this?

Hi @manuel3, I’m glad to hear you’re doing it this way, it is essential for playing in every key to understand harmony outside of the chords and chord symbols.

Here some ideas:

  • D: (ii V7 I %) - Correct, just a 2 5 1 in the key we would be in.
  • down 1 whole step in C (ii V7 I %) - Correct, modulation to b7 of the original key.
  • down 1 whole step in Bb (ii V7 I IV) - Correct, modulation to b6 of the original key.
  • back to D (ii V7 VImaj ii V7) - The last 4 bars are 2 (E-7) to the original key (D), then 5 (F7) to b6 (Bb) of the original key, and in the last bar 5 (A7) to the original key (D)

About the melody notes, your way is totally fine, the point is once you have done this kind of analysis in every key to several tunes, it will start to get simpler and faster to understand.

Point is to find a way that is simplest to you, for example I tend to think within one octave, meaning 11 is 4, 13 is 6 etc. That makes it faster for me.

Please let me know if you want exercises for doing this, I’m happy to help!



Nice, I will use b6 and b7 of original key as notation, also i’m not sure if there is too much a harmonic relation ship here except that it is a nice color shift downwards. I would love some exercise, although I plan to do this for all the standards in the first 2 courses. I will probably use some shortcuts at times, thinking in triads / arpeggios and scale fragments instead of individual notes, and of course by ear things become easier. It’s harder to play by ear on the piano than on the bass / guitar because of the white and black keys.

Please post here any new tune you are analyzing, we can go through them together.

About learning by ear, piano is not more difficult than any other instrument, as long as you know the basic major scales and can hear as well as visualize that they all are the same in the end.

You are already doing the best practice for this, just keep playing tunes in every key!

All the best,


I’ve planned to make an arrangement of this tune ahaha :joy: that will help me a lot :+1:

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Hey @Tuomo im working on the original form before doing my arrangement and im working with the iRealPro Version which is a bit different: so until the 251 in Bb its the same and after, this is ending with a G-7 which is the VI-7 of Bb major and then its E-7/F7/Bbmaj7/A7 then second time we play through it we do E-7/A7/Dmaj/%

So for the first playing this a modulation in Bb major and this goes like this: III-7/V7/I7/V7 of D major then repeat sign.

The second time we play : II-7/V7/I7/%

Please let me know if you see any mistake here.

Hi @Guillaume,

can you send me a screen shot of that iReal book lead sheet? Just to make sure we’re thinking of the same thing. It seems though that those are the original changes…

This version:

is the first recording of the song (that I know of), and here are the changes from the record:

Always if we are not sure about the changes, we have to go to the source, all the right information is on the recordings for us to transcribe and learn from.

All the best,


Hello @Tuomo

The iRealPro version is the same of the screen shot you sent me, except the last bar is Dmaj7 instead of A7

Great, I’m glad whoever made the iReal lead sheet used the original changes.

Btw. have you checked out Coltrane song Countdown? That’s based on Tune Up


@Tuomo i m going to listen to it asap. Thank you!

just coming back from Youtube, … well what can i say, this is Coltrane…

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Tune up is actually in Bb major. Would you check what i wrote please, to make sure im ok with this (/something (/II or /III etc…) means “of”)

Hi @Guillaume, yes if we’re thinking the tune is in Bb, then you’re totally correct!

Only thing, which I think is just a typo, is in the 1st ending, E-7 in the key of Bb is #4 minor.

Great work!


This part Em F7 BbMaj7 A7 is a bit tricky for analysing

i find this discussion about it

deceptive cadence to Dm (very closed to BbM) ?

Thanks @Pierrot,

Yes, I think A7 going to Bbmaj7 is A7 going to D-, all the minor melodies over E-7b5 A7 - Bbmaj7 work well. Here 2 simple examples:

Also, A7 to Bbmaj7 is the same harmonic concept as Bbdim to Bbmaj7,

as Bbdim chord is the origin A7:

About the diminished connection and 4 dominants, go check out course on harmony:



Thanks @Tuomo!

so when analysing the tune how you will write it down this progression ?

in tune up its BbM to A7, same concept

this lesson blow my mind … this giant step will not be
digest today :slight_smile: , but a window open to a new sound world :sunglasses:

Thanks @ Pierre,

remember that in Tune Up: Bbmaj is not resolving to A7, A7 is kind of a separate thing that shows where the tune is heading (top of the form, key of D).

If you’re interested in developing harmonic thinking and hearing, I would recommend to watch all those lessons from the part 1. Here link:

Let me know if I can help anyhow!

Also great job with the Improv/Transcription exercises!



@Tuomo you were meaning F7 is some kind of A7#9 ? because the progression is Em F7 BbMaj7 A7 and ,as you say, this last A7 is the one going to Dmaj

how writing numerically this progression to make us remember it goes to Dm


Hi @Pierrot,

I see how I might have confused you there,

The part A7 - Bbmaj was out of the context of this song, I just wrote about it because you mentioned:

This kind of movement, A7 - Bbmaj7 (VII7 - I) is just a common thing you might hear often, so I wanted to bring it out.

In general, you can always “borrow” dominants from the scale degrees that are harmonically close/ share most of the chord tones with the tonic, for example in the key of C:


And here would be the 25’s resolving to Cmaj7:


@pierre did you go through the course on advanced harmony? I’m happy to work with you on that if you’re interested, it will explain most of this stuff.

In the last 4 bars of ‘Tune Up’ I think E-7 as a short modulation or “reminder” of the key Dmaj, and F7 just a V of Bbmaj7, where it resolves.