#1 - Jazz Piano Foundations Practice Planner

(Hayden Hill) #1

Welcome to the Jazz Piano Foundations Practice Planner.

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_Plan.pdf (1.9 MB)

Split Your Practice Time Into Small Chunks

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.

The Video Demonstration

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.

Slot 1 – The Major Scales

how-to-practice-major-scales

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

Slot 2 – The Minor Scales

how-to-practice-minor-scales

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

Slot 3 – Major & Minor Triads

how-tp-practice-triads

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

Slot 4 – 7th Chords

how-to-practice-7th-chords

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

Slot 5 – Diatonic 7th Chords

how-to-practice-diatonic-7th-chords

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.

Slot 6 – The Major 251 Progression

how-to-practice-major-251

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

Enjoy following this practice plan. Understand that you will be developing at these exercises over the course of many years. Don’t expect this to happen overnight!

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(Natasha Moszenin) #2

Thanks @Hayden, this is very useful and it is actually a bit challenging to have to practise scales in separate hands !
When doing the intervals in major and minor scales, they should be diatonic intervals, is that correct ?
I think you mentioned that you had also prepared a 2 hour practice planner, is this also available ?

Cheers, Natasha

(Hayden Hill) #3

Hey Natasha :wave:

Yes that is correct… drill through with diatonic intervals, this will help you see scales from a non-linear perspective. Other variations can be to play up the scale in triads, or in 7th chords like in Practice Slot 5.

And yes for a 2-hour slot, my idea was simply to double the allocated time, so instead of 5 mins on each exercise and 30 mins jazz standard studies, we would do 10 mins on each exercise, and 1 hour jazz standard studies.

I recommend a 50/50 split between theoretical studies and jazz standards so that each session you are working on the theory, and also playing the more enjoyable and rewarding jazz standard arrangements.

Hope this helps and any further questions just let me know.

(Sean Dokko) #4

Hey Hayden,

I’m currently working through these exercises right now. And I think they’re great, but I do think 5 minutes is not enough time. The reason being, is that it takes a lot of mental workload to switch context between exercises so quickly. I would recommend students (especially beginners like me) to try doing 30 minutes of one or two exercise slots, and a standard, instead of all 5 slots.

Cheers

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(Hayden Hill) #5

Great idea Sean.

I think that ultimately, we all learn in different ways, and there is no one-size-fits all so always follow what you are feeling is most beneficial and giving you the best results.

I appreciate that 5 minutes is not a long time for the exercises, particularly as a beginner.

However, the more you do them, you should find you can drill through them quicker are are able to attack all the keys in that time frame.

One of the reasons I set this breakdown is that multiple teachers of mine - all very accomplished musicians - all had the same recommended plan outline, which is:

lots of topics, and a little time on each.

For me personally, the jazz standards have always been extremely important and help me to really memorise and internalise the theory through practical application. This is why I personally recommend a half/half split theory/jazz standards. This is what i enjoyed doing.

Another thing, if you have 2 hours, then simply double up each time slot of each exercise to 10 minutes. Or perhaps reduce the jazz standard element and beef up the theory time slots

The sheet is just a guide, so you don’t need to follow it religiously, simply use it for inspiration and to find out what works for you.

Always here to help and give me opinion on any other comments or questions Sean.

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(Sean Dokko) #6

Thanks for the feedback. You’re right, in that everyone has different learning styles. I’ll try to take your advice about “lots of topics, and a little time on each” when I’m able to make the exercises stick a little bit better in my head.

(Hayden Hill) #7

My pleasure Sean.

Perhaps do 3 of the drills, and spend more time on each, and then the next day, do the other 3.

Some of these exercises are tricky and I make mistakes running through them. For example, inverting the different 7th chords up and down in certain keys, I will often have to pause to find the voicing, or I play the wrong note, and that’s totally fine. It shows me the ones I need to work on and after all that’s what practice is for.

I’d also recommend that you experiment with the Chord Extensions Practice Plan. Download that PDF Practice Plan Here:

Chord_Extensions_Practice_Guide.pdf (1.9 MB)

And the course page is here:

The topics in the Foundations Course, and the Chord Extensions Course are very much interrelated. Such as learning the major scales numerically in the Foundation Course, and then using that information to identify the 9th (or 2nd :wink:) in each key to create those beautiful 9th chords.

I think it’s nice to be working on these exercises/drills in tandem even if you feel it’s ‘beyond you’ right now. Alternate the plans on different days, make sure you are hitting up all keys, not just C, F, G Bb, Eb etc… sometimes start in F#, B, E, A, despite those keys being less common in the jazz standard repertoire.

It will be tough, you will feel the cogs in your brain grinding as you are doing these drills. That is a good thing!! Effectively, we are learning a new language… an awesome one that gives us complete freedom to express ourselves musically. So it does take time.

A little each day, on many different exercises, and you will see gradual, but real improvements

And finally, just have fun playing the jazz standards. That’s always been something that’s kept me engaged and enjoying studying jazz.

Hope this helps dude :sunglasses:

(Marcol) #8

Hello
I just started the “jazz piano foundations” and I thank you very much about the beginner practice plan. It is very useful.
Major scales : About playing the intervals with major scales( 3rds, 4th, 5ths, 7ths), do I use any fingering ? Example : For the thirds, is it 1-3, 1-3,1-3…, or 1-3, 2-4, 3-5 ?
Playing intervals with left hand has no importance ? And both hands ?

Minor scales: Do I practice the minor scales only with the right hand ? About left hand and both hands ?
Practicing minor scales up and down and intervals : It is OK with the right hand.
What does it mean patterns in your practice planner ?

You did not speak about Dorian mode of the minor scale in the video concerning the minor scales. The Dorian mode appears only in the beginner practice plan. But it does not matter.
Marc

(Marcol) #9

Hello

About inversions of triads and 7th chords, is it necessary to practice inversions with both hands ?

I think that playing inversions with both hands takes much more time than with one hand .
But playing inversions with both hands is better to make progress.
What do you think ?

Marc

(Hayden Hill) #10

Hey Marc :wave:

I would recommend using whatever feels comfortable for interval exercise. Of course you can see my fingering as an example. Also remember that different fingerings might be more suited to different keys/scales.

The main purpose of that exercise is to be able to visualise the intervals within the scale, so that we are not always playing the scale as a linear set of notes, which often doesn’t sound very musical.

@Charles_Hill shared an awesome resource on scale fingering, check it out here: https://www.pianoscales.org/ - this website contains images and fingerings for a wide selection of scales so I’d recommend bookmarking this resource.

I would say that the exercise is more important in the right hand and will help you to see scales differently when creating right hand melodies.

However, left hand practice can certainly be beneficial. Personally it is not something that I have spent much time on, and I think the amount of time you have to practice would come into account here.

The idea with the practice plan is that you get through 6 different theory topics in one sitting, and so to start, I’d recommend just doing right hand, and then if you have the time to pay more attention to this exercise, you could incorporate the left hand, and even both hands together.

Again, the same applies here.

Start with your right hand, and if once you are comfortable with that, you could incorporate the left hand and both hands.

The key is getting through all of the exercises in the practice plan Marc, so that each day you are working on all 6 topics.

Whilst scales can be an effective tool to use in the left hand when playing jazz piano, my opinion is that it would be much more beneficial to have them memorised in your right hand as a priority.

a pattern could be any repeating sequence of notes.

As a simple example using scale degrees 1234567 : R-2-3 then 2-3-4 then 3-4-5 then 4-5-6 then 5-6-7 then 6-7- and back to Root.

That is a very simple example, perhaps you could experiment with the diatonic triads within the scale, up and down, then inversions of these triads. Just as an example for inspiration.

By “pattern” this could be any sequence of notes and then repeating this idea throughout the scale. Again the goal here is to ensure you are not simply running up and down scales in a linear fashion.

Yes we have a course on modal theory here, it is in our “intermediate” jazz piano lessons:



Yes I feel that it is much more important to practice triads and 7th chords in the left hand, than it is for scales. I would recommend practicing both hands here.

As you highlight, practice time can be a constraint, and so make sure you are not starting in the same keys every time you practice. Perhaps focus on 3 or 4 keys in one practice sessions, and then move onto the next 3 or 4 keys next session etc…

Another very important point Marc…

It is a big task to learn the triads and 7th chord inversions in all 12 keys. It is a gradual process that takes months or even years and one that you will be working on simultaneously as you progress through the PianoGroove syllabus.

For example, when we play rootless voicings, we are also working on 7th chords, and when we play upper structure triad voicings, we are also working on our recognition of triads and the potential inversions:

So you will always be revisiting this foundational theory and improving as you progress through the PianoGroove syllabus.

Do not worry about having all inversions 100% perfect in all 12 keys and do not let this stop you from moving onto the next practice plan on Extended Chords & Voicings:

In fact, I recommend that students can work on 2 practice plans simultaneously, because many of the topics are interrelated.

Once you feel comfortable with the Foundations Plan, and you can see improvement, then perhaps alternate your practice sessions, 1 day on Foundations Plan, 1 day on Extended Chords Plan, then repeat.

I hope this helps Marc, if you would like me to elaborate on anything above just let me know.

(Marcol) #11

Thank you very much for all your quick answer.
Another question about exercices intervals:
Suppose we are in the key of F ( with Bb) . I want to play an exercise about perfect fifths with my right hand.
F -C, G-D…,
What is the fifth of E , is it B or Bb ? If you want a perfect fifth (31/2 step), it is B . But B is not in the key of F . It is Bb which is in the key of F. What can I do ?
Marc

(Marcol) #12

Hi hayden
Can I consider practice session of 3 keys ( 6 topics) during one week and three other keys during the next week…and so on ?
Marc

(Hayden Hill) #13

Hey Marc :wave:

The Bb major scale contains Eb - the notes are Bb-C-D-Eb-F-G-A-Bb

When doing these exercises, you must think of diatonic intervals, ie. just the notes from the Bb Major Scale.

If the note is Eb and you are in the key of Bb, then a 5th above would be the root Bb…

Eb-F-G-A-Bb (count 4 notes above in the scale).

I would recommend doing all 6 exercises every time you sit down at the piano.

That will get you the best result :+1: :+1:

(Marcol) #14

Thank you Hayden. I understand.

(Marcol) #15

Hi hayden
OK. You recommend all 6 exercises that I must do for each key (72 exercises for all keys).
But how many keys you suggest to do each day ? Is it three keys by day ? I start by C, F, Bb. But I think that I need at least three days to practice well all these exercises of the three keys (18 exercises).

Marc

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(Hayden Hill) #16

Hi Marc,

The idea is that you build up to where you can complete each exercise in the 5 or 10 minute slot - depending on how long your practice session is.

To start with, you might only be able to get through 3 of the keys for a specific exercise. For example the keys C, F, & Bb … That’s fine.

Next session pick the next 3 keys which could be Eb, Ab, & Db. Keep going until you have covered all 12 keys.

Then try and get through 4 keys in one practice slot. Then 5, then 6, etc…

This is a gradual process.

Each exercise is not ‘set in stone’ - you can make up your own drills and variations if you like.

The plans we have created are just to give some general guidance and provide insight on the types of drills and variations you can do.

The most important thing is that you are splitting your practice time into small chunks, and covering lots of different areas.

Hope this helps! :+1:

(Guy Philippe Décarie ) #17

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?

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(Hayden Hill) #18

Hi Guy :wave:

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 :grin: 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 :+1:

Hayden

(Guillaume Fauconnier) #19

Hello !

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.

Cheers !
–Guillaume–

(Hayden Hill) #20

Good question Guillaume.

Here’s some ideas to add variety and complexity to that exercise:

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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:

  1. 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.

  2. 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 :slight_smile:

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