Foundations Practice Guide
Welcome to this practice guide for the Jazz Piano Foundations Course.
Below this video you can download these PDF practice plans, which cover all of the important exercises and drills to master the theory in this course.
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.
Slot 1 – The 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 helps us greatly as we are exposed to more challenging jazz theory and concepts.
- 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
The key exercise is to be able to play all 12 major scales in 5 minutes. Start with just the right hand and aim to hit all 12 keys in 5 minutes. Then focus on the left hand and again aim to hit all 12 keys in 5 minutes. Then the next step is to play them both hands together.
The “drill variations” such as the interval drills are alternate exercises that we can experiment with once we have mastered the core exercise.
Perhaps we could spend 5 minutes just on 1 interval such as 3rds, and take this around all 12 keys. Then the next day we could pick a different interval. Remember this is a gradual process.
Slot 2 – The 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 give in my opinion much nicer 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 – Triads
Memorising all 12 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
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
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
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
Remember To Play The Jazz Standards
For the remainder of your practice time, we must watch the recommended jazz standard lessons on this plan. They can be found in this course, and also the Beginner Jazz Standard Arrangements Course.
Playing the jazz standards is the more enjoyable side of learning jazz and it is where we apply the theory. The jazz standard studies are a core part of the PianoGroove learning method so ensure you are working on both the theory drills, and the recommended standards.
Major Scale Diatonic 7th Chords File Type: pdf
12 Major Scales Worksheet File Type: pdf
36 Minor Scales Notation File Type: pdf
Triads Notation & Worksheet File Type: pdf
7th Chords In All 12 Keys File Type: pdf
Major Scale Fingerings PDF File Type: pdf
Foundations PDF Practice Planner File Type: pdf
For more inspiration and ideas check out the related forum thread for this lesson where you can find additional drills and exercises submitted by our students and teachers.
Follow this plan until you are comfortable with the theory exercises. This will take time so don’t expect it to happen overnight.
Always remember that mastering these exercises is a gradual process that you will take over many months or even years.
Don’t worry about getting them 100% right now, because when you practice other more advanced jazz theory, you will always be revisiting and refining your knowledge in these foundational topics.
When playing jazz standards, take the time to identify each note of the chord, say to yourself "that's the 3rd", "that’s the 7th" etc… and gradually you will build an awareness of where everything is located.
Hayden, when did you add the Foundations Practice Guide? I had finished this course a while ago, and just saw it in discussion. It’s really fantastic, just what I needed to help pull things together and establish a routine. Sometimes I play along too much with the standards and use it like a crutch…unable to play without following along with the video, but this will really help to ground my knowledge of the underlying theory and take me back to revisit how well I know what I think I know…
The video makes this look like a really useful result – I can’t see the download link though!
I have practice enough on my previous years to get down this foundations…yet i have discovered a few tips…im 100% Suporting the Idea of a total round up and the end of each course. .like this lesson ..it can br a game chances for your students learing journey.
section 2 minor scales – should this not be the major scale a minor 3rd up (ie Eb is a minor 3rd up from C?)
This is very helpful Hayden – thank you ! 🙂
Hi Hayden. I’m trying to get through this practice guide and doing pretty good I think. Is there a lesson I should be following simultaneously on how to actually play a jazz standard? thanks
When should I move on from these lessons drills? In addition, I noticed that there are also more drills for my next set of lessons (extended chords). Should I append them to the existing set of lesson drills (jazz foundations)? How should I practice moving forward?
Is there any way to improve Sight-reading? I am very poor at this? IS there any way to train your mind to improve coordination?
I am just now learning the triads. One of the ways I’ve been thinking about how to learn to visualize them is to think of the relative keys of the C Major scale.
We know C Major is all white keys, so I can quickly reference in my head C, Dm, Em, F, G, Am should all be only the white keys. Bm is the exception because for the C Major Scale it has a flat 5 due to it being the 7th scale degree.
Then from there we know that the fifth of those triads is always a white key, so their minor major counterpart should only have one black key for the third interval. Cm, D, E, Fm, Gm, A, all have a black key for the third. B will have two black keys this time, for same reason as mentioned before.
As for the black keys… I’m still trying to come up with a good system lol.
Great lesson series!
I was wondering how important it is to learn the scales/arpeggios over different octaves or different time signatures. And at what speed do you propose to practice them?
see the pdf for the practice plan but I don’t see the pdf for the scale fingerling, where is it?
A couple of questions:
– For the minor scales – do we need to do the intervals thing as with the major scales – ie 3rds, 4ths, etc, or is just finding the scales and playing them enough? It says ‘intervals, patterns’ – perhaps that’s the answer? In which case which minor scales should we do the intervals for? All of them for all intervals? That’s quite a lot of time I would think
– How much range should we be playing each exercise for? For intervals – is covering all notes of the scale over 1 octave enough? For triad/7th inversions, do we just cover all the inversions once, or should we go up for a couple of octaves? Same with arpeggios I guess.
Where do I find the correct fingerings for each of the scales?
I have a question about fingering. AT 12:00 you’re playing the triads 1-3-5 …whereas for the inversion practice you’re starting with 1-2-3. I’m used to playing triads in root position with fingers 1-3-5. Is it important to get used to 1-2-3? Which feels like a very wide spread between the index and middle finger?