dedicated to the art of piano improvisation

Lesson 1

Lesson 1 introduces simple chords and harmonies using the root and shells of three easy chords.  I introduce the concept of the bass moving in 4ths and set some scale practice.  The scales are designed to go with the G7, C7 and F7 chords and we start thinking about intervals, especially the 7-8 tone interval in the dominant 7th scale. 

  • Simple 7th chords and shells for G7, C7, F7
  • Progression of 4ths from G to C to F
  • Dominant 7 scales for G, C, F
  • TMA1.1 Simple Root + shell piece from chord sheet + scales

Lesson 2

In this lesson I add two more chords to your repertoire and we work on voicings that include the root and 7th in the left hand and the bass rising a 4th.  The root and 7th in the LH underpin the exercises and the progression V-I is introduced.  The cycle of 4ths now extends from D7 to Bb7.  The mixolydian mode is named now and the scales are used as the basis of melodies and improvisation over 2 chords.  Riffs, sequences, question and answer and clapping in the drum breaks all get you thinking about building right-hand solos. 

  • V-I progression for G7-C, F7-Bb, D7-G,C7-F
  • Shell for D7 to Bb, extending the cycle of 4ths
  • Dominant 7 scales for D7, Bb7
  • Improvising using sub-sets of notes over V-I
  • Riffs, sequences and question/answer
  • Clapping and keeping time
  • Mixolydian Mode
  • TMA 1.2 Improvising over V-I harmony, building riffs

Lesson 3

Lesson 3 starts with some basics on jazz beats – straight 8s and swing.  Rootless voicings are introduced for the first time and backing tracks are provided with bass lines.  Building on shells, the C blues using shells. The minor 7th scale is introduced.  Having learnt the patterns we move the C blues to the key of F.  Comping patterns and an assignment to provide the piano in a trio complete the lesson. 

  • Straight and swing rhythm – playing to a beat
  • Rootless voicings
  • C blues using shells and the minor scale
  • Moving the shell pattern to F blues
  • New chords, A7 and Eb7
  • Comping styles and patterns
  • TMA 1.3 Comping to a drum track using rootless voicings

Lesson 4

Lesson 4 adds dominant 9th and 13th and starts using minor scales. 

  • Dominant 9ths and 13ths
  • Minor scales Dm7, Gm7, Cm7, Fm7
  • Cycle of 4ths using m7 and dominant 7ths.
  • Minor pentatonic and the blues scale
  • TMA 1.4 Add the minor pentatonic to the blues to build a more sophisticated blues.  Add 5th and 9ths to the LH shells.

Lesson 5

Building on our blues we add some harmony substitutions and start looking at the right-hand solo.  The C blues is enhanced with a VI-II-V substitution and the left hand uses 9ths and 13ths.   In the right-hand you learn how to outline the harmony by learning the shells and scales for each chord.   We extend our chord repertoire to include E7 and Eb7 and have a go at taking the cycle of 4ths round the loop.  Having made up riffs and melodies on the 12-bar you take the whole exercise to F for the assignment. 

  • Left-hand voicings for 9ths and 13ths.  12-bar substitution – VI (V of II)-II-V-I
  • Soloing using Dominant 7 and blues scales
  • Repeated patterns
  • Emphasising harmonic changes in your tunes
  • Two new chords E7 and Eb7, cycle of 4ths using 9th-13th right round the loop.
  • TMA 1.5 F blues to a drum track, solos and LH 3-note voicings

Lesson 6

Lesson 6 builds on our harmony by adding ‘fourthy’ right hand and the classic two handed voicings for 9ths and dominant 13ths.  The blues scale and simple chords allow the trio to finish with a simple F blues for which the pupil supplies rootless ‘fourthy’ voicings 

  • Spicing up the Dominant 7th chord with two-handed 5-note voicings.
  • 1-7, 3-6-9 voicings for maj 7th and dom 7ths
  • New chords for B7 and Ab7
  • Major 7th and 9th chords in various voicings
  • Bossa rhythm using changes from first line of ‘Ipanima’.
  • Tri-tone substitution explained.
  • TMA 1.6 F and Bb Blues with 5 part rootless voicings and VI-II-V substitution

Lesson 7

Lesson is all about the II-V-I sequence and provides a backing track that exercises the keys we know so far.  The right hand is encouraged to enhance the changes with some solo ideas and the concepts of building shape into solos is introduced.  The assignment provides a II-V-I foundation for building on guide tones and solo ideas. 

  • Major II-V-1 for keys E,D,C, Bb and A,G,F,Eb
  • New chords for F#7 and Db7, cycle of 4ths from F# to Db using rooted voicings + 3-6-9, rootless dom 9ths, rootless minor 9th.
  • More on guide tones
  • Practicing II-V-I
  • Play along piece, Easy II-V-I
  • Ideas for the RH.  Repeating riffs for each key.
  • TMA 1.7 Comping in Bb for saxophones etc. and using II-V-I

 Lesson 8

In lesson 8 we introduce minor II-V-I progressions and learn the jazz standard ‘Autumn Leaves’ as an example of II-V-I in a real tune.  Minor 6ths chords as used in the Miles Davis version are offered as an alternative to Minor 7. 

  • Minor II-V-I in Cm, Dm, Fm and Gm
  • Guide tones again
  • Examples of II-V-I in standards
  • Use of 6th in minor chords.
  • TMA 1.8 A Jazz Standard – Autumn Leaves

Lesson 9

In lesson 9 there is no new chords to learn or scales – just ideas for solos.  Techniques used to add interest are discussed but the player is encouraged to find his/her own way.  Modal pieces are introduced – bass rising a minor third and other variations. 

  • How to play solos.
  • Ideas such as hammering-on, runs, turns and octaves.
  • Consecutive 4ths and 5ths – Horace Silver’s ‘Song For My Father’
  • Left-hand vamps with examples from Jarrett and Svensson.
  • Modal Pieces such as ‘So What’ and an original modal composition.
  • Playing in 5/4
  • TMA 1.9 Modal Assignment based on an original composition in Dm.

Lesson 10

Exotic chords such as b9, #9, b5,#5, and other decorations of the dominant 7th.  Poly chords are introduced as a quick way to find interesting chords.  The final assignment is to improvise an intro, comp and do a solo over the changes for Gershwin’s ‘I’ve Got Rhythm’ using #9, b9 and other altered chords. 

  • Exotic Dominant 7ths, #9, b9, #b5 etc.
  • Altered scales
  • #9 chords, cycle of 4ths
  • Poly chords for 13th #9, 13th  b9 b5
  • TMA 2.0  Rhythm changes with your own altered dominant chords


 On successful completion you will be mailed a certificate and a bonus CD containing backing tracks for a ‘standard’ repertoire.  If you have any favourites they will be included if at all possible.