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Q

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation

(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com
Far too many music educators avoid jazz improvisation because improvisation is too often perceived as
unstructured, unorganized, lacking theory, content, form, or even meaning - but true improvisors have an
uncanny knowledge of music theory, scales, chords, music structure, form and how to apply that knowledge to
improvisation. This enables them to change keys, change styles, embellish, arrange on the spot, and create or
compose their own musical ideas, themes, melodies, and songs using music theory as their base.
I do not consider myself an expert by any means and I am striving to learn as much as I can and improve my
own understanding of improvisation. In this handout, I will share some of what I have learned about Jazz
Improvisation. For more free handouts, worksheets, free music (arrangements and original compositions), and
a more detailed list of music resources for music educators (primarily piano teachers) music students
(primarily piano students) and parents, please visit musicmotivation.com.
= 1 - Swing Rhythm = 1 & 2 & 3 & 4 & - Why not just write it out? (e.g. 1 & a 2 & a 3 & a 4 & a)

When jazz music is written out and played 1 & a 2 & a, etc., it sounds like a classical musician trying to
play jazz music. It sounds unnatural, too rigid and forced, and loses the jazz feel about the piece.
3

Swing the 8ths or


long

Typically you will see one or the other. Both are telling the musician to play the eighth notes unevenly.
Try the example below to get the feel of swinging eighth notes.

short

long

short

long

short

long

short

As you play, think or even say the words: long short - long - short - long - short - long - short, to
help you play it.

The eighth notes are played unevenly. The first eighth note is held longer than the second eighth note. They
follow a pattern of long - short - long - short - long - short - long - short. Its an easier way to notate the music
- otherwise the notation would be much more complicated and actually would not work (but you should still learn
how to count and play those more challenging rhythms as well - youll get there). I tell students to think of, what I call, the
Drunken Sailor effect. Everything is slurred and blended together. To help you feel the swing rhythm, play

the blues pentascale below. These are the first five notes of the C blues scale (C E F F G).

= 2 - Blue Notes = (e.g. E and B or the 3rd and 7th notes. Anytime you flat a third or a seventh, you create

blue notes. Try playing a major third interval (C and E) but slide the third finger down from the E flat.
= 3 - Grace Notes, Crushed Notes, and Hammerings (whats the difference?):

Grace Notes ( ) = A note printed in small type to indicate that its time value is not counted in the rhythm of the bar
and must be subtracted from that of an adjacent note. - Harvard Concise Dictionaty of Music and Musicians

Crushed Notes ( ) = A note played simultaneously with the following note and released immediately. - Dr. Bert
Konowitz, Listen and Play Blues Keyboard

Hammerings ( ) = A technique of decorating chords and intervals with appoggiatura. This technique was first used
by Blues and Country guitarists. In the late Fifties hammering on the piano was made popular by country-pianist Floyd
Cramer. Hammerings make chord playing more relaxed and make things more melodic and playful... - 1000 Keyboard
Tips, Dreksler and Harle (published by Mel Bay).
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page 2

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation


(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com

= 4 - Chords to learn/know (in all keys and all inversions). This is no where near complete (there are many more)!
(All of these exercises in this handout are in the Cool Exercises for Cool Kids series {volumes 1, 2, and 3} by Jerald M. Simon)

Cm

C dim

C M7
3

C mM7

C7

C aug

C m7

C sus4

C sus2

C m7 5

C m7 5
th

(half diminished 7 )

C Maj6

C dim7

C min6

(whole diminished 7th)

Now do the above chords in all inversions (root, first, second, and third inversions) blocked (notes played
together at the same time) and broken (notes played one after another - not together as in an arpeggio) in all
keys. Its important to know these chords and all their positions/inversions in all keys from memory. If you
can play these looking at the music that is wonderful and I applaud you, but to be good with improvisation, you
must know these by heart - not just in your brain - but in your fingers too. This is the age old debate about
mental versus muscular musicality. You may know how to create the chords and the theory behind the chords,
but do your fingers know how to automatically adjust to each chord? It takes practice, but its worth it!
= 5 - Seventh Chords created from the C Major Scale (do in all keys). There are five main types of 7th

chords: major, dominant, minor, half-diminished and diminished. There are several alterations of 7th
chords such as augmented seventh chords, that is, the 5th may be raised. The 5th interval may be raised
or lowered as well as the 7th interval. Major, minor, or dominant 7th chords may have the 4th suspended.

(Blocked & Broken)

Seventh Chords

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* From the book An Introduction to Scales and Modes (second edition) by Jerald M. Simon ($14.95)

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation

page 3

(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com
= 6. - Modes (do you know your modes?) I D P L M A L (I Dont Play Like My Aunt Louise)

In every scale there are different modes (think of scales within scales). An easy way to understand a mode
is to think of it as a mood. We can be in good moods and in bad moods. When we play a song or piece in a
different mode, a different mood is produced. It could be a happy, sad, strange, peaceful, violent, tired, or
thoughtful mood, but with music it all depends on the modes.
To create the mode, you simply start on one of the notes and go until you play the same note an octave
higher. As an example, there are eight notes from C - C, D - D, E - E, F - F, G - G, A - A, and B - B. All of
these modes are played using the same sharps or flats in the given key signature (in this case it would be the
key of C - no sharps of flats).
First let me teach you a simple phrase: I Dont Play Like My Aunt Louise!.

I Dont Play Like My Aunt Louise!


=

I
ii
iii
IV
V
vi
vii

I
* D
P
L
* M
A
L
*

Memorize each of these for each of the modes!


Once you have it memorized, it is the same for every key signature.

= Ionian = the major scale


= Dorian = take the major 3 and major 7 down a half step
= Phrygian = take the major 2 , major 3 , major 6 , and major 7 down a half step
= Lydian = take the perfect 4 up a half step
= Mixolydian = take the major 7 down a half step
= Aeolian = take the major 3 , major 6 , and major 7 down a half step
= Locrian = take the major 2 , major 3 , perfect 5 , major 6 , and major 7 down a half step
(e.g. CDEFGABC)
rd

th

nd

(e.g. DEFGABCD)

rd

th

th

(e.g. EFGABCDE)

(e.g. FGABCDEF)

th

(e.g. GABCDEFG)

rd

nd

th

th

rd

th

th

(e.g. ABCDEFGA)

th

th

(e.g. BCDEFGAB)

* Dorian, Mixolydian, and Ionian are the three most used modes because they relate to the ii-V-I chord progression (primary jazz chord progression)

Whenever I teach modes to my piano students or at workshops, seminars, and music camps, I have piano
students learn and memorize the phrase above. I have them repeat it five times. Youll be able to remember
this phrase once youve repeated it five times to yourself. I have everyone pretend they have some aunt named
Louise, who is a phenominal pianist and travels all over the world performing. I then tell them to repeat the
words, I Dont Play Like My Aunt Louise. After I know they have the phrase memorized, I explain the
reason they dont play like Aunt Louise is because they havent learned the modes yet. As soon as they learn
the modes they can be just as good - if not better than Aunt Louise.
Notice how there are seven words and each word is capitalized. If we take out those capitalized letters we
have the first letters of the names of the modes. It is a helpful acronym for: Ionian, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian,
Mixolydian, Aeolian, and Locrian (the seven primary modes used in jazz improvisation).
There are three major modes (Ionian, Lydian, and Mixolydian). I tell my students to say I Love Music to
=
remember the major modes. There are four minor modes (technically three minor modes - Dorian, Phrygian,
Aeolian, and one diminished mode - the Locrian mode). I tell my students to imagine they have a Depressed
PAL to remember the minor modes.
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page 4

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation


(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com

= 7 - Chord/Scale Compatibility (which chords go with which scales?)

Scale Degree

Mode (built from scale degree)

Quality of 7th Chord

I.
II.
III.
IV.
V.
VI.
VII

Ionian
Dorian
Phrygian
Lydian
Mixolydian
Aeolian
Locrian

Major
Minor
Minor
Major
Dominant
Minor
Half-diminished

C Maj7

I (1)

D min7

E min7

ii (2)

iii (3)

IV (4)

Ionian
(C - C)

Dorian
(D - D)

F Maj7

Phrygian
(E - E)

Lydian
(F - F)

G7

A min7

B m7 5

C Maj7

V (5)

vi (6)

vii (7)

VIII (8 or 1)

Mixolydian
(G - G)

Aeolian
(A - A)

Locrian
(B - B)

Ionian
(C - C)

= 8 - Modal Improvisation (left hand plays seventh chords - right hand improvises on a melody using modes)

This is often referred to as Modal Jazz


5

1
2
3
5

by Jerald M. Simon

same fingering on all 7th chords

Try arranging Mary Had a Little Lamb; Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star; Three Blind Mice; Row, Row, Row
Your Boat, and other childrens songs in a modal jazz style. The right hand will play the melody of the piece
while the left hand will play seventh chords created from the major scale of the key signature of the piece (e.g.
in the key of C Major we would play the seventh chords created from the C major scale). In the beginning, as
long as one of the notes in the seventh chord played with the left hand matches the melody played with the right
hand, you are okay. Dont look now, but youre playing modal jazz.
4

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page 5

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation


(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com

= 9 - ii-V-I (the two-five-one chord progression) - this is the most commonly used chord progression

D min7

G7

C Maj7

ii
root

V
2nd

I
root

ii
root

V
2nd

I
root

E 7

A Maj7

ii
root

V
2nd

I
root

G Maj7

ii
root

V
2nd

I
root

C7

F Maj7

ii
root

V
2nd

I
root

E Maj7

ii
root

V
2nd

I
root

A 7

D Maj7

ii
root

V
2nd

I
root

E min7

B 7

G 7

C Maj7

ii
root

V
2nd

I
root

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D min7

F min7

D 7

25

A min7

G min7

17

B min7

B Maj7

F7

C min7

Jerald M. Simon

page 6

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation


(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com

On the previous page (page 5) I introduced the ii - V - I chord progression (following the circle of fourths).
In classical and traditional music we use the I - IV - V - V7 chord progression or a variation of it (with the
authentic, plagal, and complete cadences). We do so because these are the primary chords (since they are the
only major chords in the sequence of chords created from the major scale - Major, minor, minor, Major, Major,
Minor, Diminished, Major). The other chords are secondary chords (because they are minor with one
diminished). In jazz music, the standard progression is ii - V - I (ii = minor seventh, V = dominant seven, I =
major seventh). As an example, in the key of C major, ii = D minor seventh, V = G seventh (dominant), and I
= C major seventh. Play the ii - V - I chord progression on page 5 in all keys (notice how in jazz music we
follow the circle of fifths in a counter-clockwise motion - this is also known as the circle or cylce of fouths).
Jazz musicians and classical musicians do run in different circles.
Here is an example of modal improvisation where I play a progression of ii - ii (dorian - dorian). Try this in
all keys. If youd like to try this in all keys but dont know if youre ready to play this without music yet, I do
have this available on my website as a free download in all keys at musicmotivation.com.
3

swing it!
D min7


ii

F min7

D M7

D(dorian)

Jerald M. Simon

E min7

ii

ii

F(dorian)

E(dorian)

D(Ionian)

= 10 - Walking Bass Lines (generally the left hand plays quarter notes and the right hand plays eighth notes).

Most of the time the right hand improvises using scales, modes, and chords.

1
3

swing it

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Jerald M. Simon

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation

page 7

On this page, I will give examples of left hand patterns that are found in several of the pieces from some
of my books. I will explain the theory used to create each pattern and challenge the piano students (and their
teachers) to play each example in every key (moving up chromatically in half steps, following the circle/cycle
of 5ths and the circle/cycle of 4ths). The theory used to create each of these patterns apply to all key signatures.
Once you understand how to create the pattern, you can duplicate it in every key. Try it! Have fun with these
left hand patterns. Visit musicmotivation.com for more music.
Barrel House Blues and Extended Barrel House Blues left hand patterns - from Boot Camp Boogie (Cool Songs for Cool Kids volume 2 pg. 8)

The simple barrel house blues left hand pattern is created by playing the
perfect fifth interval (e.g. C and G) followed by the major sixth interval
(e.g. C and A) over and over again. The extended barrel house blues left hand
pattern is created by playing the perfect fifth interval (e.g. C and G)
followed by the major sixth interval (e.g. C and A) then the minor
seventh interval (e.g. C and B flat) followed by the major sixth interval
(e.g. C and A) again. This pattern is also used in Locker Jam and Rock
n Rag (Cool Songs for Cool Kids volume 1 pgs. 17 and 18

The is a pattern of ascending/descending intervals - from The Spy Kid (Cool Songs for Cool Kids volume 2 pg. 10)

This left hand pattern is created by playing the perfect fifth interval
(e.g. C and G) followed by the augmented fifth interval (e.g. C and G
sharp) then the major sixth interval (e.g. C and A) followed by a minor
sixth interval (e.g. C and A flat).

This is the same example as the one above, but two of each of the harmonic intervals are played as eighth notes - from The Spy Kid (pg. 10)

This is a simple walking bass patter (created from a broken C major sixth chord) - from Deck the Halls (Jazzed about Christmas pg. 11)

This is a walking bass pattern created from the C major sixth chord.
Simply break the C major sixth chord apart (broken) and play one note
after another. I used this left hand pattern in Deck the Halls on page
11. It is also used in Jolly Old Saint Nicholas on page 9, but with a
walking bass pattern created from the F major sixth chord.

This is a simple walking bass patter (created from a broken C major sixth chord) - from Deck the Halls (Jazzed about Christmas pg. 11)

This is another walking bass pattern. I used this left hand


pattern in Jingle Bells on page 10, and Joy to the World on
page 14.

This example is like the first example - an extended barrel house blues pattern, but played as eighth notes.


1 (2)
5

1
5

This left hand pattern is from the arrangement of Hark


the Herald Angels Sing (Jazzed about Christmas pg. 12)

1
1

5
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Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation

page 8

(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com
= 11 - Jazz Scales (Modes, Bebop Scales, Harmonic Minor, Melodic Minor, Symmetric, Diminished, Octatonic,

Whole Tone, Major Pentatonic (omits 4th and 7th), Minor pentatonic (begins on 6th), Blues (major/minor)
Most frequently used jazz scales are the pentatonic and blues scales (in addition to the modes which are
used all the time). Blues Scales (major = variation of the pentatonic scale - C D D E G A C)
(minor = minor pentatonic scale plus flat 5th {sharp 4th} - C E F F G B C)
3

Swing it!

First five notes from the blues scale. This can be referred to as a
blues pentascale. Try this in all keys.

Jerald M. Simon

C Blues Pentascale

5
4 3
2 1
2
3 4
5
4 3
2 1
2
3 4

same fingering for all blues pentascales (in all keys)

The blues scale is created using the root/perfect first (e.g. C), a minor 3rd or flat the 3rd (e.g. E ), a perfect 4th
(e.g. F), an augmented 4th or sharp the 4th (e.g. F ), a perfect 5th (e.g. G), a minor 7th or flat the 7th (e.g. B ) and

ending with the tonic (e.g. C). The C blues scale is C E F F G B C.

4 (or 1 when doing more octaves)

Once you feel comfortable playing this scale one octave try two,
three, and four octaves up and down the keyboard. Then, for fun
try playing the blues scale in every key moving up chromatically
in half steps.

Now, lets look at the C major blues scale below. The C major scale is a variation of the C pentatonic scale (where the
4th and 7th have been omitted - C D E G A C). This is a major blues scale because the top four notes (E G A C) create a
C major sixth chord in first inversion.
5

32
1

5
23
1

C Maj. 6th Chord


(1st Inversion)

C Maj. 6th Chord


(1st Inversion)

32
1

5
23
1

1
3

On the next page I have included all of the minor blues scales (with fingering) in all keys. I have not included the major blues scales
in all keys but it should be practiced in all keys as well. Try improvising using the I (C major blues scale), IV (F major blues scale),
and V (G major blues scale). For fun you can add a walking bass left hand pattern created from the C major sixth chord (broken
apart) and adding the minor seventh interval on top (look at page 7 of this handout for a reminder of left hand patterns you can use).

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page 9

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation


(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com

= 12 - Blues Scales (all keys) - try these 1, 2, and 3 octaves up and down the piano!
3

Generally, you will use the circle of fourths (circle of fifths played in a counter-clockwise motion)
when playing blues scales or most jazz progressions. I wrote these examples following the circle of
fifths because it is easier to learn the fingering that way.

C Blues Scale

Jerald M. Simon

Swing it!


1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

1
5

1
5

G Blues Scale

1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

1
5

D Blues Scale

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

A Blues Scale

1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4 3
2 3

2
4

1
5

1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4 3
2 3

2
4

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1
5

1
5




13

1
5

1
1

1
5

1
5

4
2

3
3

1
5



2
4

page 10

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation


(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com

17

E Blues Scale

1
5

1
5

2 3
4 3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4 3
2 3

2 1
4 5

21


B Blues Scale

1
4

2 3
2 1

1 2
3 2

3 4(1) 3
1 2(4) 1

2
2

1 3
3 1

2 1
2 4





3
4

1 2
3 2

3 4
1 3

1 2 1
1 2(4) 1

3 2

1 3

3 1 2 3 4

D Flat (C Sharp) Blues Scale

29

3
4

3 4
1 3

1 2(3) 1
1 2(4) 1

4
3

3 2
1 2

1 3
3 4

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4 3
2 3

2 1
4 5

1
4

2 3
2 1

1 2
3 2

3 4(1) 3
1 2(4) 1

2
2

1 3
3 1

2 1
2 4

1 2
3 2

3 4
1 3

1 2 1
1 2(4) 1

3 2

3
4

1 2
3 2

3 4
1 3

4
3

3 2
1 2

4
2

4
2

1 3
1 3

1 2
1 4

3
3

4 3
2 3

2
4

1 3
1 3

1
1

4
2

1 3
1 3

1 2
1 4

3
3

4 3
2 3

2
4

1 3
1 3

1
1

4
2

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1 3
3 4

A Flat (G Sharp) Blues Scale

1 2(3) 1
1 2(4) 1

1 3

3 1 2 3 4

3
4

33

10

1 2
3 2

1
1

F Sharp Blues Scale

25

4
2

2 3
4 3

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation

page 11

(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com
E Flat Blues Scale

37

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

2
3

3 4(1) 3
2 1 2

2
3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

2
3

3 4(1) 3
2 1 2

2
3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

B Flat Blues Scale

41

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

2
3

3 2(1) 3
2 1 2

2
3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

F Blues Scale

45

1
5

49

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

2
4

4
2

1
1

2
3

3 2(1) 3
2 1 2

2
3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

1
5

3
3

1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

1
5

C Blues Scale


1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

1
5



1
5

2
4

3
3

4
2

1
1

3 4(1) 3
3 1 3

1
1

4
2

3
3

2
4

1
5

Once you can play these in all keys (both hands - one octave) practice playing them in every key
signature 2 - 3 octaves up and down the piano with both hands. Youll get faster and its a lot of fun.
Try it!
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11

page 12

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation


(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com

= 13 - Improvising with the Blues Scales (major and minor). Once students feel comfortable with the major

and minor blues scales, encourage them to improvise with the notes from the scales (any rhythm, any order).
I have my students practice improvising with the major and minor blues scales as often as they can (in all keys). For
improvising with the major blues scale, I have students use a simple walking bass pattern (a broken major sixth chord
with a minor seventh interval added on top - always playing quarter notes) while the right hand improvises on the major
blues scale (which is a variation of the pentatonic scale). This is an example (create your own as well):
3

swing it
2

Jerald M. Simon

To teach my students this walking bass left hand pattern with several variations on the major blues scale (pentatonic), I wrote The
Jazz Song (from the book Jazzed about Jazz - $13.94). Its a fun wild piece that helps them learn these patterns on C, F, and G.

Try the minor blues pentascale (first five notes from the blues scale) below and then the full minor blues scale. I do
this with my own students and have them try to improvise using any notes from the blues scale and any rhythm they want.
3

Minor Blues Penta-scale

(first five notes of rthe scale)

swing it

swing it

Jerald M. Simon

Minor Blues Scale

Jerald M. Simon

12

3 1
2
1
2 3
4
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Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation

page 13

= 14 - 7th chords, 9th chords, 11th chords, and 13th chords

The easiest way to explain chords is to think of them like building blocks. All chords are created using
intervals. An interval is defined as the distance (comprised of whole and half steps) between two notes. The major
scale uses Perfect and Major intervals. The perfect intervals are the primary notes (from which the primary chords
are created) from the major scale (e.g. 1 or C; 4 or F: and 5 or G). The major intervals are the secondary notes
(from which the secondary chords are created) from the major scale (e.g. 2 or D; 3 or E; 6 or A; and 7 or B). Look at the
intervals of the C major scale below (once you feel comfortable playing this exercise in the key of C - try playing it in every key moving
up chromatically in half steps.)

Perfect 1st Major 2nd

Major 3rd

Perfect 4th

Perfect 5th Major 6th

Major 7th

(or unison)

Perfect 8th
(or octave)

Perfect intervals can become a diminished interval by playing the flat (e.g. C and G is a diminished 5th

interval) and an augmented interval by playing the sharp (e.g. C and G is an augmented 5th interval). Major
intervals can become a diminished interval by playing the double flat (C and B is a diminished 7th interval),
can become a minor interval by playing the flat (e.g. C and B is a minor 7th interval), and an augmented
interval by playing the sharp (e.g. C and B is an augmented 7th interval).
Play the seventh chords below. Try figuring out which intervals have been used to create the chords.
C Maj7

D min7

E min7

F Maj7

A min7

B m7 5

G7

C Maj7

This is how I explain 7th, 9th, 11th, and 13th chords to my piano students: Seventh chords are created on top of
basic triad chords (e.g. Major, Minor, Diminished, Augmented, Sus4, Sus2, etc.), 9th chords are created on top
of 7th chords, 11th chords are created on top of 9th chords, 13th chords are created on top of 11th chords. Each of
the previous chords add to following (the same notes are used and added upon). The basic triads, sixth chords,
and seventh chords primarily use inversions when changing the order of the notes (root, first, second, and
third). When we use 9th chords, 11th chords, and 13th chords, we use voicings (where the notes of the chord
are spread between the two hands in different orders and patterns). All chords can be voiced (e.g. basic triads,
sixth and seventh chords). First, lets look at inverting seventh chords.
C Maj7

root

A min7


1st

2nd

3rd

F Maj7

similar

D min7

B m7 5

G7

E min7

C Maj7

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13

Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation

page 14

(the essentials)
by Jerald M. Simon (Music MentorTM)
musicmotivation.com
= 15 - Voicing Seventh Chords.

The example below is a well-known progression of the seventh chords (notice how the chords descend in fifths - e.g.
C - F, F - B, B - E, etc.). The example below was taken from the book Keyboard Wisdom (Theory and Technique) by
Steven Goomas (published by Mel Bay). Its a great book and I highly recommend it to teachers and piano students. Try
playing these seventh chords as they are written out below, then improvise on these progressions.

Jerald M. Simon
C Maj7

B m7 5

E min7

A min7

D min7

G7

C Maj7


C Maj7
3

C Maj7

14

F Maj7

F Maj7

B m7 5

E min7

A min7

D min7

G7

C Maj7

F Maj7

B m7 5

E min7

A min7

D min7

G7

C Maj7

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Getting Started with Jazz Improvisation

page 15

= 16 - Additional topics to study:

Below Ive listed some additional points to study with Jazz Improvisation (there is much more, but this list
will keep you going for a while):
Avoid Note (4th/11th)
The difference between Jazz Harmony and Traditional Classical Practice (look up on Wikipedia)
Mode Harmonization (modal playing with improvised chording)
Melody Harmonization and Reharmonization of chord progressions and basic melodies
Bebop Scales
Harmonic and Melodic Minor Scales with minor seventh chords
Symmetric Diminished/Octatonic Scales
9th Chords (voicings)
11th Chords (voicings)
13th Chords (voicings)
Left-Hand Voicings (rootless voicings for the left hand)
Open and Closed Voicings (blocked and broken chords)
Polychords and Polytonality
Altered Chords
Slash Chords
Chord-Scale Relationships
Connecting Chords (chord progressions, substitutions, etc.)
Chord Jamming
Chord Parallelism (Chords or chord voicings moving in parallel motion)
Chord Functions (basic substitution and function of chords and scales - how they relate)
Major and Minor Key Functions (the purpose of each of the tones of a scale and the related chords)
Tritones and Tritone Substitution (the interval composed of three whole steps, generally between the 3rd
and 7th of a dominant 7th chord)
Upper Structures
Circle of 4ths/Cycle of 4ths
Circle of 5ths/Cylce of 5ths
Spiral of 5ths
Licks, Riffs, Runs, Frills, Tags, Sequence, Stroll,
Finger Memory (muscular memory of what a chord, lick, phrase, pattern, and so on, feels like)
There are, of course, many more topics and areas we could discuss and focus on in great depth. The more
you learn about music, the more you realize you need to learn even more about music, styles, genres, patterns,
progressions, etc. Below Ive included a list of recommended resources (there are many, many more):
The Jazz Theory Book by Mark Levine (Sher Music Co.)
The Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levin (Sher Music Co.)
Keyboard Wisdom (theory & technique) by Steven Goomas (Mel Bay)
Jazz Improvisation for Keyboard Players (complete edition) by Dan Haerle (everything by Dan is amazing)
The Jazz Language (a theory text for Jazz Composition and Improvisation) by Dan Haerle
1000 Keyboard Tips by Dreksler and Harle (Mel Bay)
Jazz Piano Scales and Modes by Misha V. Stefanuk (Mel Bay)
Hal Leonard Keyboard Style Series (various books by various authors) (Hal Leonard)
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P.O. Box 1000 Kaysville, UT 84037 - (801)444-5143

15

Locker Jam

Passed
Off

swing rhythm = long, short, long, short, long, short, long, short,
1

&

&

&

&

Swing it!

by Jerald M. Simon

C7

&

&

&

&

1 & 2 &

3 & 4 &

1
5

pedal simile

F7
1

C7

From the book Cool Songs for Cool Kids (volume 1) by Jerald M. Simon ($10.95).
To purchase the book, visit musicmotivation.com or your local music store.

skill - C and F blues pentascale, perfect 5th, major 6th, and minor 7th intervals

1
5

C7

pedal simile
F7
13

C7

MM00001010

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17

Pogo Stick Punch Out

Passed
Off

STYLE: Jazz

by Jerald M. Simon

=
C

4 &

1 &

2 &

3& 4

&

walking bass created from the major sixth chord with a minor 7th interval on top

10

32

C
(2)

15

Copyright 2011 by Music Motivation visit musicmotivation.com


International Copyright Secured (music monitored by ASCAP)
All rights reserved including the right of public performance for profit

Page 1 of Pogo Stick Punch Out by Jerald M. Simon from the book Cool Songs for Cool Kids (volume 2) by Jerald M. Simon ($10.95).
To purchase the book, visit musicmotivation.com or your local music store.

skill - Key of C Major - walking bass created from the major sixth chord with a minor 7th interval on top



MM00001011

The Gigabyte Guru

Passed
Off

STYLE: Jazz/Walking Bass

skill - L.H. walking bass created from the major sixth chord and the whole-half-half left hand walking bass pattern

cool and easy

& 2

&

& 4 &

Broken C major sixth chord


(simple walking bass)

& 2 &

(2)

& 4 &

Broken F major sixth chord


(simple walking bass)

Page 1 of The Gigabyte Guru by Jerald M. Simon from the book Cool Songs for Cool Kids (volume 2) by Jerald M. Simon ($10.95).
To purchase the book, visit musicmotivation.com or your local music store.

by Jerald M. Simon

Whole-half-half
L.H. walking bass pattern

14

34

Copyright 2011 by Music Motivation visit musicmotivation.com


International Copyright Secured (music monitored by ASCAP)
All rights reserved including the right of public performance for profit


MM00001011

Passed
Off

Boomerang Boogie

Swing with a Bounce


C
1


l.h. legato

Pedal ad-lib throughout the song


4

F9

12

G7

F min

C6

C m7

A 7/C
4

A Maj7

3
2
1

Page 1 of Boomerang Boogie by Jerald M. Simon from the book Jazzed about Jazz by Jerald M. Simon ($13.95).
To purchase the book, visit musicmotivation.com or your local music store.

Jerald M. Simon

C m7

Copyright 2009 by Music Motivation (ASCAP)


International Copyright Secured
All rights reserved including the right of public performance for profit

MM00001004

Summer Skies

Passed
Off

(named after and written for my daughter, Summer)

Jerald M. Simon

C Maj7

D min7

E min7 F Maj7

C Maj7

Pedal ad-lib throughout the song


G7

F M 7a dd9
5

D min7

E min7 F Maj7

similar chord progression


quick
fermata

Page 1 of Summer Skies by Jerald M. Simon from the book Jazzed about Jazz by Jerald M. Simon ($13.95).
To purchase the book, visit musicmotivation.com or your local music store.

Easy Swing (imagine swinging on a swing set)

rit.

A min



F Maj7

13

G
F Maj7





A min

a tempo

18

Copyright 2009 by Music Motivation (ASCAP)


International Copyright Secured
All rights reserved including the right of public performance for profit

MM00001004

Jerald M. Simon
Wild and Upbeat
C7

Section A

(2) (3) (2) (1)


3
4
3 2

I play it Wild and Upbeat, but you may swing it if you prefer

Pedal ad-lib throughout the song


F7

(2)
3

(3)
4

(2)
3

(1)
2

(2)
3

(2)
3

(1)
2

C7

A min7/C

38

13

F7

(3)
4



G7

C7

Page 1 of The Jazz Song by Jerald M. Simon from the book Jazzed about Jazz by Jerald M. Simon ($13.95).
To purchase the book, visit musicmotivation.com or your local music store.

The Jazz Song

Passed
Off

Copyright 2009 by Music Motivation (ASCAP)


International Copyright Secured
All rights reserved including the right of public performance for profit

MM00001004

Check out these best sellers by Jerald M. Simon


Cool Songs for Cool Kids
(primer level)

Cool Songs for Cool Kids


(volume 1)

Cool Songs for Cool Kids


(volume 2)

Cool Songs for Cool Kids


(volume 3)

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MM00001011

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$10.95

$10.95

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Triumphant

Hymns of Exaltation

Sea Fever

Jazzed about Jazz


(volume 2)

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$13.95

$13.95

$13.95

$16.95

Jazzed about Christmas

Jazzed about 4th of July

Variations on
Mary Had a Little Lamb

An Introduction to
Scales and Modes 2nd Edition

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The Music Motivation


Goal Book

Hymns of Exaltation CD

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