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#2317708 - Yesterday at 12:25 PM Jazz Keyboard Harmony by Phil DeGreg
bagatelle Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/15/14
Posts: 4
I have a classical background (lessons for 12 years) but never learned any theory. Don't know the scales, nor any chord progressions, but I can read music. I'd like to eventually be able to comp jazz and play gospel piano. I decided it would be cheaper to teach myself, so I bought several books - most of which seem to skip some basic prerequisite theory concepts.

Out of all of these books, Tim Richards' Improvising Blues Piano seems like the best method, but I can't stay motivated because the blues doesn't sustain my interest. I'm going to keep trying, but in the meantime I would like to still be able to play some nice rich harmonies to make practice more enjoyable.

Jazz Keyboard Harmony seemed like a good option I could work with while going through Richards' book, but I can't get past the preliminary exercises! I was under the impression that you don't need a theory background to use this book, but now I'm beginning to doubt that. I don't know how to fill in the blanks for Exercise #4 on p. 19, "Memorize II-V-I unit in all keys." Where can I learn this? Not only can I not fill in the blanks, but I wouldn't know what F#m7 translates to on the keyboard. Should I memorize all of the scales first? (I did buy Harrison's Piano Fitness book, so I guess I could work through that). Should I work through Levine's Jazz Theory Book first (which I did buy, but the way the information is presented doesn't appeal to my learning style so I haven't used it)? Is there a precursor to Levine's book? I also have Ligon's Jazz Theory Resource I book which is intimidating. If the best approach is to work through one of these books before DeGreg's I will - but I probably won't do it unless you all say I should!

I'm really looking for a step-by-step method to be able to get to the point where I'm ready to work through Jazz Keyboard Harmony. It seems like there has to be an easier way that's still fun and will keep me motivated. I have no idea where to begin, so all tips are welcome.


Piano & Music Accessories
#2317715 - Yesterday at 12:42 PM Re: Jazz Keyboard Harmony by Phil DeGreg [Re: bagatelle]
jjo Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/09/08
Posts: 626
Loc: Chicago
You had 12 years of classical lessons but don't know all 12 key signatures? If the book shows you how to do a II-V-I in one key, figuring that out in all of the other keys should not be difficult. If, for example, the book has it in the key of C, just move everything up a whole step and you've got it D. If the II-V-I started with D minor, just move every note the book shows you up a major third and you're off and running in F# minor. I assume you know the key signatures, but you're just wondering how to translate a particular exercise (a voicing, I assume) to those keys. I'm not saying figuring something out in all keys is easy, but it's doable, and the work you put in will be big rewards.

When I first started jazz with a teacher, she did the same thing. Showed me a voicing for a II-V-I in one or two keys and said go home and figure out the rest.

#2317730 - Yesterday at 01:30 PM Re: Jazz Keyboard Harmony by Phil DeGreg [Re: bagatelle]
chrisbell Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/11/07
Posts: 1336
Loc: Stockholm, Sweden
The II-V-I is the most fundamental chord progression in jazz.

Key of C: Dm7 - G7 - CMaj7

m7: 1 b3 5 b7 (of the scale)
7: 1 3 5 b7
Maj7: 1 3 5 7

A basic way of playing a chord is root and 7 in LH, the "rest" in RH.
There's a way of voicing the chords called rootless, which means that the bass player plays the root, you play the rest of the chord.

What we pianists do is practice all this in different keys, so it means figuring out the voicings on your own

C: Dm7 - G7 - Cmaj7
F: Gm7 - C7 - FMaj7
Bb: Cm7 - F7 - BbMaj7
etc etc

A little about voicings, there are many ways to voice a chord; open, closed, open/closed combined, cluster, etc. Context decides which voicing I would choose.
Two basic ways (Levine calls these A and B):
Dm7 rootless: (D) F A C E - or - (D) C E F A (bottom to top on both voicings).

Feel free to ask questions, it's the only way to learn.

Edited by chrisbell (Yesterday at 01:30 PM)

I never play anything the same way once.


#2317831 - Yesterday at 05:17 PM Re: Jazz Keyboard Harmony by Phil DeGreg [Re: bagatelle]
Michael Martinez Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 393
Loc: California
If you're up for video lessons, you can't do any better than Paul Abrahams site: www.learnjazzpianoonline.com

For books, the best for where you're at are the following:

The Jazz Harmony Book. by David Berkman
The Harmonic Foundation of Jazz. by Jimmie Amadie
Music Educator, Computer Engineer, avid reader of literature, enjoyer of the outdoors

#2318003 - 6 minutes 48 seconds ago Re: Jazz Keyboard Harmony by Phil DeGreg [Re: jjo]
bagatelle Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/15/14
Posts: 4
Originally Posted By: jjo
You had 12 years of classical lessons but don't know all 12 key signatures?

That's correct. I realized once I got older that my teachers never taught me basic theory concepts - for each piece I would just memorize what the sharps and flats were and then read the music. Getting back into it again and gaining this new information has been a real eye opener. I'm excited to learn these concepts.


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