Session 1

Music is created with three main ingredients - tune, harmony & rhythm. Each of these may be used in isolation - an unaccompanied tune, a harmonic pattern without melody or rhythm, or a rhythmic pattern played as a solo. Each ingredient has its own integrity but in most music all three ingredients are used together to create the inspiration which is capable of lifting us 'out of ourselves' as players or listeners. Music is able to transcend our normal moods and bring healing to our inner being.

The building material for all melody comes from the familiar sequences of notes which we normally describe as scales. Scales form the basic vocabulary of music and consequently a musician who is not familiar with the basic scales in all twelve keys has not yet learned the basic language of music. Melodies and improvisations are based upon scales or scale fragments.

The mood or 'colour' of a scale is created by the relative positions of the tones and half-tones which make up the scale. Hence the familiar diatonic major scale has the sequence T,T,H,T,T,T,H. (T = Tone; H = Halftone). This is also known as the Ionian mode. This phenomenon was known by the ancient Greeks and therefore the names given to many of the different scale forms are Greek. Here are the modes illustrated in the key of C major. Throughout the course the sounds may be heard by clicking on the manuscript.

music score 2

Dorian Mode , D - D

Phrygian Mode , E - E

Lydian Mode , F - F

Mixolydian Mode , G - G

Aeolian Mode, A - A

Locrian Mode, B - B

Harmony is created by sounding more than one note simultaneously. The most common harmonies are created with three notes played as a 'triad' which is formed from the first, third and fifth notes of the scale. The most frequently occurring triads are called major, minor, diminished and augmented.


As with scales, different moods and colours are suggested by various harmonies. Major chords are generally bright, minor chords are dark, diminished chords rather sinister and augmented chords are optimistic. The harmony which we normally associate with jazz is created by adding the seventh note of the scale to the triad.


Alternative symbols
Cmaj7 = CM7
C7 = C (dominant 7)
Cm7 = C-7
Cdim7 = C

Notice that Cdim7 is formed by adding the sixth note of the scale to the diminished triad. (It can be thought of as flattening the seventh twice).
Augmented sevenths are not included here.

Click here to download a Chord Chart which you may use for practice and reference.

Rhythm is provided in order to make the music 'swing'. The great Duke Ellington wrote a famous tune entitled 'It Don't Mean a Thing if it Ain't Got That Swing'. This title could be a suitable credal statement for any Jazz musician - I think Mozart would also agree. Just as it is important for the drummer to be able to appreciate and play tunes and chords, so it is vital that every Jazz musician should be able to tap out the complex rhythms which are used by jazz drummers. (3 against 2, and 3 against 4). It is also important for reading at sight that all musicians are able to 'count' the note values confidently.
The C-jam Blues by Duke Ellington is a simple chord sequence with a very simple tune. Use the blues scale in C as a basis for improvisations. music score 1

The following exercises are recommended for practice.

1 Play each mode of the scale of C on a piano, using one octave only, in right and left hand separately at first and then together. Listen and feel the distinctive mood of each sequence. Other instruments do likewise with the appropriate hand.

2 Choose a particular track from a recording of Oscar Peterson, Miles Davis or Charlie Parker and sing the tune, improvised line, bass line, and tap out the drum rhythm along with the recording.

click to proceed to Session 2