Studying Jazz Piano with Paul Abrahams: The first golden rule

Studying Jazz Piano with Paul Abrahams

Golden rule number 1 when studying jazz piano:

1               When studying jazz piano, learn all your major and minor scales.

Major             Major scales run horizontally through major II – V – I sequences.

Don’t avoid the flat keys; they come up all the time!

Studying Jazz Piano with Paul Abrahams
II-V-I sequence in Eb

 Minor            Although there are three minor scales, you should focus on the harmonic and melodic minor. Here they are in A. Note the difference.

Studying Jazz Piano with Paul Abrahams
Harmonic and melodic minor scales

The harmonic minor can be used horizontally over minor II – V – I sequences.

studying jazz piano

The melodic minor is your building block for scales that can be played over a dominant 7 chord. Here are two of them: the Lydian Dominant and the Altered, both based on A Melodic minor.

Note that the two following scales, D Lydian Dominant, and Ab Altered, share the same notes.

D lydian dominant and Ab altered.
Lydian dominant and altered scales

The Lydian Dominant scale, with its #4, works well when a dominant 7 chord is static (not pointing to its tonic).  Here’s an example where I’m playing the D Lydian Dominant scale over a D7 chord.

The sharpened 7.

The Altered scale works well over a dominant 7 when it resolves to the tonic.

This scale contains all the altered notes: b9, #9, #11 and b13.

Here’s a II – V– I sequence in Db major.

studying jazz piano

I realize that Db major is not the friendliest of keys but there are tunes, such as Body and Soul, that are usually played in this key. Remember that brass players like playing in the flat keys. Guitar players often play In A and E. Us keyboard players have a tendency to opt for C, G and F so get out of your comfort zone.

So when studying jazz piano ensure that you are familiar with all major and minor keys.

Find out more about the II – V – I sequences here.

Buy Learn Jazz Piano eBooks here.

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