Community Music Center

Introduction to Jazz Theory



This is an introduction to some of the basic elements of jazz, including: chords and chord symbols, lead sheet notation, typical chord progressions, melodic construction, forms, and improvisation using scales, modes and other devices. We will divide the eight-weeks together into three general sections: harmony, melody and form. The class will culminate in the composition of a song in the jazz standard style, done in a group-effort approach.


Please check this page regularly for updates to the informational and assignment links.



Printable version of the following schedule




Topic  & Class Materials

(subject to change as the class evolves)

Assignment Due


June 20

(Review of) harmony: 7th chords, diatonic 7th chords in major/minor keys; the roman numeral system; lead sheet chord symbols


7th chords

Diatonic 7th chords in major and minor keys

Diatonic 7th chords - notated

Diatonic 7th chords – reference table




Alice In Wonderland

All The Things You Are

Autumn Leaves

Fly Me To The Moon

Here's that Rainy Day



June 27

Diatonic chords and chord progressions


*Focusing on the ii V I progression, or fragments like ii V, or V I


Identifying and writing chords I





July 11

More with chords: chord extensions and alterations, chord substitutions and fills*, chord wrap-up


*Altering minor 7th chords – making them dominant 7ths

*Altering the Imaj7 with a I6 chord

*Adding extensions (9th, b9th, #9th), especially to the V chord

*Altering the 5th of the V chord


ii V I/i table


Identifying chords and progressions in songs




July 18

Melody I: melodic structure



Chord alterations and substitutions



July 25

Melody II: more with foreground/background and ornamentation; phrasing; modes*


Melody Analysis



Aug 1

Form I: the 32-bar popular/conventional form




Writing a short melody



Aug 8

Form II: other, less-typical forms; modal styles*


Identifying forms in songs – find a jazz standard and analyze its form



Aug 15

Group composition/sharing compositions


Practice song, chords only:

score  audio


Last Day effort: audio  score




*time permitting