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 12 weeks into three general sections: harmony, melody and form. The class will culminate in the composition of a song in the jazz standard style.


Please check this page regularly for updates to the informational and assignment links. Other documents will be distributed via email.





Topic  & Class Materials

(subject to change as the class evolves)

Assignment Due


Jan 5

Basics of harmony/chords: triads, 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



Jan 12



Jan 19

Diatonic chords and chord progressions


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


Rainy Day with chords

Audio: chords & melody


Identifying and writing chords I




ii V I/i table


Jan 26


Feb 2

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


Rainy Day with chords (first 7 measures)

audio: chords & melody  

audio: chords only


Rainy Day with flat-five substitute

(first 7 measures: one original, one altered)

audio: chords & melody  

audio: chords only



Identifying chords and progressions in songs




Feb 9


Feb 16

Melody I: melodic structure


Autumn Leaves – melody & chords chart

Autumn Leaves - annotated chart (melodic analysis)

audio: chords & melody

audio: chords & highlighted melodic skeleton



Chord alterations and substitutions



Feb 23

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

Melody Analysis


All Of Me – audio

Rainy Day - audio



Mar 2

Form I: the 32-bar popular/conventional form




Writing a short melody

Chart version of assignment

Audio version (just chords)



Mar 9

Form II: other, less-typical forms


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



Mar 16

modal styles



Mar 23

Sharing compositions/group composition*



Practice song, chords only:

score  audio





*time permitting