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 & embellishment. We will divide the 8 weeks into three general sections: harmony, melody and form/composition. 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


Apr 18

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



7th chords

7th chords - a quick building guide

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



Apr 25

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






May 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


ii V I/i table


Identifying chords and progressions in songs



May 9

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



May 16

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

Melody Analysis


All Of Me – audio

Rainy Day - audio



May 23

Form I: the 32-bar popular/conventional form


There Is No Greater Love - chart

There Is No Greater Love - audio




Writing a short melody

Chart version of assignment

Audio version (just chords)



May 30

Form II: other, less-typical forms


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



June 6

Group Composing

Sharing compositions*



Practice song, chords only:

score  audio




*time permitting