Pop and Jazz Keyboards and Harmony (beginner level)
4.6 (9 ratings)
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Pop and Jazz Keyboards and Harmony (beginner level)

Keyboards and Practical Harmony for Pop and Jazz musicians: all about chords, scales, melodies and more
4.6 (9 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
49 students enrolled
Created by Duncan Millar
Last updated 7/2016
Current price: $10 Original price: $180 Discount: 94% off
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  • 3 hours on-demand video
  • 16 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • • Play different types of three and four-note chords commonly found in pop and jazz styles, understanding their construction and how they relate to a particular key
  • • Play and create chord-progressions, understanding chord-function and how progressions work
  • • Play chords studied in different shapes and apply this to achieve musical playing of chord-progressions
  • • Understand special qualities of dominant 7ths chords, including secondary and extended dominants, and also other types of 7th chord
  • • Understand the relationship between a melody and its accompanying chords and be able to use this practically
  • • Understand how to create different kinds of left-hand bass-lines and play these to accompany right-hand chords
  • • Understand the different characteristics of a Blues; creating and playing one, and improvising over it to a basic level
View Curriculum
  • A keyboard at home and at least some basic keyboards ability and knowledge of music-theory.
  • In this course you’ll study pop and jazz keyboards both to improve your playing in those styles and at the same time get to the heart of what makes the music tick, its chords, scales, keys, melodies and more,  - simply put, all the things that make up its Harmony. The aim is for you to immediately be able to use the theory practically and creatively in your own playing and writing

Study Pop And Jazz Keyboards and Really Understand How The Music Works

  • Play many different kinds of chords (triads and sevenths) in both hands,
  • Use chords in chord progressions, and understand how they work
  • Play chords in inversions and play chord progressions smoothly
  • Learn how to write a chord progression
  • Write effective and interesting melodies to chords
  • Learn about left-hand Bass-lines and The Blues

Learn and Play Like a Working Pop or Jazz Musician

Learning to play keyboards can be an end in itself, but is also a great way to understand how music works, an aim of this course.

Instead of learning set, notated pieces, you’ll be using the keyboard to play and study chords, progressions and other harmonic-elements, learning how they work together. Then, apply this to your playing so that you improve not just your keyboard-playing, but can develop skills vital to the pop and jazz keyboardist.

That could include playing from a chord-chart in a band; creating an accompaniment to a singer; making keyboard arrangements using chord-symbols; writing songs and keyboard music, jamming, and starting to improvise and solo.

Many working pop and jazz musicians learned to perfect the same skills in the same way, all things that require as good an understanding of Practical Harmony as possible.

Content and Overview

The course has 12 lessons and 2.75 hours of video, starting with basic concepts and progressing through more sophisticated ones in a logical way. The aim is to keep playing ability in line with what has been learned theoretically.

The first few lessons explain simple chord-types  that can be found in different keys, also how these work together to create strong chord-progressions. Later, you’ll learn to play them in different shapes, enabling smooth playing of progressions.

Subsequently, you’ll study richer, more advanced four-note seventh chords, and what they can do within a chord-progression.

In the final few lessons, you’ll branch out to explore how right-hand melodies relate to the left-hand accompanying chords, and what are the components of a melody. Then, how a left-hand bass-line (or one played by a bassist) relates to a chord progression and in general the different types there are.

Lastly, you’ll study how a Blues works, a musical-form that exists in many styles and one which, in a clear way, brings together all the different topics studied in the course.

Please note: “Pop” as used in the course-title is a loose-term  for many possible styles, e.g.  rock, country, r&b etc. “Jazz”, similarly.

Theory-content is stated succinctly, and accompanied by keyboard demonstrations. How chords can be used in a typical progression is always shown. Details spoken are reinforced by written text, and lessons conclude with a “practice” segment listing things to work on.

The Beginner level course is part of a larger course, including Intermediate and Advanced levels (not yet published), structured in the same way.



Who is the target audience?
  • The course is suited to those who’d like to learn keyboards, but with an emphasis on understanding how pop and jazz-related music works and how to create and play it. PLEASE NOTE: students should not be total beginners on keyboards, but have at least a little experience of playing and know some basic theory, for example, names of keyboard notes and a few scales in simple keys. Note-reading is not required or previous knowledge of harmony.
  • The course may also be well-suited to experienced musicians for whom pop and jazz keyboards is a secondary interest. For example e.g. classical musicians wishing to explore other styles; singers; composers, song-writers and singer-songwriters.
  • An interest in knowing how music works is important, beyond just playing tunes “for fun”, as it contains explanations and theory-content! There is no study of notated, pop or jazz pieces, which may not suit everybody, as the course tends more to playing-by-ear and improvisation (as in the real pop and jazz world), basing this in a knowledge of how chords, scales and harmony work.
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Curriculum For This Course
13 Lectures
Start Here
13 Lectures 02:49:45
Introduction to course: 
  • What will you get from the course
  • Who is it suitable for
  • List of lesson-titles
  • Course Overview
  • Downloads and Practice Sections
Preview 02:03

In this lesson we'll study:

1.    Simple major and minor chords in one major key (C)

2.    Right-hand fingers to use, and hand position

3.    Simple intervals, and finding the root, 3rd and fifth

4.    Playing other chords in the key: F, G and A minor

5.    Playing the chords in the left-hand

At the end of this lesson, you'll know how to construct 3 major triads (three-note chords) and one minor in the key of C, and play them in both hands, separately and in a short chord progression.

Preview 11:26

In this lesson we'll study:

1.    Playing simple chord progressions in both hands, chords in right hand

2.    Playing simple chord progressions in both hands, chords in left hand

3.    Basic Chord Functions: Tonic, Subdominant, and Dominant

4.    Finding the same chords studied in other keys, e.g. G, D, F and Bb

5.    Alternative ways to find chords

At the end of this lesson, you'll be able to play simple chord progressions in different ways and in both hands, understand the meaning of basic Chord Functions, and find the triads already studied in other common keys.

Lesson 2: Playing Basic Chord Progressions

In this lesson we'll study:

1.     Turning a major triad into a minor one: the minor 3rd

2.     More intervals: major and minor 3rds, perfect 5th, tones and semitones

3.     Finding a simple minor chord in a major key (C): D minor

4.     Finding more minor chords in C: E minor and A minor

5.     Roman Numeral identification of all Diatonic chords studied so far

6.     Finding the same chords studied in other keys

At the end of this lesson, you'll be able to construct and play all minor triads in the key of C and other basic keys, understand the Roman Numeral system of analysing chords and find triads that are Diatonic to  other common keys.

Lesson 3: More about Minor Chords

In this lesson we'll study:

1.     An example chord progression using some major minor chords and a diminished chord

2.     One more chord: the diminished triad; perfect 5th, diminished 5th

3.     Functions of the new minor chords and diminished chord

4.     The VII diminished chord and its relation to the V chord

5.     About Chord Functions, Tonic, Subdominant and Dominant

At the end of this lesson you'll be able to play and construct a diminished triad, know the Functions of all Diatonic triads in a key and understand the way a chord's Function determines its behaviour in a chord-progression.

Lesson 4: The Diminished Chord, and Chord Functions

In this lesson we'll study:

1.    Basic nature of a chord progression

2.    Making use of Chord Functions in a chord progression

3.    Simple chord substitution

4.    Turnaround

5.    Deceptive Resolution

6.    Alternating chord functions

At the end of this lesson, you'll be able to write your own 8-bar chord-progression, making use of your understanding of different chord Functions and techniques such as simple Chord Substitution, Turnaround, Deceptive Resolution and alternating chord Functions.

Preview 13:40

In this lesson we'll study:

1.    What are inversions, and why are they used: demonstration

2.    How do we form inversions of chords, and how many types are there?

3.    How to use inversions to go smoothly from one chord to another

4.    Inversions: it’s all about the bass

At the end of this lesson, you'll be able to play triads in different inversions and use them within Chord progressions, understanding how they are used in conjunction with Voice-Leading,  and also two different ways of using chord-inversions.

Lesson 6: Chord Inversions, Part 1

1.  A chord progression example specifying a definite inversion

2.    Recap: Two different "uses" of Inversions

3.    Why do composers use Inversions?

4.    Example of ways of playing inversions in both hands

5.    How to practise inversions

6.    Getting familiar with how Inversions are constructed

At the end of this lesson, you'll be able to construct and play triads in "true"  Inversions (in which the lowest note is one other than the root), know how to use these in your own chord-progressions and also an effective way to practise chord-inversions.

Lesson 7: Chord Inversions, Part 2

In this lesson we'll study:

1.    The Relation of the Dominant 7th V7 chord to the VII diminished triad

2.    Nature of a Dominant Seventh chord

3.    Primary Dominant Sevenths and Secondary Dominant Sevenths

4.    Inversions of Dominant Sevenths

At the end of this lesson, you'll be able to play a four-note Dominant 7th chord in root position and three inversions, understanding its construction and Chord-Function, including the special way it behaves within a chord-progression and why. You'll also be able to construct and play Secondary Dominants on Diatonic chords, understanding their purpose and use in chord-progressions.

Lesson 8: Dominant Seventh chords and Secondary Dominants

In this lesson we'll study:

1.    Forming Major 7th chords

2.    Forming Minor 7th chords and Minor 7th flat 5  chords

3.    Summary of Seventh Chord Formation

4.    Functions of all seventh chords studied

5.    Seventh Chord Inversion

At the end of this lesson, you'll be able to form and play other seventh-chords (major, minor and minor 7 b5) that are Diatonic to various basic keys, both in root position and inversions, and also understanding their chord-functions.

Lesson 9: Other 7th chords

In this lesson we'll study:

1.    What is a melody, and what does it have to do with Harmony?

2.    Chord Tones

3.    Tensions

4.    Correct use of Tensions in melodies

5.    Approach Notes

6.    Using melodic-theory in understanding and writing melody

At the end of this lesson, you'll understand how a melody relates to a chord-progression, what are the components of a melody (chord-tones, tensions, and approach-notes), and how you can melodic-theory creatively in writing melody.

Lesson 10: Melodies, Chord-tones, and Tensions

In this lesson we'll study:

1. Root notes only

2. Root and Fifth 

3. Chord Tones

4. Walking Bass

5. Melodic Bass lines and Riffs

6. Augmented and Sixth Chords

At the end of this lesson, you'll understand how to write and play various types of bass-line that you can play in the left-hand to accompany a melody (or have a bassist play). You'll also lean to construct and play Augmented triads and Sixth chords, understanding ways to use these in chord-progressions.

Lesson 11. Bass-lines, Augmented and Sixth Chords

In this lesson we'll study:

1. Blues Form and Structure

2. Blues Chords

3. The Blues Scale and the Blue note

4 .Melodic Tensions in the Blues

5. Modifying the Blues Progression (with Secondary and Extended Dom’s)

6. Improvising on a Blues

At the end of this lesson, you'll learn to play and create a Blues, basing this on an understanding of its Form, Chords, and the Blues Scale and how this can create rich melodic Tensions. You'll also learn to add interest to a Blues Progression by using Secondary and Extended Dominants, and an approach to improvising on a Blues.

Preview 19:48
About the Instructor
Duncan Millar
4.6 Average rating
9 Reviews
49 Students
1 Course
Musician and Composer

I am a professional pianist and keyboardist, writer and producer in the genres of jazz and pop. My most recent jazz-oriented album was in 2013. I am a graduate of the Berklee School of Music, Boston. As a pop artist and writer, and later as a jazz artist, I have been signed to numerous major and independent labels, with hits world-wide, notably in the Billboard Top 100, Billboard Dance Chart and UK Top 40, and have also been a UK MOBO award nominee as Best Jazz Act.