MUS 228: Functional Jazz Piano & Jazz Theory I

Instructor: Dr. Jonathan Noffsinger
1 credit hour


MUS 217 or permission of the instructor


The objective of Jazz Piano/Jazz Theory I is to introduce the student to the fundamental grammar, vocabulary and structure of the jazz language through the study of its nomenclature, chords, scales and their application on the piano.

Required Materials

Texts: Jazz Keyboard by Jerry Coker and The Jazz Language by Dan Haerle

Writing materials: music manuscript paper, writing paper, #2 soft lead pencils, two blank 90-minute cassette tapes

Course Policies & Outline

Jazz Piano/Jazz Theory I will meet Tuesday and Thursday from 10:00 – 10:50 a.m. in Room 249 of the Moody Music Building. Time in each class will be devoted to lecture and laboratory sessions.


Participation in each class is fundamental to developing an understanding of the material. Two unexcused absences will result in a reduction by one letter grade (from A to B for example). Tardiness will not be tolerated. Excessive tardiness will be treated as an unexcused absence. An excused absence may be defined as a lack of presence at a scheduled class because of: 1) a conflict with another required University function, or, 2) for compelling personal reasons such as a death in the family or a serious illness. When possible every effort should be made by the student to notify the instructor, personally, a minimum of 24 hours in advance of the absence.

Grading Policy and Procedures

Listed below are a series of skills which must be ably demonstrated by each student in a brief examination (identified by the word “perform” in the calendar) at the beginning of any class he/she chooses. Most students should elect to attempt only one of the 5 items at a time.

Grading for these items will be Pass/Fail only, and once the student has passed an item he/she is free to move on to the next skill to be acquired. Most students should also choose to take their exams shortly (1 week) after the item has been introduced in class. No student will be permitted to take the Mid-term Exam until 3 items have been successfully completed or the Final Exam until all 5 items have been successfully completed. In the latter case, the student will receive an “I” if he/she has completed 3 or more items, and an automatic “F” for fewer than 3 items.

The final grade will be determined as follows:

  • Weekly written, aural skills and performance assignments constituting 40% of the final grade (graded A-F)
  • A minimum of 8 quizzes, together constituting 20% of the final grade (graded A-F)
  • A Mid-term Exam constituting 20% of the final grade (graded A-F)
  • A Final Exam constituting 20% of the final grade (graded A-F)

All written assignments are due at the beginning of the next class meeting unless otherwise noted. An assignment which arrives one class meeting late will receive one letter-grade reduction (from an “A” to a “B” for example). All tests and examinations will have either a written, singing and playing component or a combination.

No make-up exams or quizzes will be given. This is a performance oriented class. It is expected that the student will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the concepts discussed through her/his playing in class. Therefore, much outside preparation may be necessary.

Piano Skill to be Acquired

Suggested Time for Exam

1-7-3-5 voicing, diatonically, in the keys (major) of G, B-flat, and D-flat

Week 2 (class meeting 2 or 3)

1-7-3-5 voicing, in II-7, V7 progression (using 1-3-7-9 on V7), in 12 keys

Week 3 (class meeting 4 or 5)

1-7-3-5 voicing, II-V-I (in major) progression, in 12 keys using 9ths on the II and I chords 9ths and 13ths on the V chords

Week 5 (class meeting 8 or 9)

1-7-3-5 voicing, IIø7, V7 (with an altered 9th) I – progression, in 12 keys

Week 6 (class meeting 10 or 11)

Blues voicings (7-3-13 and 3-7-9, left hand only), blues progression (memorized), and right hand improvisation on blues scales

Week 7 or 8 (class meeting 12, 13, 14 or 15)