Advanced Jazz Piano


Authored by Kevin Harris


Course Code: OPIAN-400

Next semester
starts April 1

Level 4

Level 4

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


The piano has been a torchbearer for countless aspects of American music, history, and culture. In this course, the piano will be used as a tool for self-expression, rhythmic independence, melodic exploration, and a way to more effectively internalize concepts through the kinesthetic Afro-aural tradition. Through extensive analysis, repetition, and expansion of piano repertoire, you will be able to improvise, using concepts that range from pianists such as Mary Lou Williams, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk to Herbie Hancock, Fred Hersch, and Cory Henry.

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You will be able to analyze, curiously reimagine, and perform songs in the advanced jazz piano styles covered in this course. A special emphasis will be placed on aspects of solo piano performance, group performance, chord voicings, creating lines, left hand/right hand independence, Afro-Latin influence on jazz improvisation, Black Gospel influence on jazz piano, learning jazz repertoire, reharmonizations of the melody, and development of a “danceable beat.”

Weekly advanced jazz piano classes will focus on four key foundational elements of jazz piano. You will first listen to specific repertoire from albums to internalize the feeling, groove, and contextual importance of the “song of the week.” Secondly, you will seek to gain a theoretical understanding of that material which will allow you to accompany and perform with others in a more fluid/transposing manner. The third component of this course will be repetition of concepts over a specific system that Kevin Harris calls the GRID, which will allow you to play newly learned concepts in a more intuitive play-along manner. The fourth component of weekly classes will consist of expanding newly learned concepts in more creatively melodic, harmonic, and rhythmic directions.

An emphasis on listening and learning repertoire in the African-American style of vocalizing, moving, and dancing will also be a key interactive component of learning in this course. Singing, clapping, and moving to the beat are all cultural elements that have formed the foundation of countless styles of American music. From blues, rock, jazz, R&B, disco-house, neo-soul, and hip-hop to their unquestionable influence on international electronic music, J-Pop and K-Pop, we’ll cover the foundations of all of these styles from a pianistic perspective. By the end of this course, you will become familiar with calling tunes in a session/gig scenario. You will also become more familiar with rhythmically locking in with the beat, having steady time, and being able to utilize certain pianistic patterns that are appropriate for the style of music being played. As a result, you will not only develop new approaches to reinterpreting repertoire in the styles of pianists covered in this course but you will also be able to lock in with members of any band you perform with!

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Build your repertoire
  • Analyze, reimagine, and perform songs in advanced jazz piano styles
  • Analyze and apply aspects of Afro-Latin and Black Gospel influences on jazz piano improvisation
  • Internalize the feeling, groove, and contextual importance of improvised repertoire
  • Feel comfortable calling tunes on a session/gig setting
  • Improve your sense of rhythm and time feel
  • Apply the various concepts learned throughout this course to standards and your own personal compositions
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Overview Syllabus Requirements Instructors
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Lesson 1: Improvising in the Style of Scott Joplin

  • The Grid
  • Joplin and the Origins of Ragtime
  • Concept No. 1: Right Hand Rhythmic Syncopation
  • Concept No. 2: Left Hand Right Hand Independence in the ‘Maple Leaf Rag’
  • Concept No. 3: Combined Hands in the ‘Maple Leaf Rag’
  • Expanding ‘Maple Leaf’ Concepts
  • Assignment1: ‘Maple Leaf’ Concepts

Lesson 2: Exploring Harlem Stride through the Music of Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith

  • Willie ‘The Lion’ Smith
  • Concept No. 1: Incorporating Right Hand Harlem Stride Octave Arpeggio Upbeats
  • Concept No. 2: Left Hand 10th Interval Upbeat Melodies
  • Concept No. 3: Fingerbuster Combined Hand Turnaround
  • Expanding ‘Fingerbuster’ Concepts
  • Assignment 2: ‘Fingerbuster’ Concepts

Lesson 3: Mary Lou Williams Perspective on Blues Piano

  • Mary Lou Williams
  • Concept No. 1: Right Hand “Chili Sauce Concepts” Blues Licks
  • Concept No. 2: Left Hand Advanced Harmonic 10ths
  • Concept No. 3: Application of Boogie Woogie ‘Chili Sauce’
  • Expanding ‘Chili Sauce’ Concepts
  • Assignment 3: ‘Chili Sauce’ Concepts

Lesson 4: Thelonious Monk and the Art of Expansion

  • Thelonius Monk
  • Concept No.1: The Right Hand Dominant 7 Sus 4 in ‘Bright Mississippi’
  • Concept No. 2: The Right Hand Diminished Minor 2nd
  • Concept No. 3: Left Hand Root, No.11, 5th Sound
  • Expanding ‘Bright Mississippi’ Concepts
  • Assignment 4: ‘Bright Mississippi’ Concepts

Lesson 5: Improvising in the Style of Bud Powell

  • Bud Powell
  • Concept No.1: Right Hand ‘Bouncing with Bud’ Chromatic Approach
  • Concept No. 2: Left Hand ‘Bouncing with Bud’ Voicings
  • Concept No. 3: Syncopated Combined Hands
  • Expanding ‘Bouncing with Bud’ Concepts
  • Assignment 5: ‘Bouncing with Bud’ Concepts

Lesson 6: ‘Piano Tippin’ Improvising in the Style of Wynton Kelly

  • Wynton Kelly
  • Concept No. 1: Internalizing ‘Another Blues’ Right Hand Concepts
  • Concept No. 2: Internalizing ‘Another Blues’ Left Hand Upbeat Concepts
  • Concept No. 3: Combining Wynton Kelly Hands
  • Expanding ‘Another Blues’ Concepts
  • Assignment 6: ‘Another Blues’ Concepts

Lesson 7: The Blues as Played by Bill Evans

  • Bill Evans
  • Concept No. 1: The Dominant 7 Sus 4
  • Concept No. 2: Left Hand Melodic Movement
  • Concept No. 3: Expanding Cadences and Other Transitional Movement
  • Assignment 7: ‘Very Early’ Concepts

Lesson 8: Herbie Hancock and The Art of Possibilities—Further Piano Exploration In Melody, Harmony, and Rhythm

  • Herbie Hancock
  • Concept No. 1: Internalizing Improvisational Use of the Melodic Minor Scale
  • Concept No. 2: Performing 3rds, Triads, and 7th Chord Symmetrical Diminished Scale Patterns
  • Concept No. 3: Exploring Herbie Hancock’s Constant Structure Reharmonization Concepts
  • Expanding Herbie Hancock ‘All of You’ Concepts
  • Assignment 8: ‘All of You’ Concepts

Lesson 9: The Formidable Improvisational Style of Geri Allen

  • Geri Allen
  • Concept No. 1: Geri Allen’s Constant Structure Reharm Device
  • Concept No. 2: Geri Allen’s Symmetrical Reharm Technique
  • Concept No. 3: Exploring Geri Allen’s Left Hand Modal Planning
  • Concept No. 4: Expanding ‘Amazing Grace’ Concepts
  • Expanding ‘Amazing Grace’ Concepts
  • Assignment 9: ‘Amazing Grace’ Concepts

Lesson 10: Piano Improvisation Through the Afro-Latin Lens of Danilo Perez

  • Danilo Perez
  • Concept No. 1: Melodic Reinterpretation
  • Concept No. 2: Two Against Three Rhythm Comping Patterns
  • Concept No. 3: Exploring Conceptual Use of Space
  • Expanding Piano Improvisation Concepts Through the Afro-Latin Lens of Danilo Perez
  • Assignment 10: Danilo Perez Concepts

Lesson 11: Fred Hersch, a Perspective on Advanced Contemporary Jazz Piano

  • Fred Hersch
  • Exploring ‘In Walked Bud’ as Played by Fred Hersch
  • Concept No. 1: Exploring Single Inner Voice Movement
  • Concept No. 2: Exploring The Ability of the ‘Hands Talking to One Another’
  • Concept No. 3: Melodic Minor Turnarounds
  • Expanding Fred Hersch ‘In Walked Bud’ Concepts
  • Assignment 11: Fred Hersch Concepts

Lesson 12: Experiencing Advanced Jazz Piano Through the Continued Influence of Black Gospel Music

  • Understanding Musical Concepts from the Song ‘Faith’ as Performed by Cory Henry with Vocalist Denise Stoudmire
  • Concept No. 1: Cory Henry Reharmonizing Melodic Ideas with Moving Diatonic 3rds
  • Concept No. 2: Black Gospel Turnaround
  • Concept No. 3: Exploring Cory Henry’s Black Gospel Introduction
  • Expanding Cory Henry’s ‘Faith’ Concepts Concepts in Your Rendition
  • Assignment 12: Gospel Concepts


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Jazz Piano or equivalent knowledge and experience is required.
Students should have:

  • Intermediate understanding of piano chords
  • Intermediate understanding of pianos scales 
  • Intermediate understanding of jazz theory 
  • Intermediate understanding of ear training
  • Strong desire to dedicate at least an hour and a half to practicing class material each weekday
  • The ability to read notes in bass and treble clef and understand intermediate rhythmic notation
  • At least an intermediate knowledge of music theory, including major and minor scales, modes, and chord extensions

It is recommended that you have intermediate to advanced technique that allows you to navigate linear melodic passages and dual hand independence. Having some experience playing in the styles of jazz solo piano and with horn/vocal/bass/drums scenarios will also be helpful.



  • Students are required to record video while playing along with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • External webcam
  • Note: The camera view must be from above, recording the keys right side up. It is imperative that the videos show the student's fingerings. You may need certain accessories to accomplish this, such as a goose-neck camera holder, tripod, etc.


  • Recommended: Application that allows you to change the speed of an audio file without changing the pitch, as well as set custom loop points, such as Moises, Amazing Slow Downer, most DAWs, etc.
  • Recommended: iReal Pro (Mac or iOS/Android app)
  • Recommended: Drumgenius (iOS/Android app)


  • Piano or keyboard instrument with at least 76 keys and a sustain pedal
    • If using a MIDI keyboard controller, a high-quality piano software instrument is also required.
    • If using a digital piano or keyboard workstation without built-in speakers, an audio interface or amplifier is also required.


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required if not using MIDI and software instruments):
      • Keyboard connected directly to audio interface (recommended non-acoustic option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic piano option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external computer speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and microphone stand(s).

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Kevin Harris

Author & Instructor

Jazz pianist Kevin Harris’ greatest desire is to constantly grow, evolve, improve, and advance. Harris—who splits time between New York and Boston—plays a distinctive combination of traditional and contemporary music that seeks to celebrate the musical influences of Thelonious Monk and Miles Davis, intersecting with Johann Sebastian Bach, Scott Joplin, and the folkloric African rhythms of the Caribbean.


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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