Berklee Keyboard Method

Author: Paul Schmeling   •   Course Code: OPIAN-100

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Master the basics of Keyboard technique and chord voicings, and gain an understanding of more advanced concepts including blues progressions and playing three part chords in this 12-week course. Through exercises that explore the interpretation of lead sheets and chord symbols, the Berklee Keyboard Method will help you to improve your performance, harmonic vocabulary, and composition/arranging skills. By the end of the course you will be able to improvise over a lead sheet while comping chords with their appropriate voicings.

By the end of this course, you will:

  • Understand how to read treble clef, bass clef and play simple melodies on the grand staff
  • Understand accidentals and play the black keys on the keyboard
  • Increase your ability to read and play different notes simultaneously
  • Understand and play melodies with major and minor triads in right hand
  • Understand voice leading triads
  • Understand a lead sheet and play chords and bass with left hand
  • Add three-part chords to your playing
  • Understand altered 9ths, 13ths and Blues progressions

Lesson 1: Treble Clef

  • Treble clef notes related to keyboard
  • Right hand keyboard fingering numbers
  • Moving 5-note one hand position to various locations within treble clef
  • Playing a simple treble clef notated melody with right hand

Lesson 2: Bass Clef

  • Bass clef notes related to keyboard
  • Left hand keyboard fingering numbers
  • Moving 5-note one hand position to various locations within bass clef
  • Playing a simple bass clef melody with the left hand

Lesson 3: Grand Staff

  • Grand staff notes related to keyboard
  • Moving both hands to various 5-note positions on the grand staff
  • Playing simple one line melodies with both hands in octaves
  • Playing simple one line melodies switching hands and clefs

Lesson 4: The Black Keys/Accidentals

  • The black keys of the keyboard - their significance and location
  • Moving hand positions around which include accidentals creating major/minor tonalities
  • Playing simple one line melodies in octaves which include accidentals
  • Playing simple one line melodies switching clefs which include accidentals

Lesson 5: Independence Between Hands

  • Studies to Increase the Ability to Read and Play Different Notes Simultaneously
  • Rhythmic Independence Studies
  • Playing Two Notes Simultaneously in One or Both Hands

Lesson 6: Major and Minor Triads

  • Major and Minor Triads in Root Position
  • Inversions of Major and Minor Triads
  • Melodies with Major and Minor Triads in the Right Hand

Lesson 7: Voice Leading Triads

  • Diatonic Triads
  • Voice-Leading the I IV V Progression
  • The I VI II V I Diatonic Progression
  • Voice Leading the I VI II V I Progression

Lesson 8: Left-Hand Chord Playing

  • Voice Leading Left-Hand Chords
  • The Lead Sheet
  • The Left Hand as Both Chords and Bass

Lesson 9: Right-Hand Chord Playing

  • Voice Leading Right-Hand Chords
  • "Slash Chords"
  • Arpeggiating Right-Hand Chords

Lesson 10: IIm7 V7 Imaj7 Left-Hand Shells

  • The IIm7 V7 Imaj7 Progression
  • Left-Hand Shells
  • Using Left-Hand Shells to Support Right Hand Activity

Lesson 11: Using the 3rd and 7th of the IIm7, V7, Imaj7

  • Finding and Voice Leading the 3rd and 7th
  • Using the 3rd and 7th in the Right Hand with Left- Hand Bass
  • Using the 3rd and 7th to Support Melody

Lesson 12: Three-Part Chords

  • Adding the 9th and 13th to the Dominant 7th
  • Adding sus 4 to the Dominant 7th
  • Comping Patterns Using Three-Part Chords

Paul Schmeling

Author & Instructor

Paul Schmeling is a master pianist, interpreter, improviser and arranger who has inspired countless students since he began teaching at Berklee in 1961. He has performed or recorded with jazz greats such as Clark Terry, Rebecca Parris, George Coleman, Carol Sloane, Frank Foster, Art Farmer, Herb Pomeroy, Phil Wilson, Dick Johnson and Slide Hampton. In the 1990s, the Paul Schmeling Trio released two inventive and critically acclaimed albums, interpreting the music of Hoagy Carmichael and songs associated with Frank Sinatra. Recently retired as chair of the piano department, he is co-author of the Berklee Practice Method: Keyboard (2001) and Instant Keyboard (2002) and the author of Berklee Music Theory: Book 1.

Ross Ramsay


James Ross Ramsay, faculty in the Piano department at Berklee College of Music, has been teaching piano for 25 years, and has been included in the "Who's Who List of American Teachers" several times. He composes and produces music for local and nationally broadcast television, radio, cable, and video programs, and has been a featured soloist on piano and keyboards with various artists touring throughout the United States and Europe. Ramsay is a product specialist and clinician for Yamaha Corporation of America, Digital Musical Instruments, and Pro Audio Division. He received a Bachelor of Music from Berklee College of Music in 1986.


At least one year of experience on a musical instrument is required.

Knowledge of basic pitch notation:

  • Letter names of notes
  • Some reading ability with one clef
  • Bar lines, measures, double bar lines, fine bar lines, repeats
  • Sharps, flats, naturals
  • Key signatures
  • Phrase markings
  • Few ledger lines

Knowledge of basic rhythm notation:

  • Note and rest values up to eighths
  • Their value in common meters like 4/4; 3/4
  • Dotted note values, ties
  • Some ability to read these rhythms

Knowledge of basic harmony:

  • Basic level of diatonic concepts (helpful but not absolutely necessary)
  • Major and minor scales
  • Seventh chords and chord construction, inversion

Required Textbooks

None required

Software Requirements

  • A basic audio recording tool that will allow you to record yourself playing along with a background track and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software like Audacity or GarageBand.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Google Chrome

Hardware Requirements

In order to complete the assignments in this course, you will need to record yourself playing keyboard or piano along with background tracks provided during the course in MP3 format. In order to do this, you must have either a MIDI keyboard that can record into your computer or a microphone connected to your computer that can record you playing piano.  You will also need:

  • Keyboard with at least four octaves
  • Line in from your keyboard to computer, if not using a microphone
  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

  • Level
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    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
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