Berklee Keyboard Method


Authored by Paul Schmeling


Course Code: OPIAN-100

Next Semester Starts
Jan 10, 2022

Level 1

Level 1

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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
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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


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

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 Textbook(s)

  • None required

Students are required to record video for assignments. You can use your smartphone, digital camera, or webcam to do this. If you do not already have a preferred video software, you can use the built-in recorder tool within your assignment post. You can play the backing track through your speakers as you record and the microphone will pick up both the piano or keyboard (playing out loud through built-in speakers or amp) and the track as you play along.

Software Requirements

  • A recording tool is provided within the course that will allow students to record videos of themselves playing for assignment submission. Alternatively, students can use a digital camera, smartphone, or tablet to record assignments.

Hardware Requirements

  • A 61-key full size keyboard is required.

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact for 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


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.

Dave Limina


Dave Limina is an associate professor in the Piano department at Berklee College of Music, where he received the Most Valuable Contribution to the Performance Curriculum Award in 2001 for his work in developing the Hammond organ program. An experienced session keyboardist, composer, and arranger, Dave has performed with Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Lori McKenna, Duke Robillard, Gloria Estefan, Mark Murphy, Scott Hamilton, the first national touring company of the Broadway musical Rent, and many others. He received Boston Music Award nominations for his work with Courage Brothers, Ronnie Earl, and Mighty Sam McClain, and has played on several Grammy-nominated recordings. He played keyboards on Michelle Willson's Wake Up Call, which won a Boston Music Award in 2001. Dave does extensive session work in Boston, New York, and LA. He is the author of Hammond Organ Complete (Berklee Press) and the instructional video/DVD Accelerate Your Keyboard Playing. His playing is featured on many TV and film soundtracks.

Suzanna Sifter


Suzanna Sifter is a jazz pianist, composer, author, and educator who has been on faculty at Berklee College of Music since 1989. She holds a BM from Berklee and Master’s Degree from New England Conservatory.

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Suzanna has traveled extensively with Berklee to places such as France, Italy, Greece, Brazil, Ecuador, the US, Canada and Japan auditioning students, giving master classes and performing. Suzanna has five recordings as a leader, composer, and arranger: Flowers for You, Awakening, The Illumination, Sophisticated Lady, and the play along CD to her book, Berklee Jazz Keyboard Harmony: Using Upper Structure Triads. The second edition of Suzanna's book was released through Hal Leonard/Berklee Press in May 2015.

Suzanna has performed with John La Porta,, Alan Dawson, John Lockwood, Yoron Israel, Dave Clark, and recorded with Casey Scheuerell, Jon Hazilla, Bruce Gertz, Dino Govoni, Tony Lada, Larry Monroe, and Greg Badolato. Suzanna’s playing was featured on Tony Lada’s recording, On the Edge. Her compositions were showcased on In the Library (D. Govoni) and On the Edge (T. Lada). Read Less

Hey Rim Jeon


Ever since she began publicly performing in Korea at the age of nine, pianist and composer, Hey Rim Jeon, has outstanding musical talents that have led to significant recognition in the international jazz community. Described as a “brilliant pianist” bylegendary saxophonist Benny Golson, Ms. Jeon has been featured on NBC’s “Weekend Today in New York”, and KBN, Korea’s National TV network channel. As a leader of her own band, Hey Rim Jeon & Friends, she has performed both nationally and internationally. Her album, “Mona Lisa Puzzle”, has been described as an “intense, intelligent statement…” by Bill Milkowski of Jazz Times, won the Best Jazz Album category in the 2009 New England Urban Music Awards, and reached CD Baby’s Top 10 Modern Creative Jazz Albums list. As a recipient of Berklee’s
prestigious Mentorship Award in 2021, Ms. Jeon has been serving as an Associate Professor in the Piano Department at Berklee College of Music since 2010.

Jason Yeager


New York-based pianist, composer, and recording artist Jason Yeager creates music that is deeply expressive and multi-faceted, defying convention while reveling in the traditions of Black American Music, jazz, blues, 20th century European classical music, and Latin American folk traditions. Yeager is an equally committed teacher, working with music students from around the world as an Assistant Professor of Piano at Berklee College of Music, where he has taught since 2012. 

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An adroit and sensitive accompanist as well as an imaginative bandleader, Yeager has released five albums of original music, including All At Onceness(called a "compelling new album" by the Boston Globe) with musical polymath Randal Despommier; United (named a Best Album of 2017 by Downbeat) with violin virtuoso and Berklee colleague Jason Anick; and his latest, New Songs of Resistance, featuring reimagined nueva canción songs from Latin America and original compositions. The Boston Globe describes this most recent recording as a “musical reflection of troubled times and a search for affirmation nonetheless,” and the New York Music Daily hails it as “searingly relevant” and “one of the best albums of 2019 in any style of music.” 

Yeager has performed across the United States and abroad at festivals and concert halls in Argentina, South Africa, Panama, China, the Dominican Republic, and Costa Rica. A frequent accompanist and collaborator, he’s performed and/or recorded with such noteworthy artists as Luciana Souza, Ayn Inserto, Greg Osby, Sean Jones, Julie Benko, Aubrey Johnson, Ran Blake, George Garzone, Noah Preminger, Matt Wilson, Steve Wilson, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mark Walker, and Fernando Huergo, among others. Yeager holds a Master of Music, summa cum laude, from the Berklee Global Jazz Institute, and graduated summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa from the Tufts University and New England Conservatory Double Degree Program, with undergraduate degrees in International Relations and Jazz Performance, respectively. Read Less


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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