alvin batiste chord root progression system

as a method of acquiring fluency in all keys, valuable ear training, and the reflexes to adapt quickly to ever-changing improvisational landscapes, Alvin Batiste taught a system of dividing an octave into 7 different sections.

  • Section One – Ascending Chromatic Root Motions (octave divided into 12 equal parts)
  • Section Two – Descending Whole Tone Root Motions (octave divided into 6 equal parts)
  • Section Three – Ascending Minor 3rd (diminished) Root Motions (oct. divided into 4 equal pts)
  • Section Four – Descending Maj 3rds (augmented) Root Motions (oct. divided into 3 equal pts)
  • Section Five – Ascending Cycle of Fourths Root Motions
  • Section Six – Ascending Tritones from each Chromatic tone (oct. divided into 2 equal pts)
  • Section Seven – Descending Perfect 5ths Root Motions

click on the links below for notated pdf using 1-2-3-4-5 of the major scale

other models could be:

  • melodic, such as a 1-2-3-5 digital pattern taken through sections 1-7
  • harmonic such as triads, or seventh chords (these could always be made more challenging by practicing inversions as well

still other models could be directly from a composition or a transcription such as:

  • running measure one of Anthropology through all 7 sections
  • a Kenny Dorham altered ii-7 V7+9 pattern
  • a Sonny Rollins blues phrase
  • a particular chord voicing for piano or guitar in all sections
  • others that you create


Alvin Batiste was a New Orleans clarinetist often referred to as a “Legendary Pioneer of Jazz.”  He was a true Renaissance man- considered a music pioneer, master teacher, outstanding composer, arranger, an inspiring mentor, as well as a stellar performer. He was also an explorative, avant-garde player who wrote countless musical arraignments but remained under-recognized and under-recorded throughout his career. Batiste, who was a childhood friend of Ed Blackwell and spent time in Los Angeles in 1956 playing with Ornette Coleman, could have “made it big” as a performer and recording artist. Instead, he chose the life of an educator in Louisiana.

He was the first African-American student to perform as a guest soloist playing with the New Orleans Philharmonic on Mozart’s Concerto. He also played with the Ray Charles Orchestra and the American Jazz Quintet and recorded with AFO Records, the company credited with New Orleans Modern Jazz. He was a member of the Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia Music Fraternity, performed on two Julian Cannonball Adderly recordings, and made three albums with Clarinet Summit in the 1980s (a quartet also including John Carter, David Murray, and Jimmy Hamilton). He was later commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts to compose a concerto for African instruments and orchestra. He went on to record only a handful of albums/CD’s between the 1980’s and his death in 2007; his last release- Marsalis Music Honors Series- Alvin Batiste, in which he played with Branford Marsalis and many other notable jazz musicians.

Alvin’s career spanned more than five decades during which he received countless awards and honors. These include:

  • The National Association of Jazz Educators’ National Humanitarian Award
  • The International Association of Jazz Educators’ Lifetime Achievement Award
  • Offbeat Magazine’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Art Education
  • Governor’s Award for Outstanding Contribution to Art Education
  • The Southern University Distinguished Service Award
  • Southern University’s Jazz Institute (founded by Batiste) renamed the Alvin Batiste Jazz Institute
  • The Louis Armstrong Award
  • National Black Music Caucus Outstanding Achievement Award
  • Big Easy Awards- 1995 Jazz Artist of the Year
  • The Jay Hay Fellows Award
  • The Artist Fellowship Award by the Louisiana Division of the Arts

Through out his career, Alvin played and explored in several musical streams; jazz, classical, gospel, blues, diasporan (Cuba, Brazil, and African) and computer-based music. He performed regularly at a variety of local venues between New Orleans and Baton Rouge including the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, He hosted the radio show Jazz Sessions at WBRH and conducted workshops/seminars at various universities including Harvard University, Yale University, University of Michigan, Michigan State, UCLA, University of Paris, and University of Bamako (Mali). He appeared in concert throughout West Africa, Europe, and the United States including Carnegie Hall.