Keyboard Theory

"I'm always thinking about creating. My future starts when I wake up in the morning & see the light. Then I'm grateful."..... Miles Davis

 
 
Music is often referred to as "The language of sound". Just as words allow us to express our thoughts freely and spontaneously, notes are a musician's vocabulary.
 
The spoken language has evolved over the years and will continue to evolve in the future. The English we speak today is very much different than the English of 50 years ago, 100 years ago, and indeed, 200 years ago. Such is the case with music. In fact, it could be argued that music's evolution has exceeded that of our language by leaps and bounds.
 
Our children grow up speaking their language in its present state and as it changes, their vocabulary adapts to it. When they begin school, they use the most current version of English. This is not the case with traditional conservatory-based music and theory methods and even the Suzuki Method which focus solely on "musical dialects" spoken hundreds of years ago.
 
The teaching of Theory in these methods barely touches any of the elements of Twentieth Century music, let alone the Twenty-First Century. It is safe to say traditional Theory courses have remained virtually unchanged for the last hundred years or so. When they do attempt to include more contemporary concepts, it is "lip service" at best.
 
Today's children are smart. They have grown up with technology, they are savvy, they are aware and they are "plugged in" to the world around them. Giving them the most current musical tools can do nothing but promote creativity, a deeper understanding of all music, and produce better musicians.
 
To this end, about a decade ago, Zane began experimenting with creating materials relating to contemporary theory to be studied at the keyboard. New concepts were tried, some refined, and some discarded based on how students responded. At first, he used these materials with his teenage students, then older elementary children, and finally, kids as young as five. The results were phenominal! Students studying Keyboard Theory progressed further in performance, showed higher levels of musicality, and musical confidence than their peers who didn't take the course.
 
Today, the process continues to evolve. New materials are created and introduced throughout the term, as each of the current four levels is refined. Presently, levels are: Rudiments, Intermediate Level One, Intermediate Level Two, Advanced Level One and Advanced Level Two. Following are some of the features:
 
All materials played for the teacher each week at the keyboard.
All materials at all levels is learned in all keys.
Major and harmonic, melodic and natural minors.
The blues scale.
12-Bar progressions.
Chords and inversions.
Scale Tone Sevenths
Sixty Chord System
3:7 voicings
7:3 voicings
II-V-I progressions
Swing
 
Walking Bass Lines
Blues improvisations (slow blues, medium blues, fast blues)
Rootless Voicings
All triads (major, minor, augmented, diminished, suspended)
All 4-note chords (major 7, minor 7, half-diminished 7, diminished 7, dominant 7, augmented, suspended 7)
Ninths, thirteenths and all related voicings
Chord progressions
Modes and modal improvisations
The list goes on and on......

From the Saskatoon Talent Education Spring 2016 Newsletter.....

 

Improvisation & KEYBOARD THEORY

 
“Improvisation -  the art or act of improvising, or of composing, uttering, executing, or arranging anything without previous preparation”
Musical improvisation involves imagination and creativity.”
 
By the time they are four or five, children are well-versed in the art of linguistic improvisation. They are able to organize abstract thoughts into sentences to have spontaneous conversations. At a very early age, they can use their imagination and creativity to write stories, draw pictures and express their dreams. Because this is a natural part of growing up, we take it for granted.
 
In music, this is not the case. In fact, improvisational elements are not included in traditional methods at all. These disciplines produce excellent technique, and good readers and interpreters of scored music, but fail miserably in producing musicians with practical skills.
 
There are many aspects to art of improvisation, ranging from the ability to just “sit down and compose spontaneous pieces”, to being able to easily add chords and accompaniments to a melodic line, to building elaborate improvisations over existing chord progressions.
 
Most of the great classical composers, like Bach, Beethoven and Chopin, (the list goes on and on), were great improvisers. Why? Because it was part of their musical education process. Today, so-called “untrained” pop, rock, and contemporary musicians use harmonic shorthand very similar to what was used by the above-mentioned composers. Many also learned their craft through a “Mother Tongue” approach.
 
Today, a student completing all grade levels in most traditional methods will have attained theoretical knowledge equivalent to that utilized by composers in early nineteenth century music. It is safe to say traditional Theory courses have remained virtually unchanged for the last hundred years or so. When they do attempt to include more contemporary concepts, it is "lip service" at best. This leaves the vocabulary of improvisation to be either self-taught, or attained through post-secondary education. It is interesting that the theory I was taught in the 1970’s is virtually identical to what is taught today.
 
“My goal as a teacher is to produce well-rounded, well-versed musicians with practical musical skills. This includes technique, tone, and development of the ear, expanding the mind, knowledge of various genres, the ability to improvise, and a deep knowledge of the elements of music. Keyboard Theory plays a large role in this.”
 
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