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

 

 
“My goal as a teacher is to produce well-rounded musicians with practical musical skills. This includes technique, tone, and development of the ear, knowledge of various genres, the ability to improvise and a deep knowledge of the elements of music. Keyboard Theory plays a large role in achieving this.” …… Zane Hrynewich
 
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 phenomenal! 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. 
 

From the Saskatoon Talent Education Spring 2017 Newsletter

 

Keyboard Theory Report

 
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. If I had my way, I would have all my students studying it. In a perfect world, it would just be included as part of the everyday lesson. The reason I can’t is because I must spend many hours writing and modifying it, as well as printing hundreds of pages a month.
 
I am passionate about Keyboard Theory. The concept is to teach the elements of Theory and Improvisation in a practical way at the piano. There is no curriculum, so I have spent the last decade developing it. It is a continuing, seemingly never-ending process. Concepts are tried, some retained, and many discarded based on how students respond.
 
This year, I completely revised the first “Rudiments” book and I am excited by the results I have observed. Over the summer, I will be tackling subsequent books in preparation for the fall.
 

What the Keyboard Theory Kids have Accomplished this Year

 
Students as young as six have gained a much stronger working knowledge of the keyboard and notation via the first book of Rudiments.
 
Students as young as ten being able to improvise 12-Bar Blues in the twelve major keys. Many have also begun improvising in these keys using the major scale and Dorian mode.
 
Students, as young as twelve being able to improvise in the twelve major keys using the blues scale, the major scale, and the Dorian mode, over more demanding walking bass lines and chord progressions.
 
Students as young as thirteen being able to add chord accompaniments to chord charts, playing the melodies with the right hand. In addition, being able to play the same charts in “keyboard style, with the left hand playing the bass and right hand the chords.
 
Students as young as thirteen studying supplemental materials as taught at the Berklee College of Music
 

Keyboard Theory Goals for the 2017/2018 Teaching Year

 
To complete the Book One Rudiment revisions and to begin a comprehensive review and re-structuring of Books Two and Three based on observations of what has and has not worked with students in the past year.
 
To continue the development of the improvisational exercises, taking students through more advanced improvisational scenarios.
 
To add ensemble playing in different genres. Students play along with recorded musical “beds”, in different keys and styles.
 

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.
 
 
 
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