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May/June 2018: New Music Reviews

Preludes
(S5) Pacific Preludes by Christopher Norton, CD recorded by Iain Farrington ​ Christopher Norton is well known for his contemporary works in jazz, pop, Latin rhythms, and even musicals. His Pacific Preludes Collection is an interesting set of fourteen pieces based on folk melodies from countries bordering the Pacific Ocean: the United States, the P...
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Playing Contemporary Pop

A piece of music can be centered around a key note, but have less of a feeling of a "western" chord progression. Contemporary pop pieces often use ambiguous chords and their harmonic structures can be based on modes rather than scales. If you start with a scale of C, you can build modes  on each note of the scale, like this: Eac...
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Playing Indie Pop

​Indie Pop is a genre of rock music that emerged in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, characterized by upbeat, melodic progressions. This article will take you through the basics of the indie pop style, beginning with simple structures familiar to all piano students.  Here is a scale of G major:  We can build three-note chords on each note...
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How do you work on improvisation in your group classes?

Improvisation activities with your group classes can be surprisingly effective. Working with their peers can help encourage and motivate students to try out different ideas and get over any initial hesitation they have about improvising. It is an activity that can engage everyone, and students get to develop their aural skills as they listen to eac...
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The art of the vamp

A vamp is an improvised piano accompaniment, sometimes containing melodic figures (licks or riffs), other times simply consisting of block chords played in rhythms. Or it can have both! You  usually vamp when you are accompanying a soloist. A basic chord progression is provided and it's your job to "fill in." Here's a fun chord progression to ...
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Improvising for non-improvisers

When  you hear dazzling improvisation from top jazz players, you may be overcome by something very akin to inertia. "I could never do that so I'm not even going to start," could well sum up many people's view on improvisation. My wife once summed up her own view of jazz as "a lot of men showing off." Cruel (but fair) as this jibe might appear,...
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