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Comping 101 - Accompanying Students

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Accompanying students is an enjoyable way to transfer musicality from veteran to rookie efficiently without so much "teacher talk."  For students, it  • tightens up their sense of time;  • helps them listen while playing;  • enables them to feel more like "real musicians";  • prepares them to play in ensembles;  • and ...
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Creating by chance

Can't get started making your own music? No excuses!  Use the laws of chance to prime your creative pump. In the eighteenth century, Mozart devised a game for composing minuets by assigning pre-written melodic fragments to the numbers on dice. Here's a similar activity you can use to prompt creativity in your studio. 1. Rhythm a. Easy waltz rh...
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Introductions

A good musical introduction creates anticipation for the listener by suggesting the key and style of a tune about to be played. ​Ready? Go!  The easiest way to set up a tune is to play a V7 intro chord. This works because it takes advantage of our expectations about functional harmony. Since most tunes begin with the I chord, a V7 chord p...
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Create and Motivate

​One fun and important area of teaching music that sometimes gets overlooked is creativity. While most of us would agree that improvising, composing, arranging, and playing by ear are necessary ingredients for developing comprehensive musicianship, somehow we may not get around to teaching these skills often enough in our lessons. One thing is for ...
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Chord Substitution

One thing that has always drawn me to jazz is the harmony. It is fascinating to hear how a single chord change can define one artist's interpretation of Autumn Leaves or Night and Day from another artist's interpretation. Applied judiciously, these harmonic variations will add touches of color to your own arranging and performing. When one chord is...
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Virtual reality in the piano studio

If you are a Star Trek fan or at least have a passing familiarity with the television series, you may be aware that people still play music and attend concerts in the twenty-fourth century. Given the fact that computers do so much for human beings now and will do even more in the future, it is certainly comforting to know that our descendants will ...
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The rhythms of jazz: Syncopation

An important aspect of rhythm (in any style of music) is the alternation of accented and unaccented musical elements. When the accented elements differ from what is expected, we have syncopation , an essential part of jazz. This article will examine two kinds of syncopation first outlined by Winthrop Sargeant in his pioneering 1938 work Jazz: Hot a...
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Creative being and the disciplined life

Imagine living our lives sans creativity.We would never vary our diets or the kinds of books we read.We would dress in similar styles every day, no variety, ever. Inevitably we would slow down our personal growth.We would minimize the "highs" in life, and reduce possibilities for personal discovery. And, we would probably practice piano by mindless...
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Scalin' the chords

​When I was about twelve years of age, my parents took me to a restaurant that featured a live jazz trio. I was amazed to see the pianist playing without written music. Unaware of the awkwardness I might cause by interrupting a performing musician, I approached the stage and asked him how he did it. His succinct reply changed my life. Without missi...
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Preluding with the Masters

​For centuries, improvising introductions to keyboard works, also known as preluding, helped inspire musicians and prepare audiences for what was to come. (The German verb präludieren and the French verb preluder can simply mean "to improvise.") Preluding had practical functions as well, allowing performers to warm up, test tuning, or adapt to unf...
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Eleventh chords in jazz and popular music

There is a swath of New York's Catskill Mountains, a two-to-three hour drive from Manhattan, that until recently was euphemistically known as the Borscht Belt. As a teenager I spent my summers playing in dance bands in the area's resort hotels. The predominant clientele were middle-class Russian Jews-one of their favorite dishes, beet borscht, was ...
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I've got a classic case of the blues

The sounds of jazz have always fasci nated classical musicians. In the earliest years of the twentieth cen tury composers such as Debussy, Hindemith, Milhaud, and Stravinsky were all drawn to the infectious rhythms of Ragtime.' As jazz harmonies and forms became more sophisticated, classical composers incorporated more diverse jazzy elements i...
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Understanding the jazz language

If you are interested in becoming an orchestrator, there is no better teacher than the music itself. Find an orchestral score and recording of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker: listen, read, and learn! In so doing, you are making a connection between the written page and how it translates into sound. If you want to become a better jazz musi cian ...
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Jazz suspensions: Bridges to somewhere (usually)

For the past quarter century I have conducted piano teacher workshops throughout the United States and  Canada. Teachers always have a lot of great questions, and one of the most frequently asked questions is "What is a jazz suspension ?" Jazz suspensions in general are bridges to somewhere, at least usually. Suspensions are chord tension-tone...
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Tomorrow Today: Technology

Marguerite Miller, Professor Emeritus at Wichita State University in Kannsas, is a popular clinician, adjudicator, lecturer, consultant, and author. Her philosophy—Life Without Music Would Be A Mistake—prompts her continued interest in, dedication to, and involvement with piano pedagogy. She is a clinician for the Alfred Publishing Company and...
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Independence Day: Music Reading

Richard Chronister is executive director ofThe National Conference on Piano Pedagogy, president and educational director of National Keyboard Arts Associates, and editor of Keyboard Companion magazine. He has been active in developing piano teaching materials and piano teacher training programs for more than thirty years. He is known thro...
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What Musical Games Do Students Enjoy Most?

​from the series: The Magic Triangle: Teacher/Student/Parent For this issue, we went directly to the students to ask - What musical games do you enjoy the most? I think you will find their answers interesting, surprising, educational, delightful, and humorous. I only wish that you could see all of the actual slips of paper with the various sty...
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