Pentatonic Power Part by Laura Lowe

I’m happy to repost this excellent article from a blog by Laura Lowe.  Since attending our 88 Creative Keys piano improvisation workshop, Laura has become an advocate for fostering creativity alongside traditional music reading skills in the piano studio and that makes me happy. – Bradley Sowash Author: Laura Lowe In my last post, I explained the pentatonic scale and why it’s such a useful tool for for helping students learn to make their own music. I’m discovering that lots of folks aren’t familiar with this scale and its versatility! Carl Orff and Zoltan Kodaly both incorporated pentatony (isn’t that a fun word?) in their widely-used methods for childhood music education, noting that it was a native tongue for the folk songs children already knew and also that the absence of half-steps made it easier for children to sing in tune. In elementary classrooms today, children often play onOrff instruments which their teachers … Read more…

Improvising is for Everyone

Bradley Sowash: Joy Morin is a piano teacher in Bowling Green, Ohio (United States) who blogs about her adventures in piano teaching at ColorInMyPiano.com.  Recently, she reported on my presentation at the Ohio Music Teachers Association to which she obviously paid a great deal attention because she highlighted my major points quite accurately.  Joy writes: For a number of years now, Mr. Sowash has been encouraging teachers to include creative skills (improvisation and composition) in their lessons.  For many years, teachers would respond to Mr. Sowash’s message saying they were certainly not interested in doing so.  However, things are changing: in recent years, teachers have begun agreeing with the premise that teaching off the page is just as important as teaching on the page.  Now, teachers are asking for information about HOW to do so.  Today’s presentation addresses this question about HOW to teach the skills for improvisation.  Continue reading…

Pentatonic Scale Improv Ideas for Elementary to Intermediate Levels

Week #2: Pentatonic Improvisation (Click Pentatonic Improv for instructions) * You can only imagine how happy they all were this past week, when students were “allowed” to play FIVE notes instead of just ONE! I explained that these were a nickel’s worth of notes but worth their weight in gold. In keeping with my philosophy that everything should be introduced first by ear, I played the 5 notes (beginning on C) and they were asked to match them, without looking at my hands. Upon discovery, we then assigned them scale degree * Faces were beaming when students discovered how good they could sound using those 5 notes. ANY one of them worked above my vamping and the iReal b band. They were asked to play the same LH patterns as the week before (just C, E, F and G) and again, this was trickier but they enjoyed the challenge and integrated many of their discovered … Read more…

Bright Blues Scale Improv

In a previous post, I discussed the pentatonic scale as a collection of “fallback” notes for improvisation that will sound good in almost any style or chord progression that stays in one key. Scale degrees 1, 2, 3, 5, and 6 You can also think of it as a major scale minus the 4th and 7th notes. C Major Scale = C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C C Major Pentatonic Scale = C  D  E      G  A      C (major scale minus 4 and 7) Like a painter preparing his or her palette for a new still life, a great way to bring a bit of jazzy color to this “pitch palette” is to add the flat 3rd “blue” note to the pentatonic scale.  The result is a note collection that I like to call the bright blues scale. C Bright Blues Scale = C  D  Eb … Read more…

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