Why Teaching Creativity Matters

Here’s a repost of a piece I recently wrote for the blog hosted by Clavier Companion–The Piano Magazine, found at http://www.claviercompanion.com I II III II III II III II III II III II III II III In 2006, I was asked by my publisher to attend a national music education conference to help market my new jazz piano method. Lacking sales experience, I somewhat nervously asked anyone who happened to pass by the exhibit booth, “Are you interested in teaching improvisation to your students?”  Since most piano teachers are inherently friendly, I was relieved when most of them agreed to take a polite first look at my books.  A few, however, surprised me by reacting indignantly with the likes of, “Why, certainly not!” before proceeding down the aisle (and inevitable extinction) to peruse the latest editions of Fur Elise. A Balanced Teaching Philosophy There’s nothing wrong with teaching what we’ve come to … Read more…

Advice for Student Musicians

For the past several years, I’ve had the honor of performing in “Christine’s Christmas,” an annual benefit concert that has raised more than $300,000 for children’s charities. I love this mega-gig because it stretches my musicality to the max. In addition to a big choir, guest vocalists, and string orchestra, the lineup includes a number of principle soloists: founder Mark King on piano, a cellist, two drummers, a trumpet player and yours truly on bass, synthesizers, and piano. (I also coach the arranging and play a bit of violin in the orchestra.) Read and Improvise All of the above mentioned principle musicians for this event are expected to both read music and improvise. Did you get that?  Read and improvise.  One moment we are playing written parts as precisely as possible and the next, we are improvising our own paths through the chord changes. Why does the director insist on … Read more…

Online Lessons Make a Merry Little Christmas – Leila Viss

Guest Writer: Leila Viss Originally posted at 88pianokeys A while back I announced the onset of my online lessons with master improv teacher Bradley Sowash. I had my doubts but they were vaporized when our first lesson worked like a charm thanks to Facetime. My initial progress was measurable as reflected in this video. Although I did not record it, my left hand walking bass was top-notch thanks to Bradley’s tips and tricks. I was even able to improvise freely in my RH while my LH strutted with style between chord tones. Due to a flakey Wi-Fi, the next couple of lessons were not so rosy and what promised to be an hour of enlightenment turned into an hour of trouble shooting. Coupled with the flailing internet was the fact that my available practice time was sparse. Yes, I suffered through the typical plateau and even a valley as all piano … Read more…

Classical Pianist Tackles Jazz – Leila Viss

My friend and teaching colleague, Leila Viss blogs about topics related to teaching piano at 88 Piano Keys.  Since taking online lessons with me, she has begun a new series from her perspective as an adult student.  She plans to track her progress as she learn to add jazz chops to her already impressive skill set as a classically trained pianist.  She hopes it will inspire others to realize that anyone can learn to improvise and that despite  the poo-pooing of music purists, it really is acceptable (and fun even — gasp!) to dabble in improvisation and popular styles without compromising one’s training. Read her first installment here: Back on the Bench and Out of the Box

Composing with Names

Here’s a splendid variation on the “Bach Motif” you or your students can use as a composing prompt. Steps: 1. Encrypt someone’s name into musical pitches using alphabetical equivalents.  For example, the musical equivalent of the name “Jack” would be C, A, C, D. Letter  Pitch a     =     A b     =     B c     =     C d     =     D e     =     E f     =      F g     =     G h     =     A i     =      B j     =      C k     =     D etc. 2. Play the letters you encrypted on the keyboard with your right hand. 3. Find chords to fit the melody.  Alternatively, the pitches can be interpreted as the roots of chords. So “Jack” could also be thought of as the chord progression: C, Amin, C, … Read more…

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