Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Joy to the World Scale + Harmony Experiment

Practicing Scales & Chord Progressions.... What's the point????

I came up with this little seasonal exercise to help my students practice applying their scale & chord progression knowledge (I, IV, V7) to a familiar Christmas tune.  I like how it helps them to see the practical application of technical exercises in everyday music.
1.  Starting on C play the opening melody to Joy to the World with your Right Hand (Descending C Major scale). "Joy to the World, the Lord is Come"

2. Play again adding a C Major root chord in the left on each note of the melody. Does that sound good to you?

3.Experiment changing the C Major root chords to IV (F) or V7 (G) chords until the left hand chords harmonize well with the melody line.  Hint: To sound like traditional Joy to the World, choose chords that include at least one note from the melody line.  For example if you are playing C in the right hand a C chord (CEG) or F chord  2nd inversion (CFA) will sound better than G7 (BFG).

Additional Challenges:
4. Add your chord choices to the Music Ace Doodle Pad.
5. Once you've finalized your chord choices, try omitting a few of the left hand chords for a more legato sound.
6.  Transpose the opening theme of Joy to the World to the keys of G, D, A, E & F Major.
7.  Improvise the left hand chords.  Try playing open fifths, broken or arpeggiated chords.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Teaching Basic Fingering Rules

What finger do I start on?

My students who are used to method books where fingering is typically spelled out for them sometimes draw a blank when they try some supplemental music with no fingering guidelines.
Transitioning from method books where the fingering is suggested for students, to simplified hymns or supplemental piano music with no fingering guidelines can be a bit of a challenge. 

Rather than giving them fish (prescribing the best fingering), I want to be better at teaching them to fish (show them how to choose the best fingering for them for each situation.)
I like to start with Martha Beth Lewis's basic fingering Rules.
1.Thou shalt not hop.
2. In any finger crossing, thou shalt use a thumb.
Although my teachers spent a lot of time teaching proper scale, arpeggio & chord fingering, I don't remember a lot of emphasis being placed on how to apply fingering rules into my music.

Following are my step by step instructions to help my student choose appropriate fingering for a simplified version of one of my favorite Thanksgiving Hymns - "We Gather Together" .
 Steps for selecting appropriate fingering.
1. Goal: Play phrases Legato.  First identify and mark the phrases in the song.  Use the words and punctuation as your clues.
2. "Block" the Left Hand notes one phrase at a time
3. Identify phrases including notes larger than a 5 finger span.
4. Write in the fingering at the beginning of each phrase. "Floating off" (a delicate hop) to a new position between phrases is okay.
5. Remember, "Thou shalt not finger hop" (within the phrase).  Decide which fingering technique works the best - Expansion, Contraction, Finger Crossing or Finger Substitution.  Listen carefully as you play with your selected fingering to make sure it doesn't have create awkward accented notes.
Write in the fingering you have chosen and which strategy you used.

 For more helpful fingering guidelines visit the following link at
7 Rules of Piano Fingering

P.S. It's hard to believe those little fingers in the picture are now big enough for my little girl to "color" all over my music now & play on the keys.