A few months back I shared about Forrest Kinney’s series Pattern Play. This is a series with ideas and inspiration for improvisation as a soloist, in a duet, or even in a trio or quartet. Forrest Kinney has a new series called “Chord Play: The Art of Arranging at the Piano.” I just got the first book in this series this past week.
Last Wednesday I had a new adult student who has played piano for many years and can read music very well, but is interested in being able to play from chord symbols. I have some basic experience playing from ‘lead sheets’ or chord symbols, but this is definitely not my strong suit. So, in the spirit of Whitney’s last post, I am always learning and seeking ways that I can become a more well-rounded piano teacher. This adult student is just the push I need to become a little more confident with harmonizing and improvising from lead sheets and chord progressions. I had seen Forrest Kinney present on this new series at MTNA last March, and I knew this was just the thing I needed to help with a systematic approach to playing from chords.
The book begins with playing simple melodies in C Major. In collegiate class piano, these are often called “ear tunes” or pieces that most everyone is familiar with that the students must figure out how to play by ear. There are a few melodies written out in full, which is helpful for those who aren’t confident in their aural skills, and then a list of other tunes to try. It then explores playing the melodies in other keys before getting to the main focus of the book – adding chords. It gradually adds different types of blocked chords, and then introduces different styles of accompaniment. There are 5 books in the series and each one adds more complex chords and skills. This is a great book to have in your music library as a resource. I don’t know of anything else like it that takes you systematically through ways to harmonize, arrange, and expand a simple, familiar melody.
Spring Seals, NCTM, teaches 60 piano students ranging from age 3 to 70 in Fort Worth, Texas. She also serves as the Director of Certification for TMTA. She is passionate about helping teachers become more effective in their studios through professional development, new resources, and fresh ideas.