‘Pop goes the Piano’: Exploring the popular side of piano playing
For many piano teachers, so much of the time is spent on learning the notes – ‘Note-bashing’ as it is sometimes called. But all that changed recently in Bangkok as Nicholas Keyworth worked with 24 piano teachers exploring the more popular side of piano playing…
The world of music is complex jumble of styles, genres, words and terms. Classical music is notated very precisely – so you just play what is on the page. Sounds easy? But learning a new piece of music can be hard work and slow. No wonder our students get bored!
PLAYING FROM CHORDS
Let’s take a fresh approach. Look at the first part of one of the new Trinity Grade 1 pieces – Minuet by Alexander Reinagle.
We can easily work out the harmony of this passage and write them as chord symbols instead:
Now we can play the melody with the chords underneath.
Now let’s turn the chords into more of an accompaniment like this:
We can even swing the quavers to make the music feel a little more jazzy.
This is a great way to learn a new piece. Not only is it fun, it also develops the imagination as well as speeding up the process of learning and understanding.
Here are the some of the commonly used chord symbols:
C Chord of C major in root position
C/E Chord of C major with E in the bass
(first inversion: E,G,C)
C7 Chord of C major with an added minor 7th
Cm Chord of C minor
C Aug or C+ Augmented chord on C
Cdim or dim7 Diminished chord on C
NC No chord
PLAYING WITH A BACKING TRACK
Another really useful skill which is less familiar to classical teachers is playing with a backing track. This is very common in the popular world and an important part of the Trinity Rock & Pop syllabus. All the songs in the books have backing tracks to play along with.
The Supporting tests for the exam are called SESSION SKILLS. These help to develop reading, aural and creative skills. You can chose between two options:
This is a bit like sight reading but the candidate sees the music as well as hears it. Then they play it with the backing track.
The candidate is presented with a chord chart and improvises along with the backing track.
You can try these out for yourself by downloading some samples from the Trinity website.
ROCK & POP KEYBOARDS
You can enter an exam for Trinity Rock & Pop Keyboards with any of these instruments:
- Acoustic Piano
- Digital Piano
- Digital Keyboard
- Electronic Keyboard
One of the great things about the Rock & pop syllabus is the gradual progression of Skills and Techniques through the great. This is something you could usefully build into your teaching programme:
SKILLS & TECHNIQUES
thumb crossing, split stave, syncopation and offbeat rhythm.
swing rhythm, coordinating ties over the bar line, semiquaver riff and staccato.
coordination, arpeggiated chords, staccato and accent markings and octave leaps.
swung 3/4 time, crescendos on repeated quavers, syncopation and split stave.
legato fifths, tremolo, dynamic contrast and chromatic scale.
broken chords, swung gospel feel, grace notes and metronomic left hand.
accompaniment style, fast shuffle feel, melodic fourths, improvisation over challenging chord sequences.
including ‘late’ melodic feel, left-hand independence, triplets against straight quavers, bluesy fills.
changing time signatures, semiquaver triplets, contrasting musical characteristics and melody spread between the hands.
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