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Piano and Music Theory Part 02

Posted on 20th April 2012  · 
It has been a week since my first mini blog post on basic keyboard skills and music theory and I hope that some of you have managed to put in some practice using the '5 finger position' and basic fingering techniques covered in my Piano and Music Theory Part 01 mini blog post.

For those ready for the next stage I just wanted to take a step back for a moment and ask a simple question; when was the last time you watched a master at work? somebody who is 'clearly talented' and can hit a ball, drive a car, swim, dive, play piano, build a house, produce a dance track... like no other you have ever seen before?

Maybe you have a friend or know somebody who knows somebody that seems to have super human skills in his/her chosen sport, hobby or profession? The problem is that all too often, especially in the infancy of following a dream we can easily be thrown completely off course by what Matthew Syed calls 'the talent myth' in his book 'Bounce the myth of talent and the power of practice'.

The point I am trying to make here is that when we see experts in any chosen field we are quick to call them 'a genius', 'extremely talented' or 'a natural' without knowing the full picture. This is known as 'the iceberg illusion'. In reality experts have spent thousands of hours practicing, perfecting and performing tasks to become extremely good at what they do!

I find that understanding and recognising 'the talent myth' is an extremely powerful tool which can propel you into a world of rewarding productivity without fear. Just imagine for a moment knowing full well that you can achieve anything you want to with practice... well you can!

With this in mind we can begin to focus on the importance of consistent 'purposeful practice' to achieve our goals in life (in our case learning good piano playing technique and music theory skills!). What I mean by 'purposeful practice' is that we need to push ourselves a little each day to 'get good'. Practicing the same thing over and over again will only hinder your progress.

On that note lets look at the C Major scale in more depth so we can open a few more doors and give you more musical paths to explore as you practice. Last week we looked at scales which I described as 'a succession of notes that are played one after another following a tonal pattern'.

To understand the tonal pattern followed by the C Major scale we need to look closely at the notes on the keyboard in relation to one another. For example if we go from a C up to a C# we have raised the pitch by 1 semitone (1 semitone = half of a tone). Similarly if we go from a C up to a D we have raised the pitch up by a full tone.

Looking at the notes within the C Major scale; C, D, E, F, G, A, B and C (1 octave above) we can see/hear the following tonal pattern between notes: T, T, s/t, T, T, T, s/t. So between Notes C and D there is a full tone, between D and E again a full tone, between E and F is a semitone and so on...


A real 'eureka' moment for me came during my early experiences learning the piano when I was taught that once you know the tonal pattern of the C Major scale (T, T, s/t, T, T, T, s/t) you can transpose up or down to any key you choose to find the Major scale for that key (as long as you keep the tonal pattern the same). In other words you now have access to 12 different Major scales.

Suddenly we are faced with the challenge to learn all of these forwards and backwards with hands separately and apart! if you do so you are paving the way to a myriad of possibilities when it comes to writing music whilst at the same time improving your motor skills, finger dexterity and playing technique.

Next Time... from Major to minor

Written by Steve Heath of Wave Alchemy


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