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Improvisation, Composition,
Pop and Jazz

I also teach composition and arranging to students using books by Forrest Kinney. He has three different series that are fabulous for this purpose: Create First, Pattern Play and Chord Play. These books are great “idea-starters” for the beginning composer and/or arranger. The Create First series has 4 levels and each are available for Solo or Duet purposes (some prefer to improvise alone, and others with a friend or teacher together with them at the piano). Each page has an inspiring title and associated music to create a piece of music corresponding to the title. The Pattern Play books are set up in a similar way, starting at Level 1 and going through Level 6. This series goes through many different types/genres of music and different scales. It can be used for students at all levels as everyone will create something different every time they go through the book. The Chord Play books are made for those interested in arranging popular tunes in to more sophisticated piano pieces independently from the music. For each of the books, every 1 – 2 weeks students write a new composition or arrangement as their homework.

Pattern Play books by Forrest Kinney



Composition lessons can have many different directions depending on the interest of the student. If there is a specific style that the student wants to compose in there may be rules to learn to follow that style. For example. composing a Baroque Minuet has a specific structure, guidelines for melody notes, and rules about harmony. Lessons become discussions on the vision of the student and how well they are executing their intentions.

Pop Repertoire

I am happy to teach music by a favorite artist/band, movie soundtrack, or video game soundtrack. Faber and Faber has recently released their “Hits” series that has great arrangements. My only stipulation about learning a piece is that the music needs to be available in print (book or sheet music download). Examples of popular repertoire include music by Adele, Taylor Swift, Pharrell Williams, One Direction, ColdPlay, Awolnation, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Carribean, Star Wars, Minecraft, etc. This is a significantly less structured approach to learning piano, but can heed more enjoyment for those who don’t enjoy classical music.


Jazz Lessons

Though I am a classically trained musician, I still am quite happy to teach Jazz fundamentals and an introduction to jazz harmony. For an early introduction to Jazz music, the Faber and Faber Piano Adventures series has a Jazz & Blues book at each of the levels from almost absolute beginner to intermediate piano. Martha Mier also has a fabulous “Jazz, Rags, and Blues” series of four levels. Beyond an early intermediate level of Jazz, I would suggest taking lessons from someone who specializes in Jazz and would be happy to refer you to one of my colleagues.

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