Sunday, February 1, 2009

American Popular Piano (APP) Levels 6-8

The beginning of February marks the end of a major writing endeavour - the completion of Levels 6, 7 and 8 of APP, both Repertoire and Etudes books. Each Repertoire book contains 24 pieces, so there's a significant chunk of work for a start - 72 new pieces, many (for me!) quite extended and covering a gratifyingly wide range of styles. As with earlier volumes, 8 of the pieces in each book are ensembles, with a written-out teacher accompaniment and a backing track on CD.

The really radical part is in the Etudes books - I take 6 pieces from the Repertoire book of the same level and break down improvising on those pieces  into what I hope are manageable bits. You start with a chord progression for the left hand only, with a highlighting of certain chord types (an emphasis on inversions soon becomes apparent!) then some tips on right hand improvising, then the right hand melody and left hand chords are put together. then I take the same chords and put them in the right hand and add a bass line and hey presto! you have instant vamping (vamping tips also included) 

It's a very different approach to both improvising and chord analysis and I'm hoping students (and teachers..) will get into it quickly. The styles covered are a lot of fun - calypso, swing, hard rock, bossa nova, r'n'b etc...and will hopefully encourage fluency in lots of styles and lots of chord types and chord progressions.

I'm doing a whole lot of UK workshops shortly (see the tour list for dates, places and times) and will be covering some of this material in them. And of course I'll be doing the same at MTNA in Atlanta in March and at the Frankfurt Music Fair. See you there!

On the front page of the Novus Via website ( you can hear the backing track to Happy Times (from Level 6) and there's a link, also on the front page, to a pdf ofpart of the Improv Etude for the same piece. Check it out!