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#2177247 - 11/04/13 10:55 PM Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords
eccp19 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/10/02
Posts: 79
Loc: United States
As part of the curriculum for one of my adult students, I would really like her to be able to play songs she likes (note - NOT classical). I understand that to do this, she needs to know basic chords and common progressions.

I would like to give her "your first fake book". Some questions though:

1) How should the learning of chords be introduced so as to not overwhelm? (I ask because many of the songs use quite a few chords that I can't imagine can all be learned in any meaningful way within only a few weeks)
2) Should inversions be used?
3) Any resource suggestions for helping someone learn chords, and theory, especially to be able to play standards, rock, pop, jazz but at a very beginning level?

OR

Is there a "method" book out there that teaches primarily through learning chords and progressions?

Basically, I am looking for a successful formula that you have used with beginning adult students that puts them on their feet in a realistic time-frame to be able to play songs they know and like.

Thanks!

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#2177274 - 11/04/13 11:48 PM Re: Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords [Re: eccp19]
Florentin Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/20/13
Posts: 139
Loc: Chicago
do you have a basic understanding of chords on the piano yourself, and basic harmonic relationships?

you can always create your own system to explain how chords are built and how they work on the instrument, if you understand it yourself.
_________________________
http://www.florentintise.com/

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#2177284 - 11/05/13 12:33 AM Re: Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords [Re: eccp19]
R0B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/03/08
Posts: 1439
Loc: Australia
You could start by teaching how to construct one, major scale.
She would then have the tools to be able to work out all major scales.

Then start with root position major chords, built on the 1st, 3rd and 5th degrees of the major scale. That will give her all the major chords.

Show her how flattening the 3rd, produces a minor chord.

From there you can move into inversions, 7ths, suspended, diminished, augmented, slash, the list goes on. I am sure you know what to do.
_________________________
Rob

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#2177385 - 11/05/13 07:55 AM Re: Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords [Re: R0B]
TimR Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/17/04
Posts: 3243
Loc: Virginia, USA
Originally Posted By: R0B
You could start by teaching how to construct one, major scale.
She would then have the tools to be able to work out all major scales.

Then start with root position major chords, built on the 1st, 3rd and 5th degrees of the major scale. That will give her all the major chords.



With some trepidation I would like to suggest an alternate approach.

I was in this same spot as your adult student when I started playing in church. That theory first then application route doesn't work well for some adults. Maybe all adults. Maybe all people. You understand how to apply the theory because of your long background, but a beginner will have more trouble.

What helped me was playing from leadsheets, starting simple and looking up one unknown at a time. If you take a simple leadsheet you can explain how to build a chord and why it fits where it does, and at least for some of us this is more understandable than opening the theory book. Actually, having a teacher explain it might have cut my learning curve in half, because I had to figure it out. From there you can go on to starting with just a melody and adding your own chords.

Start with the need (the sheet says D5, what do I do?) rather than start with the tool (definition of major triad).
_________________________
gotta go practice

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#2177394 - 11/05/13 08:10 AM Re: Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords [Re: eccp19]
Morodiene Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/06/07
Posts: 12146
Loc: Boynton Beach, FL
Originally Posted By: eccp19
As part of the curriculum for one of my adult students, I would really like her to be able to play songs she likes (note - NOT classical). I understand that to do this, she needs to know basic chords and common progressions.

I would like to give her "your first fake book". Some questions though:

1) How should the learning of chords be introduced so as to not overwhelm? (I ask because many of the songs use quite a few chords that I can't imagine can all be learned in any meaningful way within only a few weeks)
2) Should inversions be used?
3) Any resource suggestions for helping someone learn chords, and theory, especially to be able to play standards, rock, pop, jazz but at a very beginning level?

OR

Is there a "method" book out there that teaches primarily through learning chords and progressions?

Basically, I am looking for a successful formula that you have used with beginning adult students that puts them on their feet in a realistic time-frame to be able to play songs they know and like.

Thanks!


Well, first, the student would need to have a good grasp of finger numbers and note names. I would use a method book like Hal Leonard, because regardless of the style (unless she's only going to play by ear) then she will need to have the basics down. I would only go through Book 1, however. As a beginner, things look very much the same, so you should also have her work through a good theory book, like Keith Snell's Fundamentals of Piano Theory .

Once she displays she understands finger numbers well and can find her notes on the keyboard with relative ease, then start with scales.

She should learn her major scales and chord (I IV V) progressions and arpeggios in all keys. As a beginner, I'd start her out just doing scales & chords, one octave, hands separately first until she's comfortable, then hands together.

Once she has gone through the Circle of 5ths on both sharps and flats, then I'd say she's good enough with finding the chords in a key. At this point, teacher her a 12 bar blues progression (I I I I IV IV I I V IV I I, or some variation thereof) in C. This is so standard in jazz, blues, rock, pop, etc. that it is something she should become familiar with. Have her play the chords in root position while you improvise a melody using a truncated blues scale (maybe something like C Eb F F# G), then switch places. Then you can have her try playing the root of the chord only in the LH in the 12-bar progression while improvising in the blues scale in the RH. As she gets better at this, she should be able to play the LH chords in root position while she improvises the RH.

Once she does this, then you can point out how it's rather tricky to jump around so much in the LH to play the chords, and if you restructure them a bit (stack them differently from bottom to top) then the LH doesn't really have to move much at all. Teach her about inversions.

At some point here you can also introduce 7th chords, by showing how adding another third on top of a chord, you get a different sound. Any chord can be a 7th chord by doing this. I would stick to dominant 7ths and their inversions (and how you can leave out the 5th and then the 3rd and still have that "dominant 7th" sound) to start until she gets that. Then you can introduce major 7ths, minor 7ths, half diminished and fully diminished 7ths.

It's all about having a plan and a logical progression for teaching something. It's always better if you can show a need for something, but that won't always be possible, but at the very least you can lead her to why a major 7th sounds different than a dominant 7th.

Now when you get in the thick of it - and depending on how far into the jazz realm she wants to go - one issue you will encounter is that different fake books will name the same chords differently. There's no real standardization for names, and more "classical" approaches have different names for things than pop or rock, and those may be different from jazz. So, it becomes quite difficult. There is a book that you may want to own yourself, even if you never have a student work out of it called Jazz Keyboard Harmony by Phil DeGreg. The most valuable portion of this book, IMO, is the Forward. Namely part III talks about all the different names you can have and next to those names it spells out the chord in C major. This is great for reference when working from lead sheets that may use unfamiliar chord names. The rest of the book is great, of course, but I would only use it with those who want to be serious jazz pianists, who have a strong foundation in traditional piano.

This kind of teaching can be loads of fun, and the student will help guide you as they choose their own songs that they'd like to learn.
_________________________
private piano/voice teacher - full time
MTNA member
www.valeoconservatory.com
Petrof 9'2 Concert, Yamaha G3, Roland FP-7, Yamaha MOX6, Kawai MP11

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#2177852 - 11/06/13 06:39 AM Re: Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords [Re: eccp19]
AZNpiano Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5558
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: eccp19
Is there a "method" book out there that teaches primarily through learning chords and progressions?

http://www.amazon.com/American-Popular-Piano-Repertoire-book/dp/1897379013
There are five graded levels, and the system is quite comprehensive, to include improvisation, duet playing, and technique training. And you can't beat Christopher Norton's compositions.

I'm using some books from this series, primarily as a supplement for the slower students. But you can definitely use the entire series as a method.
_________________________
Private Piano Teacher and MTAC Member

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#2190592 - 11/30/13 02:50 PM Re: Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords [Re: AZNpiano]
littlebunny Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 09/11/11
Posts: 10
Give her one of those Easy fake books that are all in the key of C (Amazon has several); show her the most convenient inversions to start with, & let her have at it. That's what I'm doing with a friend of mine. Not everyone wants to be a music major (can't imagine why), but would like to be able to play some just for the joy of it. If she's interested in going farther down that path, you can give more advanced lessons when she's ready.

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#2190630 - 11/30/13 05:20 PM Re: Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords [Re: eccp19]
Polyphonist Offline
7000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/03/13
Posts: 7709
Loc: New York City
When teaching harmony, always start with triads, and go on from there, building on previous material.
_________________________
Regards,

Polyphonist

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#2191073 - 12/01/13 06:47 PM Re: Teaching Plan for Beginner's Needing to Learn Chords [Re: eccp19]
Jonathan Baker Online   content
Full Member

Registered: 06/09/09
Posts: 459
Loc: New York City!
The posts above give excellent advice to proceed in a systematic manner, so I will not add to them.

On the matter of keeping adult students engaged with their favorite tunes...

We all know that it is helpful to teach music from well known tunes, but often adults will download sheet music from the latest pop tune and this is sometimes problematic if it has comparatively complex harmonic progressions or confusing rhythmic patterns. I am game to teach pop songs as long as they are not written in an endlessly rambling, incoherent manner, but very few pop songs are well written by that criteria and I seldom use any. Instead, I prefer to use tunes that are compact, based on major scale patterns, with memorable rhythmic patterns.

There are a couple dozens well known two-chord songs that can be picked up quickly by ear (London Bridge, Row Your Boat, Twinkle Little Star, Alouette, etc). That is a good way to being ear training and keep the student engaged from the start while other material is being covered at the same time. As scales are mastered along with basic chords it is not difficult to transpose a simple tune in C major to G major (now being mindful of the F-sharp), then to D major and so forth as far as is feasible at the time. This really sinks in the meaning of those chords.

On this subject of teaching chords - I find it strange and disorienting that many music books teach the V7 chord written as b/f/g then resolving into a C major root position triad - before bothering to explain what a V chord is in root position, much less the inversions. I don't use that material since it does not make any sense to a beginner. I teach all theory myself with the theory books only as back-up reference for the student.
_________________________
Jonathan Baker
http://www.BakerPianoLessons.com/index.htm

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