jazz improvisation

On Scaring Classically Trained Music Teachers with Contemporary Idioms

Earlier this month, I presented improvisation and various elements of Conservatory Canada's Contemporary Idioms syllabus to The Piano Pedagogy Group. This was a group of bright yet frightened classically trained piano teachers. After years of being told "Play what's on the page," the sight of a chord chart or a lead sheet drew looks of puzzlement and various states of uncertainty. Conservatory Canada has recently updated their Contemporary Syllabus in such a way that makes it easier to crossover to the "fun zone". I myself haven't gone through all of the changes yet (You can find out all about the syllabus changes here). What I did touch upon was my experience delving into contemporary idioms on a deeper level. Much deeper than playing through popular arrangements by Dan Coates, Bill Boyd and Phillip Keveren.

I began by sharing my experiences taking jazz piano lessons with jazz pianist, adjudicator, clinician and examiner Derek Stoll. Then, I walked them through various elements of preparing for my Level 7 Contemporary Idioms piano exam.

The bulk of my presentation was on sharing the resources I commonly use when teaching contemporary music, in addition to my approaches to teaching technique, improvisation and learning music that isn't in standard notation. This is rather huge, I will go into each area in more detail in subsequent posts. Hopefully, this will open up a dialogue between music teachers and students who would like to delve into the "fun zone".


Scales Help at Scaleindex.com

[February 5, 2013 update: Scaleindex.com is no more. Instead, check out this article on Freejazzlessons.com on the "10 Jazz Scales You Should Know"] I stumbled upon this site while trying to makes heads or tails out of the Lydian Dominant mode (jazz musicians are probably shaking their heads at this as they know very well what Lydian Dominant is). Scaleindex.com is a very thorough site, containing scale formulas, chord analyses, note names and audio clips of everything from our standard major and minor scales to the Bebop Dominant and Hindu scales.

My student R, who likes to compose, is excited about writing in some of these different keys while my student A is currently on a modal kick with her repertoire, so she is pumped about learning how to play modes. The funny thing is, neither student is in Conservatory Canada's Contemporary Idioms syllabus. Both girls are in the traditional stream of ConCan and RCM respectively.

As for my students who need to learn the Lydian Dominant mode for their Contemporary Idioms exam, they're just relieved to have the scale formula in an easy to understand format (as am I).

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