Pop & Jazz Keyboards & Harmony (beginner level)

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Would you like to play keyboards, but found that some more traditional piano lessons concentrate on:

  • note-reading
  • completely notated set-pieces, whether classical and pop, - even jazz tunes (....aren't they supposed to be at least partly improvised?)

In this new course, you won’t be learning any set, notated pieces. Doing that’s fine to improve your all-round playing skills and technique, though maybe without really much understanding of what makes the music work.

But, to be honest, practising pop, rock and jazz musicians don’t really do much of that in their working life. Instead they do things like jam, work from chord-sheets, create their own versions of standards from lead-sheets, improvise and solo, and many more things that require as good an understanding of Practical Harmony as possible.

So, in this course, we’ll be delving right into the heart of what makes music tick: its chords, scales, keys, melodies and more. Simply put, these are all the things that makes up its Harmony.

To give an example, in the first few lessons there’s an explanation of what chords can be played in different keys. The technical stuff is stated as succinctly as possible, and how to actually play the chords is demonstrated on the keyboard at the same time. Always, how the chords can be used in a typical modern-day chord-progression is shown in an example.

You’ll therefore learn and practise harmonic theory and playing keyboards at the same time. The aim is for you to immediately be able to use the theory practically and creatively in your own playing and writing.

What else will I learn in this course? Examples include:

  • How to play many different kinds of chords in both hands, and in different ways
  • How to use chords in chord progressions
  • How harmony and chord-progressions work, and how to write a chord progression
  • About writing melodies to chords; about Bass-lines and The Blues

Here’s a complete list of the topic covered in each of the twelve lessons

1. Some Basic Chords, Major and Minor

2. Playing Simple Chord Progressions

3. More about Minor Chords

4. The Diminished Chord, and Chord Functions

5. How to write a Chord Progression

6. Chord Inversions, Part 1

7. Chord Inversions, Part 2

8. Dominant 7th Chords and Secondary dominants

9. Other 7th chords and less common chords

10. Melodies, Chord-Tones, and Tensions

11. Basslines

12. The Blues

What are some other great things about this course?

  • Lessons are short, mostly about 10 - 15 minutes. But don’t get the wrong idea! They are information-packed, structured, and to the point. Your attention won't wander within 1 minute due to rambling explanations, and you’ll often want to use pause and rewind.
  • A list of topics that will be studied is displayed at the start of lessons, and the lesson divided into segments, in line with this.
  • Along with the keyboard illustrations, many details in the spoken explanations are continuously reinforced by text displayed beneath the visuals.
  • At the end of each lesson, a “practice” segment details things shown in the lesson that the student should practice.
  • No music-notation is used in the course at all. Although the course-teacher is far from having anything against traditional notation,  this makes the course more inclusive and accessible! All explanations are done with use of note letter-names. This is actually the way some of the most famous pop, rock and jazz musicians have learned!

How is the overall course structured?

The course starts with the most basic chords in the first lesson, and then progresses through more sophisticated chords and concepts in a logical way, building on what has been studied previously. The aim is to keep playing ability in line with what has been learnt theoretically.

The Beginner's level course is part of a larger course, including Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced levels, and this is structured in the same way.

What can I do after this course?

You can progress to the Intermediate and Advanced levels in the larger Pop and Jazz Keyboards and Harmony course. All three levels are written so as to follow on from each other.

Beginner’s Level is oriented to Pop and Rock material. Intermediate and Advanced deals with increasingly more sophisticated chords and Harmony, such as is used in Jazz. (Please note, apart from two initial lessons, most lessons in these upper levels will not be available till the end of the Beginner's level course. They are shown now just as a “taster” of what’s to come!).

Who is this course for, and what prior knowledge and experience is needed?

Although described as a Beginner’s Course in Pop Keyboards and Harmony, participants should have at least some experience of keyboard and playing simple tunes and knowledge of things such as note-names and other very basic theory. No previous knowledge of chords and harmony is needed however.

The course would also suit those with a good level of experience and ability in music in other ways, who would like to know more about pop and jazz playing. For example:

  • Someone who has studied keyboard classically to a good level
  • Someone with good ability on another instrument for whom keyboard is a second instrument
  • A composer or songwriter looking to expand their knowledge
  • Experienced Pop or Jazz musicians who would like to prepare for Intermediate and Advanced level courses.

Who is the course teacher, Duncan Millar?

I am a professional pianist and keyboardist, writer and producer in the genres of jazz and pop. My most recent jazz-oriented album was in 2013, and you can listen to it and find out more about me at my website at duncanmillar.com.

I am a graduate of the Berklee School of Music, Boston. As a pop artist and writer, and later as a jazz artist, I have been signed to numerous major and independent labels, with hits world-wide, notably in the Billboard Top 100, Billboard Dance Chart and UK Top 40, and have also been a UK MOBO award nominee as Best Jazz Act.

I hope that answers most questions, and that you like what you see in the 3 free lessons. Also that you’ll want to sign up to the course, which you can do on this page!

If you’d like information on anything I haven’t covered here, please contact me at:   [email protected]



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