All month we have explored the importance of composition in the piano studio. Now, I am excited to share with you an online course which I have been spending heaps of time creating over the past months.
It’s called my 4 Chord Composing course. The following post will explain why teaching chords and composition is so vital. Also, at the end of the post you will be able to find the first three modules of my course available for only US$6.99.
This 10-week 4 Chord Composing Plan is designed to introduce any student to the fun and power of a chord-based approach to playing and creating music at the piano.
Just about all music (from baroque and classical to jazz, pop and rock) is based on chords and yet explicit instruction around the chord-based nature of music – how it works, the theory behind it and how to create it – seldom enters a traditional piano lesson.
The power of chords to assist students in the reading and performance of traditional music, not to mention the deep theoretical understanding that a chord-based knowledge of music brings to a musician, is critical to a pianist’s sight-reading ability, understanding of musical genres, ability to improvise and understanding of form and structure.
Chord-based teaching provides a bridge between written musical theory textbooks and the practice of making music. It gives students a practical demonstration of, and immersion in, the theory through a student’s real-world love and innate understanding of popular music.
Put simply, this teaching approach connects students with the theory in a practical and meaningful way, using musical structures they innately know and understand.
If you’d like your students to be able to read music more fluently, to be able to compose their own music and improvise out of trouble when performing, if you’d like them to be able to read a chord chart, fill in a left hand and accompany themselves as they sing, if you’d like your students to play in bands and have the best chance of making music for the rest of their life, then this program is for you.
4 Chord Composing introduces students (and teachers) to an understanding of the chordal structure of music, chord progressions, chord types, melody, scales, patterns and rhythm through the context of composing mainly 4 chord progressions.
4 Chord Composing may be introduced within the first couple of weeks of lessons, depending on the student’s age, maturity and hand size for playing chords.
If teaching beginner teens and adults, I use the content of Lesson 1 at the first or second lesson and continue this chord-based journey regularly in lessons. Older students really respond to a chord-based approach alongside traditional note reading and technical work.
The lesson plans and content are based on my own experience of what works. It is a very broad-based teaching plan and will depend very much on the speed at which your student is comprehending the material. It’s much better to do a few things per lesson well and leave students wanting more than trying to squash too much in at once and overwhelming them.
There is probably enough content in this 10-lesson plan for a year of work if you only spend 15 minutes per lesson on the material. It all depends on the time you have available, the goals you’ve set for your students and your student’s motivations.
Check out Lesson 1 of my 4 Chord Composing course right here. It’s all about introducing major and minor chords into your lessons.
While there is a lot of instruction around chords and students will learn heaps about music in this process, all the exploring is through students’ own chord-based compositions. I believe composing (creating progressions) is the best way to learn about the theory of music and help students when playing other pop songs and written pieces.
Remember to keep pointing out the connections between the theory that you know (eg. cadences, leading notes, tonic/dominant relationships, good vs. bad melodies, major vs. minor, etc.) and what students are learning as it won’t necessarily be obvious.
This course will sharpen your students’ ears as long as you ask more questions than you dictate answers or solve problems. Students will need to listen much more actively to their playing in order to find out the best progressions and melodies.
Please be aware that if you print out these lesson plans, you won’t be able to access the hyperlinks which I’ve provided to supplementary information and teaching videos, so I suggest you save an online copy for reference even if you print this out for teaching.
I hope you have as much fun exploring this material with your students as I do on a daily basis.
Here is Lesson 2 in my 10-part course. This video will show you how to incorporate a chordal approach to teaching and connect it with pop piano playing. Enjoy!
You can start using the first three lessons in my 10-week 4 Chord Composing right now! Purchase the first 3 lesson plans and implement chordal teaching in your studio today!
If you’ve enjoyed the content of these lessons and want to know how to continue teaching in this way, then make sure you check out the rest of this course.
These lessons are just the tip of the iceberg and a part of my 10-part “4 Chord Composing” course that is available right now in my Inner Circle Community.
Here are the modules you’ll be able to access straight away:
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy my 4 Chord Composing online course. I’ll see you in the Inner Circle!
Tim Topham has one mission in life: to stem the tide of children quitting music lessons by helping teachers maximise student engagement through creativity, technology and innovation. Tim hosts the popular Creative Piano Teaching Podcast, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, Californian Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.