Having an understanding of how music works is crucial to becoming a well- rounded piano player and “bulletproof” musician. Music theory also provides you with tools that can help you write your own music. The study of music theory is a fascinating one that, as a teacher, I love to talk about with my students as it can really help to demystify music making and lead to a greater appreciation the piano and music in general.
The piano is the perfect instrument on which to learn theory because, once we become familiar with the keyboard, there is a regular visual pattern of notes laid out in front of us that we can use to illustrate theoretical ideas. In fact, playing the piano is so closely related to music theory that it is impossible to learn the piano properly without also learning theory.
I teach music theory in a variety of ways depending on the needs and preferences of each individual student:
Theory-only lessons in accordance with the ABRSM Music Theory syllabus (Grades 1-5)
Listening to pieces of music and analysing what is musically going on in them.
Improvising and composing pieces on the piano often involving duets between teacher and student.
Learning pieces of written music, including from fake sheets, and analysing the theoretical ideas in them as we go.
The theory bootcamp (see below)
In these lessons, emphasis is always placed on how to put these theoretical ideas to work in practise. Some students have the preconception that music theory is boring or dull but I have found that this is only the case if music theory is taught as a paper exercise and the link is not made to the piano.
The theory bootcamp is a consecutive five-day course of lessons tailored to the unique requirements of each individual student and designed to cover all areas of music theory.
I have had great success in the past with children over the school holidays on the bootcamp as the camps can be designed to be as fun and functional as possible. However, the course is also great for adults looking for a fast-track introduction to the nuts and bolts of music or looking to deepen their knowledge.
Each bootcamp session is 1-2 hours long and includes a small task to work on at home after each session to reinforce what has been learned during that day’s lesson.
Topics covered on the bootcamp vary a lot depending on the interests and musical background of each student but usually include:
Notation – Notes on the stave treble and bass clef, recognising common chord shapes, ornaments, signs.
Rhythm – Rhythmic values, dots, ties, simple, compound and odd time signatures, counting, rests, accent patterns, polyrhythms, metric modulation, triplets, swing.
Harmony – Intervals by ear and on the page, major and minor, chord recognition by ear and on the page, scale theory, chords of the scale, key signatures, triads, extended and altered chords, modes, pentatonic scale, blues, common chord sequences, melody, bass harmony, inversions.
Implementation – Improvisation and composition on ideas covered, technical exercises, studies, pieces that emphasise ideas covered, instrumentation.
Please note that due to the unique, tailored aspect of each course, at least 2 weeks notice is required before the start of any bootcamp.