Compose at the Keyboard with the Pyramids Variations
4.8 (7 ratings)
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Compose at the Keyboard with the Pyramids Variations

Learn an easy, flexible hand position to play chords from chord symbols and learn the basics of improvising music.
4.8 (7 ratings)
Instead of using a simple lifetime average, Udemy calculates a course's star rating by considering a number of different factors such as the number of ratings, the age of ratings, and the likelihood of fraudulent ratings.
60 students enrolled
Created by Mister Musicarta
Last updated 9/2016
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  • 1 hour on-demand video
  • 2 Articles
  • 27 Supplemental Resources
  • Full lifetime access
  • Access on mobile and TV
  • Certificate of Completion
What Will I Learn?
  • Play an impressive modern classical ('New Age') piano solo based on a simple hand-position, without reading music or having played the piano before.
  • 'Compose at the keyboard' - Just sit down and play the piano from having seen how music can be built up from simple elements.
  • Get a practical demonstration of creative music theory basics - what makes music work, and how to put it together yourself.
View Curriculum
  • No previous experience needed! You do NOT need to read music to make stellar progress using this course.
  • No advanced computer skills necessary. The optional MidiPiano virtual keyboard (Windows OS) is basic computer technology.

The Pyramids Variations (Learn to Improvise on a Chord Sequence) is about being able to "just sit down and play" the piano - like a guitarist can just pick up the guitar and strum a few chords. (In fact, "strumming the piano" wouldn't be a bad course subtitle!)

The first part of the course coaches you to an impressive 'Concert Performance' piano solo based on a simple hand position. The second half goes on to show how you can become a creative 'composer at the keyboard' by varying and recombining the musical building blocks you've mastered.

Lessons consist of web pages and pdf lesson notes. The web pages host hundreds of audio and video performances of the examples and the course includes the MIDI files of the musical examples along with the MidiPiano virtual keyboard to play them on, making mini how-to videos for everything you need to learn.

The Pyramids Variations course consists of 20-plus practical lessons – probably two whole semester/term's-worth of creative course curriculum.

You do NOT need to be able to read music to benefit from this course, but all the MS is there for good readers. There's a link to extensive 'try before you buy' web content in the Introduction article to help you decide if the Pyramids Variations is for you.

Who is the target audience?
  • Any pianist of any age and stage who feels he/she could be more creative at the keyboard than hitherto.
  • Any lapsed pianist wanting to take up piano again on their own terms.
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Curriculum For This Course
Part One of the Pyramids Variations is the step-by-step build-up to the Concert
9 Lectures 33:21

Introduction to composing at the keyboard with the Musicarta Pyramids Variations.

Preview 02:27

With a simple hand position anybody can copy, you can be playing a chord sequence in your very first lesson.

Preview 12:00

In this lesson, you straight away start to explore how the Basic Music-making Position helps you make variations on your Pyramids chord sequence.

Preview 08:25

It's great playing chords, but a piece of music needs a tune as well. Fortunately, the Pyramids melody grows straight out of the chords you already know.

Pyramids - Adding the Melody

Pyramids goes large! What you can do with two chords, you can double to four, making a grand-sounding bottom-to-top keyboard chord study. Add the melody on top for a very impressive Lesson Four performance.

Pyramids - A Four-chord Version

Chord tones are usually the first choice for a melody, and in-between notes are often used to join them up.

Pyramids - Developing the Melody

Lesson Six adds new music to create a piece which has the indispensable popular song 32-bar 'AABA' structure.

Pyramids - The 32-bar AABA Form

The new 'B section' music now has to be expanded to four-chord dimensions.

Pyramids - The Four-chord B Section

You've done it! You have now learned all the building blocks of your stunning Concert Performance. All's that left to do now is assemble and practice.

Pyramids - The Concert Performance
The Pyramids Variations, Part Two: Practice Aids
1 Lecture 00:50
Memorising the Pyramids Variations
The Pyramids Variations, Part Three: The Variations
13 Lectures 18:57

Jump right in with an extended medley-style Concert Performance which gives you more performance minutes for all your hard work - at no extra cost!

Pyramids: Alternative Concert Performances

Developing the bass line is a fine opportunity to think about melody and improve your playing-by-ear and improvising/composing skills.

Pyramids: Developing the Bass Line

If we raise the top note of an A minor root position triad one step, we get a first inversion chord of the next chord in the Pyramids chord sequence – F major. 

A simple trick which opens the door on a host of new sounds.
Pyramids using Mixed Inversions

What goes up can come down! Playing your mixed-inversions variation top-to-bottom adds a new twist and offers the chance to experiment with melodic movement again.

Pyramids: Descending Variations

Six-eight isn't a very 'rock music' rhythm, but four-four time definitely is. Here's a module that will convince you that what you're learning really is applicable to all styles of music!

Pyramids in Four-four Time

The circle of fifths is the most powerful chord sequence in Western music. You cannot study popular music harmony for long without learning about it. Fortunately, the Pyramids Variations easily adapts to demonstrate this harmony mother-lode.

Pyramids and the Circle of Fifths

Suspensions - temporarily raising a chord tone one step - are a great way to get more out of chords. Another simple trick you can apply across the board!

Pyramids using Suspensions

This is a catch-up module giving you the opportunity to showcase the variation-composing techniques you've learned so far.

Pyramids: Further Variations

Broken chords are virtually 'music to go', and a staple of the popular keyboard style. Practicing broken chords is never wasted, and the Pyramids Variations chord sequence is a great starting point.

Pyramids: Broken Chord Variations

This solo started life as Broken Chord Variations 3. An ideal vehicle for getting carried away by the music.

Pyramids: Homage to Pink Floyd

The Musicarta ‘left-hand-over style’ – bringing the left hand over to play chord tones in the treble – is a good way to fill out your sound, as well as being fun to play and looking good.

Pyramids, Left-hand-over Style

The 'Alberti bass' is a simple broken-chord accompaniment from the Classical era - and a great stand-by for 'messing round with chords'.

Pyramids: Alberti Bass

A few words about going on from here.

The Pyramids Variations: Postscript
About the Instructor
Mister Musicarta
4.8 Average rating
20 Reviews
1,659 Students
5 Courses
Creative music teacher with Musicarta

Bob Chappell (aka Mister Musicarta) has been "messing round with chords" since he got turfed off the school piano for playing four-handed boogie with a pal. A lifetime musician, playing for functions and ballet class and every modern style under the sun, Bob now teaches and plays in Cape Town, South Africa.

Years of teaching a creative curriculum called 'composing at the keyboard' have been honed down to what works best to free that musician within. Visit the Musicarta website and Mister Musicarta YouTube channel (links below) to sample my approach.

Looking forward to seeing you on the courses!