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.
Introduction to composing at the keyboard with the Musicarta Pyramids Variations.
With a simple hand position anybody can copy, you can be playing a chord sequence in your very first lesson.
In this lesson, you straight away start to explore how the Basic Music-making Position helps you make variations on your Pyramids chord sequence.
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 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.
Chord tones are usually the first choice for a melody, and in-between notes are often used to join them up.
Lesson Six adds new music to create a piece which has the indispensable popular song 32-bar 'AABA' structure.
The new 'B section' music now has to be expanded to four-chord dimensions.
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.
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!
Developing the bass line is a fine opportunity to think about melody and improve your playing-by-ear and improvising/composing skills.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
This is a catch-up module giving you the opportunity to showcase the variation-composing techniques you've learned so far.
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.
This solo started life as Broken Chord Variations 3. An ideal vehicle for getting carried away by the music.
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.
The 'Alberti bass' is a simple broken-chord accompaniment from the Classical era - and a great stand-by for 'messing round with chords'.
A few words about going on from here.
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!