Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Completely Awesome Technique

I'm not really a fan of scale books per se. I do use the FJH Classic Scale book with my more advanced students- its pretty comprehensive as a reference and has a nice chart for tracking progress. But before a student reaches that level of technique, there are a number of fundamentals I want them to understand. I haven't found a single book that covers what I want them to know in the order I want them to know it, so I created my own called "CAT" books.
Completely Awesome Technique

Here are the contents of my first 2 CAT books. (There are 4 CAT books in all before we get to the FJH scale book).

C.A.T. 1
  • 5-finger major scales
  • major triads in root position
  • 5-finger pattern of  WWHW
  • Major 2nds & 3rds
  • Perfect 4ths and 5ths
  • Major arpeggios (hand over hand)
  • Sight reading in major keys (5-finger position parallel motion)
  • Written major 5 finger scales in letter names and musical notation
  • Written intervals (2nd-5th) in letter name and musical notation
  • Major triad identification
C.A.T. 2
  • 5-finger minor scales
  • minor triads in root position
  • 5-finger minor pattern of  WHWW
  • minor 2nds & 3rds
  • Review of  M2, M3, P4, and P5
  • minor arpeggios (hand over hand) w/major review
  • Sight reading in minor keys (5-finger position parallel motion)
  • Written minor 5 finger scales in letter names and musical notation
  • Written intervals (2nd-5th) in letter name and musical notation
  • Written major and minor triad in letter names 
  • Major triad identification review
  • Minor triad identification
  • Major/Minor triad inversion- (Root, 1st, and 2nd inversions)

   It takes almost the first year of lesson to get through CAT1, but getting through CAT2 is a breeze because its laid out the same and they quickly know that to get a minor triad they just drop the third a half step. They already know all the majors, and how they are spelled, so this book never takes long and they are in CAT 3 before we know it!

   Every week we drill 5-finger scales, triads, intervals and arpeggios. I use the key chain that I made out of keys bought at Michael's crafts. I used a silver sharpie to write each major and minor key on the key itself. Using the key chain, I can randomly pick a key and call it out. The student plays all of the above exercises in that key. They really have a sense of accomplishment when they can do any major or minor key I call out. (I try to stump them by calling out an enharmonic- but they always get a kick out of letting me know that I just called that one already in a different key!)

Once they know all their majors and minors, the possibilities are endless- I can call out ANY major or minor key for them to transpose a lesson book song in. I can call out an easy chord progression and they know exactly what to play. I can teach them to play from a lead sheet....in any key! They can harmonize a piece pretty easily using triads or intervals in the left hand. They can play triads in the right hand with octaves in the left hand (add in some pedal) and sound like a pro.  Learning 7ths and 9ths is also easy once they know all the triads.

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