Comprehensive Keyboard Theory – A New Approach for a Tired Old Subject

My goal as a teacher is to produce well-rounded musicians with practical musical skills. This includes technique, tone, and development of the ear, knowledge of various genres, the ability to improvise and a deep knowledge of the elements of music. A working, comprehensive knowledge of theory is key to achieving this.

Traditionally, theory has been taught on paper, as a separate subject, away from the keyboard. Most often, it is studied to fulfill the requirements for traditional conservatory examinations. Existing theory texts are centered around covering only materials pertinent to these exams. Often, retention levels for those learning theory in this way is minimal.

So, if you want to learn how to write a song in the style of an 18th Century madrigal, traditional theory could be the answer. If the goal is to acquire a practical knowledge of the elements of today’s music, (musical developments since the dawn of the twentieth century), you will have to look somewhere else.

Today's youngsters are savvy. Having grown up with technology, they are plugged into the world around them. Providing them with a practical, working knowledge of the most pertinent musical tools encourages creativity, builds a deeper understanding of all music, and produces better musicians.

I began looking for ways to teach practical Theory at the keyboard over a decade ago. As there were no pre-existing materials available, it was necessary for me to create my own. New concepts were tried, some refined, and some discarded based on how students responded. I at first, I experimented on my advanced teenage students, then with older elementary children, and finally, children as young as five.

Keyboard Theory has and will always be a work in progress. I am constantly tweaking and refining concepts. The process is labor-intensive, but worthwhile. Since I am “Master of the Materials”, I can tailor materials to the needs of specific students. I am very committed to teaching in this way, because the results have been phenomenal! Students studying Keyboard Theory have progressed further in performance and exhibited higher levels of musicality than their peers who aren’t taking the course.

Keyboard Theory Details

  • As opposed to learning theoretical concepts on paper, Keyboard Theory involves students studying and performing all materials at the piano.
  • Traditional “Book” Theory revolves around the European major/minor system. Keyboard Theory goes far beyond this, covering blues scales, modes, pentatonic scales, chords, chord voicings, chord progressions, a variety of genres and much more.
  • Keyboard Theory revolves around the chromatic learning system, as practiced by jazz educators. Traditional Musical Education does not address many keys until Grade Nine. Keyboard Theory students as young as seven have had no problem adjusting to playing all materials in all keys.
  • Elements covered in Keyboard Theory provide practical tools to promote a better understanding of all musical genres, the basics of improvisation, and the elements of musical composition.
  • Although many of the concepts covered in Keyboard Theory are considered to be too complex for young people by Traditional Music Educators, experience has taught me different.