Consonance vs. dissonance: Inborn or cultural?

For many years, I have taken issue with the notion (held by some) that consonance—the absence of musical tension—equates to combinations of pleasant and agreeable musical sounds, while dissonance—the presence of musical tension—equates to combinations of unpleasant and disagreeable musical sounds. It is a distinct...
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Questions and Answers

Questions and Answers
This is Part 2 of a response that began in the Nov/Dec 2017 issue of Clavier Companion.  Q. This is the time of year when high school students are considering college and preparing for auditions. As a music administrator, do you have any suggestions for me and/or my students that would help us make good decisions?​Make music alone and with oth...
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Unifying techniques in musical compositions

Any musical composition may be analyzed from the perspective of attempting to reveal its various facets of unity and variety. A work may often prove to be satisfying to the listener when these elements are in judicious balance. Notwithstanding that, however, the predominant features of any given musical masterpiece are unquestionably the work'...
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Apps for teaching: Acing theory tests without theory books

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Much to my pleasure (and astonishment!), a number of my students signed up to take theory tests at the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) local festival. None of these students owns a theory book.The NFMC Bulletin provides an outline of concepts covered in each test level, as well as practice tests from prior years. From the online bull...
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Lock in theory with iReal Pro

Developing technical skills builds strong players. Working through technical challenges can be more beneficial when combined with theory concepts and exponentially more engaging when locked into a groove.Fellow Clavier Companion contributor and improvisation specialist Bradley Sowash recommends developing scale playing with backing tracks that...
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Beyond major and minor: A composer’s understanding of chords and scales

​Major and minor. Together these form a basic polarity in Western music. Major scales and chords are usually characterized as "happy," while minor ones are saddled with the label "sad." After composing, improvising, arranging, and teaching for more than forty years with these musical materials, I have come to a different way of understanding them. ...
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Pencil Practice 101

​Recognizing chord symbols is one of the biggest obstacles faced by beginning improvisers learning to play from lead sheets. Just as foreign language students write conjugations to become better speakers, pianists can improve their chord fluency with pencil practice away from the piano.Writing chords by keyFollow these steps together with your stud...
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Notable next-door neighbors

Many music theory textbooks illustrate melodies that often consist, in part, of chord tones—the notes that match an underlying harmonic progression. An example of this may be seen below, in the folk song Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair. The first three pitches, above the words "Black, black, black," are chord tones outlining a D mino...
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How do you create solo piano arrangements from a fake book?

Today's jazz pianists learn to play within many different contexts. They might find themselves in a big band, a combo, or by themselves as keyboard soloists. As soloists, they must supply the harmony, rhythm, and melody while only being given a lead sheet version of a song as a guide. At the professional level, this skill can be quite complex. Howe...
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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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