ADVENTURES IN THE
Most popular-styles keyboard music relies on you being able and ready to play chords at the keyboard.
The simplest chord is a three-note chord called 'the triad in root position'.
One of these in each hand makes up what Musicarta calls the
Basic Music-making Position
The Basic Music-making Position (BMP) is Musicarta's way of answering that perennial question, "What must I do to 'JUST SIT DOWN AND PLAY?".
It is literally true that, with your hands in the BMP, you can just waggle your fingers and make - and make up! - music. (Of course, your germ of an idea might need a little cleaning up...)
You can see all Musicarta's BMP exercises, arrangements and improvisations on the MisterMusicarta YouTube BMP Diaries playlist
The BMP Diaries are studies and improvisations designed to accustom your hands and ears to playing and imagining music in the basic music-making position (BMP).
Here is the teaching video for BMP Diaries 02-02-15, Versions (1) and (2).
Note: You can watch the video in YouTube by clicking on the title, top left corner of the video, if it's better for you.
If you're teaching yourself these little studies - be nice!
Musicarta's premium home-study course, The Pyramids Variations - a beautiful piano solo and dozens of variations - is based on the basic music-making position.
The PYRAMIDS VARIATIONS
The Musicarta Pyramids Variations aims to exceed expectations by coaching beginners and re-starters to an impressive ‘Concert Performance’ in just eight lessons. After that, you learn a set of variations which model all the contemporary keyboard player’s knowledge and skills.
The Lesson Eight sample page shows how the impressive teach-yourself Concert Performance is built up from the BMP, and the Variations page shows how much music you can put together from these easily mastered building blocks.
Here is the teaching video for BMP Diaries 03-02-15.
Still in six-eight time - two groups of three left-hand quavers in the bar. Count "One-and-a two-and-a" to get the feel of the rhythm and help keep the notes coming.
Sorry about the bumpy audio! My technical people are working on it!
This entry uses the same two chords still (Am and G), but is in 4/4 time. Make sure to master the pattern in the introduction first to get usd to the new rhythm.
Notice how the right hand goes up-then-down in the first half, then down-then-up in the second half. If you can focus on 'the pattern', you'll find 'the notes' take care of themselves.
Here's your video. Read the nots below as well.
Again in A minor and G. Listen out for the six-bar phrases in the first part. The average l;listener doesn't count off the bars but the slightly different phrase lengths add to the interest.
BMP 08-02-15 is obviously in two parts. The second part uses tenths and sixths to provide the harmony. Tenths and sixths are, of course, close cousins of the third - THE harmonious interval and essentially a 'proto-chord'.
NONE of which you have to understand! Listen three or four times - until you sing along, the get your hands into the A minor BMP and see if you can waggle your fingers like Mister Musicarta's. A bit at a time, and remember - anything tuneful and rhythmical that you come up with gets a big tick from Teach. -
That's what it's about - messing about creatively! "Just sitting down and playing."
This BMP Diaries entry wanders over four chords - A minor and G (first pair), then C and B flat (majors).
Note how, when you're playing two next-door triads (three-note chords), fingering one 1-3-5 and the other 1-2-4 gives you a more legato (joined-up) performance. Much better than 'hopping' when you run out of fingers!
You will want to think through what the left hand does in terms of 'top (T), middle (M), bottom (B) notes (chord tones). In the pairs of chords it uses (e.g. A minor then G), it plays B. T. M. B (first chord) then (second chord) B, M, T.
Read through that description a few times as you watch the video until it 'sinks in'. Remember, in the BMP Diaries, it's the pattern you play, as much as the notes!
In D minor and C.
The left hand plays its three chord tones bottom, top, middle, top (BTMT) except for the last two bars and the coda.
Notice how the chord changes speed up.
For the first six bars (first four chords) you can move your right hand over the new position and play fingers 1 to 5 / 5 to 1. For the last two bars, put RH2 on D.
The second verse, You play exactly the same material, hands crossed. The hands-crossed section is optional - you can skip straight to the coda (repeated last little bit) at the the end of the first section if you wish, or as a temporary measure.
Musicarta's easy piano version of Greensleeves finds itself on the BMP page because the hands play in the Basic Music-making Position nearly all the time.
Here's the teaching video.
Learn the right hand/melody first. Copy the fingering or work out your own so that you don't run out of fingers. You need to be able to play the tune from memory before you start adding the chords.
Then add simple chords, as in the first chorus in the video. The chord symbol always gives the bottom note. The chords are all-white-key chords except for E major (plain 'E') which has the G sharp for the middle note.
When you're sure of the plain chords performance, try breaking up the left hand chords as in the second chorus in the video. Get the together-left-right ('what comes with what') pattern into your muscle memory by repeating just one phrase until comfortable.
Do you know, there are only SEVEN different bars of music in the whole of Greensleeves! Try to 'take it easy' when you're playing repeated material *that you already know), so you can enjoy your own performance a bit and make some room for thinking about playing beautifully!
BMP Diaries 10-03-15 is a four-four meander over a full five positions – from G major up to D minor – but still starting with our home A minor/G pair.
The right hand only plays two of the triad chord tones – usually middle and bottom but sometimes middle and top. That’s the thing you have to ‘get’ to be able to play the study.
The end breaks out of the four-four and into those supposedly only-for-grown-ups triplets (US: tuplets). I’ve found younger learners are much better at triplets/tuplets than they’re supposed to be! Just play the last ten notes as evenly as possible – the tempo match will come if you give it a chance.
A thought: BMP Diary entries are a bit like musical ‘speed dating’. You’re supposed to get acquainted really quickly, then move on. This isn’t deep-and-meaningful – it’s a crash course in 'getting-to-know-you' chord-work!
The aim is always to feel able to make up your own entries. Put your hands in the BMP and just waggle those digits! Listen right into the mess for the outline of something you like, tidy it up and, hey presto! – you've got your own thing going.
Here's the teaching video for Scarborough Fair.
The chord symbols in the teaching video and MS reliably give you the left hand BMP triads, save for the one inversion: Am/C at the start of the second phrase. Say “A minor over C” – the ‘first inversion’ of the A minor triad with C as the lowest note. Check the Musicarta Inversions drill via the Chords page for practice and explanation.
Once you know the melody (don’t follow Mister Musicarta’s fingering – he is beyond redemption!), start building up your performance with block chords in the left hand following the prompts in the video or the chord chart below. Then break the chords, then (if you like it) copy the ‘gappy’ version in the video.
The difficulty with Scarborough Fair is the odd phrase lengths. Everybody hears a different version in their head. Also, you could write the music down many different ways – Musicarta has chosen a mix of 9/8 and 6/8 bars – but the broken chord left hand definitely comes in groups of three quavers which line up as follows.
A line of five chords (9/8 + 6/8), and three of six (9/8 + 9/8). (The third line could easily be a five too – try it.)
The verse is over very quickly. You would probably have a few bars of what the old sheet music used to call a ‘vamp’ in between verses (“Play ’til ready” – just jamming around on Am or Am and G*), to let a bit of air in and spin the song out a bit.
Find the lyric on the internet, work up an instrumental solo – the melody with a bit of variation – and Central Park, here we come.
(*A G chord with E in the bass makes and E minor 7 chord (Em7) – nice alternating with Am for the ‘vamp’ and soloing over.)
Piano lessons with Musicarta often include 'roughing up a few triads,' and BMP Diaries 16-08-12 is a good example. It's the basic music-making position (BMP) in A minor and next-door G major, with a ska/reggae-type syncopated rhythmic texture to organise the output of notes.
Bars 9 to 13 achieve a great-sounding and fancily named F major seventh chord by simply dropping the bass a third to F while still playing an A minor chord in the right hand -- a technique called mediant substitution that's always worth a try!
Musicarta's Pyramids Variations is wholly built on the Basic
Music-making Position. Click through to the Pyramids home page (navbar
tab) and explore the quite mind-boggling potential of this simple
The syncopation (off-the-beat hand patterning) is a challenge. If you watch-and-listen and try hard enough and often enough, you'll get it. If you're looking for a more methodical approach to keyboard rhythm skills, Musicarta Beat and Rhythm Workbook might be what you're looking for.
Popular music has a strong rhythmic component – and the modern-styles keyboard player needs well-developed beat and rhythm skills just as much as any other instrumentalist.
Give the Snake Dance Syncopation Challenge a visit, too!
Playing only on the white keys with a chord other than C as your home chord means you're playing in a MODE. This little study is in the Aeolian ("A-O-lian") minor -- home chord A minor in just-the-white-keys. Modes are the old, pre-classical system of keys, but they're still generating lots of groovy popular music. Learn about modes with the Musicarta Modes Workbook - if you're not into theory, it's stack-full of riffs!
The modes are known as scales for improvisation – and for generating intriguing chord sequences not available in the conventional major/minor key system. Here is methodical, ‘lean’ approach to building a sound and productive knowledge of modes for the modern-styles keyboard player, packed with riffs which will expand your chord vocabulary and your repertoire of rhythmic keyboard skills.