The Pyramids Variations
Pyramids Variations - Diaries

Overview page

The Pyramids Diaries are Pyramids variations that have been discovered at the keyboard since the first publication of the workbook.

Most of the variations below have been incorporated in the second edition, so if you're on this page, you will already have access to the full teaching versions.

New Pyramids Diaries entries will hopefully inspire you to keep coming backup to the Pyramids material and enjoy a lifetime of 'messing round at the keyboard' with this versatile and easily mastered chord sequence.

The less-developed sketches below have been left for seasoned Pyramideers to hopefully see how the Pyramids chord sequence has been 'realised' - brought to life - and sit down and, with a bit of experimentation, play the new versions or their own version of it.

TPVD 14-11-12: Broken Chord Study

The great thing about knowing a chord sequence inside out is that you can 'just sit down and play' - by which Musicarta understands PRACTICE YOUR TEXTURES and STICK TO THE PLAN. You have one thing (the chord sequence) really nailed down - that frees you up to concentrate on getting the notes out.

TPV Diaries 14-11-12 is a broken chord study on the Pyramids Variation A1A2 chord sequence, with a couple of circle-of-fifths chords in the A2 strain.

TPV Diaries 14-11-12 has been incorporated in the June 2016 revised Musicarta Pyramids Variations, including full learning notes with on-page videos and workbook MS.

Here's the MisterMusicarta YouTube performance. (Pyramids Variations purchasers' web pages have .ogg video options, if your browsers has trouble with YouTube.)

The Pyramids Variations Workbook notes shows you how the variation  'realises' (makes real) the chord sequence.

Pyramids has a regularly structured chord sequence, which means that if you decide on a pattern for the first pair of chords (Am and F), you can apply that keyboard texture to the second and third pairs and in effect 'fill up' three quarters of the 16-bar, A1A2 version at a stroke.

The composer-at-the-keyboard generally starts with a texture/pattern in mind, and this is what produces the music. Then you go back and "tidy it up a bit", and there's your piece of music.

There's a mistake in the left hand in the A1 strain of the repeat (G chord). Can you spot how it drops the pattern?

TPVD 27-11-12: Toccata

This TPV Diary entry in four-four is dense-textured and fast and uses right-hand down-and-up-again mixed inversion broken chords with the two-note approach-note figures from Descending Variations.

1. The overall structure is AABAA -- five strains instead of the usual 32-bar AABAA form.

2. In fact, none of the A strains are in fact the same, though the fourth is closely related to the second. The difference is in the way the melody moves between the top of one chord and the top note of the next. (The ear automatically "appoints" the top note of a chord the melody.)

These approaches to the next top ("target") chord tone use the characteristic shapes of the Developing the Bass Line (bass) and Descending Variations (melody) modules.

3. Note the implied 'slash chords' feature. There is no bass note for the F chord in bar 2 (and ditto the subsequent even-numbered bars), so the ear hears F/A, Em/G etc.

3. Note the extended ending. It's common practice to extend a piece by repeating (as here) the third- and second-last chords twice (making three times in all) before finally cadencing to the last chord. This version goes on to duplicate the effect with a following three-times-alternating i-iv (Am-Dm) pair as well.

TPVD 30-11-12: A Sad Parting

('A Sad Parting' is one of the pieces in Musicarta Piano Solos Vol. 1)

Musicians familiar with the Pyramids variations might recognize the outlines of the Pyramids chord sequence in this piece, though liberties have crept in.

  • The usual third chord (G major) has been 'elided' into the E minor fourth chord.
  • The circle of fifths quite takes over in the B section.
  • The Am/Dm extended ending from TPV 27-11-12 is in there too.
  • The selected 'melody' chord tones are radically different from other Pyramids renditions.

TPVD 06-10-13: Mixed Inversions w. Developed Melody

This is a quick get-the-idea challenge for the seasoned Pyramids builder.

It's obviously in the 'Descending Variations' family, but the left hand second inversion rises and overlaps the right hand triad by two chord tones -- so you have to 'get out of your own way' pretty smartly.

Technical harmony point:

In the more recent Pyramids Diaries, the D sharp diminished chord keeps making an appearance at the end of the phrases before the E major chords, either squeezed in or instead of the regular F major/D minor chords. The D sharp diminished chord can be read as a B7-flat 9 chord, but without the root B -- and thus a secondary dominant of tonic chord A minor.

For a challenge, make up a Pyramids 'B section' using this pattern.

TPVD 08-04-16: Melody in the Left Hand

Two melody-in-the-left-hand variations, the first with just a triad in the right hand, the second with a four-note chord.

The first is the same as Further Variations No.4, except for the F major 7th and E minor 7th chords, which are improved.

Syncing the left-hand melody runs IS difficult - practice a single fragment over and over and keep coming back as your keyboard skills improve to see how accurate you can be and how much shading you can work into your performance.

Graduating to playing four-note right hand chords is a big step up for popular styles keyboard player. Fingering 'correctly' becomes less optional with four-note chords. Use a classical scales and arpeggios book and learn the inversion 1-2-3-5/1-2-4-5 fingering.

TPVD 17-04-16: In Three-Four, LH Melody

A version with the melody in the left hand, in three-four instead of six-eight.

There is a deliberate cross-rhythm here, with the suggestion of six-eight (two times three quavers) never far away.

The melody is quite different from the usual, but obviously built on the chord tones.

Try devising a B section in this texture.

TPVD 17-05-16: Two Pavanne Studies

The Pavanne (the Suspensions Variation in the Workbook) acquired two impromptu studies in a lesson recently.

Essentially, they're the Pavanne without the suspensions. You could play either or both of these as an introduction to the full version for an extended segue performance.

Watch it on MisterMusicarta YouTube