The Pyramids Variations
Pyramids Build-ups

The underlying musical structures of a piece of music are always simpler than the actual music.

By ‘underlying structures’ is meant things like:

(The Build-up)

  • The chord sequence,
  • A hand position (such as the basic music-making position),
  • The performance ‘texture’, in terms of finger movement,
  • The bass line and the melody line, and the shape of these, and
  • The piece’s musical form and possible variations and developments of it.

(The Variations)

  • Chords in inversion,
  • Approach note movement types,
  • Bottom, middle, top analysis,
  • Together, left, right analysis, and
  • Standard chord sequences such as the circle of fifths.

Many ways of indicating underlying structures are presented in the Pyramids Variations volume. The more ways you use to look at these structures, the better your understanding of them and the better your chances of playing the piece with confidence and enjoyment.

Also, a reliable knowledge of underlying structures (plus the techniques for bringing them to life in performance modelled in the present volume) is essential for improvising, at any level.

Build-up to the Concert Performance

From the point of view of building musicality generally, re-building the your Pyramids performance from its simplest elements every practice session pays dividends.

Any Pyramids student should know the steps of the build-up by heart. This list gives only the audio performances - the MMYT Build-up playlist brings the videos together.

Use either list as a revision prompt, to see if you can play the versions from memory.

In Lesson One, you play the sixteen-bar Pyramids chord sequence in the BMP.

In Lesson Two, you start turning your basic chord texture into music with the ‘left-hand-over patterns'.

In Lesson Three, you add easy-to-find chord-tone melody notes.

In Lesson Four, you stretch Pyramids out into a four-chord version.

In Lesson Five, you develop the melody with some in-between notes.

In Lesson Six, we learn some new material for a ‘B section’, bringing Pyramids up to 32-bars in length.

In Lesson Seven, we stretch the new 'B section' material out to four-chord dimensions.

In Lesson Eight, you simply add a chords-only introduction (straight out of Lesson Four) to get the Concert Performance.


Sample lesson build-ups

(This list is primarily for teachers who are using The Pyramids Variations
as a supplement to conventional piano lessons.)

A complete build-up to the Concert Performance might consist of the following elements. The actual performances are given in brackets.

  • A revision of the Basic Music-making Position (on various roots) p.5
  • The bottom-to-top execution in six-eight of the Basic Music-making
  • Position (randomly, for all the chords in the chord sequence) p.8
  • The E minor and E major chords p.7
  • The zigzag line made by the roots of the chords p.66

(Pyramids: Chord Sequence in the Basic Music-making Position, p.10)

  • Left-hand-over patterns in A minor and E major (and possibly the whole 16-bar version in LH-over patterns) pp.12–15
  • The different ways the two halves end pp.66, 67

(Pyramids with Left-hand-over Patterns, p.17)

  • The melody (the zigzag line of the melody notes) p.20
  • The zigzag line of the melody notes against the zigzag line of the bass notes pp.20, 21

(Pyramids: Adding the melody, p.23)

  • The left, right, left, right four-chord pattern p.26
  • The zigzag bass line an octave lower p.29
  • A minor and E major four-chord left-hand-over patterns p.27

(Pyramids: Four-chord Version, p30)

  • Pedalling p.32 
  • The zigzag melody line an octave higher against the octave-lower bass line p.33

(Pyramids: Four-chord Version with Melody, p.34)

  • The developed melody – right hand stems-up melody notes only p.40
  • The developed melody in bars 13 and 14  p.39
  • The fancy plain/fancy pattern of the developed melody p.38

(Pyramids: Developing the melody p.41)           

  • The 16-bar form as ‘A1A2’  p.48
  • The new B section chords (right hand and left hand) p.47
  • The plain/fancy pattern of the B section p.49
  • AABA form, in theory and practice (section endings) p.48 
  • The B section and 32-bar AABA zigzag melody-and-bass line profiles p.50

(Pyramids: AABA form, p.51)

  • Adaptation of the two-chord B section chords to four-chord extent p.53
  • The zigzag melody-and-bass line profile of the four-chord B section p.56
  • The B section developed melody in twelve-eight, an octave higher p.57

(Pyramids: Four-chord B section, p.58)

  • An eight bar four-chord introduction p.59
  • A 40-bar introduction-plus-AABA form p.59

(Pyramids: Concert Performance, p.61)

This is a comprehensive list for demonstration purposes only. As teachers become aware of pupils’ strengths and weaknesses, this list will be slimmed down and more accurately targeted.

Teachers will also find it useful to address memorisation throughout, using the material and techniques in the Supplementary Material memorisation module.

Teachers who are familiar with the Pyramids material will not find it difficult to devise similar build-ups for the variations in Part Three. Build-ups can also form the basis of ‘medley’ performances of the Pyramids Variations. See the MisterMusicarta YouTube Segue Performance video and the association Variations web page.


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