This web page is the last in the series of the Musicarta ‘Pyramids Variations’ piano lessons online. If you are looking for keyboard creativity piano lessons online, this page will be of interest to you.
The Pyramids Variations has now been released as a digital download home-study pack comprising a 150-page PDF text file with 200-plus audio and MIDI files of the musical examples given, a free ‘virtual keyboard’ MIDI file player (see an example here) and 26 videos showing the key musical examples playing with simultaneous scrolling music manuscript (see an example here).
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Skeleton series web pages like this one have been left on the site to show you how the Pyramids Variations can boost your ability to simply make music at the keyboard. To understand this web page, you should have explored the other pared-down Musicarta Pyramids Variations piano lessons online pages using the series navigation link table in the right hand column – or click through to the Pyramids Variations home page for an introduction to the series.
Pyramids - the way forward
The build-up to the Concert Performance is only one part of the Pyramids Variations keyboard creativity programme. The build-up is designed to inspire you by fast-tracking an impressive performance while teaching you music theory basics and getting the building blocks of real-time keyboard harmony comfortably under your fingers.
But the Concert Performance is only one way you can use the Basic Music-making Position to play the Pyramids chord sequence. The rest of the Pyramids Variations workbook explores other ways (twenty or so) of playing the chord sequence which you are already close to mastering.
Working through these variations models the creative keyboard skills you need to create your own Pyramids Variations, and you will be able to apply the many harmonic textures and melodic techniques you learn to any song or chord sequence.
Another advantage of knowing a chord sequence as well as you know the Pyramids chord sequence, is that it removes one ‘unknown’ from the creative process. Having ‘loaded’ the Pyramids chord sequence as a template, ‘messing around with chords’ is made much easier. You know ‘what’ to play (vaguely!) so you’re freed up to decide ‘how’ to play it.
Knowing a chord sequence really well offers a great opportunity to practice your playing by ear, too. Picking out a melody involves listening closely to how the melody gets from one chord tone to the next – but if you know the chords, your guesswork will definitely be ‘better educated’!
The Pyramids ‘Variations’ material
How to use this material
If you have worked through the build-up to the Concert Performance in the Pyramids Variations, you know the Pyramids chord sequence well and understand how chord patterns and melody tones bring it to life.
As a result you might already be able to play Pyramids variations by ear from the following audio files. All the variations presented are very similar to what you’ve already learned, and clues about how they are constructed are given.
Even if you have learned the variations from the Pyramids workbook, you probably haven’t memorised them. Use these audios as ‘prompts’ to revive your performances.
Remember, the emphasis is on ‘having a go’ rather then getting it right. If you end up playing something slightly different which flows and sounds nice, that would be considered a success!
Note that the written music, audio and MIDI files for all these variations is included in the Pyramids Variations download package.
Developing the bass line
Play 10-note LH-over patterns – stopping at the right hand thumb on the way down – for every chord symbol in a 16-bar A1A2 chord chart.
You’re now playing ‘in twelve eight’. The 10-note LH-over pattern leaves two quaver slots vacant. Finish this version by playing:
The root of the current chord (repeat the first left hand note), then
Another note, which you will pick or copy from the next audio file.
The following note (the first in the next bar) will be the root of the next chord in the chord sequence, and the variation will sound complete.
The bass line actually used in the version given is this:
... but your own version is equally acceptable.
The Developing the Bass Line module of the ‘Variations’ section has many spelled-out examples to teach to hear a melody line moving by steps, skips and jumps. You go on to use the same composition technique on the melody-line-on-top in the Descending Variations (see below).
Using mixed inversion chords
If you take the top note of an A minor root position (BMP) chord up one white key, you get an F first inversion chord.
Because of the regular structure of the Pyramids chord sequence, you can do the same thing on the next two pairs of chords. G becomes E minor, and F becomes D minor.
If you do this in both hands and play up the notes of one bar (chord) and down in the next, and put the simple Pyramids melody on top of everything, you will be playing the following variation. (You will have to think about how it ends!)
You developed the bass line in the twelve-eight LH-over variation (first in this section) by finding attractive ‘in-between’ notes. You can use the same technique on the melody-line-at-the-top, over alternating root position and first inversion descending chords.
Pyramids in four-four
Play alternating right hand root position and first inversion chords an octave lower in four-four – four steady chords per chord symbol. Add a little ‘kick’ to the bass line between beats two and three, and some ‘developed bass line’ movements on beats ‘four and’.
Dividing the eight quavers of a bar of four-four into groups of three plus three plus two is a popular and effective technique often used in rock music.
Here are the notes of alternating root position and first inversion chords broken up in this order:
top middle bottom / top middle bottom / middle top
Play the bass line from the previous four-four version under this 3+3+2 pattern.
Pyramids and the Circle of Fifths
The circle of fifths is the most powerful harmony generator in music, and is an essential component in jazz and advanced ballad harmony.
The Pyramids chord sequence can be adapted into a circle of fifths construction simply by changing just three bass notes.
Here is a 16-bar circle of fifths Pyramids variation.
The following three variations all use alternating root position and first inversion chords in pairs. (Remind yourself how this works in the Mixed Inversions section above.) Listen and work out how the following variation samples have been put together, then complete them.
This variation plays the melody in the left hand under right hand root position-alternating-first inversion chords
Here are another three ‘seed’ versions:
Here are two more composing challenges:
Compose B sections for all the variations on this page that don’t have one, using the patterns from the A sections.
Apply the circle of fifths bass line to all the versions given.
Convinced? Pure music creativity material of this quality has never been offered online before and is not available anywhere else!
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At Musicarta, the Pyramids Variations is a living thing!