Teaching harmonious improvising - with a colorized keyboard

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I'm CraigRu (Craig Rusbult), an enthusiastic educator who (quoting from my web-page about improvising) "wants to help more people -- especially K-12 students and seniors, the young and old -- increase their enjoying of music by making their own music."_ How?_ By combining an old idea with new ideas.__ old: All of us learn by doing, when we do musical experiments (try new musical ideas) to produce new musical experiences so we can listen and learn.__ new: Using a colorized keyboard can help users improvise harmonious melodies, by showing (with labels - red,blue,green) the notes of the main major chords (C,F,G - the I,IV,V) in C Major, so a player can intuitively see-and-play the notes of a C-Chord (they're all of the red notes - no more, no less) or F-Chord (all blue notes) or G-Chord (all green).
____How?_ In a progression of learning, students begin by playing only red notes._ Then in a chord progression they might (as one possibility among many) play only-red for awhile, and only-blue, only-green, only-red, i.e. "I-IV-V-I"._ Soon the "only" becomes "mainly" when I ask them to alternate times of mainly-red (not only-red), mainly-blue, mainly-green._ During a time of "mainly red" their melodies will be mainly red notes (C,E,G) but also some non-red notes that are in-scale (white - D,F,A,B) and out-of-scale (black) being used as passing-notes between chord-notes._ Sometimes I play a "mainly" melody to illustrate, perhaps playing slowly while explaining what I'm doing, to serve as a model for possibilities they can explore._ I encourage them to use musical imagery by "thinking classical" or "thinking blues" -- so their "chord melodies" will include short "scale melodies" that tend to be mainly-diatonic (mainly white notes) while they're "thinking classical" and also-chromatic (using black notes more often) while "thinking blues" -- and to just enjoy being musically creative, trying new ways to play.
____I'm hoping students will discover the joys of improvising, like I did._ As described in the "personal history" part of my page, "While playing trombone in high school, my experiences were enjoyable but shallow, with very little thinking or experimenting._ I simply played the pre-composed music that was on the sheet music in front of me."_ During college, I listened to a lot of music but didn't play much._ Then "after moving to Seattle in 1970 for graduate school, I began playing self-composed music._ At first, with trombone I played along with songs I had tape-recorded (from vinyl or radio) or was hearing on the radio. ....._ The next summer, jam sessions with Harold & Charlie (playing clarinet & trumpet) included improvising with songs (especially Dixieland Jazz) and with 12 Bar Blues, a chord progression they taught me._ I was fascinated by the elegant beauty of this chord progression, and I enjoyed the process-and-result when we used this framework for improvising._ Even though I didn't understand much about 'the theory' (just knew the basics), what I knew was enough._ I recognized that by using music theory we could create interesting music, and it was fun."

____more about chords:_ My colorizing also includes the minor chords of C Major (Dm,Em,Am - ii,iii,vi - red,blue,green) that are the main chords of A Minor (Am,Dm,Em - i,iv,v) so in addition to chord progressions with major chords (like "I-IV-V-I" and 12-Bar Blues) they can play "I-vi-IV-V" (50s) and "I-V-vi-IV" and others._ For these topics and others, many details are in my web-page. {a later post will have excerpts from its introduction, and a link to it}
____and more about me:_ I have a PhD (in Curriculum & Instruction) from U of Wisconsin, my second UW._ Throughout life I've had fun with music, have learned a lot about it, enjoy listening and playing._ But compared with most of you in this forum, my overall music-playing skills are much lower than your skills._ And my main interest is music education.
 
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____ My initial post had a high density-of-ideas because it condensed (in a small summary) the main ideas from a large web-page._ And my post had no diagrams -- oops, this was a mistake -- instead it was only text._ Therefore you may find it easier to understand the ideas if you actually read my page about education for Improvising Music because it has a lower density-of-ideas, plus 18 different diagrams that are useful because many ideas (about musical patterns and colorized keyboard) are visual.
____ If you click the link, I recommend reading the page's Introduction (down to its Table of Contents) and then deciding what to do next, whether to click a link or abandon the page and do something else.
____ And to make "reading the Introduction" easier I've made another page that's "a shorter version" of the introduction._ It's condensed by omitting some parts of some paragraphs, and most links._ The first half of that page is below, followed by a keyboard-photo that shows you the colorizing of chord-notes for C Major and A Minor._ Here is the shorter version:

____ What?_ By working cooperatively with others, I want to help more people — especially K-12 students and seniors, the young and old — increase their enjoying of music by making their own music.
____ How?_ I'm looking forward to working with partners who want to help us achieve shared goals that we think are worth pursuing._ Although I'll be emphasizing the benefits of using a colorized keyboard to make music, this method of teaching (and improvising) should be creatively combined with other methods, in a blend that's better than any single method by itself.
____ Why?_ Emotionally, people enjoy the many ways music is wonderful._ It's fascinating and fun, can be beautiful & dramatic, familiar & mysterious, relaxing & exciting, inspiring us mentally, emotionally, and physically._ Music is one of the best things in life.
____ Why?_ Scientifically, we are discovering the many ways music is beneficial._ Most people, both young and old, get major benefits (mental, emotional, physical) when they listen to music, and also when they make music. .....{omission}
____ How?_ If you want to improve your making-of-music by creative improvising, you can learn by doing, when you do musical experiments (you try new musical ideas) to produce new musical experiences so you can listen-and-learn.

____ What?_ Most songs (in rock, pop, folk, jazz, classical,...) have a harmonic structure -- you can “hear the structure” in their sequential progression of chords -- that is built on the solid foundation of three main chords._ ....._ Musicians usually supplement these main chords with other chords [or extra chord-notes] to add zesty spice, to make their music more interesting.
____ How?_ The notes of these 3 chords — that I informally call “red” and “blue” and “green” [the chords are C (with notes C,E,G) and F (F,A,C) and G (G,B,D)] — are highlighted on my colorized keyboard, to help you make harmonious melodies by playing the notes in a red chord, blue chord, or green chord._ A keyboard that is colorized shows the notes in these 3 chords – red, blue, green – so you can learn how to improvise melodies more easily, and understand music more deeply. .....
____ Why?_ Below are four reasons to use colors – because of the beneficial effects for music, psychology, and education, plus time-and-life._ ....._ [the introduction continues by describing these four reasons]


z-kbf-mami-AtoC.jpg
PHOTO
 
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This takes me back to when I was getting pretty good at skiing parallel with my ankles close together and flying down the trails with good European form.

Now someone tells me skiing is for old farts, you really need to learn snowboarding.... Yeah right. I need to start all over, tossing what little progress I've made learning to ski in the trash bin of life?
 
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___ TahitiJack, I'm not suggesting that you (or anyone else) "start all over [with a colorized keyboard], tossing what little progress I've made learning to ski [or play keyboard skillfully] in the trash bin of life."_ In fact, my page-Introduction ends with a disclaimer:
___ "I think the benefits (musical, psychological, educational, time-and-life) will happen, but they're limited._ I'm confident that using a colorized keyboard will help students improvise harmonious melodies and develop their cognitive-and-functional knowledge._ But it will be less useful (although there will be some transfers of learning) for helping them improve their skills when playing in other keys (beyond the two that are colorized);_ and for traditional two-hand keyboard playing that is mainly-spatial rather than mainly-visual._ And it isn't useful when playing pre-composed songs by “seeing notes” (mentally) on sheet music, instead of seeing notes (actually) on the keyboard."
___ The next paragraph continues, "Although I'm confident that when using colors the overall results will be beneficial, I realize that the effects will be a mix of positive & negative."_ Later in the page, I describe how the balance might shift when we compare players with different levels of experience and skill._ Maybe... novice players generally will have a higher ratio of positive/negative, compared with experienced players who might have more negatives, and less positives?_ (maybe; but I'm not sure, thus it ends with "?")
___ Although I think "the overall results will be beneficial," this will vary, and it might not happen for every person._ More important, it's a personal choice._ IF a person's response is "I can see some probable benefits for me, and I want to try it," that's fine. Or thinking "no, I don't want to do it" also is fine, and (because they have good reasons for thinking this) probably it's a wise choice for them.
 
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TahitiJack, my response to your post happened in two stages._ My first thought was "this isn't what I intended" so I clarified._ Later I thought "but it was rational for him to think this, due to how I wrote my post and page."_ Therefore I revised the page -- it was needed, so thanks for motivating me to do it, TJack -- by adding two new sentences to explain:
"Who?_ I think colorizing is especially useful for novices who want to improvise melodies, although for some players with more experience it can be beneficial in some ways._ First I'll describe the benefits, and then the limitations including its minimal effects [AFAIK now, with my current limited knowledge] on traditional two-hand playing."
_ _ _Then (after describing the benefits) there is a section -- greatly expanded after reading your post -- about the limitations. (I already had examined limitations later in the page, but a longer summary was needed here.)

_ _ _In keyboardforums, all of you are players with experience-and-skill, not novices for whom "colorizing is especially useful."_ And although my main interest is effective teaching, most of you are mostly interested in creative playing._ (but with overlaps because all of us teach and play, we just have different balances between them)
 

happyrat1

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It's a different approach.

Bright colors are often used in early childhood education.

But traditionally children are taught with the emphasis on learning to read music.

If you're trying to reach an older audience, then it raises false hopes that you can learn a musical language that none of your musical peers can understand.

The traditional methods are available in scores of tutorials freely offered on the web.

Case in point the Tutorials thread here on line.


And accompanying advanced classes in music theory.


If I were to set out to teach myself anything about music, why would I pay good money to take your course?
 

Rayblewit

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Colour coding keys as shown above is complicated and confusing.
If you know the alphabet, then learning triads makes more sense.
Playing in the key of F or Eb throws your theory into chaos if you ask me.
What colour is a Bb key?
I told you I was confused.
 
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_ _ I like your goals, happyrat Gary, and we agree._ Of course it wouldn't be useful to "raise false hopes" by encouraging anyone (young or old) to "learn a musical language that none of their musical peers can understand."_ Therefore everything I teach is the conventional musical language._ This is emphasized in the third why-benefit I claim:
_ _ "why?_ What are the educational benefits of using colors?_ These three chords (the “red,blue,green” that are C,F,G aka I,IV,V) are the special “main chords” that are used most often in popular music playing [this is explained in the first paragraph of the "benefits" section], and are the foundation of standard music theory._ Although my approach – using a colorized keyboard – is innovative, the results are traditional, are in the mainstream of music theory, because my focus is the mainstream chords we use when playing music._ The colors will help your students {or you} make music that is creative, yet familiar._ They {or you} will be using "main chords" that are used most often by musicians, are the solid foundations of music education and music making;_ this leads to improved cognitive-and-functional knowledge of music theory that is cognitive (to understand music) and is functional (to play music)."
_ _ _Earlier in the 7-paragraph section about benefits (in the 2nd paragraph - it's about "How", before the 5 why-paragraphs), to clarify the term-relationships I connected my own terms with "standard musical terms:_ I informally call these 3 chords 'red, blue, and green' but if you know basic music theory you'll recognize them as the 3 main foundation-chords in the key of C Major;_ they're the C-chord, F-chord, and G-chord;_ or more generally, the I, IV, and V chords."
_ _ _Later, in Part 1B my explanations of music theory -- with C Major & A Minor, and Minor-within-Major -- use the conventional concepts and terms of standard music theory.
 
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happyrat1

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To be honest, the colors and font you are using in your replies are tedious and wearying to read.

And just wait til the international brotherhood of colorblind men gets a hold of this!!! (Brrrrrr!!!)


:eek: :eek: :eek:
 

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