We believe that every musician needs to have some familiarity with the keyboard. The keyboard is the most efficient tool for hearing and visualizing musical ideas. Not only that, the keyboard has many practical applications that vary widely among individuals in different musical disciplines, and may change throughout a musician’s career. A student in a pop music course may want to figure out chord progressions from a recording, while a flutist may want to accompany some private students and a vocalist may need to transpose her accompaniment. Students should all be able to play through their theory homework, but before they write out their theory homework they should be able to fool around and try things out. We propose a program that strives to meet this diversity of needs via a broadly varied curriculum.
Many instructors will recognize the challenges posed by class size, limited contact time, and the need to serve students with widely varying levels of prior keyboard experience. If we are not aiming for mastery, then we can at least provide exposure to a wide variety of styles and techniques. These include playing by ear (e.g., 12-bar blues), completing harmonic sequences (e.g., monte) and making up melodies to go along with them, improvising melody continuations, harmonizing melodies, and reading both lead-sheet and classical chord symbols. Our discussion will be illustrated with examples of specific class activities and course materials, as well as explanations of the use of technology (e.g., SmartMusic) to help students practice on their own. The versatility of the keyboard makes it a vital part of upper-level music education.