As published in American Music Teacher, Journal of the Music Teachers National Association, Dec./Jan. 2017/2018.
Classroom Keyboard: Play and Create Melodies with Chords provides an introduction to music notation, harmonization, improvisation and composition through various activities at the piano. While intended for group settings, the content would suit individual instructional settings quite nicely as well.
Students use the keyboard to learn music fundamentals and to experience, feel, hear and create throughout the book. Generally, the musical definitions are clear, concise and appropriate for older pre-college students. Improvisation appears regularly, both as an aid to understanding concepts and in songs. Additionally, students begin composing at the beginning of the book using the structural elements of repetition and contrast. Composition continues throughout, and each exercise provides significant structure and guidance.
The book’s 10 core melodies and 17 secondary melodies, drawn from popular, folk, classical and spiritual sources, provide the bulk of the notated musical material. These melodies are utilized to experience and practice off-staff notation, intervallic reading on the grand staff, lead sheet notation, left-hand harmonization using accompaniment styles, and two-handed accompaniments for sing-and-play.
Unlike some other books that address harmonization, this text remains in C major exclusively for quite some time. Select new keys are introduced slowly and thoroughly; students completing this book will have played in C, F and G majors mostly. This text also includes discussions and concrete examples of how to choose accompaniment styles that are musically appropriate. The overall organization of the book, with small segments of content and recurring songs that are used to demonstrate multiple concepts, might allow teachers some flexibility with sequencing. Piano technique does not receive much emphasis in this book.
Classroom Keyboard aids teachers in meeting the National Core Music Standards at the novice and intermediate levels for guitar/keyboard/harmonizing instruments. Its consistent emphasis on keyboard applications of musical concepts, and its use of improvisation and composition in addition to performance, make it a welcome addition to the available resources for teaching functional skills at the piano.