Approaches towards the formal learning of piano playing with respect to musicianship is one that demands the understanding of musical concepts and their applications. Consequently, it requires the boldness to immerse oneself in performance situations while trusting one’s instincts. One needs only to cultivate an amazing ear and a good understanding of music theory to break down progressions “quickly”.
Like an alchemist, one would have to pick their creative impulses from their musical toolbox, simultaneously compelling their fingers to coordinate with the brain and the music present to generate “pleasant sounds”.
My exploration leading to what will be considered Keyboard Musicianship did not begin in a formal setting. Rather it was the consolidation of my involvement in playing the organ at home, Sunday school, boarding school at Presec-Legon, and playing at weekly gospel band performances off-campus and other social settings that crystalized approaches that can be formally structured. In fact, I did not then consider this lifestyle of musical interpretation worthy of academic inclusivity until I graduated from the national academy of music and was taken on the staff as an instructor in September, 1986. Apparently, what I did that seemed effortless was a special area that was integral to holistic music development.
The late Dr. Robert Manford, the then director of the Academy, assigned me to teach Rudiments and Theory of Music to first year students, Keyboard Musicianship to final year students, and to continue giving Piano Accompaniment to students – just as I have been voluntarily doing to help students.
The challenge was simply this; there was no official textbook or guide to use in teaching keyboard musicianship then and I was to help guide especially non-piano majors for practical exams in musicianship. What an enterprise! The good news though was that exemplifying functionalism in keyboard, organ, piano, etc. has been my survival activity off campus particularly in church and social settings.Having reflected thoroughly and prayerfully, it dawned on me that piano literacy repertoires were crafted differently than my assignments in Musicianship.
Piano literacy repertoires of western music were abundant on campus but applied musicianship demanded a different approach. Playing a sonata, sonatina, mazurka, and waltzes at different proficiency levels was different from punching chords in R&B, Ballard style, Reggae, Highlife or even Hymn playing. However, there are approaches that can link them and also interpretations that can categorize them in other applicable dimensions.
A “Retrospective Introspection” demanded that I confront myself constructively with two questions:
1. WHAT MUSICAL ACTIVITIES have I already enjoyed myself in that WARRANT or deserve this challenging assignment?
2. WHAT MUSICAL NOURISHMENT do l believe enriched my artistry that was so observable and Measurable?
The answers were shocking!
1. My weekend sojourn from Winneba to Accra to play for churches, brass bands, gospel bands and teaching of Choirs – which often left me penniless.
2. Volunteering to render piano accompaniment to any Voice Major student on campus since my very first year.
3. Applying a principle, I learnt from my father – TRANSFER OF LEARNING – I exported the functionalism of my off-campus musical activities to compliment my formal/academic work.
4. The improvisational influences of Rev. Stevenson Alfred Williams (gospel jazz pianist), Bessa Simmons (band director & keyboardist) and at Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, Mr. Ray Ellis “Afro Piano Jazz Fusion Highlife”
The trust and support from lecturers and students in the academy injected an overwhelming and high sense of responsibility in me which nevertheless, guided me to observe structures of other established course outlines and apply myself with respect to approaches that were deemed relevant.
Thus, it is in this light that I selected specific concepts worth exploring to validate the functionalism of what my assignment required. Initially, hymn structures, chords I, IV, V and short highlife chordal progressions inverted here and there were considered. Basic reading of notes and intense audiation were injected even as I developed technical exercises to help with the dexterity of stiff fingers.
I conclude this preface by stating that, this “Instructional guide/manual” is actually a developmental workbook. I have deliberately juxtaposed simple original piano pieces with musicianship approaches. The blend is to equip learners to develop music literacy and performance proficiencies. The process is expected to compel the learner to immerse/initiate themselves into basic keyboard musicianship. While it is a basic book, I expect it to be a solid foundation for those who commit to it. Many of my former and present students have been requesting for a sort of guide to aid their teaching or refresh their memories. Though not exhaustive, the selections presented here are a response to a long-awaited workbook. I have used most of them not only in Winneba, but also at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center (Atlanta) and the Piano Lab (Accra). I found myself teaching the same course in the 2009 – 2013 academic year in the Music Department of the University of Education, Winneba when Prof C.W.K Merekeu was Head of Department. My observation is that we still have a lot of work to do in bridging academia and industry. This implies that musicianship must be considered as the bloodline of musicality not only in theory but in practice.
I have added simplified versions of my old course outlines as a guide for anyone interested in learning.
Finally, I contend that Keyboard Musicianship is a craft and will require of the learner a consistent discipline and respect for:
1. The art of listening
2. Skill acquisition/proficient dexterity
3. Ability to interpret via extemporization and delivery/showmanship.
For learners who desire to challenge themselves in intermediate and advanced piano, I recommend my book, “African Pianism. (A contribution to Africology)”
ACCELERATED KEYBOARD MUSICIANSHIP 1
SUGGESTED GUIDES FOR INSTRUCTIONAL HOURS 3
HIERARCHY OF MUSICAL NOTES 4
BANK OF RHYTHMS (Basic Rhythmic Patterns A) 6
BANK OF RHYTHMS (Basic Rhythmic Patterns B) 7
NOTATION DICTATION 8
TELEVISION (PRACTICAL WORK) 9
WEDDING BELLS (PRACTICAL WORK) 10
I LOVE CAMPING (PRACTICAL WORK) 11
MANSA MUSA (PRACTICAL WORK) 12
BEGINNERS’ SONG I (PRACTICAL WORK) 13
BEGINNERS’ SONG II (PRACTICAL WORK) 14
BEGINNERS’ SONG III (PRACTICAL WORK) 15
BEGINNERS’ SONG IV (PRACTICAL WORK) 16
THE GREAT STAFF 17
SIGHT READING I (PRACTICAL WORK) 17
5 FINGER EXERCISE 1 (PRACTICAL WORK) 18
5 FINGER EXERCISE 2 (PRACTICAL WORK) 18
ZOOM (Chromatics on Wheels I) 19
ZOOM ZOOM (Chromatics on Wheels II) 20
INTERVALS (Part I) 21
INTERVALS (Part II) 22
MAJOR & MINOR TRIADS 24
DISPLACED TRIADS (PRACTICAL WORK) 26
SUSTAINED CHORDS (PRACTICAL WORK) 28
CHORDAL DISPLACEMENT (PRACTICAL WORK) 31
GRADUATION WALTZ (PRACTICAL WORK) 32
BABY SERENADE (PRACTICAL WORK) 33
GOD IS ABLE (PRACTICAL WORK) 34
DANCE WITH ME (PRACTICAL WORK) 36
5 FINGER EXERCISE 3 (PRACTICAL WORK) 37
LA FENIS (PRACTICAL WORK) 38
PLAYING BASIC BLOCK CHORDS (PRACTICAL WORK) 39
BANK OF RHYTHMS – Intermediate II (C) 42
BANK OF RHYTHMS – Intermediate II (D) 43
DEFINING CHORDS V7 – I (PRACTICAL WORK) 44
GENTLE JUNGLE WALTZ (PRACTICAL WORK) 46
INTERDEPENDENCY (PRACTICAL WORK) 47
STEADY PROGRESS (PRACTICAL WORK) 48
JUBILANTE (PRACTICAL WORK) 49
WE ADORE YOUR HOLY NAME (PRACTICAL WORK) 50
MAGNIFY (PRACTICAL WORK) 51
GIVE ME THE SPIRIT OF UNDERSTANDING (PRACTICAL WORK) 52
YOU ARE WORTHY (PRACTICAL WORK) 53
SIGHT READING II (PRACTICAL WORK) 54
SIGHT READING III (PRACTICAL WORK) 55
TECHNICAL EXERCISE I 56
TECHNICAL EXERCISE II 57
TECHNICAL EXERCISE III 58
SIGHT READING IV (PRACTICAL WORK) 59
SIGHT READING V (PRACTICAL WORK) 60
HARMONY AT SIGHT (PRACTICAL WORK) 61
WAIVE PRAISE (PRACTICAL WORK) 62
WHAT SHALL I RENDER TO MY LORD (PRACTICAL WORK) 63
EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW (PRACTICAL WORK) 64
SEARCH, CLEANSE AND FILL ME (PRACTICAL WORK) 65
JOIN ME TO CELEBRATE (PRACTICAL WORK) 66
HIGHER HOPE HIGHER GROUND (PRACTICAL WORK) 68
IN THE CORRIDORS OF MY MIND (PRACTICAL WORK) 69
SEARCH, CLEANSE AND FILL ME 2 (PRACTICAL WORK) 71
AMAZING GRACE (PRACTICAL WORK) 74
YOU DID IT ON CALVARY (PRACTICAL WORK) 75
I KNOW THE LORD (PRACTICAL WORK) 76
A SPECIAL DAY (PRACTICAL WORK) 78