Chord-based piano accompaniment is not often featured in kids’ piano lessons, but The Piano Chords Fun Book aims to change that. Author Andy Fling opens the door to improvisational lead sheet accompaniment by walking students through the basics of chord structures and common accompaniment rhythm patterns. Using short, familiar songs for examples and practice exercises, this piano book makes accompanying kid-friendly.
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This book begins with an introduction to chords and a very helpful visual representation of the main chords most likely to be called for in lead sheets. The major, minor, 7, and minor 7 of every key are included, providing students with a toolbox full of chords right from the beginning. Then, three of the most common accompaniment patterns– boom chick, open-arpeggio, and Alberti bass are explained with the aid of short examples. These patterns are then applied to situations where one might be accompanying without playing the melody. Two more chord patterns are then introduced the jazz waltz and the clone and finally, some tips on voicing are provided. At the end of the book are 8 short, familiar songs written with melody and chord names only, along with blank music ledger paper. Throughout the book, students are encouraged to use these materials to try out various patterns.
The whole concept of introducing lead sheets and chords to kids is a great idea. It allows students to experience the creative and improvisational side of playing piano, which can be a refreshing change from striving to play the notes on the page exactly correctly. Naming and demonstrating a few different accompaniment patterns also provides a reasonable amount of structure while still encouraging originality. Instead of overwhelming kids with too many options, the rhythmic patterns give them a solid jumping off point. By using short, traditional songs, the book also allows students to begin their arranging journey on familiar ground. If they know the melody, they are free to focus on creating an interesting accompaniment. Overall, the strategy and progression make a complex skill very approachable.
Most students will need a fair amount of guidance to navigate this book successfully. Unless a student is extremely motivated and willing to experiment, they may find the progression a little quick or struggle to put the pieces together on their own. The book often encourages experimentation and reminds students that there’s no “wrong way” to play, but kids who are used to having one right way to play a song may need some encouragement and guidance. The explanations of each concept are generally brief, which is nice for kids, but they may need some supplement from a knowledgeable teacher. An older student who is very intelligent, motivated, or creative could flourish on his or her own, though.
With the aid of a teacher, this book could help any student learn the basics of chords and lead sheets and enjoy doing it. They will emerge with a deeper knowledge of how music is put together and have many creative doors opened. The Piano Chords Fun Book provides a fun, accessible way for students to learn a valuable, lifelong skill.
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