- Introduction to Major & Minor Scales
- Important Practice Rules
- Complete Guide to Major & Minor Scales (Volume 1)
- Complete Guide to Major & Minor Scales (Volume 2)
- Complete Guide to Major & Minor Scales (Volume 3)
DEAR READERS: Currently under construction and development. All information about The Well-Rounded Pianist™ Piano Method is subject to change, since it is a constantly evolving method not yet cast into stone.
About The Well-Rounded Pianist™ Piano Method
The Well-Rounded Pianist™ Piano Method (hereafter simply referred to as WRP) is a comprehensive system or method of learning and teaching traditional classical piano developed by Dr. Cory Hall. WRP is tailored especially for students of all ages and levels and their teachers. With its rich and diverse online resource at the current website, students and teachers may view a myriad of video lessons and tutorials that explain and demonstrate the concepts taught in the books and accompanying curricula. The Well-Rounded Pianist™ Piano Method is the most recent version of what was formerly referred to as The BachScholar® Piano Method shown in the above menu.
The first feature of WRP that sets it apart from virtually all other piano methods is that the books (both hardcopy and digital) and curricula are not published together, which results in fewer pages and reduces the cost of the books considerably. In other words, the books consist mostly of musical exercises and excerpts with no or very little text, while the curricula (i.e., the written-out weekly lessons and instructions) can be found on the WRP website free of charge. Thus, when working on any particular curriculum, each lesson may be studied directly on the website and conveniently screen-shotted or printed out for reference. This makes it possible for the WRP curricula to be easily edited and modified (if needed) over time directly on the website, rather than having to undergo the painstaking process of publishing new editions of the printed books as other methods and systems usually do. Students and teachers need not become members of the WRP website to read or print out the curricula that accompany the books, as this material is for everyone; however, to gain access to the comprehensive instructional videos accompanying the curricula, one must become a member of WRP’s subscription website service (in operation since 2017).
The second feature that sets WRP apart from virtually all other piano methods is that it does not consist of just a few volumes/grades (for example, the four main volumes in the popular John Thompson or Faber methods), but rather, it is a comprehensive, on-going, and constantly evolving method in which the approximately two dozen planned volumes are organized according to seven main categories that constitute a “well-rounded” or “educated” pianist. The seven categories are subsequently sub-divided into “Levels” or “Grades” from approximately 1 to 8. There is some debate amongst pedagogues about traditional levels and grades, however, this being said, WRP is organized in a hierarchical fashion from beginning material (Grade 1) to advanced or concert-level material (Grades 8+).
The third feature that sets WRP apart from virtually all other piano methods is that the techniques are taught in more depth, and thus, require segregation in the books and curricula. For example, Alfred’s popular book Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences combines at least three totally different techniques into one volume, which consists of far too much information and is too confusing for the average student. WRP takes an entirely different and much more effective approach by devoting three separate volumes exclusively to diatonic scales, three separate volumes exclusively to non-diatonic scales, as well as separate volumes in the triads & inversions and chords & arpeggios categories. This type of segregated approach is commonplace in other disciplines, so it makes sense that musical techniques should follow the same format. For example, an algebra textbook would never attempt to mix trigonometry and calculus in the same volume and into the same guided curriculum. Similarly, WRP does not attempt to mix diatonic scales, non-diatonic scales, arpeggios (broken and blocked), and other unrelated techniques and concepts into the same volumes. The main categories of WRP (which are sub-divided into progressively ordered volumes accompanied by curricula) are best understood as unrelated entities each requiring separate treatment.
The fourth feature that sets WRP apart from virtually all other piano methods is that key signatures are not used in the early grades (for example, in Complete Guide to Major & Minor Scales, Volume 1, which covers Grades 1-4), but rather, all accidentals are written out. This approach is more conducive to organic learning than the traditional approach of emphasizing key signatures in the early stages of note reading. Instead of emphasizing key signatures for students up to the intermediate level, WRP instead focuses on the memorization of the sharps and flats in their proper order as the major and minor scales are learned in their naturally increasing order. Then, by the time a student completes Volume 1 successfully, the increasing order of sharps and flats and the memorization of them will have already been well-ingrained into the student’s musical conscience and the learning of key signatures becomes much easier and less confusing. Moreover, in the early stages of note-reading it is best not to expect the student to digest so much at once. It is much more logical to teach notes with flats or sharps right by their side, then at a later stage to remove them by means of key signatures. This is analogous to taking the training wheels off the bicycle after a child has learned the fundamentals of riding a bicycle.
The fifth feature that sets WRP apart from virtually all other piano methods is that except for books and lessons that are directly relevant to time signatures, time signatures are not used. For example, the three volumes of Complete Guide to Major & Minor Scales are almost entirely void of time signatures and bar lines, which appear only in the polyrhythm sections. Otherwise, the learning and playing of traditional scales and arpeggios is most efficient, especially for beginners, when time signatures and bar lines are omitted. More important than focusing on time signatures and bar lines is the learning of beat divisions in twos, threes, and fours. WRP emphasizes the playing and recognition of these types of beat divisions, which are most effectively understood and played when there are no time signatures or bar lines obstructing the process.
The sixth feature that sets WRP apart from virtually all other piano methods is that the learning and mastering of basic polyrhythms, namely 3:2 and 3:4, is of paramount importance and is given attention in the early grades. Virtually all the piano methods in existence from the 19th to 21st centuries, for some unexplainable reason, conveniently ignore polyrhythms even though they appear frequently in popular piano works that even students at the intermediate level wish to play. For example, the famous 3:2 polyrhythms featured prominently in Debussy’s Arabesque No. 1 or in the middle section of Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu remain a complete mystery and virtually unplayable to piano students who have never had basic training in 3:2 polyrhythms. Similarly, the famous 3:4 polyrhythm in the opening phrase of Debussy’s Revérie or throughout the outer sections of Chopin’s Fantaisie-Impromptu remain a complete mystery and virtually unplayable to piano students who have never had basic training in 3:4 polyrhythms. This basic training needs to start in the early grades (1-4) so that by the time students are attempting to play such works they will be able to breeze through the otherwise profoundly difficult polyrhythms with ease. Ignoring polyrhythms in the method books and waiting until Grade 8 or 10 to begin addressing them, as is the norm today, is one of the biggest blunders of modern piano pedagogy. Learning 3:2 and 4:3 polyrhythms does not require a Ph.D. in mathematics, but simply, basic arithmetic and the ability to count to 6 and 12. In WRP, 3:2 and 4:3 polyrhythms are taught in Volumes 1 and 2 (Grades 1-7) of Complete Guide to Major & Minor Scales, in which the first volume teaches the polyrhythms using slow five-finger patterns and one-octave scales, while the second volume teaches them using faster three- and four-octave scales. By the time one has completed Volume 2, one will have become a complete master at the playing and understanding of 3:2 and 4:3 polyrhythms.
The seventh feature that sets WRP apart from virtually all other piano methods is that “music theory” is not treated as a separate subject and does not require separate books, which simplifies the learning process. Since WRP is so well organized and each technique or discipline is properly segregated, virtually all the concepts or lessons that fall into the “music theory” category are automatically covered in one of the seven categories. For example, rudimentary theory concepts such as the learning of intervals, key signatures, as well as the major and three forms of minor scales are all covered in the “Major & Minor Scales” category. Other scales are covered in the “Non-Diatonic Scales” category. Chord names and their inversions, chord progressions, and ear training are covered in the “Triads & Inversions,” “Chords & Arpeggios,” or “Note-Reading, Sight-Reading, Harmony, Ear-Training” categories. Time signatures, rhythmic patterns, polyrhythms are covered in the “Studies in Rhythm & Polyrhythms” category. Finally, other performance issues are covered in the “Graded Repertoire & Music Terminology” category. Seen in this light, having a separate “music theory” category would be superfluous and unnecessary.
Currently, the projected volumes of WRP can be divided into seven categories, which may be subject to change and revision over the course of the next few years:
- Major & Minor Scales (Diatonic Scales) – Since major and minor scales serve as the foundation of western, classical music, it is essential that piano students build a strong foundation with these scales in all possible combinations or variants (i.e., also referred to as “harmonizations”). Traditional scale practice among piano students is often laxed and incomplete. It is rare to find piano students at the “advanced” level these days who can play even a few major scales in contrary motion as well as in parallel thirds, sixths, and tenths. Leading and influential scale books do include these variants (for example, in Alfred’s popular Scales, Chords, Arpeggios & Cadences), yet students rarely play them and teachers rarely teach them. Instead, most students (and teachers) default exclusively to the standard scales played in parallel octaves. Unfortunately, this all-too-common approach is highly limiting and not terribly fruitful. Real music by the great masters rarely consists of scale passages in parallel octaves, but rather, scale passages harmonized in thirds, sixths, and tenths are much more common. Thus, it is only logical that students learn these variants when practicing scales so that they adequately prepare for the playing of real music. Mindlessly whipping off four-octave scales up and down the keyboard at breakneck speeds (which never occurs in real music by the great masters) is meaningless, serves no purpose, and is a waste of time if one cannot first play the scales slowly just one or two octaves in all harmonizations. Learning all the diatonic scales in this fashion serves as the cornerstone of the three major & minor scale volumes that constitute Grades 1-8. In addition, as explained above, 3:2 and 4:3 polyrhythms are incorporated into the scale exercises to provide basic polyrhythm training for students of around Grades 3-4 and above.
- Scales Other Than Major/Minor: Chromatic, Whole-Tone, Octatonic, Greek Modes (Non-Diatonic Scales) – To be a well-rounded and educated musician, pianists should learn the theory and practice of a few scales, other than diatonic, regularly encountered in western classical music. With its standard three-finger fingering, the chromatic scale is the least difficult of all scales to learn. In addition, with its 12 tones and 12 being divisible by 2, 3, and 4 the chromatic scale is the easiest and most useful scale to incorporate indispensable rhythm exercises that consist of divisions of 2, 3, and 4, such as the playing of duplets, triplets, quadruplets, as well as the combination of these in 3:2 and 4:3 polyrhythms. The whole-tone scale, used often in modern and impressionist styles, is a fun and attractive sounding scale that even beginners will find fun and enjoyable to play. The octatonic scale is an exotic sounding scale encountered mostly in piano music from the Romantic Era, which is unfamiliar to many piano students and teachers. The well-rounded pianist should at least be aware of the octatonic scale and be able to play some attractive exercises derived from it. Although scales derived from the ancient Greek Modes are found much more frequently in jazz rather than traditional classical styles (except for the Modern and Impressionist Eras), the well-rounded classical pianist should at least possess working knowledge of the Greek Modes. Separate volumes of WRP are devoted to the teaching of these non-diatonic scales.
- Triads & Inversions (Broken & Blocked) – description coming soon
- Chords & Arpeggios (Broken & Blocked) – description coming soon
- Note-Reading, Sight-Reading, Harmony, Ear-Training – description coming soon
- Studies in Rhythm & Polyrhythms – description coming soon
- Graded Repertoire & Music Terminology – description coming soon
The “Grades” or “Levels” of WRP correspond roughly to the categories used by most pedagogues:
- Grade 1 = Beginning
- Grade 2 = Late Beginning
- Grade 3 = Early Intermediate
- Grade 4 = Intermediate
- Grade 5 = Late Intermediate
- Grades 6-7 = Advanced
- Grades 8+ = Concert Level