- Important Practice Rules (for Economy of Motion)
- Introduction to Major & Minor Scales
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 and will eventually replace 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) are not just books but, more specifically, “guides” with accompanying lesson plans that teach and explain both with text and videos. All text versions of the lesson plans are free and available to the public, however, one must by a member of the WRP website to gain access to the accompanying video material. Lesson plans 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.
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 four totally different techniques into one volume (major and minor scales, chromatic scales, chords and cadences, arpeggios), which consists of far too much information for one book and is too confusing for the average student. Most students end up buying this book and then they are totally confused what to do first and what to do next. etc. WRP takes an entirely different and much more effective approach by devoting different volumes to different techniques and then explaining what to learn first and what to learn next in the weekly lesson plans on the website.
The fourth 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 void of time signatures and bar lines. 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 fifth 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. WRP devotes an entire category of books and lesson plans to polyrhythms.
The sixth 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. How many piano students can play G-sharp melodic minor in contrary motion? All serious piano students above Grade 4 should be able to do this. The Major & Minor Scales books and lesson plans are designed to teach students all the major and minor scales backwards and forwards, upside down, and right-side up. No other method seems to be doing this.
- 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