2017 in Review: Teaching Chords and Piano Pop Music

By Tim Topham | Improvising

Dec 06

It’s that time of the year – December is upon us and everyone is looking forward to a break.

Piano teachers, you’ve deserved it! All those countless hours of teaching, planning, personal development and even travelling and it’s almost time to switch off for a few weeks.

To celebrate an amazing year here on timtopham.com, in which we have covered so many topics and helped so many teachers, we thought we would do a series of 2017 in Review blog posts. Whether you use these posts to recap your favourite piano teaching resources of 2017, find something you may have missed out on, or simply use these as some light summer reading, we hope you find these posts useful.

Each post will focus on a different topic of 2017, highlighting our most popular and helpful resources.

First up today, we take a look at Teaching Chords and Piano Pop Music.

Top 10 Pop Songs for Piano Students

Since we first published this post in 2015 it has been our top-rating blog article.

Who would have thought a simple list of the best pop songs for piano students would be so popular?

Recently, the list has been updated and revamped. It also includes a handy little download with chord progressions for each of the pop songs.

Teaching pop music is a fantastic way to help engage your students in easy-to-learn, fun and creative music. It lends itself to improvisation, composition and increased musical knowledge around scales and chords.

If you’re after some more help when it comes to teaching pop music, you can download the handout right here. Enjoy!

The Power of Chords

A hugely popular piano teaching course I released this year was my 4 Chord Composing course. This is an exclusive 10-part composing course for Inner Circle members, but I have offered the first three modules as a free download. 

The course was focused, as you can guess, on encouraging students to start composing early on in their learning, based around chords.

There are so many teaching possibilities when it comes to chords.

You can start with the basics (major and minor chords) and then move onto more exciting and complex progressions – adding seventh chords, suspended chords and exploring with different bass notes. The options are truly endless and are up to your students’ imagination!

But, some teachers don’t make chords and composition a regular part of their lessons and teaching. I think this is a big mistake!

I have found that my students love learning chords and composition and creating their own musical pieces.

Of course, I’m not saying only teach chords and composition. It is all about finding that balance in your lesson planning to give your students a well-rounded education.

Related: My 3 Keys to a Comprehensive Lesson Plan

4 Chord Composing Course

Here are the modules you’ll be able to access straight away by joining the Inner Circle:

  • Lesson 1: Learning Major and Minor Chords
  • Lesson 2: Pop-style Piano Playing
  • Lesson 3: Composing with 4 Chords
  • Lesson 4: Creating Melodies
  • Lesson 5: Adding New Chord Types: Sus, add2, Slash Chords
  • Lesson 6: Styles and Patterns
  • Lesson 7: Form and Structure
  • Lesson 8: 7ths, Borrowed Chords and Basslines
  • Lesson 9: 4CC Apps and Technology in Action
  • Lesson 10: Where to Now? Arranging and Advanced Ideas

You can get access today and take 30% off an annual membership by using the coupon code 4CCGETSTARTED when you register. Click here to find out more and make sure you select the Annual Plan to take advantage of this offer.

First Three Lessons Free Download

You can have the first three lessons in my 10-week 4 Chord Composing right now! Feel free to download these lessons and implement chordal teaching in your studio.

Composition Kickstarters

Each month, we have had a regular guest post from expert teacher Nicola Cantan.

Her post on composition was an absolute must-read. Click on the link below to read the full article.

Composition Kickstarters: 5 Ways to Inspire Your Students to Write Music

Sometimes all you need to get your students writing melodies and chords it a quick composition kickstarter.

Your students might be a bit nervous or reluctant to compose or improvise. They would much prefer to see other people’s music and just play that!

Persist with it! Once your students explore their own creativity and start composing, they will have musical skills which will enable them to play in bands and have other musical opportunities.

Check out Nicola’s post for five ways to get your nervous students on their way.

Podcast: Pop Teaching Hacks

Earlier in the year, I invited Coen Modder onto the podcast to discuss his top five pop piano teaching hacks.

Playing classical music didn’t really appeal to Coen when he was a kid – so he started forging his own path. He found his way into piano playing through pop music and now teaches his students using the vocabulary of chords as the foundation.

Click here to discover that podcast and plenty more: Episode 86 – Top 5 Pop Piano Teaching Hacks with Coen Modder

Pop Piano Recital

Why run a regular, boring piano recital when you can run an exciting pop piano recital?

Let’s go back a step – what actually is a pop piano recital?

A pop piano recital gives your piano students the opportunity to play in bands and with other musicians. Playing the piano can often be a solitary exercise, so it is important to encourage your students to learn to play in a band.

Check out the video just here on how to run a pop piano recital.

This is just another way you can get creative with your approach to teaching and pop music.
I wrote a two blog post series taking you step-by-step through how to run a pop piano recital. If you missed those throughout the year, why not have a read now? Click on the links below.

Q&A with Jean-Michel Blais

Earlier in the year we focused all on chords and compsoing and were lucky enough to hear from a worldclass piano composer in French Canadian Jean-Michel Blais.

Jean-Michel Blais took us into his creative mind and showed us how his approach to composing. It was a fasciniating interview and definitely one to have a look at if you have time.
Click here to access that interview: Putting Pen to Paper: Q&A with Jean-Michel Blais

Conclusion

What were your favourite pop piano teaching and chordal resources for the year? Did you use my 4 Chord Composing course or download my top 10 pop songs? What did you think?

Leave your comments below!

Remember, you can find a whole range of pop piano music and composition resources by simply searching my website in the top right hand corner.

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About the Author

Best-known for his blogging and teaching, Tim is also a well-respected presenter, performer and accompanist based in Melbourne, Australia. You can check him out on Google+, Facebook and Twitter.

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