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Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (2)

Improvising with Chords I and V7, inspired by your current piece Here is A Little Dance: The Key First, as usual, make sure you know the key by looking at the key signature, and the last bass note. - A Little...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 2 FREE

When you get up on stage to perform, you want a certain amount of adrenalin flowing round your body to enhance your performance. It is very easy to slip from this positive, healthy approach into the fight-flight response. This...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising With Secondary Chords (4)

Chord VII is an interesting chord. Built on the 7th note of the scale, it’s a diminished chord in a major key (in C major: BDF). And in a minor key, it can be either diminished or major (in A minor, G#BD, or GBD). The Circle of Fifths progression is...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 2

If you suffer from performance anxiety as a musician, you’re not alone. Performance anxiety, or nerves, are an issue for a vast number of musicians. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to talk about good nerves and bad...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 4 FREE

The Inner Critic is that voice in your head that sets out to sabotage both your practising and your performance. It tells you that you’re no good and that you can’t do it. If you have this voice wanting...


Spread Chords

General Suggestions for Spreads in Baroque Music

To summarise the main points in this article, here are a few pointers: The speed of the spread reflects mood, tempo and character. The spread can be evenly paced, or include accelerando/ritardando shapings. Hold onto the notes of the arpeggio after you have played them, except for any...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (1)

Improvising over an Open 5th Chord, inspired by your current piece Open 5th chords provide a wonderful accompaniment for improvisation because they can accompany almost any improvisation without making that improvisation sound “wrong”. A good way to begin improvising is to draw inspiration from...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Twelve Bar Blues (2)

There is another scale, besides the pentatonics, which developed alongside the Twelve-bar Blues, and sounds wonderful to improvise with: the Blues scale. Here is the C Blues scale: Comparing it to the major scale, you can see that the “blue” notes are the flattened 3rd (Eb), raised...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (3)

Improvising with Chords I, IV and V(7), in broken chord progressions, inspired by your current piece Here is the Menuett for Nannerl, believed to be by Leopold Mozart (Nannerl and Wolfgang Amadeus’s father): First, work out the key, and play the...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 2

Learning how to practise well is to learn a complex set of skills which can take years to build up. It needs to be done with intent and a strategy so I’m going to show you a basic template...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 4

It’s really easy to forget about your practical needs when the bad nerves really get a hold. But it’s so important to look after yourself before you perform. How do you manage your energy on the day of the...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (5)

The given examples are from Tchaikovsky’s Old French Song (sometimes called “Romance”), and Burgmüller’s La Chevaleresque. Here is the opening section of Tchaikovsky’s Old French Song: First, as usual, work out the key and the three primary chords, I, IV and...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 4

There are always times when musicians have to perform without the practice they may want or need. I’ve been a collaborative pianist, more commonly known as an accompanist, for most of my performing career, and have been in that...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 5 FREE

There are many elements to the whole area of preparation, both beforehand and on the day, that give you the best possible chance of having a healthy dose of adrenalin to support your performance. Let’s say you have a...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Twelve Bar Blues (1)

This video gives you a practical demonstration of ideas for improvising with the Twelve Bar Blues. The ideas are further explained and described in text and manuscript in the document below. Below that, under Further reading and resources, you can click on "printable scores" to print off the templates from...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 3 FREE

Practice is essential and that’s something that all musicians would agree with. The times that I have been particularly nervous before a concert have mostly been when I haven’t had the music for long enough or I haven’t done...


ABRSM Exam Resources

Grade 2 C1 - The Piper of Dundee (Worksheet)

The Piper o’Dundee is a traditional Scottish folk song, arranged for the ABRSM Grade 2 syllabus by Richard Michael. Click here to download a printable worksheet for this piece (instructions follow below). Here is the folk song itself, together with the words and a very simple left...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (4)

Bach's Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903 We find a clear example of two-directional rolling in Bach’s Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue. In the Fantasia, Bach writes three sections in block chords with the direction arpeggio (bars 27-30, 34-42 and 45-49), leaving it to the performer to decide exactly what to...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 5

So what about the Beta-Blocker debate? Is it good to take them to help with nerves or isn’t it? A lot of musicians do take them and yet, they’re still quite a taboo issue. Musicians rarely talk about the...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (7)

We're now going to look at how to improvising in Rondo (ABACA) form inspired by the title and musical features found in your current piece. Bartok’s Romanian Folk Dance No. 6 is the given example - here is the beginning: Notice,...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (8)

This article provides a further example of how to improvise inspired by the form and musical features found in your current piece, using Chopin’s Mazurka Op.17 No.4 as the given example. A quick analysis of the Mazurka reveals the following form, or structure: ...


ABRSM Exam Resources

Grade 1 C3 - Oh When the Saints (Worksheet)

Click here for a worksheet that will help you get started with this piece. Let’s begin with the tune by itself. You’ll notice there is an introduction where both hands play the same notes an octave apart (bars1-3). The tune itself starts with the left hand in...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (1)

Bach Italian Concerto, BWV 971 Let’s look at the opening chord of Bach’s Italian Concerto. Some players (harpsichordists and pianists) spread the opening LH chord, others don’t. What does this tell us? That there is no one right answer, and that the option to spread the chord lies with the...


Spread Chords

Baroque Conventions of Notating Spread Chords

There were a number of different ways of notating spread chords in use in the Baroque. French composers included arpeggiation signs in their table of ornaments, and were specific about the direction of the spread. Here are the two signs for arpeggiation from D'Anglebert’s (1629-1691) table of ornaments...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 3

The fight-flight-freeze response is a primal, instinctive response that kicks in when our body feels it is in extreme danger. On some level, conscious or unconscious, we are fearing for our life. It has been going on since the...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (6)

This next article shows you how to improvise in Ternary (ABA) form using the title and imagery from your current piece as inspiration. Debussy’s The Snow is Dancing is the given example - here is the beginning: Notice that it is...


Spread Chords

Introduction FREE

This is the first part of a series on spread chords, kindly commissioned for the Online Academy by Orlando Murrin. Introduction to the series Spread (or rolled, ripped, broken or arpeggiated) chords are simply chords where we play one note after the other, rather than playing all the notes...


Beyond Stage Fright - Managing Performance Nerves

Day 1 FREE

Welcome to the Manage your Performance Nerves 5-day online course. I’m Charlotte Tomlinson and I’m a musician and performance coach based in the UK. I specialise in helping musicians move through out-of-control performance nerves and all the...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 5

Knowing the difference between practising and performing is essential. What seems so secure in the practice room, can feel wobbly and insecure in front of any audience, even friends, and might even start unravelling. How many times have you...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 1 - Day 1 FREE

Welcome to the Inspired Performance online course. I’m Charlotte Tomlinson and I’m a musician and performance coach based in the UK. I specialise in helping musicians move through debilitating performance nerves and the armour of physical tensions into a...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 3

Having a method for practising is essential for covering your bases, for knowing where you are and what you are doing. But don’t feel restricted by any one method or allow your practicing to become too rigid. There is...


ABRSM Exam Resources

The Essential Guide to ABRSM Examinations FREE

This series contains resources and further links to other resources featuring the ABRSM syllabus and is designed for elementary level players, young musicians and their teachers. Some articles in this series will provide a step-by-step (or phrase-by-phrase) approach to learning a piece thoroughly and securely, building a solid foundation for...


Spread Chords

Spreading Chords in the Baroque Period FREE

There seems to be some confusion about managing spreads in Baroque music, probably because the way we read a printed score nowadays is rather different from the way a 17th or 18th century musician would have understood things. From Beethoven onwards, many more of the performance choices were removed from...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising With Secondary Chords (1)

This video gives you a practical demonstration of ideas for improvising with Secondary Chords. The ideas are further explained and described in text and manuscript in the document below. Below that, under Further reading and resources, you can click on "printable scores" to print off the templates from the document,...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (2)

The opening of the Sinfonia in the second Partita continues to receive a variety of treatments concerning not only the chords, but also whether there should be consistent double dotting throughout (meaning the printed semiquaver after the crotchet rests is played as a demisemiquaver, to match that in the next...


Spread Chords

Examples from the Repertoire (3)

In bar 39 of Bach’s Prelude in C Minor (Book 1), we may simply spread the chord upwards – many players do it this way. There is time to make a grander statement by rolling it down and then back up again (as I suggested in my...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising Using Your Current Piece (4)

The given examples are from Christian Petzold’s Minuet in G (formerly thought to be by J.S.Bach) and June Armstrong’s Sea Anemone. Here is the first half of Christian Petzold’s Minuet in G: First, as usual, work out your key. Then work...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Beginning to Improvise FREE

Feel the beat – and just play the black notes! Here is a four phrase (eight-bar) template to help structure your first improvisation. Your left hand will just be playing open 5th chords on F# and C#, and your right hand will only be...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising With Secondary Chords (2)

The next chord progression arose directly from the 1950s progression, and has just one different chord: chord ii replaces chord IV. It is known as the Doo-wop progression. Play it with the root position chords shown below, noticing the different sound: Now try it in this lively,...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Understanding Chords, Grand Arpeggios and How to Harmonise FREE

This article provides a more in-depth explanation of the material in the video. However, after watching the video you might light to jump ahead to try some of the examples yourself. If so, then please click here to view the worksheets...


Anyone Can Improvise!

Improvising With Secondary Chords (3)

Here is a home-made chord progression which uses chord iii. First, play it in block chords, as written: Now try it in ascending broken chords like this, completing the whole progression: I iii ii IV Then in descending chords like this: ...


Beyond Stage Fright - Inspired Performance

Week 2 - Day 1

Practice is essential. Every musician I’ve come across has said the same thing. It is generally considered crazy to wing it and to try to perform without adequate practice. There is nothing worse than walking on stage and seeing...