A Teacher's Discovery

If you were like me growing up taking piano lessons, you went to your lesson, played the scales you practiced last week, played your teacher the 2 or 3 songs out of your lesson book (hoping and praying you get that gold star at the top of your page), get two new songs (hopefully) and rinse and repeat.

There was no talk of playing a Mixolydian scale over the V7 chord...heck, I didn't even know what a Mixolydian scale was until I briefly touched on it in one of my rudiments books!

However, as I've since learned, I actually have played many a Mixolydian over a V7. I think I even play a Lydian Dominant! Only once though...and of course never on purpose. The truth is, we all play the scales, chords and cool improvised riffs in our day to day music. The trouble is, we didn't know to look for it. Well at least I didn't.

When I first looked at the Contemporary Idioms Syllabus, my first reaction was ... (Maybe the same as several of you) What the F# Diminished are they talking about?!? Modes? Jazz Melodics? Minor 7ths b5? I'm thinking..but the song styles are cool, I know my students would love to play Rock, Swing, Ballads etc..but oh those scales...Improvise? You might as well ask me to sing a song I don't know in front of 1000 people and you'd get the same reaction from me ..PURE TERROR!

So I did the only logical thing I could think of. I made my student do it. I took a Grade 7 classically trained student and made her challenge the Level 8 Contemporary Exam. She wanted a new "spin" on what we were doing so I gave her a tornado! We went through each technical level 1-8 (at the time) and learned what a mode was, what the point of modes were, and how to apply them to music. I emailed Kelly (bless her) 9 billion times because we were learning as we went along. 

What we intend to do in the E-Sharp Club is to take out the guesswork. We want to give a clear, concise way to approach the questions asked in each examination. We want to saturate each level with lead sheet examples, scales for each level, explanations of modes, improvisation examples, etc. In short, we intend to make sure each section of each Level is represented somehow. We have added new material recently and will continue to do so on a regular basis. We will provide the teacher/student with as much reference material as we can to ensure a confident, secure preparation for exams and most importantly, understanding of all genres represented in the Contemporary Idioms Syllabus.

D. Keim


Director of Teacher Support, Conservatory Canada

We invite you to register for the E-Sharp Club (if you have not already done so) by accessing your teacher portal at www.conservatorycanada.ca and follow the prompts.  If you do not have a teacher portal, registration is easy and free!


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