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Piano Essentials: Scales, Chords, Arpeggios and Cadences for the Contemporary Pianist (w/CD).

* Piano Essentials: Scales, Chords, Arpeggios and Cadences for the Contemporary Pianist (w/CD), by Ross Ramsay. Berklee Press (1140 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02215), 2006. 100 pp. $24.95.

Berklee College of Music faculty member Ross Ramsay presents Berklee's contribution to piano proficiency books touting a way to learn piano technique. Piano Essentials: Scales, Chords, Arpeggios, and Cadences for the Contemporary Pianist is a soft cover, 100-page book with accompanying CD, designed to meet Berklee's Level 1 and Level 2 piano technique requirements.

The book contains four major parts: "Scale Studies in Major Keys," "Rhythm and Expression," "Scale Studies in Minor Keys" and "More Key-Area Studies." Ramsay's presentation of scales takes the pianist through one-octave and two-octave parallel motion with fingering, including "jazz melodic minor" scales. Other exercises include scales in different rhythms, contrary motion, thirds and sixths, different dynamics, articulation and use of a metronome.

The pianist progresses through triad and inversion exercises built on diatonic triads in each key, learning about triad construction from the major scale. There is an excellent section on forms of the seventh chords and their inversions, with diatonic seventh chords in root position in all keys. Chord progressions with the right hand playing root position triads and the left hand playing the bass note, progressing into voice leading. This is different from the usual piano proficiency method that launches right into cadence patterns without explanation of where the inversions came from. Exercises for cadences are standard.

The first 24 tracks on the CD are major scales played at MM of 60-100 BPM, which could be helpful for some one needing to practice with a model. However, in comparing the written page with the audio, the right hand plays in a different octave than written in the book, which could be confusing. The articulation exercises are the best part of the CD. The last four tracks of the CD feature Latin, funk and swing rhythms, over which to practice scales.

Overall, Piano Essentials covers standard aspects of piano technique, with some unique and valuable features. I would use this book for students interested in jazz, or adults who want to learn or review scales and chords. One picky thing: the book does not stay open easily on the piano; a different binding would make it more piano-friendly. I see one application of the exercises for the adolescent who does not see the reasoning behind practicing technique: the ability to say, "Hey, dude, this book is from Berklee. You know what I mean?". Reviewed by Sara Krohn, Manchester Center, Vermont.

* The items marked with this symbol can be ordered via the MTNA Website through our affiliation with Amazon.com. Go to www.mtna.org, click On "Resources and Services" and scroll down to the Amazon.com section.
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Author:Krohn, Sara
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:462
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