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Table of Contents

Practice

Let's make some memories.

12 minute read

One might argue that there is no way to escape the spectre of natural born talent. One might say that if you were not born with the innate ability to do a thing, then you will probably never be able to develop the ability to do that thing. One might say that genius in the persuit of the lone individual with a devine spark of inspiration that could never be copied by anyone else.

In my experience, however, this has mostly not been the case. One of the most transformative things that I have seen from people around me who have found success in any endeavor is a great work ethic. It may be difficult to identify and quantify talent, but a solid work ethic can certainly be tracked, cataloged and studied. In music, practice is the thing that we do to get better, and the more we practice, the better we get. This is not to say that talent, whatever it may be in the end, plays no part. But work is the thing that everybody must do, and everybody can do, to get better, day after day, week after week, year after year. Ultimately, when we practice we make memories in our mind, of all the things that we will need in the future to make music and to make music better. This is why we practice, and this is why we must practice.

Phases of the mind

We will develop our memories in phases, as it would be impossible to practice everything that we need to practice, all at once. Much in the same way that you would not go to the gym to bench press one thousand pounds once, we will venture to br/eak everything down into small, bite sized chunks, which will allow us the time and mental rest that we need to maintain our practice schedule over a long period of time, and avoid burning out after only a few sessions.

Phase 1

In phase one we will introduce ourselves to the process and methodology of our practice program with the most fundamental information possible. This may be a good phase to repeat a few times until we feel completely comfortable with all of the information contained within. After we complete phase 1 then each subsequent phase will become both more challenging, and also more musical, as this is a vital component to becoming a more fluent and natural musician.

Areas to Hit

Our process will focus on five key areas of development, as they represent the fundamentals required to become fluent musicians. We will hit notes(frequencies), rhythms(patterns), intervals(harmony), scales(melody) and chords(moar, better, harmony) every day that we practice our skills. We want to make sure that we hit each of these areas every day, as this will create a sense of true immersion in the musical language, which is a requirement to attain true fluency when we work and play.

Circle of 5ths

The Circle of 5ths.

During this first phase we will use the circle of 5ths as our guide through each skill. The reason that we will use the circle of 5ths is that it helps to create a state of pseudo randomness, or as close to randomness as we can get, while maintaining some semblance of structure and organization. This approach will help to alleviate our reliance on playing things using the context of the things around it. What this means is that once you have found one particular thing on the keyboard, either a note, or a chord, or something else, it is very easy to simply move each finger up one note on the keyboard to the next one, which would then allow us to play the next version of the thing that we are practicing. But by doing this we are essentially avoiding using our mind to figure out the next thing, relying instead only on the movement of our fingers to adjacent notes. But this approach will fail us if we are tasked with trying to find a thing from memory, because without the physical context that we learned that thing with, we will be lost. By using the circle of 5ths we are forcing ourselves to recall each piece of information on it’s own, which will help us to internalize each unique piece of information faster and more deeply.

So, without further adieu...

Notes

The first skill that we will practice everyday is finding all twelve notes on the keyboard through the circle of 5ths. We will also cycle through the circle of 5ths everyday as well, starting on a new note each successive day of practice. So over the course of two weeks we will have played all twelve notes on the keyboard everyday and we will have started on each successive note of the circle of 5ths every day that we have practiced.

Note Routine

We can break this down into a weekly chart that will illustrate how to proceed with our practice schedule. Since everything in music happens 12 times, we can practice six days a week for two weeks, taking one day off each week for rest and relaxation, and get through every iteration of a skill without overloading ourselves on any given day.

Note Routine Chart

Week 1

Day 1

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note C

Day 2

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note G

Day 3

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note D

Day 4

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note A

Day 5

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note E

Day 6

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note B

Day 7

Rest

Week 2

Day 1

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note F#/Gb

Day 2

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note C#/Db

Day 3

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note G#/Ab

Day 4

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note D#/Eb

Day 5

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note A#/Bb

Day 6

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note F

Day 7

Rest

If we follow this schedule diligently then we will have played every note 5 to 8 times a day (depending on the size of your keyboard) for 12 days over the course of two weeks, strengthening our most fundamental skill to the point that it might start to feel as easy as br/eathing, at least for a few notes. This is our goal with every skill that we develop now and into the future.

Rhythm

Notes are great and all, but music would hardly be enjoyable without a little rhythm thrown into the mix. We will start developing our rhythmic memories by focusing on the most fundamental rhythmic patterns that exist in music, which are the multiplicative patterns. 'Multiplicative' may sound like a fancy word, but it's simple, as these are patterns that are based on a series of note lengths that are either twice as long, or half as long as the next or previous note length. You may also call them exponential note values, as they come into existence by multiplying or dividing a note value by two. So, a whole note divided by two creates a half note, and a half note divided by two creates a quarter note, and so on... In other words, a quarter note times two is a half note, and a half note times two is a whole note, etc...

Multiplicative Note Values
Whole Note
Half Note
Quarter Note

Notice that the half note is half as long as the whole note, and the quarter note is half as long again as the half note. We would also need four quarter notes to equal one whole note, thus the name quarter (of a whole) note.

To practice rhythm we will start our process by familiarizing ourselves with basic rhythmic patterns and play them on the keyboard using one note at a time to begin with. Using this approach will allow us to focus our energy on becoming comfortable with counting and playing different rhythmic patterns using different rhythmic values. Our approach to rhythm will be to internalize a few fundamental rhythmic patterns that utilize the most common and useful rhythmic values.

This approach will require an outside source of tempo, as it is essentially useless to be our own source of tempo when we are practicing. There is simply no way to know how accurate our timing is without something to reference against. So we will need some kind of metronome to give us our tempo and for us to play against to develop our rhythmic accuracy.

So our approach will be to practice different rhythmic values everyday to internalize them and help us to understand them intrinsically. We will increase our speed by 10 bpm every day until we have gone from very slow to very fast, and everything in between. This will help us internalize these patterns even better. We will also play our patterns on every different note on the keyboard, so as to become comfortable with playing rhythmic patterns on every note that exists. Here are the fundamental multiplicative patterns that will will internalize in phase 1.

Multiplicative Rhythmic Patterns
Count
1
2
3
4
Pattern 1
Whole Note
Pattern 2
Half Note
Half Note
Pattern 3
Half Note
Quarter Note
Quarter Note
Pattern 4
Quarter Note
Half Note
Quarter Note
Pattern 5
Quarter Note
Quarter Note
Half Note
Pattern 6
Quarter Note
Quarter Note
Quarter Note
Quarter Note

Rhythm Routine

So to practice these patterns we will start with every subsequent note on the circle of 5th and play all six patterns in order at least three times in a row at the listed bpm.

Rhythm Routine Chart

Week 1

Day 1

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note C at 60bpm,
counting out loud

Day 2

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note G at 70bpm,
counting out loud

Day 3

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note D at 80bpm,
counting out loud

Day 4

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note A at 90bpm,
counting out loud

Day 5

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note E at 100bpm,
counting out loud

Day 6

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note B at 110bpm,
counting out loud

Day 7

Rest

Week 2

Day 1

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note F#/Gb at 120bpm,
counting out loud

Day 2

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note C#/Db at 130bpm,
counting out loud

Day 3

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note G#/Ab at 140bpm,
counting out loud

Day 4

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note D#/Eb at 150bpm,
counting out loud

Day 5

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note A#/Bb at 160bpm,
counting out loud

Day 6

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note F at 170bpm,
counting out loud

Day 7

Rest

So when you are counting out loud, this means that we are counting "1, 2, 3, 4" along with the metronome, internalizing this basic pattern against the other patterns that we are practicing, which will help develop our ability to process multiple patterns at the same time.

Intervals

Now, practicing notes and rhythmic patterns aren't really all that challenging, per say, but intervals are a bit of a different story. In fact, one would argue that practicing intervals by themselves, isolated from their involvement in music, could be considered cruel and unusual punishment. But this would be a bad attitude to take, because after notes and rhythm, intervals are vital to our development of a deep understanding of everything else that is yet to come in the musical language. And unlike notes and rhythms, intervals are even more important for our understanding of scales and chords and almost everything else that involves the combination of notes. The minor and major scales get their name from intervals. The same is true for every chord that exists. We analyze melodies and harmonies in terms of intervals, and almost everything starts to make a heaping spoonful more sense when we think through the lens of intervals.

But to practice intervals is to essentially inflict torture upon ourselves, at least, in isolation.

"Why?", you might ask.

Because intervals aren't music, only small pieces of music, and isolating one interval at a time and practicing all iterations of that interval can be very tedious, especially when you are practicing some of the more dissonant intervals. But if we can develop a solid understanding and memory of every single interval, then we can build a really solid understanding and memory of everything else that is yet to come, as they are simply that integral to the foundation to our knowledge.

Interval Routine

So, to practice intervals it is essential that we br/eak them up and work on them in small chunks at a time. If we practice playing one interval a day and play that interval through the circle of 5ths, then we can play every single interval in every single iteration, starting from every note, in just two weeks. For example, on the first day we will play every minor 2nd interval through the circle of 5ths. On the second day, we will play every major 2nd interval through the circle of 5ths, starting with the next note of the circle. On the third day we will play every minor 3rd interval through the circle of 5ths, starting with the next note of the circle, and so on. At the end of two weeks, taking one day off a week, we will have played every iteration of all 12 intervals on every note, which should not end up feeling like a heavy and tedious burden at any point in the process.

Interval Routine Chart

Week 1

Day 1

Play all 12
Minor 2nds,
starting with
the note C

Day 2

Play all 12
Major 2nds,
starting with
the note G

Day 3

Play all 12
Minor 3rds,
starting with
the note D

Day 4

Play all 12
Major 3rds,
starting with
the note A

Day 5

Play all 12
Perfect 4ths,
starting with
the note E

Day 6

Play all 12
Augmented 4ths/
Diminished 5ths,
starting with
the note B

Day 7

Rest

Week 2

Day 1

Play all 12
Perfect 5ths,
starting with
the note F#/Gb

Day 2

Play all 12
Minor 6ths,
starting with
the note C#/Db

Day 3

Play all 12
Major 6ths,
starting with
the note G#/Ab

Day 4

Play all 12
Minor 7ths,
starting with
the note D#/Eb

Day 5

Play all 12
Major 7ths,
starting with
the note A#/Bb

Day 6

Play all 12
Octaves,
starting with
the note F

Day 7

Rest

Melody

Practicing scales will work in a similar fashion to notes, rhythms, and intervals, but with a twist. Every two week period we will alter our approach to practicing our scales. In the first two week phase we will play each scale using the following pattern, which is essentially a linear melody that moves up and down all of the notes in the current scale, in order. This is the same type of pattern that classical music instruction most commonly uses to teach scales. This means that every scale will be played starting on the root note and will move up through the scale until we reach the root note an octave above our starting note. We will then continue playing the scale back down until we arrive at the root again. This pattern is really a melodic pattern, albeit a rather uninteresting one, which we might consider to be a linear melodic pattern. Here is the pattern in full:

Linear Melodic Pattern
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1

In subsequent phases of the practice regimen we will use much more interesting non-linear patterns to practice our scales, which will move us in the direction of understanding our scales through the lenses of compelling melodies.

Melody Routine

Here is our schedule for practicing our scales over the course of our first two week phase. Remember that we will use a new melodic pattern each time we start a new phase, so that after three months we will have played six different unique, and ever more challenging and non-linear, patterns.

Melody Routine Chart

Week 1

Day 1

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
A Minor Scale
and in the
C Major Scale

Day 2

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
E Minor Scale
and in the
G Major Scale

Day 3

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
B Minor Scale
and in the
D Major Scale

Day 4

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
F# Minor Scale
and in the
A Major Scale

Day 5

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
C# Minor Scale
and in the
E Major Scale

Day 6

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
G# Minor Scale
and in the
B Major Scale

Day 7

Rest

Week 2

Day 1

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
D#/Eb Minor Scale
and in the
F#/Gb Major Scale

Day 2

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
Bb Minor Scale
and in the
Db Major Scale

Day 3

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
F Minor Scale
and in the
Ab Major Scale

Day 4

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
C Minor Scale
and in the
Eb Major Scale

Day 5

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
G Minor Scale
and in the
Bb Major Scale

Day 6

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
D Minor Scale
and in the
F Major Scale

Day 7

Rest

Harmony

The next section of the program is harmony, in the form of chords. Remember that chords are an abstraction of the concept of harmony, which is an abstraction of music itself. Harmony happens when we take a piece of music and slice it into smaller pieces and analyze each piece as it’s own individual group of notes. We call these groups of notes chords. The way we are going to approach building our harmonic vocabulary is to literally build our chords from phase to phase, adding a new note each time we start our process over again with each new phase. We will start by playing the chords that accompany each scale combination after we have practiced the scales themselves. For the first phase we are only going to play the first two notes of every chord. This is going to force us to familiarize ourselves with the sound of two note harmonies, or diads, in every tonal center, or key. As an example, our first set of keys is A Minor / C Major, but they both share the same seven chords. We will focus on playing our two note chords starting on A first, and then play the same set of two note chords starting with C after that.

Chord Building

This will be our formula for creating our chords using the scale as our sonic color palette. We will start by playing the first note in the scale, in this case it is the note A, then we skip the next note in the scale, which is B, then we will play the next note in the scale, which is C. When we play the notes A and C together we have created our first two note harmony in A Minor. We will continue this process through all of the notes of the scale until we have played all seven possible two note chords in the current key center. Here is a chart illustrating the approach.

Name
Note + Quality
Note + Quality
Note + Quality
Note + Quality
Note + Quality
Note + Quality
Note + Quality
3rd
3
4
5
6
7
8 (1)
9 (2)
Root
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
Chord
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th

Since there are seven notes, there will be seven chords, as indicated by the bottom row of the chart. The next row up indicates which note in the scale will be used as the root note for the chord. The row after that indicates which note in the scale will be used as the next note in the chord. The top row is the name of the chord, which is found by taking the root note of each chord and adding the quality of the interval between the two notes after the root note name. Below is an example of this method in action using the key of A Minor.

Name
A Minor
B Minor
C Major
D Minor
E Minor
F Major
G Major
3rd
C
D
E
F
G
A
B
Root
A
B
C
D
E
F
G
Chord
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th

The root note of the first chord is A and the distance between A and C is a minor 3rd, so we call this chord A Minor. The second chord follows suit, since B is the root of the chord and the distance between B and D is a minor 3rd as well. We will use this methodology as we play through every minor and major scale and it’s associated chords. Below is the same example, but applied to the relative major scale, which is C major in this case.

All of the same principles apply in this example as well, but we start with the note C, rather than the note A. Everything else is the same. Keep in mind that C is the third note of the A minor scale, and the bottom two chords of A minor become the top two chords of C major. This will be consistent through all 12 keys.

You may notice at some point that all of these diads that we are playing seem very similar to the intervals of minor and major 3rds. In fact, they are one and the same. So, the next obvious thought might be why we would be practicing these again, since we have already worked on learning them. The answer lies within context. We need to learn where intervals exist in music so that we may create context for their inclusion in our practice regimen.

Harmony Routine

Harmony Routine Chart

Week 1

Day 1

Play all 7
diads in the
A Minor Scale
and in the
C Major Scale

Day 2

Play all 7
diads in the
E Minor Scale
and in the
G Major Scale

Day 3

Play all 7
diads in the
B Minor Scale
and in the
D Major Scale

Day 4

Play all 7
diads in the
F# Minor Scale
and in the
A Major Scale

Day 5

Play all 7
diads in the
C# Minor Scale
and in the
E Major Scale

Day 6

Play all 7
diads in the
G# Minor Scale
and in the
B Major Scale

Day 7

Rest

Week 2

Day 1

Play all 7
diads in the
D#/Eb Minor Scale
and in the
F#/Gb Major Scale

Day 2

Play all 7
diads in the
Bb Minor Scale
and in the
Db Major Scale

Day 3

Play all 7
diads in the
F Minor Scale
and in the
Ab Major Scale

Day 4

Play all 7
diads in the
C Minor Scale
and in the
Eb Major Scale

Day 5

Play all 7
diads in the
G Minor Scale
and in the
Bb Major Scale

Day 6

Play all 7
diads in the
D Minor Scale
and in the
F Major Scale

Day 7

Rest

Putting it All Together

So, what you will do everyday is play the daily task in all five major areas of interest, which will help mke the process more palatable in the end.This is a rather exhaustive list of content to work through in total, but hopefully it has been br/oken up enough to allow you to work through it in the time that has been scheduled, without ever feeling truly overwhelmed. Do not be afraid to take more time on an element of the program if you are having trouble with it, but keep in mind that every element has been designed to compliment that other elements in the routine at that point in the schedule, so try not to linger on any one element for too long.

Please also keep in mind that the ultimate goal of this program is to help you tighten your focus and improve your fundamental theory, ear training and keyboard skills simultaneously, so if you skip any elements or do not follow through with the program fully then you will not get the full benefit of the routine, as it has been designed.

Weekly Practice Chart

Week 1

Day 1

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note C

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note C at 60bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Minor 2nds,
starting with
the note C

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
A Minor Scale
and in the
C Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
A Minor Scale
and in the
C Major Scale

Day 2

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note G

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note G at 70bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Major 2nds,
starting with
the note G

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
E Minor Scale
and in the
G Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
E Minor Scale
and in the
G Major Scale

Day 3

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note D

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note D at 80bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Minor 3rds,
starting with
the note D

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
B Minor Scale
and in the
D Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
B Minor Scale
and in the
D Major Scale

Day 4

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note A

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note A at 90bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Major 3rds,
starting with
the note A

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
F# Minor Scale
and in the
A Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
F# Minor Scale
and in the
A Major Scale

Day 5

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note E

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note E at 100bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Perfect 4ths,
starting with
the note E

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
C# Minor Scale
and in the
E Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
C# Minor Scale
and in the
E Major Scale

Day 6

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note B

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note B at 110bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Augmented 4ths/
Diminished 5ths,
starting with
the note B

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
G# Minor Scale
and in the
B Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
G# Minor Scale
and in the
B Major Scale

Day 7

Rest

Week 2

Day 1

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note F#/Gb

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note F#/Gb at 120bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Perfect 5ths,
starting with
the note F#/Gb

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
D#/Eb Minor Scale
and in the
F#/Gb Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
D#/Eb Minor Scale
and in the
F#/Gb Major Scale

Day 2

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note C#/Db

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note C#/Db at 130bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Minor 6ths,
starting with
the note C#/Db

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
Bb Minor Scale
and in the
Db Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
Bb Minor Scale
and in the
Db Major Scale

Day 3

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note G#/Ab

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note G#/Ab at 140bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Major 6ths,
starting with
the note G#/Ab

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
F Minor Scale
and in the
Ab Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
F Minor Scale
and in the
Ab Major Scale

Day 4

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note D#/Eb

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note D#/Eb at 150bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Minor 7ths,
starting with
the note D#/Eb

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
C Minor Scale
and in the
Eb Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
C Minor Scale
and in the
Eb Major Scale

Day 5

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note A#/Bb

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note A#/Bb at 160bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Major 7ths,
starting with
the note A#/Bb

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
G Minor Scale
and in the
Bb Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
G Minor Scale
and in the
Bb Major Scale

Day 6

Play all 12 notes,
starting with
the note F

Play all 6 rhythmic patterns on the note F at 170bpm,
counting out loud

Play all 12
Octaves,
starting with
the note F

Play the linear melodic pattern
in the
D Minor Scale
and in the
F Major Scale

Play all 7
diads in the
D Minor Scale
and in the
F Major Scale

Day 7

Rest

If you can start to develop the habit of practicing everyday, then you will be setting yourself up for musical success, as practicing any musical skill is how it will become a memory in your mind and how it will eventually feel completely effortless. Most people don't get there becasue they don't see progress quickly enough, and assume that it's not working. This kind of process takes time, however, so you need to be able to give yourself some time. In the same way that it took you some time to learn any skill that you now take for granted, including learning your primary language, this wil be much the same.

Descending Linear Pattern
8
7
6
5
4
3
2
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
Non Linear Melodic Pattern
1
5
6
4
2
3
7
5
6
4
5
3
2
5
8
Album Artwork.

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