Chord Playing and Improvising 2: Christopher Norton

Today’s post is the second in a series of five by renowned composer Christopher Norton. In each post, he is offering a free copy of one of his piano pieces, each one hailing from his popular series, Connections. Open Window can be found in Book 4 of Connections, and, in this article, Chris imparts a few valuable practice tips and ideas.


(Connections Book 4)

Chris 1

Connections for Piano has been very popular since its launch in 2007. It is a major part of the new Royal Conservatory syllabus in Canada. It features a variety of pop and jazz styles, with (free) backing tracks.  It is also available on Superscore. There are 11 levels, Preparatory and 1-10.

Open Window is an easygoing 8-beat piece with a Latin feel, with a nicely syncopated middle section. There are composer performances on Youtube of all 11 Connections volumes (and lots more besides!).

Do subscribe to my YouTube channel.

Here’s a link to a composer solo performance.

And here’s the music:

Open Window 1

OpenOpen Window has a repeated 4-bar right hand main theme, then a second, 2-bar idea leads to an 8-bar rhythmic C section, which builds to dramatic chords and a restatement of the main theme.  So the structure is AABCAA.

The backing track for Open Window is available by clicking this link.

The track tells the student (and teacher!) a lot about the style.

With the track playing or someone else playing the piece, try tapping the basic bass drum and snare patterns on your legs:

Norton 4

Here’s me playing Open Window on my Youtube channel:

Tap the drum rhythm above as I play (or play the piece with me!).

The opening chords of Open Window are quite simple in outline, over a pedal E:

Norton 3

Play and savour each chord.

Play all the chords below with the track, then try simple chord rhythms with them.

Chris Norton 2

A suggested left hand pattern (with right hand scales) for the opening 8 bars:

Chris Norton 1

Some ideas to get you started with right hand ideas:

  1. Create your own right hand melody (or melodies) above the left hand pattern
  2. “Answer” an “A” idea with a “B” idea
  3. Try various structures: AB, ABA, AABA, AABCAA….
  4. Try playing very freely!
  5. Go beyond the scales pitch-wise.

Connections 4 is available from ( in Canada).

See Christopher Norton plays Deep in Thought on Youtube, read the first article, which features this piece, here.

Christopher Norton


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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