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.


OPEN WINDOW

(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 80dayspublishing.com (debrawanless.com in Canada).

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

Christopher Norton


Publications

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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