Chord Playing and Improvising: Christopher Norton

This is the fourth article in renowned composer Christopher Norton’s series for my blog. In this post, he offers tips and suggestions for practising chords and improvisation, and the article includes a free download of Positively Swinging, a piece which hails from the fourth volume of Chris’ ever-popular piano series, Connections.

You can read more articles in the series, here.

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 as well as being a feature of many other syllabuses, festival programmes and competitions around the world.

Connections: this series is the best and most complete series for ALL levels (up to RCM 10!) and has so many pieces in varying styles. Truly worth it!!

A recent quote from a teacher

Connections features a variety of pop and jazz styles, with (free) backing tracks available online.  It is also available on Superscore (look for superscore-music on the App store).

There are 11 Connections levels –  Preparatory, then 1-10.

Positively Swinging from Connections 4 is a big band-style jazz piece with a walking bass. One of the best things you can do is direct students to the composer performance with the track. This file (click here) features the piano part with backing, at performance tempo. Play along!

There are also composer performances on YouTube of all 11 Connections volumes (and lots more besides!). You can click on my Youtube channel here – do hit subscribe!

Here’s a link to the composer solo performance of Positively Swinging on YouTube:

Here’s the music for Positively Swinging:

Play the chord chart below with the tracks here

Positively Swinging is a 12-bar blues, with the following chord progression (functionally): 

I   IV   I   I   IV   IV   I   I   V   IV   I   I

On the (varied) repeat, the V  IV sequence  is repeated twice more, with a stop on the last IV, before a final flourish built on chord I.

Play the progression in C, then try playing it in another key, using the Roman numerals.



  • Make up a 2-bar idea and repeat it up an octave
  • Make up a 2-bar idea and “answer” it with a different idea
  • Play more than one note sometimes (2-note chords)
  • Try longer ideas
  • Try continuous swung eighth notes, grace notes and pedal notes


  • Start with a rhythm only
  • Use a drum pattern to start your own ideas
  • Make up your own rhythm patterns and build ideas on them

Positively Swinging left hand voicing (without the track, then with the track):

Connections 4 is available from ( in Canada)

Try playing along with Christopher Norton:

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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