Pattern Play—The Series Published by Frederick Harris Music
If you want to learn to spontaneously create your own music (improvise) at the piano or help others learn to do it, the best place to start is with the Pattern Play series published by Frederick Harris Music. With these books, piano teachers and students can learn to improvise in diverse musical styles—world music, classical, jazz, blues, new age, rock, and others. The books are not sold on this site, but they are available at www.frederickharrismusic.com and also in print and online music stores. Click here to download a six-page Pattern Play Sampler that explains how these books work, or contact the publisher to have a Sampler mailed to you.
Pattern Play is the best series I’ve seen for the development of improvisatory and creative skill. I strongly recommend these books! —concluding comments from a review in Clavier Companion, March/April 2011
How does this series work? Just as we learn to speak through talking with others over time, students learn to improvise by having regular musical “conversations” (duets) with their teacher. The teacher plays a rich-sounding accompaniment pattern while the student improvises with selected notes or scales. The student learns to freely create melodies in a harmonically rich and rhythmic musical environment, and then is able to move smoothly and successfully into a solo experience. Nearly anyone can learn to improvise with this duet-first approach. Seven pieces in each of the books can also be played by three people at a piano.
Forrest was assisted on this series by Akiko Kinney, a brilliant educator who helped develop the duet-to-solo approach to teaching Pattern Play, and gave insightful editorial suggestions on all the books.
“My students have had a wonderful, positive response to the Pattern Play books. The overall tone and presentation encourages the student to be completely free to establish a unique and uncensored improvisatory voice.” —concluding comments from a review in American Music Teacher, December 2010
Chord Play—The Art of Arranging at the Piano
Do you wish you could spontaneously create artistic arrangements of your favorite songs at the piano? Instantly read fake books? Play those rich 9th and 13th chords? Create accompaniments for singers? Play by ear? Have a repertoire of popular music to play at public events? Be able to improvise on your arrangements? Learn music theory (chords, keys, and scales) in a musical, enjoyable, and practical way? Memorize your pieces more securely? You can learn to do all these things with the Chord Play series. This series is designed to complement both traditional piano lessons and the Pattern Play series.
These books are not sold on this website, but are available at www.frederickharrismusic.com, or in print and online music stores. Click here to download a six-page Chord Play Sampler that explains how these books work, or contact the publisher to have a Sampler mailed to you.
Pattern Play—The Original Series
The original, self-published Pattern Play books were written with a solo player in mind. Since the duet-to-solo approach (discussed above) has proven to be the most reliable and successful way to begin improvising, I recommend that beginners and their teachers start with the new Pattern Play series shown above. Then, when the time comes for more material, the original Pattern Play series (shown below) offers hundreds of Patterns for improvising with the major scales, minor scales, and the various modes in all the keys.
There are four books in the original series—three Melody books and one Harmony book. With the Melody books, you improvise melodies using various scales and modes in all the keys. You don’t need to know anything about scales or even chords beforehand. The Harmony book explores how to improvise and make arrangements of popular songs using triads with added color tones. There won’t be any more books in the Harmony series because the new Chord Play series (see above) covers the material.
Click here to go to YouTube where you can see and hear a duet improvisation from Melody, Volume Two. I’m joined by Akiko Kinney, who gave me insightful editorial guidance on some of these books and made many invaluable contributions to the Pattern Play project. Once you are on YouTube, you will see the list of other videos we made that are available for viewing.
Melody, Volume One (with CD) This 144-page book explores ways to create melodies (improvise) with the most popular scales in classical, ethnic, jazz, and popular styles. This original Pattern Play book (first published in 2004) can function as a “teacher’s handbook” for the new series published by Frederick Harris Music. It offers a more in-depth exploration of solo playing for many of the pieces in the newer series. This book comes with a CD that has 31 solo improvisations on the various pieces and also 4 duets.
Melody, Volume Two (All Keys) This 128-page book has 104 pieces made with Patterns in all the major and minor keys. It explores various way to create melodies in diverse musical styles and introduces ways to begin creating your own accompaniment Patterns. This book is ideal for people who have worked through the new Pattern Play series published by Frederick Harris and are looking for new Patterns in all the keys. On this site, teachers can buy 5 or 10 copies for their students at a considerable discount.
Melody, Volume Three (Modes) This 128-page book has 96 different pieces, each one giving you another way to improvise in one of the modes (Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, Mixolydian, and Locrian). This book explores these modes in all keys. It comes with a spiral binding for ease of use at the piano.
Harmony, Volume One This 144-page book is for those wishing to understand basic chords and various ways to be creative with them. This book explores ways to improvise, compose, and arrange with triads and added color tones (seconds, sixths, and sevenths) in a wide variety of musical styles and all twelve keys.
Books on Creativity
Creativity—Beyond Compare Eighteen years in the making, this book articulates a new—yet old and forgotten—understanding of art and creativity. It explores how to move beyond common misunderstandings about creativity to discover one’s own genius. This book is for anyone practicing an art or wishing to. It reveals that the nature of art has been buried under a number of misconceptions, and it encourages the reader to discover the delight of creating something profoundly personal, something unique that is “beyond compare.”
Creative Life “To fall into habit is to cease to be,” said Miquel de Unamuno. This book (which should be available as an e-book later in 2014) is for those wishing to invite creativity into everyday life. The book features over 320 practices that help us shake up habitual responses so that they may become creative responses.The first half of the book is about the nature of the creative response. The four chapters are: Creative Response, Creative Possibilities, Creative Power, and Creative Freedom. The second half of the book explores what it means to be uniquely creative. The four chapters are: Uniqueness, Confidence, Beyond Compare, and Truth.
The World Songs are a unique offering to the art song tradition. The lyrics are from ancient poems, yet the music is contemporary. Both collections were composed by Forrest Kinney and vocalist Kevin Helppie, Ph. D.
World Songs, Volume One This book offers 14 songs to be enjoyed by all singers, but particularly those in the earlier stages of study.
World Songs, Volume Two This second collection of World Songs presents 21 songs for the intermediate or advanced singer.