growing prevalence of popular music in examination syllabi has
created significant changes in music pedagogy. A new lexicon
involving the anatomy and mechanics of chord building is steadily
forcing its way into music lessons. Margaret Brandman's work
in the area of contemporary music theory is well-known throughout
Australia. In her Contemporary Chord Workbook Book 1,
Brandman yet again succeeds in making the language,
structure and application of modern chords readily accessible
to teachers and students.
technical language used for contemporary chords reflects a significant
shift of focus from the past. The dominant 7th for example,
is no longer experienced as merely another challenging arpeggio
which can be played without an ounce of understanding! Students
are increasingly seeing the V7 as a functional, restless chord,
constantly aching for resolution to the tonic. Convert it into
a major 7th and feel the chord dissolve into ether.
An intriguing chemistry at play here, and Margaret Brandman
does a good job de-mystifying it for all.
Contemporary Chord Workbook Bk1 starts with the
most rudimentary of building blocks - intervals, basic triads,
inversions. She then introduces chord tables and progressively
more complex chords such as the augmented, the diminished, the
suspended 4th and dominant 7th chords along with all their possible
alterations and extensions.
case there is a simple, direct explanation of how each chord
is formed, how it is represented symbolically (including all
alternatives) and most importantly, how it functions in a piece
of music - whether it has a powerful, "leading", forward motion
or a tendency to "rest". For every new type of chord introduced,
there is an extended section of chord-writing exercises with
copious hints and reminders.
structure of the half diminished chord, for example is presented
from three different perspectives: as the 3rd inversion of a
minor 6th chord, as a minor 7th with a flattened 5th, or as
a diminished 7th chord containing a minor 7th interval. We are
told on what scale degree the chord can be built and its status
as a "leading" or propelling chord. Then follows a series of
notated demonstrations of exactly how the chord can be constructed
- using scales, modes and intervals. The lesson is then capped
off with a comprehensive set of chord-writing exercises. Not
even a whiff of confusion could survive this sort of treatment!
book has a "no-nonsense" layout. At times the text on each page
appears quite dense - the information traffic is rather busy.
On the other hand, the book is mercifully devoid of the distracting,
overkill graphics that seem to suffocate the format of so many
theory books currently on the market.
Chord Workbook promises to take the beginner in this
area to a very comfortable understanding of complex and sophisticated
chords. It should be an essential item on every piano student's
accompanying answer book is also available separately.