MUSC 136: Keyboard Skill I

Professor Robert Buxton

R Buxton
Professor Robert Buxton

The purpose of MUSC 136 is for music students to learn functional keyboard skills. The keyboard is a road map for all of music. It is an indispensable tool for the study of music theory, musicology, and composition at the undergraduate and graduate levels. The student who becomes a high school choir director will need keyboard skills to demonstrate passages and to provide piano accompaniment. The student who teaches voice at the college level will need keyboard skills to teach vocal warmups and transpose accompaniments at sight. The student who becomes a music director at a house of worship will use keyboard skills to play songs and hymns on the organ or piano. The student who conducts an orchestra will need keyboard skills to play through orchestral scores during self-study.

The Alfred’s Group Piano for Adults textbook covers tonal harmony, scales, transposition, etc, through engaging musical examples. During class time, students play through musical examples, by themselves, or with a neighbor as a duet. When these examples have been internalized, they improvise around the example, often in different keys. Improvisation requires a deep knowledge of musical concepts, which is why it is heavily emphasized in this course. Furthermore, improvisation is a bridge from musical analysis and performance to creativity in performance and composition.

About a quarter of class time is spent on musical examples from outside the textbook. Students read through such excerpts as Haydn’s String Quartets (reading four lines at once), Schubert’s orchestral music (reading a full orchestral score), figured bass examples (for continuo playing), and partimenti (musical examples used to teach improvisation and composition to 18th-century music students). While some of these examples may seem obscure, they embody the fundamental principles of all of music.

hands on piano close up

MUSC 136 counts for 3 credit hours and meets on Tuesdays/Thursday from 12:30 – 1:20 pm in Kenan Music Building.

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