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Course Video Samples

Lead Sheets Tutorial

Create your own piano piece from simple chord transcriptions.

Ear-Training Tutorial

No need for written music. Learn how to listen and then play.

Arranging Tutorial

Written music too hard, too easy, wrong key, too boring? Learn how to create your own arrangements.

Composition Tutorial

Want to write your own song?         Step-by-step and soon you will create your own composition!

Foundation Tutorial

Build a solid foundation for all of your creative efforts on the piano with easy- to-understand theory information.

Course Manual Samples

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The Beyond Reading Notes piano course includes a 300 page digital download of the comprehensive training manual. If you would like to purchase the hard copy it is available under the Products tab. 

Following, find the Table of Contents as well as a sample from each Piano Tutorial.

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One of the rules composers have is that all notes should not go up or down at the same time. If your melody is going up, the chords and lead parts should not all go up concurrently. Often you want something staying on the same note, something going up, and something going down at any given time. As long as you just have two of those three, that’s enough to give the cohesive feel we generally want.

An important element in songwriting is setting up tension or dissonance leading to resolution. The dissonance is often achieved by breaking the musical rules. This adds texture and depth to your piece and keeps it interesting! Please review the information provided in the Foundation Tutorial thoroughly and then let your creative juices go wild!


Jazz is nothing without the rhythms that create the music. Swing is the entity in jazz that makes you want to tap your feet or move to the beat. So how do you get your rhythm to swing?

In classical music, eighth notes are played straight like a march, but in jazz, the second eighth-note is delayed slightly so the two eighth notes sound like a triplet without the middle beat. Here is a good exercise to get the hang of this. Say “Tri-pl-et.” Now take out the middle syllable, “Tri-__-et, Tri-___-et”. The rhythm is usually written as a dotted eighth to sixteenth. This gives you the feel for the swingin’ rhythm!


The C# major chord is just an anomaly. Composers are free to break the rules if they like the sound. This measure is quite a dissonant sound to the rest of the song which gives emphasis to the lyrics. Ultimately, if you like the way a chord sounds in your song, use it!

Arpeggios are king here. Any arrangement you hear of O Holy Night is filled with left hand arpeggios adding to the drama of the song. It is also in a 6/8 time signature which has a bit of a swinging 2/2 feel to it. You can emphasize this timing pattern in your accompaniment style.


To begin, go to the first beat of each measure and look at the notes in both the right and left hand. See how the notes match up to the chords in your chart. When you find a majority of the notes matching up with one of the chords, write the name of the chord above the first beat of the measure.

Next, go to the third beat and see if it is still the same chord or if the chord has changed. If it is the same, do nothing. If it is different, identify the new chord and write it above the third beat. Then go to the first beat of the next measure. If the notes match up to the previous measure’s chord write nothing. Whenever a measure has no chord symbol written above it, it is assumed the original chord is continued through the new measure. If the chord has changed, write the name of the new chord above the first beat. Continue this process throughout the song until every measure is notated with a chord symbol.


Try a broken bass pattern with the chords you assigned to each measure. What if there is a chord change in the middle of the measure? The broken bass pattern will not work in these measures. Solid chords will work best. A mixture of both solid and broken chords makes the accompaniment much more interesting.

A boom-chuck bass pattern can also work. In this case, the first beat is the first tone of the chord and the second and third beats are the top two notes of the chord. Usually in a 4/4-time signature, the third beat holds through to the fourth beat as a half note.

Once you have worked out the melody and chords for the accompaniment you can add harmony notes under the melody notes. Again, use the notes of the left-hand chords and invert under the melody notes to create a fuller arrangement. Learning your inversions is critical to any kind of creating with music.


We now have our three Primary Chords and our three Secondary Chords as well as our Leading Tone chord of Bdim which we can use to create a chord progression for composition or to use for embellishments in our arranging, reading lead sheets and playing by ear.

There are also rules for when the rules are broken! If there is an accidental in a song, which is called a ‘mole,’ the very first chord to look for is the Secondary Dominant. This is actually a fifth interval above the Dominant. It is always a major chord when you are in a major key.

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