Hi Brad and pan family,

As you being a teacher, I am interested in your approach to teaching someone the pan. I have been playing for about 5 years now. I do fine and have received many call-backs. (I'll load a video some day) My problem is I don't actually know music, as in theory. I can read the treble clef somewhat. I learned as a child of 9-11 to play the organ. I consider my self a parrot. I can imitate the music very well but it kills me when I attempt to improvise. I've read several books on “learning music and music theory” but for some reason things just won't click for me. I am smart enough to realize that you never stop learning music, but somehow I skipped the building a solid foundation part. If I could learn the chord structures and concentrate on the scales, I might have a chance. Any thoughts on an approach?


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Comment by brad shores on August 23, 2014 at 1:29pm

Hello John,

Lots of great points there, John, and thanks for writing because maybe someone else has the same trouble.  First, everyone is different in what they have learned and the background of their particular music experience. But, one thing that is vital (to me anyway) is to know 1. Key signatures and scales of the most common keys that you play in.  I.E. there is not much use for me to learn F# major chords and scales as I NEVER play in that key.  2.  Learn the quality of the chords I.E. The I chord is always major, ii chord is always minor, iii chord is always minor, IV chord is always major, V chord is always major, vi chord is always minor and the vii chord is a diminished chord.

Application:  key of C has no sharps and no flats, the scale is CDEFGABC

the I chord is spelled CEG, ii is DFA, iii is EGB, IV is FAC, V is GBD, vi is ACE and the vii is BDF   

If you can get those concepts in your mind for C major, F, major and G major to start, then you will have a fundamental nest of information from which to draw improvisation ideas.  Not to mention playing harmony notes with your melody.  this is what has worked for me, anyone else have any ideas?

Comment by John Moher on August 23, 2014 at 4:49pm

I got lost in the translation.. I'm memorizing the key signatures.. G has an F#,  D has a C# and an F# and so on. You lost me with your annotations and explanations pertaining to I, ii, iii, iv v and bouncing back and forth from major to minor and such. Would you simplify your meaning of quality of the chord? I think I understand that CEG is C Major, and DFA is D-minor, EGB is E-minor, FAC is F Major, GBD is G Major, and ACE ? well I though it was A minor. How does the "always a major or minor" fit within the context of the progression of I. ii. iii. iv...?

Comment by Bill Willetts on August 24, 2014 at 7:59am

John I have the same problems - I have been playing music in orchestra for many years (bass clef) but I have no theory background and getting off the sheet is sometimes difficult. I just downloaded Harmony and Theory by Keith  Wyatt (Kindle $9.99) to try and fill in the blanks. I also find the more  I play and imagine the music the better I get with  improv. If you look at some of my videos from a few months ago  and compare them with the last few I can see where I am slowly making progress. As Professor Philmore says - music is a jealous lady and requires constant attention!

Comment by John Moher on August 24, 2014 at 8:23am

Thanks Bill and Brad, I'll keep practicing and the search continues.

Comment by brad shores on August 24, 2014 at 9:33am

Comment by John Moher on August 24, 2014 at 9:40am

Thanks Brad, I'll press on with this.

Comment by John Moher on August 24, 2014 at 11:04am

Thank You for your help. I redid you sheet so I can more easily refer to it. I have it in PDF as well, if anyone wants it in that format.

Comment by brad shores on August 24, 2014 at 11:32am

wow that looks A LOT better.  Thanks for your extra help

Comment by Andy Pruitt on October 19, 2014 at 12:30pm

IMPROV.  I have been struggling with improv as well.  It seems that listening or playing--most of the fun is in the improv, so i think it is well worth learning.  One idea i picked up from my reading is "if you can carry on a conversation you can perform improv".  Conversing is so automatic for most people they don't realize the complexity of it.  And just like conversation, it takes a long time to learn the "words" and "grammar" of improv.  I think a good approach is to start slow with minor variations of the melody, adding grace notes, chord tones, double stops, change of key, and all the techniques Brad is teaching before attempting to add any more complex runs or licks.  

Comment by brad shores on October 19, 2014 at 6:31pm

Good advice Andy.  Thanks for your ideas


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