19.03.2015
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Dissertation: Dissertation: 28 Mar 2015 The role of piano improvisation in teaching harmony, using combined materials selected from the Baroque period and jazz standard repertoire: towards a comprehensive approach (Benedek)

Time:

28.3.2015 12:00 — 15:00


Location: Seminaarinmaki, Historica H320
M.A. Mónika Benedek defends her doctoral dissertation in Music Education " The role of piano improvisation in teaching harmony, using combined materials selected from the Baroque period and jazz standard repertoire: towards a comprehensive approach " on 28 March 2015. Opponent PhD, Reader Dr. Anthony D.J. Branker (Princeton University) and Custos Docent Suvi Saarikallio (JYU).

Mónika Benedek.M.A. Mónika Benedek defends her doctoral dissertation in Music Education "The role of piano improvisation in teaching harmony, using combined materials selected from the Baroque period and jazz standard repertoire: towards a comprehensive approach". Opponent PhD, Reader Dr. Anthony D.J. Branker (Princeton University) and Custos Docent Suvi Saarikallio (University of Jyväskylä). The event is in English. 

This doctoral thesis investigated the applicability of piano improvisation as a potential pedagogical tool in the combined teaching of baroque and jazz harmony, and looked in what ways it supported the development of harmony knowledge and various musical skills. The research considered the traditional differences between the two genres from both historical and educational perspective, taking into account the organisation of textbooks in harmony studies, curricular philosophies, methods and approaches in music theory, and, especially, the lack of studies, which explore piano improvisation in teaching at both classical and jazz harmony combined. The research also established a teaching material to bridge the gap between baroque and jazz harmony teaching, using certain baroque variations containing similar chord progressions to particular jazz standards.

Data were collected in two subsequent teaching courses with university students of Department of Music, University of Jyväskylä and were analysed by qualitative techniques. The aim of Study One (pilot) was to identify the approaches distinguishing between the teaching of broadly classical and jazz harmony and examine their cross-applicability in both genres. Comparative analysis was applied to seven students’ questionnaires, learning diaries, video recordings, and harmony tests with the teacher-researcher’s observations. Findings showed that the practical approaches i.e. improvisation, composing variations, and aural learning using existing musical examples were particularly successful in such combined teaching of harmony.

Study Two examined further the applicability of piano improvisation with nine students in two groups employing improvisation at different parts of the course. Data were gathered via harmony tests, improvisation tests, video recordings, questionnaires of students’ pre-existing knowledge and musical skills, the learning progress and development of harmony knowledge, aural and improvisation skills. Data were analysed separately in each student’s case.

Results showed that improvising on various baroque variations and jazz standard songs motivated students to learn harmony, positively influenced their theoretical, stylistic and practical knowledge of baroque and jazz harmony, and aural skills. Peer improvisation techniques, i.e. the parts of music such as melody, chord accompaniment, and bass were shared, improved the aural skills, piano accompaniment skills, sense of meter, rhythm and form, motivated students with less improvisation and piano skills to participate in the improvisation activities, and fostered the collaborative attitude. These peer improvisation techniques are suitable pedagogical tools for compulsory piano courses, music theory courses in both mainstream classical and jazz education contexts, and are can be applied in general classroom music lessons either with keyboard or with various other instruments.

Keywords: harmony; baroque; classical; jazz; tertiary music education; improvisation

The dissertation is published in the series of Jyväskylä Studies on Humanities, number 245, 395 p. Jyväskylä 2015, ISSN 1459-4323; 245, ISSN 1459-4331; 245 (PDF), ISBN: 978-951-39-6149-7 (PDF). It is available at the University Library’s Publications Unit, tel. +358 40 805 3825,myynti@library.jyu.fi

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Monika Benedek

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Monika.m.benedek@jyu.fi