Creative Chords 1 - hard copy

Creative Chords 1 - hard copy

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Teach reading and improvising from lead sheets right from the start!

Creative Chords is a unique series designed to teach students with beginning keyboard skills how to improvise! Bradley Sowash demonstrates how to play well–known melodies by ear, improvise embellishments and variations, add chords and accompaniment styles, and create full–sounding arrangements from lead sheets.

Teachers, even those with a limited background in improvisation, will agree this is a must-have for balancing the ear and the eye for playing today’s music!

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The Kjos Interactive Practice Studio (IPS) technology provides access to orchestrated accompaniments (“backing tracks”), select video lessons with the author, additional detailed information/downloads, and more through a code printed on the last page of each book.

Late Beginner
9" x 12", spiral binding, 120 color pages

How this series is different:

By teaching reading and improvising side-by-side, Creative Chords balances the eye and the ear. Like other piano methods, you can expect to learn well-known tunes and delightful originals by reading written music. But Creative Chords takes learning to play the piano much farther by giving you the tools to “do your own thing.” 

Students learn to:

  • Play familiar tunes both by reading and by ear.

  • Personalize melodies and improvise variations.

  • Interpret pop/jazz chord symbols.

  • Apply stock accompaniments in a variety of styles.

Prior experience improvising or playing jazz, blues, or popular music styles is not necessary. Only basic reading skills are needed.

I am using Creative Chords 1 & 2 with an adult. (Currently in the 2nd volume). I know he has enjoyed it and I’ve learned some new ways to approach old concepts using your method.
— Patti (WA)
Kay Lowry.jpg
My students are learning creativity, chords, theory, and improvisation from the very beginning. I am excited about using “Creative Chords” by Bradley Sowash.  I showed the IPS app to the parents, and they were impressed. Thank you for taking the time to make such a great resource!
— Kay L. (TX)

Compare to:

Creative Chords is a comprehensive (theory, reading, technique, improvising...) method book designed for late beginners. It is a multi-style. multi-key, step-by-step approach that progresses slowly and thoughtfully. Theoretically, one could learn to play the piano with only this series on a desert island.

By contrast, That's Jazz is very specific to the jazz genre and is intended as a supplement to traditional methods. It progresses quickly technically since it is understood to be used with other books and approaches.

Bradley's note to teachers

Though I'm known as a "jazz" performer and educator, this series does not aim to teach your students jazz, or pop, or any other specific style. My goal is to help you teach your students to make their own music, whatever style that might be, because the skills they use to make their own music are primary musicianship skills, not secondary. That's why this series is multi-key and multi-style with a unique emphasis on creativity. I know some teachers will use it as a supplement but I wrote it as a comprehensive method including technique, reading, improvising, theory with review "tests" at the end of each unit. My aim to make it the centerpiece of a curriculum on par with the other famous methods. 

I just wanted to pass along something one of my students said yesterday. I started her in Creative Chords a few months ago and she is really enjoying it.  Normally she is very scattered… but by golly, when we got to her CC assignment, she not only had her iPad close by, but it was already cued up with the app.  Before I could even ask, she turned to me with a big smile on her face, and said, ‘I LOVE this!’
— Kathleen Gault (OR)


American Music Teacher, Aug/Sep 2016
Creative Chords by Bradley Sowash is a keyboard improvisation method for late-elementary/intermediate levels... Sowash incorporates what he calls P-L-A-Y steps which include: Preparing, or noticing details ahead of time; Learn-playing the music exactly as written; Adding chords and accompaniment rhythms; and playing Your Way, or adding improvisation.

The book includes good music theory and technique prep in the keys of C, G and F major along with familiar and original tunes. Even my students who had been playing scales and chords for years were challenged with Sowash’s “scaling the chords” exercise where the student plays pri- mary chords in the left hand while playing the scale up and down with some twists and turns in the right hand. This is exactly the same technique called for when improvising.

My students liked how clearly the needed technique and theory skills were introduced before each piece. The layering steps of adding full chords, simple accompaniment rhythms and short improvised fills were a seamless progression even for those hesitant to be creative. Adults wanting to test the waters with improvisation may also enjoy this method. As a teacher, I found myself encouraging more students to play popular music “Their Way.” —Reviewed by Wendy McGee, NCTM, Huntsville, Alabama

Clavier Companion Jan/Feb 2016
Have you always wanted to incorporate more improvisation into your students’ piano studies, but just aren't sure how to get started? If so, Bradley Sowash’s Creative Chords provides a fun, easy, and progressive method for doing so. It is written for students who are at least at a late elementary level; Sowash states it is designed for self-learners, but encourages students to study with a professional teacher while using the method. The book is organized into five units, each including a few principles of improvisation (for example, melodic variation, repeated notes, and fills), theory tools (triads and scales), and pieces to play and improvise upon. Most of the repertoire selections are well-known traditional tunes such as “Camptown Races,” “Bingo,” “Simple Gifts,” and “Frère Jacques.”

A unique feature of this book is that each copy comes with an access code for downloading an Interactive Practice Studio (IPS) that supplements the method. The IPS provides backing tracks for every piece and for most of the exercises in the book, providing students with fuller ensemble sounds to accompany their playing. There are also numerous video lessons and demonstrations by the author, documents with printable worksheets and in-depth information on various topics, answer keys for each unit’s review questions, and a Personal Studio in which students can create, safe, and share recordings of their improvisations. There is also a digital version of the book; students can page through this version and select correlating video lessons and documents.

Over all, this method has many strengths, including its logical, gradually paced approach. Video lessons by the author are engaging and encouraging, and the many backing tracks greatly enhance students’ experiences with improvisation. The method is inviting, and includes plenty of helpful resources. In addition many of the pieces have printed optional duet parts, a welcome addition for teachers who don’t want to spend less and time fussing with technology.

...Students and teachers who want an improvisational method will find Sowash’s book effective and appealing. The book will greatly increase student knowledge of and confidence in improvising. - Suzanne Schons

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