The Creative Keyboardist Course

Keyboardist on StageThe Creative Keyboardist Course is a rigorous and comprehensive program for adults and older teens who have professional aspirations to play or compose contemporary popular styles. All playing levels are welcome. Lessons are modular, meaning that you will focus on developing or strengthening the specific skills you need to attain your goals, while mastering the styles you want to play.

Skill Areas


Reading standard notation; reading lead sheets/fakebooks; sightreading/sightplaying; reading in all 12 keys

Ear Training

Recognizing/naming intervals, scales, chords, and harmonic progressions by ear; playing by ear; transcribing music


Intervals; basic triads; basic tetrads; the circle of 5ths; standard chord progressions; tensions; advanced chords


Basic rhythms; standard rhythmic feels; syncopation; polyrhythms


Major, minor and chromatic scales; the modes; blues scales; advanced scales; principles of fingering


Inversions; root detection; enharmonic intervals; voice leading; the II-V-I progression; standard root progressions; tritone and other chord substitutions; cadences; pedal point; modulation; transposition

Keyboard Technique

Professional and effortless playing technique informed by the Taubman school of coordinate motion, the Body Mapping school and mindfulness.

Practicing Skills

Efficient practicing techniques; six important steps for learning any piece; memorizing techniques

Composition / Songwriting

Motives; melodic rhythms; sequences; contour; phrasing; prosody; harmonizing a melody; song forms (AAA, AABA, Verse-Chorus, etc.)


Basic skills including unity and contrast; repetition; phrasing; question and answer; advanced skills including comping; chord, passing and approach tones and tensions; chord scales; intervallic playing; chromatic playing


Fills; broken chords, voicings, parallel devices; secondary dominants; bass lines; introductions; transitions; endings



12-bar blues; gospel blues; jazz blues; 8-bar blues; blues scales; blues licks; swing feel; ornamentation including grace notes, repeated notes, tremolos, and glissandos; blues improvisation


Jazz standards; ragtime; stride; how to “swing”

Pop Styles

Classic rock/pop; electronic styles; alternative rock; video game music; film/anime; Top 40; Broadway/show tunes; R&B/soul; gospel; New Age, etc.


Lessons are 30 or 45 minutes long. Students may begin at any time of year.


Young adult students, see Scholarships below.

30 minute weekly lessons are $50/lesson
45 minute weekly lessons are $75/lesson


A limited number of scholarships are available for highly-motivated young adult students (18-30) to reduce tuition costs. You should have (a) access to an acoustic or weighted-action digital piano for practicing; (b) time for 30-60+ minutes of daily practice; and (c) extensive daytime availability on Tuesdays, Wednesdays or Thursdays for lessons. To inquire about scholarships, complete the new student questionnaire, stating your age, circumstances that may warrant a scholarship, and musical goals in the final open-ended question.


The Portland Piano Lab is located in the Alberta Arts District in NE Portland. Free parking is available. See Location for a map.

Ready to start, or have a question?