About Keyboard Versatility


The KV course initially came into being within the Strathclyde University BA Degree in Applied Music and was designed, primarily, for 1st and 2nd year undergraduates. Students were accepted onto the Applied Music course based on high levels of skills in a variety of instruments, and singing, but not necessarily having any experience or ability with piano/keyboard, which was though a strict requirement for progression to subsequent years.

Some, despite being highly gifted in their specialism i.e. drums, singing, oboe, bagpipes etc. had never even sat at a piano/keyboard. The course therefore had to be both rigorous i.e. at university validation standard and highly effective! It also had to be able to be relevant for a wide variety of students and flexible enough for the many varied backgrounds and musical orientation of the students.

The BA Degree in Applied Music was open to a wider variety of musical genre, and technical ability, than similar courses. A traditional piano course would simply not work for such a demanding target group.

It's called 'Keyboard Versatility', as opposed to piano lessons, because of the focus on helping people find the most useful relationship with all those notes on the keyboard and demystifying all the structures and terminology that can sometimes be a deterrent.

The teaching method is not predicated on what people can play at week 10 but on what they can then go on to do in the weeks, months and years following.

The course was later adapted for the general public under the auspices of the Adult Learning Programme and was re-designed to suit;

Absolute beginners
Returners (learned in childhood and forgot everything)
Switchers – comprising those who had learnt via the grade system but wanted a more intuitive expression and;
Intuitives - those who could play by ear but wanted to expand their horizons through technical understanding.

This adapted version of the course, necessarily, had to be versatile in its approach but rigorous enough, again, to meet University standards. It had to pass validation, be worthy of a certificate and count towards a degree.

Unlike the Phase 1 (undergrads) target the ALP students were not receiving music theory input in other streams so a solid theory grounding had to be developed and incorporated without detriment to expression. The course was assessed over three years and although feedback from students was very good overall it was highlighted that the beginners course was too intensive for some.
The course was therefore modified by moving the full notation element over into intermediate. Notation is still introduced and explored in beginners but only up to lead sheet level and using carefully selected pieces.

The tutor

Ken Sibley started with traditional piano lessons, at far too young an age, but got over it eventually, retaining just a love of Bach and a dread of scale practice.

Following a long period of performing with a variety of rock, fusion, jazz and experimental groups he dabbled with Indian and Arabic music and went on to study Music Science with a smattering of music psychology and philosophy.
Since that time he has been involved in music education in schools, colleges, universities and community projects.

Having taken a break from music he is now returning to both teaching and performing. Reinvigorating the Keyboard Versatility course has been a long held aspiration and he is looking forward to helping many other people find their own music at the piano.

All human beings are musical. It is an inbuilt aspect of being human.
The trick is to develop it without killing the enthusiasm!