A hands-on approach to creative keyboard playing and teaching

Tonal Tools blends old and contemporary approaches to tonal music. Nine ‘components’ serve as keys to a more aural, creative and tangible approach in any tonal idiom from the very start.

  • Interweave Tonal Tools with your usual practicing habits or teaching methods.
  • Develop according to your own or your pupil’s pace and needs.
  • Span the baroque, classical, romantic, jazz and pop repertoire using common improvisational and compositional principles.


  • a better integration of musical understanding and instrumental skill
  • a more reliable memory and better sight-reading ability
  • a broadened musical imagination
  • enhanced expressiveness
  • more joy in playing tonal music.

Harmonic elements

Taking a more ‘horizontal’ approach to voicing on the keyboard, Tonal Tools mainly only works with two harmonic elements: the fifth chord (5C) and the sixth chord (6C).

  • 5Cs basically mark bass 1 (the tonic) and bass 5 (the dominant), e.g.
    1-TT website-5C-page-001
  • 6Cs are transitional chords, e.g.
    2-TT website-6C-page-001

Harmonic components

It is mainly the bass that determines which harmonic elements are to be combined into a harmonic progression. The general rule is simple:

  • when the bass leaps, a 5C-5C type chord progression is preferable
    3-TT website-55progression-page-001
  • when the bass moves by step, preferably at least one 6C should be involved (examples C major)
    4-TT website-65upprogression-page-0015-TT website-65downprogression-page-0016-TT website-66666progression-page-001

In classical music at least, you are statistically most likely to find these basic chord types on each degree of the scale (C major):

  • ascending
    7-TT website-ascendingoctaverule-page-001
  • descending
    8-TT website-descendingoctaverule-page-001

All progressions can be copied on any degree of the scale. This is called sequencing.

  • sequenced 5C-5C progression: 1.5, 2.6, 4.8
    9-TT website-sequenced55progression-page-001
  • sequenced 6C-5C progression: 2.1, 7.6, 5.4
    10-TT website-sequenced65progression-page-001

The good news about Tonal Tools

Only nine basic progressions are needed to cover most of the tonal repertoire. We call them components. Components are basic tools for creating tonal music. They are straightforward and easy for the ear and fingers to grasp.


The following improvisation on the organ (by a piano student) only uses three components: Quiescenza (+ variant Quiescenza Tertia), Scalino and Cadenza (+ variant Clausula).

The artistic challenge of Tonal Tools

Don’t think of components as ready-to-use building blocks for composition or improvisation. Components may need to be adapted to cope with ‘down to earth’ musical problems.This basically means altering the component’s metrical spread, its length and shape.


Extensive practice with adapting components to your musical or artistic needs is essential. Transposing key and metre are two important approaches to develop these skills.


Components can be combined. Some combinations, such as the romanesca, are extraordinarily popular throughout all styles and idioms.


Popular combinations are called schemata. Most schemata are short (one phrase), symmetrically structured and harmonically basic. This makes them easy to remember and use automatically.


When repeated ad lib, schemata are excellent tools for improvisation which make them particularly popular with teachers and performers.

11-TT website-schemata-page-001Do you need more information on how to deal with Tonal Tools? Buy the book and download the app.