by Peter Oehrtman: NCTM, Doctor of Musical Arts

Beginning – Diploma. The Keyboard Accompaniment Series by Gayle MacAulay Dunsmoor provides a useful resource for teaching an important aspect of piano playing, for which there are not many resources. The method begins at the basics of note reading and works up to accompanying melodies without notation, reading lead sheets and understanding chord progressions…

The series fits into its own niche by focusing on creating accompaniments to written melodies as well as chord reading. In all, the series is a useful and pedagogically sound method to teach chords and accompaniment.

Roger Hewett, Musical Director, Composer, Arranger Cirque de Soleil Jan 2005 – Present

“I love your teaching method. It is such a great idea to instil the concept of creating a musical accompaniment instead of simply playing what is on the page. Kudos.”


Why Bother with a Keyboard Accompaniment (KA) Course?
May I suggest some of the following?

To stimulate hearing skills so that sensing chord changes and creating a pleasing accompaniment are instinctive.

  • To enable students to read from a ‘Lead Sheet’; • To play with other musicians confidently.
  • To improvise in a performance situation when memory fails momentarily.
  • To make harmonic knowledge germane to the playing of music and understanding of the score.
  • To provide students with the skills to enjoy the piano after formal lessons are over (when there is little time for regular practice).

All five books are peppered with profound and interesting musical and life quotes from such sourced as Einstein, Pascal and Hugo. ‘Taking the Challenge’ sections are included in each volume. These are folk songs and dances to which the student must add an accompaniment consistent with the exercises in the book. These accompaniments are then evaluated by the teacher in terms of different accompaniments attempted, fluidity of performance as well as the overall impression….

These books help prepare a student for a more rounded musical education in that harmonic concepts become wed to the music itself and taken out of the realm of the purely theoretical. This course also gifts the student with the tools with which to enjoy a life-time of music! They are well worth the effort!
Sonja Hauser RMT

“Each page is a new adventure. The pieces seem so simple, and yet they contain a catch, an ability, a challenge that must be met by careful attention… My joy of music continues on every page.”
Kim Morgan

Lorraine Toljanich, ATCL, RMT
I am a Registered Music Teacher with the North Shore Branch of the British Columbia Registered Music Teachers Assn. We recently invited Gayle Dunsmoor to present a workshop on “Creative Keyboard Accompaniment”. We were all very impressed with her presentation and with the content of her series of books that outline in detail a practical method for teaching basic chord accompaniment as a means to developing creative hearing skills. Many of us have not been taught these skills as we studied piano. A series of this nature is long over-due, and we are grateful to finally have the tools to train this important aspect of piano playing and pass it on to our students.
Lorraine Toljanich

APTA Publication (excerpts) “News & Views”
by Michele Tamtom: Kindermusik and WunderKeys Educator

by Gayle MacAulay Dunsmoor
Publisher: QuenMar Music, Canada

KA BASICS (5 books) are a great way to teach and develop the improv technical skills needed to hear and create organized accompaniments in almost any key…. Upon completing the first three books, a student should be able to confidently create their own accompaniment to any given melody…. Guided by a teacher, or as a self-study, this ‘method’ can be in conjunction/addition to other teaching methods.

MA PRIMERS A & B are designed for students with no prior piano or keyboard instruction. These books are well thought out and include many explanations….There are questions to be answered along the way as ‘check points’ to make sure the student is absorbing the information.

MA BOOKS 1 – 4 build on the strengths of the previous MA PRIMERS and KA BASICS books…. Ms. Dunsmoor’s method books are thoroughly thought out and her attention to detail in her writing of original pieces is evident – as is her handling of old favorite melodies.

New Publications
by Lisa Ng PhD, LRSM; A. Music in Piano Performance; Member ARMTA Calgary.

Book Series: Keyboard Accompaniment
Author: Gayle MacAulay Dunsmoor Publisher:
QuenMar Music, Canada

Keyboard Accompaniment is a new series of method books with a unique and effective hands-on approach to keyboard accompaniment training, a skill that’s often neglected in traditional keyboard lessons. Gayle Dunsmoor with her 40 years of teaching experience guides teachers and students step by step on developing the essential keyboard skills that are necessary to nurture a well-rounded musician. This includes the understanding of keys, anticipation of harmonic changes, application of chord progressions, styles, rhythms, patterns, hearing intervals, sight-reading of scores and lead sheets. The author wittingly blends all these elements in the program while encourages creativity in the students’ learning…

…This is ideally a program that teachers should integrate into the learning process right from the beginning to foster excellent musicianship.

Entire review: visit Alberta Registered Music Teachers’ Provincial Magazine, “Tempo”.

REVIEW (entire): by Eric Nyland: BFA, LRCM, CAEA, RMT

With her Melody Adventures (MA) and Keyboard Accompaniment (KA) series, Gayle Dunsmoor has made a significant contribution to a seriously under-represented area of study in formal piano training: practical chording principles and accompaniment training for beginner piano students. Her twelve volume collection may serve simultaneously as a method book series, rudiments primer, fundamental tonal harmonic principle handbook, lead-sheet introduction, and improvisation kick-starter. I have used her books with a couple of my students and found them equally useful for beginners and intermediates alike. For beginners, the series can be used to help secure basic chords and the way these chords relate to melodies, and for intermediates there are great materials to assist with the acquisition of “chord grammar” sense, among so much else.

The series is organized thoughtfully so that students work through the MA and KA books concurrently. This allows students to absorb melodic, rhythmic and harmonic ideas first by learning simple arrangements of tuneful and catchy pieces in the MA books and then have immediate opportunity to apply those ideas to their own arrangements of songs in the KA books. Along the way students encounter numerous charts that explain scale patterns, chords and inversions, basic standard accompaniment patterns (often described within a discussion of different musical styles), circle of 5th relationships, and eventually even early modulation techniques. A great strength of this series is that under teacher guidance students may explore a spectrum of complexity in their accompaniment creations depending on their aptitude and the time they have spent with a given piece. Exceptionally ambitious and talented students have room to discover complex textures while those who might struggle may work with simpler patterns.

As Lisa Ng noted in her glowing review of this series for the ARMTA publication Tempo, teachers may even note “there is so much to learn.” For those of us who did not receive significant keyboard harmony and accompaniment training in our formative studies, these books open up worlds of possibility for expanding not only our teaching repertoire, but also our practice as professional pianists. Despite having completed my intermediate keyboard harmony through the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM), I feel stronger in this discipline having worked through Gayle Dunsmoor’s books. This is no small praise for a “basic” keyboard accompaniment series.

This means that for many teachers, some time spent working through Ms. Dunsmoor’s books will be a prerequisite to using them during lessons. The benefit of just a few hours of reading through these books will give you fundamental skills to teach keyboard harmony to nearly all of your students, as well as providing a broader and more fulfilling approach to your own practice as a professional pianist should the practice of keyboard accompaniment and keyboard harmony not be among your strongest skill sets.

Eric Nyland

ARMTA publication Impromptu
by Michelle Everett Faunt: B.Ed; B.Sc

Gayle Dunsmoor of Nanaimo BC was motivated to write Melody Adventures and Keyboard Accompaniment as a result of 40 years of teaching experience. She recognized a gap in traditional piano pedagogical approaches relating to teaching accompaniment skills…

She also noticed a rise in the popularity of students taking guitar lessons. She feels that this is because beginning guitar students quickly learn to be able to play chord accompaniments to their favourite melodies… …Gayle hopes that with the Melody Adventures and Keyboard Accompaniment books, all piano students will learn the skills to be able to confidently play accompaniments to their favorite melodies.

For complete review, visit online ARMTA Impromptu

Eclectic Quilter

These books represent a huge amount of work and the simple fact that over 350 of the melodies/songs are original is mind-boggling. To quote Gayle’s blog on the Clavier Companion magazine site: “Most formal piano keyboard training programs leave the creative area of the brain untapped”. The keys to the kingdom of creativity are now here.

Kathy Schmidt, ORMTA Thunder Bay, Ontario

This excellent series has 5 books that are best used sequentially if a student/teacher has not had any previous experience with harmonizing a melody… By the end of the series, students will have developed the freedom to express themselves in their own accompaniment style… This is a fantastic series.

Edith Katronis, Realtor from US magazine, Clavier Companion

I took piano lessons for several years as a child. The experience was enjoyable. However, I did not want to make mistakes and became fearful about doing anything that was not on the written page and I could regurgitate perfectly. Consequently, I did not try. It was in my later years with Gayle’s books that I began experimenting and I am finally comfortable creating accompaniment to melodies I enjoy.

Liz Munro, ARCT, ALCM, RMT (Coquitlam/Maple Ridge Branch of BCRMTA)

I really enjoyed your workshop on March 31/17. Thank-you for the Melody Adventures books I won as a draw prize. My student, Kathleen, bought KA Basics A and we looked over it together at her lesson. You have really designed a great course. Your ideas, duet parts and musical shorthand ideas are amazing. Congratulations on the hard work.


Marcia Meyer: BC Registered Music Teachers’ Ass’n (RMT) North Shore Branch

My piano training comes from many years of private instruction through the Royal Conservatory of Music (RCM) and the University of Western Ontario…..

Creating accompaniment ‘instantly’ for a given melody from a lead sheet was like walking on another planet! Why was this basic skill not a part of my initial formal music training?

I believe that Gayle, with her Melody Adventures and Keyboard Accompaniment books, has truly touched upon the elements to allow students to train, comprehend and execute ‘lead sheet’ accompaniment – with ear training and creative skills being the most important by-product. It would be wise for anyone in the piano teaching field, or simply interested in reading from a lead sheet, to take a concerted look at Gayle’s methodology books.

Marcia Meyer; RMT