Chris Donnelly | Episode 7

Chris Donnelly is from Toronto Canada. He’s a juno-nominated pianist, composer and a fantastic educator. His background spans a rigorous education in both classical and jazz disciplines and today his projects cross many genres. During our conversation we covered some really fantastic topics, ones that particularly interest me, such as:

  1. Truly getting things into your playing & composition
  2. The idea of restricting yourself intelligently as a composer
  3. Using different mediums for composition

Chris had a piano in the room where he was so he actually plays examples during the interview, which was really fantastic. A great, seriously fun (and long) interview awaits you – enjoy! ­čÖé

What you’ll learn┬áduring the episode

  • How Chris’s background in Jazz & Classical benefits his playing
  • The unique early education that Chris had and how that formed his early years.
  • The first kids Jazz education in the 80s
  • The value in playing with other kids when you are younger i.e. the value of being social in music.
  • How Canadian music grades go up to GRADE 11! ­čśë
  • The value in getting involved in local music
  • Chris’s university studies & the kind of things he decided to work on in his playing
  • Examples of practice exercises that Chris creates for himself
  • Concepts of counterpoint in improvisation
  • The value in playing and singing musical material at the piano if you are a composer – regardless of whether you are a┬ápianist.
  • How Chris studies hand independance
  • An overview of species counterpoint writing
  • The idea of creating your own practice methods with your own patterns.
  • Creating exercises for specific keys.
  • Chris’s exploration of Chip Tunes & the idea of restricting yourself intelligently as a composer
  • The difference between being a pencil-paper composer & computer composer – i.e. ‘mediums’ of composition.
  • Chris’s DAW setup & VSTs
  • The idea of creating a box or restrictive creative environment as a composer.
  • Chris’s project Myriad 3

‘If you approach everything with a sense of play, and experimentation & improvisation then it doesn’t really matter what you start with, as long as you start’.


Orff Method
Kodaly Method
Russell Hartenberger (Steve Reich)
Chris’s Website & Blog
The hand independence posts
Adventures in Chip Tunes
Chip sounds (VST)
Chip crusher (VST)
Myriad 3
Video on Myriad 3