Archive for November, 2007


Can Beginners Really Play Christmas Carols This Christmas?

Monday, November 19th, 2007
FacebookGoogle+Share/Bookmark
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Can Beginners Really Play Christmas Carols This Christmas?

If you are just starting out on your piano playing journey — learning to play the piano — you probably don’t think it is possible to abe able to play Christmas Carols this Christmas.

After all, more advanced pianists can add all kinds of arranging techniques to their Christmas Carols like bells and chimes and waterfalls and jazzy chords and runs and fills and re-harmonizations and all kinds of exciting things.

But if you’re just starting out, you might only know a few basic chords. So what can you do?

I have good news — no, make that GREAT news for you!

By using just 3 simple chords that anyone can learn in a few minutes you can actually play many of the great Christmas Carols including:

O Christmas Tree
Angels We Have Heard On High
Silent Night
Away In A Manger
Joy To The World
Deck The Halls
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
O Come, O Come Immanuel
Star Of The East
The First Noel
The Holly And The Ivy
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

So you can actually learn to play those Christmas Carols this Christmas if you know, or are willing to learn, three simple chords.

So what are these chords?

In any given key, there are 3 “family members” that are residents of that key — the I chord, the IV chord, and the V chord. They are far and away the most likely chords to occur in any given key.

For example, if I am playing in the Key of C, and the first chord is the C chord and I have to guess what the next chord is, I would guess that it would be either the F chord or the G chord. Why? Because those are the other “family members.” So we have narrowed the odds a great deal just by knowing who the members of the family are.

So how could I tell whether it should be F or G?

If the melody is a “B”, then the chord is probably a G chord. Why? Because “B” is in the G chord, but is not in the F chord.

If the melody is a “A”, than I would guess that the chord is F. Why? Because “A” is in the F chord, but is not in the G chord.

You can also just match one of the three chords to the melody to see if it sounds right. If it doesn’t, try another of the 3 chords. It won’t take long before you get the knack of matching chords to the tune of a song.

Does that mean that there are always just 3 chords in a song? No, but there are literally hundreds of songs that are made of just these 3 chords.

Can you use other chords in these carols? Of course. And they will probably sound fuller if you do. But you can “get by” with just 3 chords — the family chords in whatever key you want to play them in.

Here are the primary chords (the family chords) of all the major keys (remember that the primary chords are the I chord, the IV chord, and the V chord based on the scale of that particular key):

Key of C: C, F, G
Key of G: G, C, D
Key of D: D, G, A
Key of A: A, D, E
Key of E: E, A, B
Key of B: B, E, F#
Key of F: F, Bb, C
Key of Bb: Bb, Eb, F
Key of Eb: Eb, Ab, Bb
Key of Ab: Ab, Db, Eb
Key of Db: Db, Gb, Ab
Key of Gb: Gb, Cb, Db

Do you have to know all these chords in all these keys?

No.

You can choose to play in just one key, or just a few keys.

But what you MUST know is the 3 chords in whatever key you want to play in! That means that the stark beginner can learn 3 chords in just a few minutes, and be able to play along with thousands of tunes, because most folk songs, hymns, country songs, and many rock songs just use the 3 basic chords. That’s why people who know zilch about music can pick up a guitar or sit down at a piano or keyboard, learn 3 chords, and chord along while singing everything from “Silent Night” to “Joy To The World” to……………………..well, you get the idea.

Go thou and do likewise. It’s not too late — Christmas comes every year right on schedule!

And the great thing about Carols is that once you learn them, you can play them year after year. And of course you’ll be getting better year after year, so each year you can play them fuller than the year before!

Merry Christmas!

For a great course for beginners, please go to “How to Play 12 Christmas Carols On The Piano — This Christmas!”

For more advanced courses, please go to “The Secret of Arranging Spectacularly Beautiful Christmas Carols!”

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Scales: Major, Minor & Modal

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Scales Video

Full length course on scales on DVD & CD & Scale Sheets.

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Christmas Songs By Ear

Friday, November 9th, 2007
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

I don’t often plug the work of a competitor, but in this case I’ll make an exception. Jermaine (a young guy from Southern California and one heck of a pianist) has come out with a course on playing Christmas carols titled something like “The Secret of Playing Christmas Songs By Ear On The Piano”.
Even if you have no interest in taking the course, at least go over to the site and watch the free sample videos.

Pretty good stuff, if I do say so!

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

How come the pros never play a song like it is written?

Tuesday, November 6th, 2007
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

Not a single professional musician plays the music exactly as it appears on a piece of sheet music. Instead, they use the written music as a map, or an outline, and then proceed to do their own thing with it. They twist it, bend it, add to it, subtract from it, put fills in it, change the key, change the words, change some of the melody notes, and on and on.

So when you hear your favorite artist perform a piece of music, if you look at the written sheet music while they are performing it, you will see it is MUCH different and MUCH better than the plain old sheet music.

So how can the average piano player make her or his piano playing more exciting? There are many ways, but here are seven of my favorites:

1. Change the chords slightly by adding color tones. What are color tones? Color tones are notes added to the basic chord, usually expressed as 6ths, 7ths, 9ths, etc. For example, instead of playing just a straight C chord as it is written C, E, G try adding a color tone to it, such as a 6th (A) or a 7th (Bb) or a major 7th (B) or a 9th (D). In fact, try adding a couple together, like a 6th and a 9th. So instead of being a plain vanilla chord made up of C, E, and G, you’ve made it a tasty variation adding A and D to the equation.

2. During the pause between phrases, add a counter melody. How? Take the given melody notes and turn them upside down or inside out, or change the rhythm slightly so the tune is still recognizable, but different.

3. Add chord substitutions. Instead of always using the chords that are written, ask yourself this question: “Into what other chord will this melody note fit?” For example, if the melody is G and the chord is C, what other chords contain the note G in them? There are several answers to that question. G is not only in the C chord, but it is also in the Em chord, the Eb major chord, the G chord, the Gm chord, etc. Try one of those alternate chords until you like the sound combination, then use it instead of the C chord. It will add an originality and freshness to your playing almost immediately.

4. Add fills and runs between phrases. How do you do that? Simply break up the chord that is in force at the moment, and run it up the keyboard as a broken chord one note at a time. Or start at the top of the keyboard and come down. Or play with the chord a bit by playing 2 of the 3 notes instead of the entire 3 note chord.

5. Use melodic echos. After you have played the melody, echo it by playing it an octave higher, or two octaves higher, or an octave lower.

6. Use half-step slides. If the chord progression is from D7 to G7, instead of going to G7 directly, “slide into it” by playing the chord that is one-half step above namely, Ab7, then quickly sliding off Ab7 to G7.

7. Use “blue notes.” Blue notes are created by sliding off a black key onto a white key quickly. For example, if the melody is E, slide off Eb to E quickly using the same finger.

This is just a tiny sampling of what you can do to make songs more exciting. There are literally hundreds of other techniques, from cascading waterfall runs to inside blues moves to deceptive cadences to tremolos to twangs to crunches to straddles to 3-1 breakups to walk-downs and walk-ups to jazz voicing chords and on and on.

By simply adding a few of these techniques to your playing you can easily double and triple the excitement created by your piano playing. People will notice it, and you will find it exciting and exhilerating to create your own arrangments right on the spot as you play.

If you need help in this regard, please go to www.pianoplaying.com

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Piano Fingering: The Intrinsic Logic Of Which Finger Should Go Where — And Why

Saturday, November 3rd, 2007
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)

As a piano teacher for many years now, I have had countless students ask me some variation of this question: “What fingers should I use on such and such a note, or such and such a chord?”

And my answer never fails to surprise them. I tell them “Fingering is not written in stone. Moses did not hand down a commandment on fingering, and neither did Bach or Mozart or Billy Joel or Dave Brubeck”

That comes as a shock to many adults because they think back to their piano lesson days as children and recall their teacher telling them things like “Don’t use your thumb on that key!” and “Cross your 3rd finger over…” and so forth.

So while there are no absolutes when it comes to fingering, there are certainly general principles that pianists have discovered down through the years. So whenever possible, don’t re-invent the wheel. We all learn from experience, but it doesn’t have to be our experience we learn from: we can stand on the shoulders of the giants of the piano that have gone before us, and take advantage of what they have discovered.

So here are some general principles — the intrinsic logic of fingering:

1. If you see a passage in your sheet music move higher on the staff, use a low finger (fingers are numbered from the thumb outward, so your thumb is #1, your index finger is #2, your middle finger is #3, your ring finger is #4, and your little finger is #5) so you’ll have fingers available for higher notes.

And of course, exactly the opposite if you see a passage move lower on the staff.

2. Hold your hand up in front of you. The longest fingers are in the middle — right? Your thumb is far and away the shortest because it starts at a lower point on your hand. Now look at a piano keyboard. The black keys are the furthest away from you — correct? So which fingers can reach the black keys best? You got it — your middle fingers. Therefore, whenever possible play the black keys with your long fingers instead of your thumb. It’s just common sense.

3. The corollary to that is obvious: use your thumb and little finger on white keys whenever possible. (And it’s NOT always possible.)

4. A scale contains 8 keys. You have 5 fingers. So it’s logical to assume you will have to use some fingers more than once. On right hand scale passages ascending beginning on white keys, start on your thumb and then cross your thumb under your 3rd finger except when the 4th note of the scale is a black key. In that case, to avoid playing the black key with your thumb, cross your thumb under your 4th finger. (And just the reverse with your left hand, of course)

On scale passages beginning on black keys, start on a long finger — preferably your index finger (also called your “pointer finger”) and then cross your thumb under whenever the next white key occurs.

5. On chromatic passages, the best way I have found is to use just fingers #1 and #3 except where two white keys in a row occur — then use fingers #1 and #2.

6. Fingering on chords is largely dictated by the size of the chord; obviously if you are playing a 5-note chord, you will use all 5 fingers. Otherwise just follow the intrinsic logic in the general principles listed above.

If you still find it hard to believe that fingering is not written in stone, then watch any video of Art Tatum (available on YouTube.com), one of the great jazz pianists, who stunned classical musicians with his blazing speed while using extremely unorthodox fingering.

www.playpianocatalog.com

VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Review our article:
Rating: 0.0/10 (0 votes cast)
VN:F [1.9.22_1171]
Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)