Category Archives: Beginning Cocktail Piano

Creating A Walking Bass Line On Piano (Beginners)

Playing A Walking Bass Line On PianoWhen you know how to play a walking bass line on piano at any given time, you are in possession of a shining tool that you are sure to keep at the very top of that piano playing toolbox of yours. Unfortunately, far too many pianists never attempt them and only marvel at the ability of other pianists who have a handle on this very useful cocktail piano playing technique.

Walking a bass line on piano can be accomplished on many levels. There are certainly concepts that are more advanced than others. But you have to start somewhere! Great news follows: you see, it’s not necessary to have those more advanced skills under your fingertips in order to put your playing across in a very professional way. Remember this: It’s not necessarily WHAT you know but how you use what you know.

Are you familiar with playing simple triads on the piano, for example? That in its own right lends itself to your creating effective bass lines for a beginner. Playing a basic triad in an arpeggiated manner works marvelously well.

A main point that I would like to get across here is that you want to connect yourself with a musical idea that allows you to play with some momentum without distraction. In other words, if you have your left hand fingering a C Major triad in the bass area, it’s just a matter of playing those keys as quarter notes, one at a time. You are not distracted by the act of having to look for them. Once you get your momentum going with a simple technique such as this one, it becomes easier to graduate to turning that idea into a more interesting line. Master what comes easy to you. Then more creativity can blossom from there.

(excerpt from this very popular online video session)

When you consider what a bass player will often resort to while walking, it makes sense that focusing on those chord tones is conducive to nice lines developing. A professional bass player, although capable of playing more complex lines, will often gravitate back to these chord tones, often using the  1 and 5 of the chord (for C Major: C>>G>>C, etc).

If you are familiar with 7th chords, then you can feel free to play those 7th chords as arpeggios as well, trading off between them and just the triads.

As you begin to feel confident with playing these “broken” chords, you’ll want to insert “neighbor” tones in between them to make your lines more interesting.

A key point worth mentioning is that, however you play those walking bass lines on piano, keep it in perspective. Remember the role of those lines. They are serving as support and accompaniment to a melody or improvisation which takes priority. So, focus on maintaining a balance with your volume. That left side of the piano will naturally resound more intensely, so play with sensitivity by playing those walking bass lines on the softer side. Their importance will stand on their own without being accentuated with extra volume.

There is much more that can be said of playing walking bass lines on piano but this short lesson is intended to serve as a beginning from which you can spring from.

Enjoy the walk!

Piano Chord Voicings Explored

ProProach Piano Chord Voicings Program: What Makes It So Effective?

Popular Chord Voicings ProgramChord voicings is the name of the game with ProProach. Now, in this message, I would like to acknowledge  a question received a number of times regarding how this popular piano chord program is presented. Here it is:

“Can I receive all the lessons in ProProach at one time?”

The perceived “benefit” of having all the lessons at one’s fingertips from the perspective of the person asking the question is understandable. It’s human nature to want to “browse” and “pick and choose” certain favorite chord voicings to play with and experience instantly.

Is there anything wrong with that? Of course not. However, it ought to be pointed out that much of the true effectiveness of ProProach can be credited to the gradual implementation of new voicings as they are learned. Actually, the very same individuals who ask the question above are the folks who, upon exposing themselves to the program, are kind enough to write me and let me know that it is this very approach to learning which is responsible for the gained confidence they enjoy as growing piano stylists.

That said, the truth is that you actually do get to have the entire collection of lessons and video demonstrations at your fingertips once you’ve taken yourself through the program. Time and time again, members have notified me that this has become especially invaluable to the even more so because they followed the program as suggested.  The reason? Well, once ProProach has been enjoyed the way it’s been intended, going through the program offers a different perspective each time. Truly, this is a piano chord voicings program that you can grow with.

Even the very first lesson of the program (which is currently being offered for free on the main site) can be taken to many different levels. My video session in Cocktail Piano Secrets #1 helps one do just that. If you’d like to get a handle on a nice way to create some tasteful harmonic piano fills, that program is one I hope you will consider.

I am always happy to communicate with people who have taken the leap and taken advantage of this program, as the fun I had in creating it is matched only by the satisfaction I personally get when a ProProach member emails me with a message similar to the many testimonials you will find on the site. I am inspired by your progress!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Opening Up Those Triads

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsWhen it comes to playing cocktail piano chords that are the among the easiest to play while being extremely effective, what we’ll be looking at here will rate high on the list. If you know how to play some simple triads (three-note chords), this will come easy to you. In addition, you’ll discover for yourself that, even if you don’t have a specific tune in mind, you can compliment a nice ambience with these cocktail piano chords when played subtlety and legato.

Again, we’re using simple triads here. For our example, we will look at the C Major triad in Root Position, 1st Inversion, and 2nd Inversion  in their closed postions:

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

By simply opening up these triads and playing them in their open positions, we arrive at some very nice textures. When supported with the use of the sustain pedal, sometimes played as we see below and other times played in a arpeggiated fashion, you can easily grab a listener’s ear with very sparse playing…

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

If the concept of “opening” a chord is new to you, we are simply taking the middle chord tone of each position in our first illustration above and playing it one octave higher. Yes, two hands will be used, and this particular example that we just illustrated can be easily fingered with the right hand by simply fingering a Cmaj in 1st inversion (while allowing the left hand to take care of everything else). Doing so places your right hand fingers within easy grasp of E, G and C as they are played subsequently, as shown above.

Once you are comfortable with playing our example above in open positions, consider playing through a chord progression using these open positions. Doing so will accomplish at least two things: 1) Your confidence with playing triads in open positions will rise tremendously; 2) You’ll be playing something that sounds quite nice when taking those open positions through, say, a I – vii – ii – V chord progression like Cmaj – Amin – Dmin – Gmaj.

Please consider putting the above suggestion to use in addition to understanding it intellectually. Actually take yourself through the three positions over each chord in that chord progressions. You’ll automatically have, at your fingertips, twelve interesting chord textures you can feel good about adding to that “piano playing toolbox” of yours.

Next, take yourself through an entire favorite song of yours and simply play the chords in their open position inversions as if you were accompanying yourself while singing the melody. Experiment with different inversions as you play through the chord changes of the song again and again. Watch your confidence with playing cocktail piano chords grow!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Open Position Triads

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsWhen it comes to cocktail piano chords that you’ll use often, this one must be mentioned. It is one of the easiest to understand. That said, if your left hand is not used to playing 10th intervals, it may take a little getting used to. However, any effort put into this is well worth it.

We will use a simple triad (three-note chord) for this. Specifically, the chord here is C Major. In the first measure below, you will see this chord in its basic root position:

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsIn the second measure above, you will see that we are playing the C and G of this chord one octave lower. The E is played where it was originally on the piano keyboard (it’s just written in bass clef to be consistent with the lower two chord tones and to put everything in the context of the left hand). So, you see, we have taken the middle note (in this case, the E) and moved it an octave higher. This is often referred to as “opening up the chord.” The distance now between the C and E is  now a 10th interval instead of a 3rd interval.

Okay, now we will play these chord tones one at a time, as in the third measure. We are starting on the low C, proceeding to G (playing these as eighth notes), and then finally arriving at the E just above middle C, which can be held for the duration of the measure. Typically, the left hand fingers used are the pinky, index finger, and thumb, respectively. Now, if you have small hands, do not be concerned because you do not need to leave your pinky on the lowest note (the root) as you proceed to the other chord tones. The pedal will do the work of sustaining these, resulting in a very nice effect.

This is a left hand pattern that you will want to not only familiarize yourself with but it’s one of those cocktail piano chords (played a note at a time) that you will use again and again, so put some time into this one. Of course, you will want to become comfortable with playing this with the other triads as well.

I would like you to see this left hand accompaniment technique demonstrated. If you will simply visit here, you will see a video excerpt from the first in my Cocktail Piano 1-2-3 series. Right at the very beginning of that video, you will notice this left hand accompaniment being played using the C Major chord just as we have mentioned here. You will notice that it is being played in conjunction with a “root-chord” accompaniment, which results in some nice variety!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

Play Cocktail Piano From Scratch

Play-Cocktail-PianoTime and time again, I have received emails from members of Piano Amore (www.PianoAmore.net) asking how someone at a beginner level can learn how to play cocktail piano from scratch, while having very little or no experience at all. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate those emails because when I read them, the enthusiasm of the person writing is always quite evident. So, if you’re one of those people who inquired, let me thank you because it’s people like you who inspire me to create ways of helping cocktail piano enthusiasts in any way I can.

Okay, so when I receive an email like that, it immediately causes me to reflect on a video session that I created (as a result of similar emails, of course!) that acknowledges what I feel to be of utmost importance to the person who aspires to play cocktail piano and doesn’t have a lot of tools to begin with. The name of that session is entitled How To Play Standard Songs With Confidence #1 and I would like to encourage you to take advantage of that one because, in that session, I demonstrate what I feel should be your primary focus.

One of the points we acknowledge in that video session is the importance of learning the melody of the song you are playing. I don’t just mean play through it once. Rather, I mean learn it so well that there’s no question about how to play it confidently from your perspective. You see, once you know that melody so well (yes, like the back of your hand), less attention is needed on it and this gives you the freedom you need to focus on beautifying that melody with a harmonic approach. In simple terms, when you right hand is “feeling confident,” your left hand can get the attention it deserves and you can learn to accompany that melody with some simple yet very effective techniques… yes, even to the point where the person in the next room over notices : )

Also, I would like to mention that my series entitled 1-2-3 Cocktail Piano makes a wonderful compliment to your experience with that session mentioned above. Actually, if you really want to begin having some fun with the basics of cocktail piano and are willing to take things a step at a time while having something “on the shelf” for your future investigation, you can take advantage  of both How To Play Standard Songs With Confidence #1 and 1-2-3 Cocktail Piano #1 and, in addition, you’ll get two very popular editions of my Sneak Peeks series in my Cocktail Piano Starter Pack (you’ll also get my online program that focuses on an easy approach to playing those 7th chords). By the way, all of these sessions are available via instant download online so you can begin right away.

As you consider getting started with those cocktail piano learning tools, pick a favorite song of yours today and take a close look at that melody and being playing it. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 as to how confident you are feeling with it. You want it to be a 10! So, really get involved in learning and enjoying that melody. The first video session above will inspire you to do this. Okay, as your journey along this exciting avenue begins, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Inversions

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsAn exploration of cocktail piano chords really ought to include an eventual thorough understanding of chord inversions. Mastery of your inversions is most certainly conducive to increased confidence when it comes to adding some style to those favorite songs of yours.

Whether your focus on chords up to this point has been on only triads or you also have a handle on some of those 7th chords, the basic concept is the same. In addition, even when playing just triads, a familiarity with the inversions can really make those songs have more flair. This adds a whole new dimension to your collection of cocktail piano chords since you are making more out of even those simple ones that you already know.

You are highly encouraged to learn the chords you are already feeling confident with in their different inversions, using both hands. For now, let’s concentrate on the value of learning them with your right hand.

We will use the C Major triad as we use a few illustrations from the popular Right Hand Chord Piano Made Easy program which, by the way, is a great method to ease your way into this right hand chord piano approach (sometimes referred to as chord melody)…

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsCocktail-Piano-ChordsCocktail-Piano-Chords

Notice that each position of the C Major chord has a different note on the top (furthest to the right). If we agree that each of these notes can be melody notes in a given song, then we can easily see how playing these chord positions with the right hand takes care of two roles: 1) The melody  2) The chords

Playing both the melody and chords with the right hand frees up your left hand to have its own role, such as playing the roots in the bass area to add more substance to your playing. This really adds more dimension to your piano playing for sure!

For starters, look for melody notes in a favorite tune of yours and see where the corresponding chords contain those melody notes. For example, if your melody is A and the chord is F Major, ask yourself “what inversion of the F Major chord keeps the A on top? That is the inversion to play.

This is just the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes to this right hand chord piano concept and there is more to say. You are encouraged to consider taking advantage of the program mentioned above. It uses only basic triads so all beginners can benefit from it but, once you understand and get used to implementing the technique, then you’ll feel more confident when it comes to applying it to 7th chords as well. Whatever level your are at, this is a technique you want to have fun exploring!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: A Richer Sound

As our investigation of cocktail piano chords continues, let’s take a look at a jazz piano chord voicing that you may already be familiar with, the 1-5-3-7 voicing. We can see what this chord voicing looks like here on the piano keyboard

Notice how this chord voicing accommodates that first melody note of Erroll Garner’s Misty in the key of C. Played just as you see it there, it is obvious that this voicing works well just as it is. That spacing within the voicing is certainly conducive to a nice open sound. Also, as in that example, you’ll notice upon playing it that, while played in the lower register of the piano keyboard, this voicing really has some substance.

We can made this voicing sound even a bit more substantial if we simply add a couple of scale tones to it. Specifically, we are referring to the 5 and the 6 of the C major scale. Now, again, it is not necessary to add these scale tones but, by doing so, we gain a little added richness. When it comes to cocktail piano chords, we are always open to more richness in some places and less in others.

Here is the voicing that results when we add that 6 and 7 from the C Major scale:

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

Technically, what we are playing here is a Cmaj7 (add6) chord and it sounds quite rich. By adding that 6 and 7 to the voicing, we are forming what is known as a cluster at the top of the voicing. It’s interesting to note that all those notes being played with the right hand (the E, G, A, and B) comprise 2nd intervals and 3rd intervals. This contrasts quite a bit with the interval of a fifth between the C and G.

An appreciation of this contrast of intervals is certainly conducive to your coming up with some pretty interesting chord voicings of your own, especially if you are to implement the techniques and strategies you’ll be exposed to when getting involved with Pro Piano Chord Bytes. You see, it’s one thing to learn how to play some really tasteful voicings just by copying what you learn from other resources but it’s quite another when you can be the creator.

You are highly encouraged to transpose this chord voicing to other keys, as it is voicing that you will certainly want to keep handy in that “piano playing toolbox” of yours.

Again, we are playing the Root, 5th, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th of the major scale, respectively. Yes, we are doubling that Root. Although it’s certainly not necessary to do so, adding it simply makes that voicing sound a whole lot more full. As a cocktail piano player, we are always looking for ways to create more textures!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cocktail Piano Chords: Diatonic 7ths

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsYour exploration of cocktail piano chords must include the eventual understanding and implementation of diatonic 7th chords. In essence, within a given key, the diatonic system represents the “skeleton” of that key that you are playing in.

What do we mean by “diatonic?” Let’s take a look at the scale of C Major:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C

Now, if we build chord structures using 3rd intervals (in other words, playing every other note from left to right) beginning on any given degree of this scale, this will result in playing a 7th chord. For example, starting on C, we would have:

C  E  G  B  (Cmaj7)

Keep in mind that we are adhering to the members of the scale (we are not playing any sharps or flats since the scale of C Major contains none).

As we do the same using D as the root of the chord, we arrive at:

D  F  A  C  (Dmin7)

Again, notice that we have built our chord using 3rd intervals while adhering to the members of the C Major scale.

When we adhere to the members of a given scale as we are doing here, we are playing diatonic chords. These are cocktail piano chords that you will want to have mastery over!

Here are all seven diatonic 7th chords in the key of C Major:

C  E  G  B  (Cmaj7)

D  F  A  C  (Dmin7)

E  G  B  D  (Emin7)

F  A  C  E  (Fmaj7)

G  B  D  F  (G7)

A  C  E  G  (Amin7)

B  D  F  A  (Bmin7b5)

So, you see, we have constructed every possible chord in this fashion within the key of C Major. As you play your favorite standard songs, you will want to take note of the key you are in and pay attention to which of the chords are diatonic.

In order to become more proficient at recognizing these chords within a song, you will want to gain familiarity with each of the scales and the chords that are constructed using the members of these scales.

Take note of the following:

The I chord is a maj7 chord

The II chord is a min7 chord

The III chord is a min7 chord

The IV chord is a maj7 chord

The V chord is a dominant 7 chord

The VI chord is a min7 chord

The VII chord is a min7b5 chord

Since the musical system is mathematically perfect, the same will be true for all the major keys. Although the roots and chords will vary, the qualities of these chords will always remain the same (The I chord will always be a maj7 chord, the II chord will always be a min7 chords, the III chord will always be a min7 chord, etc)

You will want to become familiar with the diatonic 7th chords in all the keys. Not only will this enhance your understanding as to how music is put together, but you will also be able to more efficiently improvise your own musical ideas as you become more and more comfortable with the diatonic system. As a cocktail piano player, this will be conducive to your coming up with some pretty interesting improvisations of your own!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

12 Bar Blues Piano

12-Bar-Blues-PianoAs a cocktail piano player, you’ve just got to have a bit of a handle on playing some 12 bar blues piano. It’s a nice way to interrupt your routine with some tasteful variation. In addition, as you become more and more acquainted with playing blues piano, you’re sure to use some of that “bluesy” playing in your favorite standard songs, too.

Okay, let’s get started. If you’re going to play 12 bar blues piano, then you will, of course, want to get a handle on the basic form of the blues.

Here is the basic 12 bar blues form:

/  C7  /  C7  /  C7  /  C7  /

/  F7  /  F7  /  C7  /  C7  /

/  G7  /  F7  /  C7  /  C7  /

Above, we are illustrating the blues form in the key of C. However, you’ll want to get to know it in other keys as well. Okay, so let’s take a look at what we have there…

You’ll notice that we have three dominant 7th chords. They are:

C7, F7, and G7

This chord progression is commonly referred to as the I, IV, V progression since, based on the C Major scale, the C is the I, the F is the IV, and the G is the V. For other keys, use the same approach to coming up with the correct chords.

You’ll want to be able to play through the 12 bar blues at a nice slow tempo using some nice sounding blues piano chord voicings for these chords. Sure, you can use the basic form of these chords for now but you’ll soon want to know some great sounding voicings because, after a while, those straight 7th chords can sound a bit plain.

For now, go ahead and play through this chord progression with those chords using the left hand as you keep a nice slow, steady tempo. Once you are feeling comfortable doing this, let’s have some fun with that right hand as you start implementing the blues scale.

Now, an interesting thing about the blues scale is that, even though there is a corresponding blues scale for each root, when you are in the key of C, the C Blues scale works over the entire form.

Here is the C Blues scale:

C  Eb  F  Gb  G  Bb  C

Although you will feel compelled to play up and down that scale for a while, which you are encouraged to do, make it a point to stay musical with your ideas by using only bits and pieces of the blues scale and playing them in a rhythmical fashion. Start with just two notes, playing them back and forth. Then add another… then another… etc. Whatever you play, listen to your results and appreciate each step of the way.

Here is a nice application of some nice blues piano improvisation ideas and voicings by two jazz piano icons who have made their mark in the worlds of piano and jazz (They are playing the blues in the key of C… see if you can pick out those blues scale notes!):

As you have fun with the blues, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Piano Improvisation Tips: Chord Tones & Scale Tones

Piano-Improvisation-TipsWhen it comes to playing cocktail piano, of the many piano improvisation tips I could offer, a favorite to promote that is most conducive to getting satisfying results is using chord tones. However, this approach can take on a more mature flair when your mind set is that of combining chord tones with thinking and playing in a linear fashion as well.

Let’s say that you are improvising over the chord changes to a standard song like Jerome Kern’s I’m Old Fashioned (lyrics by Johnny Mercer). The beginning in the key of F would look like this:

/  Fmaj7  Dmin7  /  Gmin7  C7  /

Here we have a I – VI – II – V chord progression. The chord tones for each of these chords are:

Fmaj7 = F  A  C  E

Dmin7 = D  F  A  C

Gmin7 = G  Bb  D  F

C7 = C  E  G  Bb

Consider using these chord tones in an arpeggiated fashion. Mix it up, changing the order from ascending to descending. In addition, start your improvised lines on a chord tone in the middle of the chord and work yourself outward, to the left… to the right… etc.

Perhaps you have already had some experience doing this. If so, you know the possibilities are unlimited, especially when you start using the inversions of these chords as well. One of the most important piano improvisation tips I ever learned was to not take this simple strategy for granted. Remember, it’s one thing to “know” a technique or strategy. It’s quite another to implement it.

In addition, take note that the four chords in this progression are diatonic chords in the key of F Major (Chord Progressions and How They Work #1 offers a good introduction to the diatonic system). This means that their chord tones are all members of the F Major scale. This being the case, the F Major scale serves as a good resource for improvising over these two measures. Play up and down the entire scale over this chord progression. If you play it in eighth notes, one time in either direction, you will fill up one measure. So, if you play in order (in eighth notes)…

F  G  A  Bb  C  D  E  F…

…you will have played through the scale over the chords Fmaj7 and Dmin7. Do this for the next measure as well. Now, while maintaining the duration of these chords, play half of the scale for half a measure and use only chord tones for the other half of one of the measures. Mix it up!

Naturally, you can begin the scale beginning on different tones. You will find that certain chords lend themselves to starting on different notes of the scale. There is a gold mine of discovery just within what was mentioned in that last sentence.

As you come up with your own ideas using this improvisation strategy, your confidence will soar since you will be the one creating. The sky’s the limit here, so have tons of fun with this! As you do so, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com