Category Archives: Beginning Cocktail Piano

Piano Chord Progressions: This One’s Easy And Fun

Piano-Chord-ProgressionsAs you have fun with different piano chord progressions, one that is easy and yet conducive to achieving some interesting sounds on those keys is shown here:

I-II-III-II-I

We are looking at the first three diatonic chords of a key. Let’s use the key of C Major for our purposes here. In this case, we will be playing:

Cmaj7 – Dmin7 – Emin7 – Dmin7 – Cmaj7

So, we are climbing up to that III chord and back down to the I chord in a stepwise fashion. Now, this is one of those piano chord progressions that you can have a lot of fun improvising with. Actually, if you’re sitting in the corner of a restaurant or club with the lights dim and want to compliment the ambience with something delicate and tasteful, you can really make this sound like something.

The chords in their basic root positions are:

Cmaj7 = C  E  G  B

Dmin7 = D  F A  C

Emin7 = E  G  B  D

However, let’s apply that 1-7-3-5 piano chord voicing to this progression. So, what we will be playing is as follows:

(The Root and 7 of each of these chords are played with the left hand and the 3 and 5 are played with the right hand. Begin with the C below middle C as the first root and simply climb up in steps)

C  B  – E  G  (Cmaj7)

D  C – F  A   (Dmin7)

E  D – E  G   (Emin7)

Begin by playing up and down as you play all the chord tones of each chord at the same time. Then play the 1 and 7 of each chord together while you play the corresponding 3 and 5 in a melodic fashion, playing each note separately. As you do this and become more and more comfortable with it, you’ll begin to see that you can really get a nice cocktail piano sound climbing up and down this progression.

Play through this progression delicately and, as you do so, create some simple improvised melodies with the 3 and 5 of each chord. You’ll become more creative with this. Also, consider playing everything up one octave. Then come back down to the original octave. Then play the voicings in a “rolled” fashion, playing from the bottom chord tone (Root) to the top (5th), too!

Naturally, this chord voicing structure works well in your tunes. However, just using it as you play through this progression really lends itself to complimenting a quiet setting. In addition, just by playing these three chords, you can explore your potential improvising with just these few notes. Experiment with your dynamics as well, using crescendos and decrescendos.

As you really set the scene with this simple yet great sounding combination of chords, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Jazz Piano Chords: The Very Minimum

Jazz-Piano-ChordsIf you are just beginning to learn jazz piano chords and have a decent familiarization with 7th chords, it will likely serve you well to begin harmonizing some of those tunes you are familiar with in a fashion that is both easy and conducive to getting a decent sound out of those keys.

Here is one such way to begin your venture with jazz piano chords:

1) Identify the 3 and 7 of each of these chords

2) Harmonize the melody with just that 3 and 7 with your right hand while playing the root of the chord with your left hand

Let’s say, for example that you are harmonizing Richard Rogers’
My Romance (lyrics were written by Lorenz Hart) in the key of C. After the pickup notes, the melody note is a G and the chord in that first measure is a Cmaj7. Here is the basic construction of the chord:

C  E  G  B
1   3  5  7

The C is the root, so you can play this note in the bass area with your left hand.

Notice that the melody note is the G, which is the 5th of the chord. Below this melody note, play the 3 and 7 with your right hand as well. So, you are playing (in this order) B, E, and G,  the 7, 3, 5 respectively (we are not concerned with including that 5th unless we are playing a form of a diminished chord). By doing this, you are playing the minimum chord tones necessary to complete the functionality of the chord. However, what you are also achieving here is a nice thin sound. This is an excellent cocktail piano approach when playing those ballads, though it is certainly not limited to slow tunes.

Play through an entire tune using this strategy. Remember, the 3 and 7 of the chord are always included. Now, in many cases, that melody note will be either the 3 or the 7. This means that you can simply add the one missing below that melody note while playing that root with the left hand. An example would be the first measure of Jerome Kern’s All The Things You Are (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) in the key of Ab. That first melody note in the first measure is an Ab and the chord is Fmin7. Notice that the Ab is the 3rd of the chord. Therefore, simply play the 7th (Eb) below that Ab while playing the root (F) with the left hand. This tune is excellent for this since you’ll see that there are many melody notes that will be harmonized in this manner.

By taking on this strategy, you are not only obtaining a good sound that works, but you are also confirming your understanding of the important notes of these chords. Thus, you are setting up a nice foundation to make more of these chords later, since you can add extensions, like 9ths, 11ths, 13ths, etc.

Do this with several tunes in your repertoire and you’ll begin to see and hear the benefits for yourself! As you become more and more confident with this very important and effective first step toward gaining a more thorough understanding of jazz piano chords, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Getting Your Feet Wet

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsWhat exactly are cocktail piano chords? Well, as we have acknowledged, cocktail piano in itself is a way of playing. Therefore, whatever chords you decide to play can be considered to be “cocktail piano chords.” Of course, when the phrase is used, it is often referring to chords or voicings that are especially tasteful from the perspective of a certain individual. Playing a simple C Major triad (C-E-G) can be considered quite appropriate when played in a context that calls for simplicity.

For fun, let’s consider opening up that triad. Start with playing the chord in its most basic form in root position beginning on the C one octave below middle C on the piano keyboard:

C  E  G

Next, take that E out of the middle and, instead, play it one octave higher. Thus, the order of the chord tones from left to right is:

C G E

Now we are playing a C Major chord in open position. Doing just that much creates a nice alternative to the more basic way of playing it. So, let’s say you’re playing that C and G with the left hand and the E with your right hand thumb. You now have four fingers of the right hand that can enjoy the freedom of playing the melody as long as it’s higher than that E.

The topic of cocktail piano chords, of course, goes way beyond the scope of what we are talking about here but it can rather helpful and encouraging to the beginning cocktail pianist to know that making even the slightest of adjustments to basic chords can be conducive to some creating some nice flavor.

Go ahead and do the same with the inversions of that C Major chord by opening them up as well. This chord played in 1st inversion is arranged like this:

E  G  C

Take that G out and replace it with the G one octave higher and listen to the result:

E  C  G

Again the lower two chord tones can be played with the left hand and the G can be played with the right thumb while the other fingers of that hand can accommodate the melody.

The C Major in 2nd inversion is arranged like this:

G  C  E

Do the same and listen to the texture of this open voicing.

So, you see, it takes very little effort to make what you already know sound like something quite different. We’ll talk more about cocktail piano chords as we progress. Right now, I would like to invite you to begin with a few chords that you already know and begin opening them up. Learn to listen and really appreciate the many different chord sounds that you are capable of. As you do so, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,
Davewww.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Piano Improvisation Handbook

Piano-Improvisation-HandbookA piano improvisation handbook for beginners  that will serve as a starting point for those who feel as though they would like some encouragement in this area is available. This guidebook is brief and is accompanied by a short video that demonstrates the easy approach presented. If you have felt inspired to improvise on piano but wish you had an easy way to get your feet wet, you are likely to find this one quite eye-opening (and ear-opening).

The piano improvisation handbook/video combo is entitled The One Improvisation Secret You Must Know and has proved to be rather popular. This popularity is most likely due to its simplicity. This is not a book on improvisation that is meant to be read in an armchair. Actually, it will not take you long at all to read through it. It is not something that is meant to be studied intensely. Reading through this guidebook once along with exposing yourself to the piano video session once is likely to be enough for you to grasp the concepts and begin applying them immediately.

In college, one of my teachers (in harmony class) who was also a trumpet player, alerted me to a very simple approach to improvisation. I had been familiar with the concept but actually hearing it from one I considered to be an authority confirmed for me that this was a way of learning to improvise that was worth paying attention to. This improvising strategy is so simple that many are likely to discount the real power of it. Why is this improvisation technique so effective? Well, it’s practical and it promotes musicality.

By the way, this teacher informed the entire class that he had attributed his ability to improvise to taking this route. I heard this guy playing a gig at a local club just up the road from Berklee College of Music and, wow, could he ever play! Bebop was where it was at that night and he cooked on that trumpet!

Okay, here it is:

Learn to improvise by learning the melody of that tune you are playing like you never knew it before. Play it over and over again and, little by little, use small embellishments. Over time, it works like magic. You see, by improvising this way, you show respect for the melody and, as a result, your improvisations really take on a nice shape.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with learning scales and patterns and incorporating them into your solos. It is actually encouraged. But this improvisation method that we are referring to here does not require thinking along those lines. You can start as simple as approaching a melody note by a half step below. If the melody note is G, for example, and is played for two beats, you can just play the Gb for a half beat and follow with the G for the remaining beat and a half… or you can change the note values, of course. The possibilities are endless. The piano improvisation handbook mentioned above can help you tremendously with this method of improvising.

As you implement this improvisation technique more and more, you’ll find yourself becoming more creative around those melody notes. The result? Your improvisations will have coherence and you will be developing your own personal style!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Piano Improvisation Tutorial: Pentatonic Scale Solos

Piano-Improvisation-Tutorial-Pentatonic-Scale-SolosIf you have an interest in developing some pentatonic scale solos, as a beginner this is a good choice since you can really come up with some impressive sounds with little effort. Who said it needed to be complex to be good, right? It certainly doesn’t. Actually, when it comes to creating simplistic solos that sound “pro,” the utilization of pentatonic scales is an excellent choice.

Let’s see how to come up with a pentatonic scale:

“Pentatonic” is derived from “penta,” which means “five” in Greek. Therefore, a pentatonic scale is a five note scale. Let’s first take a look at a G Major scale:

G  A  B  C  D  E  F#  G
1   2   3  4  5   6   7    8

Let’s extract the following scale degrees from this major scale:

1, 2, 3, 5, and 6

Thus, this leaves us with the following, which is a G Major pentatonic scale:

G  A  B  D  E

Of course, we can repeat the 1 as we do with the major scale, resulting in:

G  A  B  D  E  G

An  interesting characteristic of the pentatonic scale is the unique flavor we get from simply playing it in either an ascending or descending fashion. However, some of the real magic can happen when using bits and pieces of this scale and creating patterns with it.
Here is one example of a descending pattern that can be used to create some interesting pentatonic scale solos:

G E D   E D B   D B A  BAG etc.

The use of the pentatonic scale is unlimited. The possibilities go way beyond the scope of this particular piano improvisation tutorial since this is simply an introduction. Below is a short video clip excerpted from Sneak Peeks #2, illustrating the G Major pentatonic scale. Of course, you will want to play this scale in other keys as well!

Once you know how to play a major pentatonic scale on a given root, it is very easy to also play a minor pentatonic scale as well. If we take a look at the G Major pentatonic once again and simply begin that scale on the 3rd note of that scale, which is B in this case, we instantly have the B Minor pentatonic scale:

B  D  E  G  A  B

So, you see, both of these pentatonic scales (G Major and B Minor) consist of exactly the same notes. You are highly encouraged to explore and have fun with both of these scales in as many keys as possible. Your confidence when it comes to improvising on piano will undoubtedly increase in a very short amount of time!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Play Cocktail Piano: What’s It Take?

Play-Cocktail-PianoYou want to play cocktail piano and wonder if you have what it takes.  It’s been a specialty of mine for many years and I am happy to admit that I’ve had a lot of fun on each and every cocktail piano gig that I ever had to privilege of being a part of. I have played on board cruises, have performed for wedding receptions and for special corporate functions, and have served as a soloist for many other situations. As a cocktail pianist, you accept the responsibility of being the sole performer, so it’s all you! Along with this goes the kind of freedom that only a solo gig can provide.

The fact that you want to play cocktail piano means you’re open to learning what it really takes. Well, you’ll be happy to know that even if you’re a novice, you can gain some satisfactory results rather quickly. You’ll want to feel comfortable with playing melodies to a nice variety of standard tunes. Also, you’ll want to gain a familiarity with common 7th chords, including major 7ths, dominant 7ths, minor 7ths, and diminished 7th for starters. There are many types of 7th chords that serve as variations of these and you’ll want to eventually learn them but these basic four are the most prominently used.

As you engage in the art form of cocktail piano, your own curiosity should lead you to being open to learning to improvise to a degree, including incorporating piano fills in your playing and also embellishing those melodies.  In addition, you’ll want to adopt an attitude of playfulness, always being open to having fun with what you are playing and becoming more and more creative. Having an open mind will be conducive to your enjoying yourself and eventually becoming a more competent piano stylist.

Once you become familiar with those basic 7th chords, by the way, you are likely to want to acquire a knowledge of how chord voicings work. Chord voicings are your ticket to adding a whole lot of spice to your playing. It’s one thing to be able to play a Cmaj7 chord in its basic form, for example, but if you can play it in a variety of ways, including using open and closed voicings, your playing will have a lot more dimension to it. In addition, your confidence as a stylist will soar… and this confidence will easily be evident in the eyes (and ears) of your audience.

Above all else, get started! You must begin somewhere, so choose a favorite song, learn that melody well, bring yourself to a point where you can confidently play the chords that accompany that melody, and play, play, play! As you become more and more familiar with that song, you’ll soon become inspired to enhance it with piano fills, embellishments, voicings, and more. Your playing will mature before you know it!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

How To Learn Piano Fast

How-To-Learn-Piano-FastWould you like to know how to learn piano fast? What’s fast to you may be different to another, of course. Also, what would you like to be playing on those keys within a short amount of time? What your goals are and how devoted you are to learning will absolutely have an impact on what you will accomplish.

That said, you can achieve some pretty impressive results quickly. When a person approaches me saying that he or she wants to learn how to learn piano fast, my first inclination is to have that person learn a few chords and start improvising with them. “The very first time I sit at the piano?” you may be asking. My response:
“Yes.”

When I take this approach with an aspiring player, after demonstrating how to play a few chords on the piano, I quickly encourage that individual to start doing some interesting things on those ivories with them.

If you have no experience at all and you would like to learn how to play piano fast, learn a few chords and become enthused about being creative with them. A few resources that may interest you which can get you to immediately start playing chords and having fun with them are:

1) Piano Chords 101

2) The Ridiculously Easy Way To Master Those 7th Chords On The Piano

3) How To Play Piano By Ear In All 12 Keys Without Knowing How To Read A Note Of Music

It might be worth mentioning that you do not need to know how to read music at all in order to obtain results from any of these programs mentioned above. Yes, I encourage you to learn to eventually read music for a well balanced approach to learning piano, but if you indeed want to know how to learn piano fast, using chords to create some pretty interesting sounds, these programs can be of tremendous help to you. The first includes a piano video session accompanied by a guidebook, the second includes a series of piano video sessions with online commentary, and the third is a guidebook that has you creating chords step-by-step. All are available via instant online access. If you would like to take advantage a package deal, you can get all three and more here.

The key to it all is to choose one and get started. Immerse yourself as you make having fun a top priority. There is nothing that comes close to being able to have a ball playing and improvising with a few chords. Yes, you can be improvising on piano relatively fast. The more you do it, the more you will want to. The more results you start realizing, the more fun you’ll have, and the more fun you have, the better your results!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Learn Cocktail Piano:
A Few Tips

You are taking the initiative to learn cocktail piano, so if you are looking for a few helpful suggestions, I would like to take this time to offer some input. Often, I will receive a question similar to: “What is the minimum I should know in order to play in a fashion that sounds tasteful?”:earn To Play Cocktail Piano

Of course, the answer to this question is relative to what you think sounds tasteful. However, the short answer is yes. As you learn cocktail piano and remain open to learning and implementing finer techniques and strategies, you can indeed gain some satisfactory results by placing your focus on how you use what you know.

Even if you know only basic triads (three-note chords), if are able to play a melody to a favorite song of yours, you can achieve some results that are quite tasteful. Again, it is how you present what you know musically. I had a lot of fun creating a number of programs that help along this line. In particular, there are two series that you may consider looking into and you may find it quite helpful to start with #1 of each series:

1) How To Play Standard Songs With Confidence

2) 1-2-3 Cocktail Piano

The first above will emphasize the importance of learning that melody and will have you enjoying an appreciation of how little you really need to know in order to look forward to some pretty nice results. The second will have you embarking on a step-by-step journey that will show you how to not only start sounding good relatively quickly but will have you “layering” one technique upon another so you sound more and more tasteful as you proceed.

Also available is a Cocktail Piano Starter Pack which includes #1 from each of these series as well as three other programs that are sure to serve as inspiration toward your cocktail piano playing development. One of these focuses on learning your 7th chords in a very basic way. Once you have a handle on your basic 7th chords, the doors are open for you to make progress that can be quite palatable, especially when this knowledge is combined with your experience with the other programs.

I will state once again that cocktail piano is a way of playing rather than a particular style. It is my aim to have you appreciating yourself and your ability right from the start. It is this kind of approach that will have you maintaining the energy and enthusiasm necessary to take yourself through more and more levels of maturity in your playing as time progresses. Let’s face it: if you are gaining the rewards for your efforts, you will automatically have the incentive to keep exploring this creative musical potential of yours!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

 

So, You Want To Play Cocktail Piano?

Play Cocktail Piano!You want to play cocktail piano. You’ve decided to explore the art form  and you want a place to begin. I’m excited for you! One thing I would like to emphasize here is that, though this may be just a beginning for you, that does not mean that your early days playing in a cocktail piano style need to be anything less than satisfactory.

Learn To Play Cocktail Piano With The Right Attitude

You see, I believe that the experience should be fun and fulfilling right from the beginning. I realize that some people may be a bit reluctant to dive right in and start creating music due to the idea they have adopted that they must learn everything about what they aspire to play before they actually begin the actual playing. This is not the case! As a matter of fact, I created a significant number of my video sessions on how to play cocktail piano while maintaining the perspective that people want to learn how to sound good as soon as possible. There is nothing wrong with that mind set! A key to achieving this is maintaining a fun attitude from the very beginning while focusing on strategies that are productive right from the beginning.

(Excerpted from Cocktail Piano 1-2-3)

Make That Melody Sing!

Let’s say you have a favorite song. For our purposes here, I’ll pick a favorite of mine… Over The Rainbow (by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg). Now, here’s the ticket: learn that melody well right from the start. Focus on making that melody really “sing.” I mean play it with confidence. It’s not necessary to master all the chord changes in your first stage. As you play those keys, pretend they are actually “singing” that melody… “Soooomewhere… oooover the raainbow… waaaay uuuup hiiiigh!) Make it sound like they are! Once you learn that melody, your focus on learning it is not needed, so your attention can be placed on other aspects of the song, like adding some left hand harmony, etc. When I created How To Play Standard Songs With Confidence, I had this in mind and so strongly wanted to convey this to the aspiring cocktail pianist. This was a primary focus in the first video of that series.

It’s About Momentum

You see, by learning a little but learning to play it confidently you maintain the mental energy and enthusiasm to want to take things to the next level. Why? Because, each and every single time you sit at that piano or keyboard of yours, if you make it a habit of producing something you feel good about, you instinctively look forward to your next session. You know you’ll be sounding good at something. Does this make sense? I hope so.

Make Musical Sense

Even if you are playing just the melody of a song for starters, when you get that melody to sound good (playing it with confidence), there is a certain amount of satisfaction you gain from that. It’s musical. Yes, it may be simple. But it makes musical sense.

As you become involved with learning to play cocktail piano, taking this approach from the very beginning will certainly be conducive to forming this type of habit. Your confidence will escalate more and more… you’ll have fun each and every time you sit at those keys… and, ultimately, you’ll sound better and better (to you and your listeners!).

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com