Category Archives: Cocktail Piano Tutorial Videos

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

Piano Improvisation: Melodic Embellishment

Piano improvisation - embellish melodyMelodic embellishment is the one aspect of piano improvisation that lends itself to your sounding “pro” very quickly, considering how little effort is needed on your part. What you do need is to resolve to have some fun with a few very easy concepts. Impressive results tend to manifest faster than you might expect.

There are many aspects of piano improvisation that can serve as great approaches to effectively embellishing a melody. There is one technique that I particularly like for beginners that is conducive to great sounding melodic embellishments. What is it? Well, it involves the use of the blues scale. It should be pointed out and emphasized here that knowing the blues scale as most people do is one thing. However, using it to create tasteful piano fills is another.

There is the common tendency for beginning piano improvisers to overuse the blues scale and thus sound rather “robotic.” But this will improve with experience and maturity. In addition, this “learning curve” can be reduced dramatically when utilizing the blues scale in a fashion that is proven to be effective right from the beginning. This is a topic that is a favorite of mine so I actually created a video session dedicated to helping learning improvisers and piano stylists to get a handle on this special, easy-to-grasp improvising technique. The title of the session can be rather deceiving since it can lead one to believe that it is dedicated to learning blues piano exclusively. This is far from the truth. The video session actually shows example of how you can tastefully utilize the blues scale to create some very interesting piano embellishments when playing standard songs.

The name of the session is 5 Blues Piano Licks You Just Gotta Know and it can be accessed online instantly. It’s rather amazing how just using a simple strategy in such a subtle way can really make you come across as a player who “stands above the crowd.” The reason is simple: when you play something that sounds as if it was produced in an effortless fashion, the listener picks up on that.

Try A Little Piano Improvisation

Here is a little piano improvisation experiment you can have fun with. You are highly encouraged to take a standard song that you are confident when it comes to playing it. Now, locate the end of a phrase that is inactive. Specifically, I am referring to an area in the melody that includes a note with a duration of at least 3 beats (dotted half note or more). Next, play that entire melodic phrase and, right after you’ve played that note, instead of holding it to its fullest extent (3 beats or more), play a couple of notes from that melody in an effort to “echo” a portion of what’s been played.

Don’t be concerned with your choices. Don’t overthink this. Rather, adopt a very accepting attitude of yourself and your efforts. This is key. You see, when you are confident, your audience knows it. So practice confidence when you are playing alone. You’ll find that, before long, this confidence becomes transferred when you are actually playing for others!

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Piano Improvisation Tips

Piano-Improvisation-TipsAmong the numerous piano improvisation tips I am able to share with you, if I was asked to share one that stands out above the crowd in terms of effectiveness, it would be this one:

Respect the melody and have fun playing around it.

Sure, there is much benefit when it comes to understanding chord/scale relationships, learning scales, and practicing patterns of all sorts. You are highly encouraged to be open to making all of this a part of your routine. However, if your attention is devoted to taking this approach exclusively, there is a chance that your improvisations can come across as sounding rather “robotic” or “mechanical.”

Remember, we’re playing music. Sounding mechanical is not the goal. At least it isn’t in the eyes of those with good musical sense. Again, practicing scales and patterns certainly has its place during practice time. But when it comes to sounding musical, having  respect for the melody of the tune you are playing is most conducive to your improvisation coming across as coherent, lyrical, and creative. Does this make sense? This is one of the most powerful piano improvisation tips that I have ever learned.

Taking the “mechanical” route when improvising over tunes can lead to those improvisations rather repetitive from one song to another. When you really think about it, what is the first and foremost aspect of a tune that serves as its identity? Most would agree that it’s the melody. Many tunes exist that either share the same chord changes as others or are least close to being similar, but it’s the melody that gives each tune its identity. That being the case, it stands to reason that respecting the individuality of the melody of a given song when improvising will lend itself to that improvisation having its own uniqueness. Remaining cognizant of the melody while improvising over those chord changes is a sign of musical maturity.

During my time in college, a teacher in one of my harmony classes who happened to be a trumpet player shared with the class that he learned to improvise by learning the melody well and then eventually embellishing it, while always keeping it in mind during his improvisations. I had the privilege of hearing this guy play a gig and his playing was totally awesome. His improvisations cooked!

Choose a favorite song of yours and learn that melody well. Sing it or hum it (or whistle it) during the day. Really become acquainted with that melody. Then, when at your instrument, learn to use that melody as your “safety net” as you embellish it a little at a time. For some help in this area, consider taking advantage of this easy-to-follow program which consists of a short video session and guidebook that, once you implement the techniques suggested, will have you feeling more and more confident when it comes to creating solos that are not only coherent, that sound good, and are uniquely you!

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

 

Cocktail Piano Tutorial Videos

The cocktail piano tutorial videos that I have created were intended to serve as genuine “over the shoulder” type sessions. Even with all the private one-on-one piano lessons I have had the good fortune of taking advantage of, I must admit that a significant amount of what I have learned in the way of cocktail piano styling techniques came from what I refer to as those “lucky moments” when I had the opportunity to meet up with a professional player during one of his breaks and ask questions and get actual demonstrations! For the most part, I was faced with generosity from such people, since like interests tend to “click” and most pros are happy to help those interested when the chance arises.Cocktail Piano Tutorial Videos

Some of these episodes only lasted for about two or three minutes but when you get to look over the shoulder of a pro player who is actually willing to share specifics in line with your interests, it’s amazing what you can walk away with. Well, since I also have a real appreciation for those who aspire to learn this art form, I thought to myself, “If I was able to benefit from sessions that lasted only two or three minutes but focused on exactly what I wanted to learn, what would it be like for others who got to take advantage of looking over my shoulder for much longer time frames?”

The result is my growing library of cocktail piano tutorials that are available to people worldwide. I’m happy to say that the feedback has been wonderful. Truly, I am grateful for the opportunity I continue to have as I get to communicate with people from all over the world with similar interests. I have people like you to thank for the many learning tools I have made available since it is your questions and commentary that lead to more and more of these video sessions that  focus on exactly what people are looking for in this area of cocktail piano.

I intend to create more of these tutorials and I most certainly look forward to your continued input as it’s your specific needs and desires that determine the content of these learning sessions. So, allow me to tip my hat off to you as I express my gratitude!

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com