Learn To Play Cocktail Piano: Adding Harmony
If you aspire to learn to play cocktail piano and would like to follow along with us, this page continues where we left off here. So please begin there if you haven’t visited yet. Thanks!
Great… You Did It! (right?)
Okay, since you are reading this, that means you’ve followed along nicely and have implemented what we’ve covered. Specifically, you have a melody that you are feeling especially confident about when it comes to playing it on that piano or keyboard of yours. That’s terrific! Let’s proceed…
Let’s Compliment That Melody
Now we want to give that beautiful melody some support. So, we will compliment it with some chord tones. We’ll be playing that melody with the right hand and the chord tones that we add with the left hand. This is our approach for now, of course, as many more creative possibilities await us down the path of this fantastic adventure.
Here, let’s consider how this is going to apply to you. Some of this will depend on your chord familiarity. Whatever your level, by the way, you can achieve results. Are you familiar with triads (three note chords)? 7th chords? Are you at a point of confidence when it comes to reading chord symbols? Do you know, for example, how to play a Cmaj7 chord? Or a G7?
If your knowledge of chords is limited to triads, that’s just fine, we can use what you know. We just want to have an honest perspective of where we’re at. If you can admit, for example, that you have a lot to learn about 7th chords, then you’re open to improvement because you are willing to see the truth of it. As you learn to play cocktail piano with more maturity, you will be very willing to acknowledge where you are at presently. This is serve as a spring board toward where you’re going.
You Have Some Choices
If it’s triads you’re familiar with, use those. If you have a handle on some 7th chords, great. Next, you want to decide on a technical approach to begin with. Will you play the full chord with the left hand while the right hand plays the melody? Will you “break up” the chord (play one note of the chord at a time, for example)?
You might be thinking, “But I don’t know how I should start? What is the right way?” My response: Go with the flow of what you feel confident with. For example, if you can easily play a triad like C Major and smoothly move it to another chord, etc., then perhaps you’ll feel confident experimenting with breaking that chord up a bit. If playing the full chord is what you would like to do, then go with it. I would like you to take a look at the video excerpt on this page (it’s from my 1-2-3 Cocktail Piano series).
While watching and listening to those examples, please devote some special attention on how the melody, being played with the right hand, is kept of utmost importance and the left hand supports that melody by “splashing” some chord tones in the lower register of the piano keyboard. Notice that the left hand technique might change a little here and there but, while all that’s going on, the right hand’s melody line is not compromised. Everything being done with the left hand is being done to support that melody.
Fully Engage, Okay?
I want to re-emphasize the importance of your playing the melody confidently. From that point, everything can gradually flourish. You can “layer” one concept on top of another and, before long, you can be impressing yourself and those listening. I’m encouraging you to not be in a hurry and to devote lots of time to feeling confident with whatever level you are at. As you learn to play cocktail piano, during your beginning stages of development, this may seem like the long approach to things. But, on the contrary. You see, when you play confidently at one level, the next level naturally makes itself available to you. So, become absorbed with your playing, okay?
This whole concept of really mastering that melody like you never have before and then gradually making more of it is something I cover in a special video presentation. If you would like to learn a little more about that, I sould like to suggest this video session, since that will be the focus.
Keep An Open Mind (and ear)
At this point, I would like you to engage in some time approaching this song by:
1) Playing the melody as naturally musically as you are capable
2) While doing so, ask yourself this question:
“What can my left hand do with what I know so that it can serve as a nice compliment to my right hand?”
3) Implement your ideas that result from asking yourself that question
Also, watch that video excerpt over and over again. You will very likely pick up on some ideas that you can implement yourself! Go back and forth… watch the video, go to that piano or keyboard of yours and experiment… watch the video… play some more… etc.
Learn To Play Cocktail Piano With This
Along with everything we’ve mentioned, by all means fully accept yourself and your present playing status and learn to really appreciate yourself and your efforts. Put into practice your ideas. If you’ve taken advantage of any of the video sessions referred to above, then have a ball with using some of what you are learning. Learn a little… use it… learn a little more… use it… continue exploring your wonderful creative, musical potential. You will learn to play cocktail piano in such a way where your personal style begins to unfold!