Tag Archives: cocktail piano techniques

Piano Improvisation Tutorial: Love Those Half Steps

Piano-Improvisation-TutorialThis piano improvisation tutorial focuses on a very simple technique that you will love to love if the idea of improvising is new to you. It involves using chromaticism, or using half steps.

This is a piano improvisation technique that is so easy to implement, but don’t let its simplicity fool you! By using this easy-to-use strategy over and over again in various areas of those favorite songs of yours, you will very likely not only become confident with it but it’s probable that doing so will lead you to other ideas of your own as well. Now that’s good news!

I’m including this easy piano improvisation tutorial here because it’s my belief that if you are to make one tiny step (another pun intended) toward learning to improvise on piano, this is the one that will open doors for you.

How do you apply this piano improvisation technique? It’s as easy as pie. Simply approach any note in that melody by a half step below. Let’s say you’re playing Bart Howard’s Fly Me To The Moon in the key of C Major. The first melody note is a C (played with an Amin7 chord). Before you play that C, play the B one half step below it and then immediately resolve to that C.

By the way, you can apply this to any of the melody notes in that first measure. You can even use this improvisation technique on every melody note. Now, understand that, by doing so, you may consider the result to be a bit redundant. But that’s okay, because you’re learning to implement the technique. As I always encourage my students, when you learn a new technique or concept, overuse it to the point where you are feeling very, very comfortable with it. Once you do, it’s rather easy to apply the idea less often. By overusing a certain idea, it’s kind of like swinging a baseball bat with the weight on it and then taking the weight off. Swinging becomes a whole lot easier. Thus, you’re more in control!

Let’s say the melody note is normally played for one beat. Well, consider sharing the value of that beat with both the melody note itself and the note that is one half step below. So, you’re playing two eighth notes. This is just an option. As you become more and more acquainted with this concept, you can play the note that is a half step lower for a shorter duration and the melody note for a little longer. If the melody note is normally played for two beats, then the note that is one half step lower can be played for one beat, a half beat, or a duration of your choice, and then the melody note can play for the remainder of the two beats. After a while, you will really get a feel for this!

Have fun with this half step approach to piano improvisation and as your playing becomes more and more tasteful, 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, havingĀ  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