Tag Archives: learn cocktail piano

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: The Drop 3 Voicing

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsThe drop 3 voicing is one of those piano chords that can be endlessly explored… and well worth the time and effort, too! Adding this concept to your cocktail piano playing will most surely add more interest to those standard songs.

The drop 3 voicing can be applied to any four-note chord structure. It is most tasteful in solo playing so, as a cocktail pianist, this is one you will capitalize on. Let’s see how this voicing can easily be approached. For our example below, we will use a basic Fmaj7 chord in root position to start with:Cocktail-Piano-ChordsOkay, now take a look at the 3rd note from the top. In this case, we are referring to the A in this chord. To create the drop 3 chord voicing, we will simply take this A out of this original position and move it down one octave, the result being this:

Cocktail-Piano-Chords

Be sure to play the original Fmaj7 formation above and then follow it with this drop 3 voicing and listen closely. What an amazing difference can be made by making a slight variation like this! I think you will agree that your repertoire of cocktail piano chords must include the use of this very popular voicing among the pros.

Naturally, this chord voicing is not limited to solo playing, as it is quite effect when comping for another soloist as well. As a cocktail pianist playing solo, however, you will really have a fun time applying this drop 3 in so many of your ballads.

How about choosing a favorite standard song right now and putting this voicing to use? Let’s consider the very beginning of Arlen and Harburg’s Over The Rainbow in Eb, in which the first chord might be played as an Eb6. The first melody note is an Eb. Therefore, the right hand might play both the melody and the chord using the 1st inversion of this chord (playing this inversion keeps the melody at the top):

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsOkay, let’s turn this into a drop 3. Again, we will take that 3rd note from the top (in this case, the Bb) and move it one octave below:

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsAgain, compare the original structure with this drop 3 voicing. Learn to really appreciate the differences in sound achieved by even little variations like this. You’ve got a whole world of sound to explore!

Okay, we just applied this to one melody note. You are highly encouraged to go through an entire tune and use the drop 3 often, even more than you are likely to normally use it in performance. By doing this, you’ll eventually learn to play it on command. Have tons of fun with the drop 3  voicing!

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

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

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

Jazz Piano Chords

Jazz-Piano-ChordsThe exploration of jazz piano chords is an important part of your journey toward more creative cocktail piano playing. Of course, the benefits go beyond the scope of playing cocktail piano. In short, the more you learn about jazz piano chords, the more interesting your playing becomes from a harmonic standpoint.

It’s one thing to learn how to play cocktail piano in a confident fashion using basic chords like triads and 7th chords (and, as I have emphasized time and time again, much satisfaction can be gained by playing in this fashion). It’s quite another when you begin incorporating some of those tasteful jazz piano chords into those standard tunes of yours.

For the most part, when the topic of jazz piano chords is brought up, the discussion inevitably must lead to the subject of chord voicings. You see, when it comes to playing chords on the piano in their most basic positions, jazz players will often opt out and, instead, pursue more creative ways of getting that harmony across. This is true more often than not. Let’s consider an example:

Let’s say that you are playing Erroll Garner’s Misty in the key of Eb. After the pickup notes, the first melody note in the first measure is a D and the chord is Ebmaj7. That chord in its most basic form looks like this:

Eb G Bb D

Now, this works just fine. However, a creative cocktail pianist or jazz player may opt for something with a little more substance. Also, I would like to mention here that playing a chord that sounds more substantial does not necessarily mean playing more notes. As an example, one tasteful way to approach this chord with this melody note might look like this:

D    (right hand)
G
____

Bb    (left hand)
Eb

Here is an example of a chord voicing that utilized the exact same notes as the basic chord does. However, you’ll notice that they are arranged differently. Go ahead and play that Eb and Bb with the left hand and, above that, play the G and D with the right hand. Here we have what is referred to as an open voicing. You can see that the melody note is actually the top note of this chord voicing. Surely, you can hear a significant difference when playing the basic chord and then playing this voicing for Ebmaj7!

This is just one example of how to enhance your cocktail piano playing by incorporating more spicy ways to play those chords. As you make it part of your routine to learn more and more about jazz piano chords and voicings, you will find that there’s no turning back… you’ll just want to engage yourself deeper and deeper into this art form. Now, that’s a sign of artistry in the making!

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