Tag Archives: piano chords

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 Technique: Chord Tones

Piano-Improvisation-TechniqueOne piano improvisation technique that you absolutely want to make a regular part of your practice routine is the use of chord tones. Please don’t make the mistake of underestimating the power of this improvisational approach.

If you know the chords to a tune you are playing, then you’re already half there. Of course, knowing what they are and using them to their potential are two different things. Let’s face it: there are people who might say, “Yeah, I know how that works” and there are people who will actually make it work.

Become acquainted with the chord changes to the point where you are not only able to play those chords as the accompaniment to a given melody but you are also able to play them as arpeggios. Let’s take a look at a few measures from a popular jazz standard tune like All The Things You Are by Jerome Kern (lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II) in Ab:

/  Fmin7  /  Bbmin7  /  Eb7  / Abmaj7  /

Now let’s consider how this piano improvisation technique can really work for us once we establish what the chord tones are for the chords in these four bars of this great standard. The chord for each of these chords are acknowledged here…

Fmin7: F Ab C Eb
Bbmin7: Bb Db F AbEb7: Eb G Bb Db
Abmaj7: Ab C Eb G

With your right hand, play each of these chords as arpeggios (one chord tone at a time from bottom top). Then reverse this by playing the arpeggios from top to bottom. Play these arpeggios in a rhythmical fashion. One way you can easily approach this is playing each chord tone as an eighth note while both ascending and descending. For example:

If you play the Fmin7 chord as an arpeggio in eighth notes ascending, that completes two beats. Starting at the top of the chord and descending completes the measure with another two beats.

/  F  Ab  C  Eb Eb  C  Ab  F  /

Following this, treat each of the other chords the same way…

Doing this for the entire tune will accomplish a couple of great things:

1) You will learn the chord changes in a way that you didn’t before

2) You will come up with some really great piano improvisational ideas in the process

I will acknowledge here that, at first, you may feel as though this may sound rather “robotic” or redundant. You would be right about this; however, keep in mind the reason you are doing this. You are opening your ears in a way that you really get to hear those chords as arpeggios and doing this will lend itself to your coming up with different ways of playing those chord tones as you create your own improvisations. For example, you can change the order of those chord tones anytime you please. Perhaps you will start the improvisation for one chord on one of the middle chord tones and climb up… then climb down… etc. For Fmin7, this could mean you play Ab  F  Eb C. As you proceed to the next chord, mix it up as well. The combinations are endless!

Your ears will open up in a way they never did before. Also, those improvisations will really begin to take on some interesting shapes!

Have a ball exploring this piano improvisation technique and as you do so, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

A Jazz Chord Voicing You’ve Just Got To Know

Jazz-Chord-VoicingOne jazz chord voicing you’ve just got to know as a cocktail piano player involves taking a simply 7th chord and making one simply modification to it. Specifically, I am referring to the 1-5-7-3 chord voicing.

Here’s how to play it…

Let’s use an Fmaj7 chord to illustrate. This chord in its most basic form is spelled out like this:

F A C E

Again, this is a 7th chord in root position. In addition, as you take a look at the chord tones, they are as close to each other as they can possibly be. In other words, there are no chord tone in between those chord tones that are already there. Therefore, this chord is said to be in closed position.

Okay, let’s take that 3rd of the chord, which is the A. If we don’t play that A where it is within the structure and, instead, play it one octave higher, the order of our chord tones from left to right looks like this:

F C E A

This is a very commonly used jazz chord voicing and one you’ll definitely want to have a handle on. You’ll want to apply this 1-5-7-3 structure to all the 7th chords that you learn eventually. Doing so will really add dimension to your playing!

Now, go ahead and play those two lower chord tones (the F and C) with your left hand and play the two upper chord tones (the E and A) with your right hand. Listen!

It sounds more “open,” would you agree? Actually, we call this an “open voicing” because we have actually opened up the chord by taking one of the inner chord tones and moving up an octave. You see, we really do have a chord tone that is not being played in between two of the other chord tones at this point (in between the F and C, there is that A which is not being played).

If you were playing a song in which the melody note was A and the chord was Fmaj7, this is a very appropriate jazz chord voicing to play since the A is at the top of the structure (furthest to the right). You are highly encouraged to apply this 1-5-7-3 to other 7th chords that you either already know or will learn in the future. It will work for all of them and, by doing so, you’ll really be adding to that “piano playing toolbox” of yours.

This is a jazz chord voicing you’ll want play again and again. Look for opportunities to use it in your favorite songs. Simply look for melody notes that are the 3rd of the 7th chord that you will be playing and use this voicing to turn what would otherwise be and “okay” sound into one that spells professionalism in the ears of your listeners!

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 Piano Chords Quickly

Learn-Piano-Chords-Quickly“I want to learn piano chords quickly” is a common request and understandably so. There is a certain kind of satisfaction that a beginning player can gain by learning to play even just a few chords on the piano. What’s more is that if they can be played in a confident manner, that confidence is instantly conveyed to the listener.

When you are playing chords, you are playing harmony, which is always pleasing to the ear. Often, when I meet with a student for the first time and I see that they could easily use a boost in optimism, I will demonstrate some chords for them and encourage them to play those chords after explaining how to do so. The result? The eyes light up, the posture improves, and almost instantly, I have an excited student before me.

If you want to learn piano chords quickly, perhaps the easiest way to do so is to utilize a visual approach rather than a theoretical one. I had this in mind when I created my two popular programs Piano Chords 101 and The Ridiculously Easy Way To Master Those 7th Chords On The Piano. The first shows you how to instantly get a grip on how to play the four basic triads (three-note-chords) in all the keys. That results in 48 chords! Once you see the structural formula illustrated in an understandable fashion, you really can learn piano chords quickly… and lots of them. The latter focuses on what the title implies. You’ll learn many types of 7th chords, even more than the most commonly played ones. Also, you’ll learn how to interpret those chord symbols in a way that makes perfect sense. These can really confuse a person at the beginning and it’s quite understandable as to why. This program takes away the mystery.

Having fun with those two programs as you implement the easy strategies will result in your establishing a nice chord foundation to build upon. Video animations along with my narrations make learning those chords quickly a breeze.

Once you’ve learned those triads and 7th chords in their most basic positions, which those two programs will get you to do, you’ll have a nice platform on which you can build, including learning those chord inversions and chord voicings.

If this is all new to you, then you are in for some “aha!” moments because you’re about to explore playing potential that you might not have known to exist. You’re on your way to creative piano playing!

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