Tag Archives: play cocktail piano

Piano Chord Progressions: This One’s Easy And Fun

Piano-Chord-ProgressionsAs you have fun with different piano chord progressions, one that is easy and yet conducive to achieving some interesting sounds on those keys is shown here:

I-II-III-II-I

We are looking at the first three diatonic chords of a key. Let’s use the key of C Major for our purposes here. In this case, we will be playing:

Cmaj7 – Dmin7 – Emin7 – Dmin7 – Cmaj7

So, we are climbing up to that III chord and back down to the I chord in a stepwise fashion. Now, this is one of those piano chord progressions that you can have a lot of fun improvising with. Actually, if you’re sitting in the corner of a restaurant or club with the lights dim and want to compliment the ambience with something delicate and tasteful, you can really make this sound like something.

The chords in their basic root positions are:

Cmaj7 = C  E  G  B

Dmin7 = D  F A  C

Emin7 = E  G  B  D

However, let’s apply that 1-7-3-5 piano chord voicing to this progression. So, what we will be playing is as follows:

(The Root and 7 of each of these chords are played with the left hand and the 3 and 5 are played with the right hand. Begin with the C below middle C as the first root and simply climb up in steps)

C  B  – E  G  (Cmaj7)

D  C – F  A   (Dmin7)

E  D – E  G   (Emin7)

Begin by playing up and down as you play all the chord tones of each chord at the same time. Then play the 1 and 7 of each chord together while you play the corresponding 3 and 5 in a melodic fashion, playing each note separately. As you do this and become more and more comfortable with it, you’ll begin to see that you can really get a nice cocktail piano sound climbing up and down this progression.

Play through this progression delicately and, as you do so, create some simple improvised melodies with the 3 and 5 of each chord. You’ll become more creative with this. Also, consider playing everything up one octave. Then come back down to the original octave. Then play the voicings in a “rolled” fashion, playing from the bottom chord tone (Root) to the top (5th), too!

Naturally, this chord voicing structure works well in your tunes. However, just using it as you play through this progression really lends itself to complimenting a quiet setting. In addition, just by playing these three chords, you can explore your potential improvising with just these few notes. Experiment with your dynamics as well, using crescendos and decrescendos.

As you really set the scene with this simple yet great sounding combination of chords, remember…

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com

Cocktail Piano Chords: Open Voicings

Cocktail-Piano-ChordsAs you explore your world of cocktail piano chords and voicings, you will undoubtedly find yourself investigating open voicings if you haven’t already. In this message, I would like to suggest a concept that is so very easy to get a handle on yet is very effective at the same time.

Consider applying this to any 7th chords you are already familiar with. Simply play any 7th chord in its most basic position. For now, let’s use G7:

G  B  D  F

Here we have a G dominant 7th chord in root position. With your left hand, you would most likely finger this chord with your pinky, middle finger, index finger, and thumb.

Well, perhaps you have often heard the expression “less is more.” A perfect example of this can be realized by doing the following: simply leave out the middle two chord tones and play only the G and F (the Root and 7 of the chord) aith your pinky and thumb. This is often referred to as a “shell.” If you think about an oyster, you can imagine the two shells with the oyster inside. You can think of that 3 and 5 (B and D) as the “oyster” or middle and the 1 and 7 as the outer shell.

Becoming familiar with playing your 7th chords in this fashion will open you up to many possibilities when it comes to cocktail piano chords. For one, playing just the shell voicing (the root and 7) works well on its own without adding anything else to it. Go ahead and do this. Play through a favorite song of yours using only the 1 and 7 of those 7th chords with your left hand and playing the melody with your right and listen to the very open sound that results. You’ll learn to love these shell voicings before long.

In addition, becoming acquainted with these shells and implementing them will lead to your being able to extend the idea to playing other piano chord voicings. One example would be playing the shell with the left hand and playing that 3 and 5 that you left out an octave higher. That’s a nice chord voicing that I’ve often referred to as the “oyster voicing” (it’s just a name I attached to it). So, if you are playing that G7, one way to approach it would be:

G and F with your left hand

B and D with your right hand

The D would be the highest chord tone. Now, if that happens to be your melody note, this works nicely. If your melody note is higher, then you could play this voicing under it, thus creating a 5-note voicing.

Focus on creating shells for a while and you’ll appreciate more and more the “thin” or “open” sound they create. Then you can expand on them, too. As you have fun with them, 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

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

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

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

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

 

So, You Want To Play Cocktail Piano?

Play Cocktail Piano!You want to play cocktail piano. You’ve decided to explore the art form  and you want a place to begin. I’m excited for you! One thing I would like to emphasize here is that, though this may be just a beginning for you, that does not mean that your early days playing in a cocktail piano style need to be anything less than satisfactory.

Learn To Play Cocktail Piano With The Right Attitude

You see, I believe that the experience should be fun and fulfilling right from the beginning. I realize that some people may be a bit reluctant to dive right in and start creating music due to the idea they have adopted that they must learn everything about what they aspire to play before they actually begin the actual playing. This is not the case! As a matter of fact, I created a significant number of my video sessions on how to play cocktail piano while maintaining the perspective that people want to learn how to sound good as soon as possible. There is nothing wrong with that mind set! A key to achieving this is maintaining a fun attitude from the very beginning while focusing on strategies that are productive right from the beginning.

(Excerpted from Cocktail Piano 1-2-3)

Make That Melody Sing!

Let’s say you have a favorite song. For our purposes here, I’ll pick a favorite of mine… Over The Rainbow (by Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg). Now, here’s the ticket: learn that melody well right from the start. Focus on making that melody really “sing.” I mean play it with confidence. It’s not necessary to master all the chord changes in your first stage. As you play those keys, pretend they are actually “singing” that melody… “Soooomewhere… oooover the raainbow… waaaay uuuup hiiiigh!) Make it sound like they are! Once you learn that melody, your focus on learning it is not needed, so your attention can be placed on other aspects of the song, like adding some left hand harmony, etc. When I created How To Play Standard Songs With Confidence, I had this in mind and so strongly wanted to convey this to the aspiring cocktail pianist. This was a primary focus in the first video of that series.

It’s About Momentum

You see, by learning a little but learning to play it confidently you maintain the mental energy and enthusiasm to want to take things to the next level. Why? Because, each and every single time you sit at that piano or keyboard of yours, if you make it a habit of producing something you feel good about, you instinctively look forward to your next session. You know you’ll be sounding good at something. Does this make sense? I hope so.

Make Musical Sense

Even if you are playing just the melody of a song for starters, when you get that melody to sound good (playing it with confidence), there is a certain amount of satisfaction you gain from that. It’s musical. Yes, it may be simple. But it makes musical sense.

As you become involved with learning to play cocktail piano, taking this approach from the very beginning will certainly be conducive to forming this type of habit. Your confidence will escalate more and more… you’ll have fun each and every time you sit at those keys… and, ultimately, you’ll sound better and better (to you and your listeners!).

Remember,

Always…

ALWAYS…

PLAY WITH PASSION!

Musically,

Dave
www.PianoAmore.net
www.ProProach.com