You may have learned how to play piano chords from a piano teacher, a music book you picked up, or even a YouTube video, but you probably learned the simple mechanics of playing chords – basic fingering, which notes go to which chords, and so on.
Perhaps you’re one of the lucky ones, but I’m guessing that no one ever took the time to show you exactly how to play piano chords in a way that makes them sound REALLY GOOD.
If that’s the case, keep reading, because I’ve got some simple rules that will help you, along with a brand new chord resource I just finished putting together.
Although “beauty” in music – as in other art forms – is highly subjective, I believe there are some things you can do to make the piano chord you play sound really good, meaning better than the way most people usually play them.
Feel free to agree or disagree with me in the comments – I think there’s no right or wrong answer, but check out these suggestions and see if they don’t help your piano chord playing, at least a little bit.
1. Whenever possible, when playing “close position” chords – meaning the chord tones are consecutive and not spread widely apart, like they are in open chord voicings – try to play the chords as close to middle C as possible. Once you start getting too much higher, the chords start to “thin out” in their sound. They still work for certain songs, but they just don’t have the depth that most often sounds good. If you got too much lower than middle C, the chords really start to sound muddy and thick. Which brings us to suggestion #2…
2. As you play chords lower and lower on the piano, it’s best to move one or more of the chord tones apart from the others. For example, if you play a C major tried one – or even two – octaves below middle C, it really sounds kind of awful. But, if you play a very low C in the bass, and play just the C and E an octave or two above that, it sounds pretty good. You can also play an open C major voicing on the C (root), then G (fifth), then the E above the G (the 10th, technically). This open voicing sounds really good in the left hand, and helps to “un-muddy” a plain old major triad.
3. Create open voicings for chords, where you move the chord tones apart from each other – maybe an octave or less. You might even use two hands to help pull the chord tones apart from each other and allow the chord overtones to react in such a way as to create “virtual” sounds between the notes. Wow, that’s kind of heavy stuff.
4. Here’s a chord rhythm suggestion for you – DON’T OVERDO THE CHORD RHYTHMS! Sometimes just a simple bass pattern with the occasional chord interjected is just fine – less is more. Don’t feel like you need to play the entire chord on every beat of the song, or even every time the chords change. Take it easy. Leave some space. Enjoy the silence between the notes.
5. Try a different inversion, even for basic piano chord triads. Sometimes the 1st or 2nd inversion sounds much better than the other inversions, and darned if I could tell you why. Remember, an inversion is when you play the chord with something other than the chord root on the bottom.
These are just a few quick pointers to help you improve the sound of your piano chords – try them out and let me know what you thing.
And, if you REALLY want to get your hands on what might be the last chord guide you’ll ever need, be sure to check out my super chord reference, Piano Chord Voicings… FAST!
Well, I’m in Joplin, MO for St. Patrick’s Day, but I wanted to post a little Irish piano lesson on my blog, so I fired up my smart phone and put this together for you.
Not the highest production values in the world, and I hadn’t had my hair done yet, but hopefully you can use these couple of tips today or tomorrow, or whenever you want to make some Irish sounds on the piano.
If you’d like to learn a simple, but beautiful arrangement of Danny Boy, be sure to check out my Danny Boy Video Piano Lesson here.
Looking for a free piano chord chart? Look no further! I’ve created a chart that shows you the proper piano keys to play to create all the basic major, minor, seventh, augmented, and diminished chords. And you DON’T have to read music to use it! This chart will be an invaluable tool for you to refer to while working your way through lead sheets, guitar books, or chord progressions you find on the internet.
Just click the link below to get your free piano chord chart – AND free video piano chord lessons – no strings attached.
I hope you enjoy your free chord chart – no one should be without one!
Well, it took me long enough, but in response to some comments and emails about my last blog post on rock and roll piano, I decided to put together a video showing the basics of good ol’ rock and roll piano.
This lesson covers some simple left-hand bass and right-hand chord patterns that will fit with such classic tunes as “Johnny B. Goode,” “Great Balls of Fire,” and “Old Time Rock and Roll,” to name just a few.
If you like this rock and roll piano lesson, or if you have any questions or other input, please leave your comments below and, if you like it, please use the ReTweet button or the share link to share with your friends.
Without further ado, let’s rock and roll on the piano…
If you’d like to get this lesson on DVD AND see it applied to 3 GREAT classic rock and roll songs – Johnny B. Goode, Great Balls of Fire, and Old Time Rock and Roll, you can get all the details on my Rock and Roll Video Piano Lesson here.
In this lesson, we’re going to talk about rock and roll piano – well, I guess I should say rock ‘n’ roll, to be official.
This will hopefully be a very simple lesson for you, because rock and roll piano uses some very simple structures.
Before we do anything, here’s a picture of the piano keys and note names for your reference. This pattern repeats up and down the piano, so the note names remain the same – they just make higher or lower sounds.
First, let’s talk about the chord progression.
The most standard progression is based on the “12-bar blues” progression:
(4 bars of I) + (2 bars of IV) + (2 bars of I) + (1 bar of V7) + (1 bar of IV) + (2 bars of I)
If you’ll recall from some of my other lessons, the roman numerals correspond to chords based on scale tones. Capital numbers are major chords, and the number corresponds to the scale tone of the chord root.
For example, in the key of C:
I = C major = C-E-G
IV = F major = F-A-C
V7 = G7 = G-B-D-F
Now, let’s talk about each hand separately, then we’ll put them together for the finale, OK?
For the left hand, I suggest starting with one of the following two bass lines:
OK, so what does THAT mean?!
Well, those numbers represent notes in the major scale in whatever key you’re playing.
For example, in the key of C, a C major scale is:
C D E F G A B C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
So, those two bass lines become:
C A G A (moving DOWN from C to A and A to G, then back up to C)
C E G A (moving UP the entire time)
For a song that’s “in 4” (4/4 tempo – 4 beats to a measure), simply play this pattern over and over in your left hand.
Now, for the right hand…
The easiest thing to play would be the following pattern, depending on the chord being played:
Alternate these two chords over and over for the “C major” portion of the progression:
Each chord should be played at the same time as the left hand. In other words, both hands press the piano keys at the same time:
(This is actually a nice little 2-hand practice pattern)
For the “IV” part of the progression – let’s stick with the key of C for this – play the following 2 chords:
while the left hand plays the same pattern as before, but beginning on F:
Finally, for the “V7” portion of the progression, the left hand portion is:
and the right-hand chords are:
The rhythmic pattern is the same throughout this entire progression – simply apply the appropriate chord and bass pattern to each section to build the following chord progression for each measure of 4 beats:
C – C – C – C – F – F – C – C – G7 – F – C – C
It’s kind of like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. In fact, that’s exactly how I think of it when I learn a new tune.
And if you’d like to dive in a little deeper, you might want to check out my Rock and Roll Piano… FAST online/DVD video piano course.
Hope that helps you rock a little harder, or at least easier 😉
Patterns are an integral part of the piano – the whole keyboard is built upon a single series of 12 keys, and piano sheet music naturally involves a number of patterns – both melodic (single notes) and harmonic (multiple notes).
In this video lesson, I’ll show you how you can use some very simple patterns to improve your piano playing FAST. They may take just a little practice, but once you learn these and start creating your own, I think you’ll begin to see the power of piano patterns
Patterns – for both one and two hands – are just one of the MANY topics I cover in my 4-week online/DVD video piano course, Improvise Piano… FAST!
If you have any comments, suggestions, or other feedback about this lesson, please leave a comment below – thanks!