6

C Blues Piano Scale

Here’s a quick lesson on playing the C blues scale on the piano. It’s a simple little scale and, combined with the nifty chords I teach you in this quick lesson, you’ll be making some pretty cool, bluesy sounds on the piano in no time!

It helps me to think of the C blues piano scale in two groups of notes:

Group 1 is C-Eb-F-Gb

Group 2 is G-Bb (and C, if you’re going to be descending after playing the top C note).

This helps me not only remember the scale, but helps with my fingering also. I play Group 1 with fingers 1-2-3-4 and Group 2 with fingers 1-2. I can then cross my thumb under my 2nd finger to start all over again, or simply play the top C with my middle (3rd) finger if I’ll be descending.

Here’s a color-coded image of the grouping – I like to think of this as the “shape” of the scale:

C Piano Blues Scale

Now, just spend a few minutes each day playing around with the C blues scale and you’ll have it in your brain and fingers before you know it!

There are SO many scales you could possibly learn, but it only takes a few of them to really make a difference in your playing. I think of them as the “glue” that holds melody, harmony, improvisation, and all your piano playing together.

That’s why I created a whole course to really help you get the important scales into your fingers. It’s called Piano Scales… FAST! and you can check it out here.

C Major and F Major Piano Scales

Here’s a quick video about how to learn scales super-fast by visualizing and feeling the “shape” of the scale on the piano keyboard.

To reinforce this pattern concept, here’s a color-coded image of the C Major Piano Scale. The red keys represent the first grouping of 3 keys – played by your thumb (finger 1), index finger (2) and middle finger (3). The green keys represent the second grouping of 4 keys – played by your thumb, index finger, middle finger and ring finger (1,2,3,4). The yellow key (C) means that you can start the 3-note pattern over again with your thumb, or simply play the yellow key with your pinky finger (5), if you’re going to be coming back down the keyboard.

C Major Piano Scale

And here’s a color-coded image of the F Major Piano Scale:

F Major Piano Scale

Scales may seem like one of the boring parts of learning to play piano, but, believe me, learning how to learn them fast – AND learning which chords to play them with – can dramatically improve your piano playing.

In fact, I’ve just put together a video piano course that shows you exactly how to do just that.

So, if you really want to take your piano playing to the next level by learning 19 unique scale structures (NOT just major and minor) in all 12 keys, check out my video piano course, Piano Scales… FAST!

2

How To Play Piano Chords That Sound Good

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.

how to play piano chords

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.

So, how to play piano chords so they sound “good”…

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!

6

Famous Piano Players: Oscar Peterson

 

OK, first of all, I have to thank James for his comment on my earlier post – he got me to go check out Oscar Peterson playing with Andre Previn on YouTube, and it is phenomenal. Check out the duet, starting at about 2:45 into the video:

 

Andre Previn is definitely the topic of another post, but this one is about Oscar Peterson – at least just a little bit.

I had one chance to see Oscar play in Cincinnati, years ago. I had tickets for the concert, but he was unable to play that night, due to an illness.

I was crushed.

Especially since I never made an effort to go see him again.

Oscar Peterson is a soft-spoken, intelligent, super-disciplined piano genius. Although he was friends with and idolized the great Art Tatum, he made it a point never to copy him, but rather to chart his own course with his playing. His technical skills were just unbelievable.

But don’t think the music just flowed out of his fingers effortlessly. He practiced like you wouldn’t believe.

From an interview with Les Tomkins in 1962, courtesy of JazzProfessional.com (http://www.jazzprofessional.com/interviews/Oscar%20Peterson_Points.htm), here’s what Oscar had to say about practicing:

When I’m home, or even on a location job with the Trio, I practice on average two to four hours every day if I can. If not, every second day.

When he’s playing with a group:

That usually takes place at the end of each nightly performance, and in a night club we play until about 2 in the morning. Then we’ll probably rehearse from 2 until about 7 a.m.

Yes, it all seems so effortless when you see the end result, but no one pays much attention to the amount of dedication, discipline and work someone like Oscar pours into his profession.

And not many other people are willing to put in that level of work themselves, which is what put Oscar at the top of his field.

You can read all about Oscar’s life at Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oscar_Peterson) or other sources, but I really wanted to just draw your attention to this amazing television interview with Andre Previn (not sure about the year, but it was maybe 30-40 years ago, I’m guessing).

Oscar is so articulate and pleasant to listen to, and his playing is just phenomenal.

Here’s a link to the YouTube search results, which should list all 6 parts for you:

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=oscar+peterson+interview+with+andre+previn

I can’t recommend these videos more highly.

I also recommend you listen to all the Oscar Peterson – solo or with a group – you can get your hands on.

Amazing.

4

Irish Piano

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.

17

Printable Free Piano Chord Chart

printable piano chord chartLooking 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.

Click here to download your free chord chart.

I hope you enjoy your free chord chart – no one should be without one!

28

Easy Rock And Roll Piano Lesson Video

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.

63

Rock And Roll Piano Lesson – Classic, Fast, And Easy!

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.

Piano Note Names

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:

1-6-5-6

or

1-3-5-6

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)

or

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.

Got it?

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:

C-E-G
C-F-A

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:

LH RH
— —
C C-E-G
E C-F-A
G C-E-G
A C-F-A

(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:

F-A-C
F-Bb-D

while the left hand plays the same pattern as before, but beginning on F:

F-D-C-D

or

F-A-C-D

Finally, for the “V7” portion of the progression, the left hand portion is:

G-E-D-E

or

G-B-D-E

and the right-hand chords are:

G-B-D
G-C-E

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 😉

58

How To Use Patterns To Improve Your Piano Playing FAST!

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!

9

Famous Piano Players Who Helped Shape Piano History – Part 1

Welcome to my inaugural post on the PianoFAST blog! I’m so happy you decided to drop by and visit – REALLY, I AM!

My goal with this blog is to share power lessons, tips, and secrets to help you play piano – and sound like a pro – fast. So what do famous piano players have to do with that mission?

A lot!

Even if you’re a beginning piano player, it’s a good idea to find some well-known pianists to listen to, to find a style you like, and to pick a few tunes you’d love to learn to play yourself. Not only will this give you something to work toward, but it will help you train your ear and start hearing all the little licks, chord progressions, and harmonic structures that will help you as your playing progresses.

This post may upset a few people. Maybe it will upset you, especially if you don’t see your favorite pianist in the list below. But there’s no way I could have written this list to make everyone in the world happy, so allow me to explain…

I started trying to come up with a list of the 10 most influential piano players of all time, but I ended up with more and more. That’s why this post is “Part 1.” I picked some favorite pianists of my own, some of their mentors, and some of the most widely acknowledged “greatest pianists of all time.”

This list is certainly not complete. Who knows…we may get to Part 20 as time goes on!

If you disagree with anything on here, or have any comments or additions you’d like to make, please do so in the comments section – I’d love to hear from you!

Now, without further ado, here is my best start at famous piano players who helped shape history and are still considered some of the most influential pianists of all time.

Famous Piano Players

1. Johann Sebastian Bach

OK, so Bach was actually an organist, but he had a huge impact on many famous piano players, and his compositions continue to be used as exercises for pianists to this day. In fact, before playing a concert, Chopin used to lock himself in a room and play Bach’s music, and Bach’s use of counterpoint influenced the composing styles of Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn, among others. Check out Bach’s two- and three-part inventions for some challenging little pieces that look deceivingly simple at first glance.

2. Franz Liszt

Well, now I’m feeling like this list might be a little biased, since I *might* actually be related to Franz Liszt (my Great Grandmother’s last name was List – close…maybe…?). Liszt was described by some as the most technically advanced and perhaps the greatest pianist of all time. He was an influential composer, teacher, and performer, giving financial support to the likes of Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz, and Edvard Grieg, among others. He also invented the symphonic poem and anticipated a number of 20th century trends in his music.

3. Ludwig van Beethoven

Famous Piano PlayersBeethoven is one of the first classical composers most people think of, and his name instantly evokes specific melodies (da da da DUM!). Historically, he was a virtuoso pianist who was an important link between the Classical and Romantic musical styles of Western music, and as he slowly lost his hearing throughout his life, he focused more on composition and less on performance, especially in the last 16 years of his life. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is one of his most beautiful and well-known works for piano. The first movement is a great recital piece for intermediate pianists, and the complete Sonata is definitely for the more advanced pianist, but definitely something worth working on.

4. Sergei Rachmaninoff

Although I haven’t personally listened to a lot of Rachmaninoff’s piano performances, he is one of my all-time favorite composers. He’s one of the last of the Russian Romantic composers, and if you don’t feel anything when listening to his music, I would see a doctor if I were you! Rachmaninoff was said to have had huge hands, and the Guiness Book of World Records reports that he could play a left-hand chord of C – Eb – G – C – G! That implies that his reach was probably more than an octave and a half, if playing just two notes. If you’ve never listened to his Piano Concerto #2 in C minor or his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (adapted for use in the movie “Somewhere in Time”), do yourself a favor and find a copy as soon as possible. In fact, here’s a link to a fantastic performance on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZRbko3UsnQ. It’s been said that Rachmaninoff rarely, if ever, played an incorrect note in public performance.

5. Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin was a revolutionary pianist. Although he did not invent ragtime music, he was almost solely responsible for elevating it from its reviled reputation to a more formal and widely accepted musical form. His “Maple Leaf Rag” was the first big ragtime hit, and remained so for a century. Although he was a great improviser at the piano, he believed his music should be played exactly as written, and that all improvisation and creativity should come from the composer, not the pianist. Due to his contributions to his particular style of music, he is know as the “King of Ragtime” to this day.

6. Art Tatum

Art Tatum is considered by many to be one of the greates jazz pianists of all time. Although he drank heavily before and during many performances, his playing astounded even the greatest pianists, and it’s said that his fingers moved at an unbelievable speed, with tremendous efficiency and amazing independence of hands. His technique – flat fingers and lightning-fast two-finger runs – was mostly self-taught, but continues to mystify even modern pianists. One of his greatest admirers was Oscar Peterson, also found on this list.

7. Marian McPartland

Marian McPartland is on this list, because she has made jazz piano so accessible to so many people, primarily through her more than 45 years on the radio – over 30 of those years being on NPR with “Piano Jazz.” She knows virtually every jazz standard in the book and easily plays any of them in any key. At age 90 and going strong, Marian has been an ambassador for jazz piano music nearly her entire life, and the piano world is a better place with her in it.

8. Victor Borge

I’ve included Victor Borge on this list because of the sense of joy, fun, and humor he brought to the world of classical piano. He was recognized as a piano prodigy at the age of 3 and, after several years performing as a classical concert pianist during his late teens, he began performing his comedy act that would become his trademark claim to fame. From reading sheet music upside down, to using a seatbelt at the piano bench, Borge delighted audiences around the world with his wit, his brilliant performances, and his creative uses of the English language. It takes a true genius to have such a brilliant command of the piano and be able to use it so effectively as a comedian.

Stay tuned to this blog for more great pianists, lessons, tips, and tricks. If you’re curious, a few more pianists I have in mind are Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck (can you tell I’m kind of a jazz guy?), Chick Corea, Billy Joel, and Elton John, to name just a few.

OK, so the list never ends…