Enhancing your piano technique – Voicing

July 29, 2007

Vocing piano keyboard chords In easy ways, Voicing is the inversion of a chord. This is the vertical ordering of the notes of the chord, or in other words. which notes are on top, bottom, or in the middle.

This simple concept can change completely how rich and professional your playing sounds.
Geniuses like Bach, Chopin, Beethoven, Mozart, Liszt, always based their compositions in other to obtain the best voicing combinations for their musical phrases. However, this not only applies to classical music, a bad voicing can cause a jazz player to sound ‘cheap’ or very unprofessional, and a good voicing can make you be the most wanted piano bar player!

Fortunately, the secret of voicing can be summarized in one line:

You must always minimize the distance that each note of each chord must move in order to go to from the previous chord to the next chord.

Following this simple and amazing rule, your sound quality will improve greatly, and it’s just that easy for chords!

To expand into this subject, I invite you to read the following article, by the experienced pianist Paul Tobey:

It always amazes me when I hear different piano players and how they voice their chords. Voicing is one of those skills that is not talked about a lot but in my experience makes the biggest difference in a pianist’s overall sound.

What does voicing mean exactly? Simply put, voicing is the way chords are played which gives them their timbre or richness. In other words it’s how many notes are played, the distance between each of the notes and the quantity and quality of extensions.

There are literally thousands of ways to play a single chord. There are also millions of ways to play a chord progression if you consider that each chord can be played a thousand different ways. However, it’s likely a good idea to start off with a few solid possibilities instead of a thousand.

For example, let’s take a Cmaj7 chord. The chord itself is simple enough and is made up of C E G and B. However, depending on how rich you want the chord to sound you can also add D and A to the chord as extensions. Why? Because D and A come from the C major scale and do not clash with the basic chord.

These are what we call extensions. In other words a good pianist will already consider D and A in their chord voicing when they see the chord symbol Cmaj7. It doesn’t have to be written Cmaj7 (9 13) for them to understand this.

So, how would a pianist then voice this chord? Well, for starters, that depends on the melody. Whatever the melody note is will become the highest note of the chord. For example, let’s say D is the melody note of prominence while the chord is being played. That means that for a pianist our 9th is already understood as part of the chord and is the top note.

Next, it’s generally a good idea to play the bass note in the left hand which is C of course. Then the next 2 most important notes are the 3rd and the 7th because these notes give the chord its flavor. Consider playing the 7th in the left hand above the bass note. That would mean playing the C with finger 5 (baby finger) and B with finger 1 (thumb).

Then, play the 3rd, 5th and melody (9th) in the right hand with the 1st, 2nd and 5th fingers respectively. What’s left? The 13th or A which, you can cover with the 3rd finger of the right hand. So, from bottom to top you would have the notes in this order; C B E G A and D. That right there is a very rich sounding chord and you’d have to go a long way to find one richer.

However, this is only one way of voicing the chord. Like I said before there are literally thousands of ways. My suggestion is this; learn one way at a time until it becomes second nature. Voicing the root and 7th in the left hand and covering the 3rd and the melody in the right hand is a very good system to start with. Then with your left over fingers in the right hand cover the 5th and any other extension that’s available. This works for all chords including major, minor, dominant and diminished chords.

Once you’ve learned this way of voicing chords it becomes much easier to tackle a new formula because this one is already clear and concrete and will help you hear very clearly the difference between the chords. Until next time, keep practicing.

I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did.

We expect your comments and questions, and if you’d like us to publish an article about any piano related topic just tell us!

Cheers and until next time!

Rod

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  • Start Piano Lessons Now & Play Like A Pro. Impress Your Friends Today!

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Make your piano playing sound proffesional

July 29, 2007

Piano Keyboard Reharmonization

Wouldn’t you like to enhance your piano playing technique and sound more professional?


Learning a new song with the basic chords is always rewarding, but what if could tell you that you could learn how to replace these basic chords with more elaborated ones and sound like a proffesional?

This technique is called reharmonization and the concept represents studying the harmony that makes up the original chords of the song, and replacing it with a new set of chords, or adding more chords in between. This enables a richer and more professionals sound.

The technique sounds hard, but once you get to play with it you’ll discover that it’s easier than you thought and that the results you’ll be able to make will sound completely at other level, gradually incrementing your knowledge about harmony, and what makes music sound well.

To let you have a good start on reharmonization techniques, we invite you to read an example of reharmonization of Christmas Music by the hand of our friend and experienced pianist, Paul Tobey:

Christmas Sheet Music is generally like every other kind of sheet music except for one thing; because of the well-known melodies it is more open to re-harmonization. What does that mean exactly? Well, simply by virtue of the fact that everyone knows the melody it’s easier for the piano accompanist to take more harmonic chances.

Christmas songs like Deck the Halls, Jingle Bells, Silent Night and Joy to the World are so entrenched in our consciousness that few people even have to think about the words or the melody. It just comes naturally for most of us, at least in western culture, to sing the lyrics and melodies without any thought at all.

That’s what makes it all the more fun for pianists who accompany carolers to take some really neat harmonic chances with the underlying chords. Generally speaking no matter what you do, and as long as you keep the beat going, no one’s going to get lost.

Christmas sheet music is very often notated with accompanying chord symbols to help pianists make good chord choices. Of course, the more talented the pianist the more interesting the choices. That’s why I like chord symbols on Christmas sheet music because, it gives me a general guide to follow and makes it easier to add more chords to the mix.

How is this done? Let’s take a song like Jingle Bells for example. If we’re in the key of F, the basic chord symbols at the chorus are as follows;

| F |F |F| F | Bb | F | C7 | C7|
| F |F |F| F | Bb | F | C7 | F |

Now, how would one approach re-harmonizing this very simple chord progression (as there are many repeated chords making the progression sound kind of dull)? Most jazz players would know the answer to that question but for everyone else the trick lies in something we call the 2-5-1 progression or II – V – I. This basically means that in front of every landing chord we can put a II – V progression with the one (I) being the landing chord or destination chord.

If in the chord progression above you were to put a II – V in front of the Bb landing chord you would get a whole new sound. What is a II – V? In the scale of Bb (our landing chord) C is the second note of the scale and F is the fifth note of the scale. Therefore the chord progression would be C – F – Bb. However, because the second chord of the Bb scale is a C minor chord the progression would be notated like this |C- | F | Bb|.

Would you like to try something a bit trickier? Try adding sevenths to each chord. That means add a seventh interval, either major or minor 7th to each chord as reflected by the Bb major scale. Therefore the final II – V – I progression, with Bb as the landing chord, would be notated as |C-7| F7 | BbM7|.

So how would the chorus of Jingle Bells be notated if you used II – V’s in front of each landing chord? Like this;

| F |F | C-7 F7 | BbM7 | F | G-7 | C7 |
| F |F | C-7 F7 | BbM7 | F | G-7 C7 | FM7 |

As you can likely hear if you play these chords on the piano it makes the progression seem much more interesting and rich. So, the next time you pick up a sheet of Christmas music have a look at the landing chords and see if you can’t put a II – V in front of them. You’re music will have so much extra color to it and everyone will marvel at your new found ability.

As you can see reharmonization is not that difficult, and it can provide you with astonishing results that can take your piano playing to another level.

These techniques are not only useful for playing other pieces, but also for composing, and improvising at your own.

You are welcome to ask any harmony related question or tell us what you’ll be interested in reading next!

Cheers!

Rod

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  • Start Piano Lessons Now & Play Like A Pro. Impress Your Friends Today!

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Master Piano Improvisation

July 29, 2007

Improvising at the piano Lesson.Do you play piano?

…Yes?!

But can you play without a score, without a list of chords, without a written or specified melody?

The most common scene for a piano student: you perform a little concert for a group of friends, and after you finish playing your most well-known pieces, one of them asks you: “Hey could you play for me anything from jazz or blues?…” or “Could you play for me something similar to [this song that you don’t know, nor have the score in front of you!] ?
Most times you answer evasively thus hiding your frustration that you don’t have a clue on how to do that, and play another song for them…. until now!

Our friend Paul Tobey, a concert pianist full of knowledge and experience, will give us a quick lesson about improvising at the keyboard or piano:

One of the greatest thrills a pianist can have is to be able to sit at the piano and just play; without music and without thought. Unfortunately many pianists never learn to do this. They are closely tied to their music because that’s not only what’s comfortable for them that’s the way they learned.

However, what if I were to tell you that in as little as ten piano lessons you could be playing your favorite melodies without music and also be able to improvise as well? Would that be something you’d be interested in? Take a moment and picture you sitting at the piano at a party and just playing. How does it feel? Great, that’s what you need to feel if you’re going to do what it takes to learn properly.

Let’s get started. In our first piano lesson, you must understand how music is structured in order to be able to improvise. Most western music is based on what we call tertian harmony, which simply means chord structures that are based on intervals of three. For example a C major chord is made up of the notes C E and G. Each of these notes is spaced a third away from the next.

So, assuming that all chords are based on tertian harmony, then next thing you need to know is where do the notes we choose for our chords come from? Well, they come directly out of a major or minor scale. For example; let’s take a C major scale which is C D E F G A B and back to C. When we build chords on top of each of the notes of a major scale we would build them in intervals of 3 and the quality of the chord (major or minor) is determined by the scale.

That means just like our C major chord which is C E and G (notes chosen from the major scale), our F major chord would be F A and C, where A and C are notes from the C major scale. We wouldn’t use for example Ab or C# because they do not come from the C major scale. Likewise for a G major chord, G B and D, the note B and D come also from the C major scale.

The number of the chord is important as well. Since our C major chord is built on the first note of the scale we call this one (1). The F major chord is four (4) because it is built on the 4th note of the C major scale. And, the G major chord is five (5) because it’s the 5th note of the C major scale.

Coincidentally, the chords C, F and G or 1, 4 and 5 are what most classical and popular music is based upon. The vast majority of songs use the chord progression 4, 5 to 1 which is the most common chord progression there is.

Understanding the 4, 5, 1 chord progression is essential to understating how to improvise. Knowing that 4 is followed usually by 5 and then resolving to 1 is of high importance if you wish to be able to play your favorite music without using sheet music.

In our next piano lesson we’ll discuss how to substitute richer chords for the 4, 5, 1 progression and how to choose our melody notes so as to create and improvisational theme.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson as much as I did.

I’ve studied piano for more than 12 years and let me tell you that in order to master the piano you must understand how music really works. When you get to know that, you’ll be able to play, compose, and improvise at ease.

We’ll be posting more interesting piano lessons in the following weeks.

Please tell us if this lesson was useful to you and what piano related-topics would you be most interested in learning!

Cheers!

Rod

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  • Start Piano Lessons Now & Play Like A Pro. Impress Your Friends Today!

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Learn to Play Coldplay in Piano

February 10, 2007

So well, Coldplay is traveling around the world, and now it’s in Argentina (it’s a pity that I couldn’t get tickets yet since they are sold out!)

Those sweet melodies and harmonies, they transmit feelings that transport you to other worlds…

I bet I am not the only one who thinks like this, so here I am sharing with you, an excellent online lesson on how to play Clocks’ Coldplay on Piano! It’s explained really clear and it’s intresting to note how the genius composers of Coldplay use resources like mirror melodies and harmony, like we can find easily in Bach’s contrapunct, and in parts of musical pieces of almost all composers of music.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do:

Cheers!

From Argentina,
Questor

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  • Start Piano Lessons Now & Play Like A Pro. Impress Your Friends Today!

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Wanna learn languages? Go online!

November 25, 2006

Have you ever wanted to learn languages but never found the time nor the right place to do it? Well, here’s your shot!  

All you have to do is get your I-pod, download all the foreign music you like and download the lyrics of the songs you’re listening to. That’s how, experts say, you’ll easily learn and enjoy at the same time! There’s no need for teachers, books or tests! You’ll find yourself speaking different languages in no time!   However, if you like a more traditional approach, you’ll find many interactive programs online to help you. Some of which are: 

1)    Practice English online! (http://www.1-language.com/ ). In this page you’ll find different tools for learning such as flash games, grammar quizzes and more. You can also get info for studying abroad and (here’s the best part) there are also other languages available such as Italian, Spanish and more!  

Roaring tiger killing a crocodile, photo from: Jardin des Tuileries, Paris

2)    Learn French online! (http://www.frenchassistant.com/default.asp). Here, you’ll get practice online French language lessons and question generator. And it’s free!!  

International penpals free and online

3)    Learn German online! (http://www.deutsch-lernen.com/). You’ll find 10 German lessons for total beginners and 24 German grammar lessons for advanced learners are complemented by numerous interactive German exercises, an introduction to new German orthography and 2 online German tests to improve and to evaluate your German proficiency. You’ll be able to study tips, famous quotations, an online dictionary to translate German terms into over 70 languages and international pen pals!!! 

4)    Learn Italian Online! (http://www.iluss.it/). Wanna test your Italian language level, learn Italian with our online courses, build your Italian language vocabulary, listen to Italian texts and dialogues, read Italian short stories, learn Italian verbs? Here’s the right place!   So, once you make up your mind, tell us about it!Any comments? Suggestions? Leave them here!!!!

Already speak Spanish, check Edutainment in Spanish 

Stay tuned…

KIKI


Learning Piano on your own

November 4, 2006

341.jpgWhat’s the problem, no time for teacher?

Too stressed but still want to play piano without a teacher?

Well with today’s software learning to play the piano is much easier!.

(Even a dog can play piano now!)

Before getting deep into software reviews, we will present an article discussions other alternative methods.

Here we will point up excerpts of a very interesting article on the pitfalls that you should avoid when trying to learn piano on your own:

While no self-training program can provide the many benefits of a committed private piano teacher, some individuals may lack time, funds or motivation to learn to play from a private teacher and will seek to train themselves, perhaps with the help of software, videos or other modern learning aids. The problem with using such learning aids by themselves is that the average beginner is in no position to evaluate their potential effectiveness, let alone their pedagogical soundness or applicability to his own situation and needs. Thus, in some sense, those who train themselves are likely to be “flying blind.” If you need to train yourself at home, here a few tips that may help you avoid some of the many pitfalls inherent in self-training.

As we have said many times on the site, modern multimedia software can be a very powerful aid to learning to play at home and can help you determine if you have the interest and motivation to take lessons effectively from a private teacher. Much of current software is pedagogically sound and has the virtue of always being available when you are. Assuming that you have the time and motivation to use software, the inevitable issues that arise are how to choose the best software for you and how to use it to best advantage. Keep in mind that even the very best programs won’t work well for every student and that no software is as flexible or knowledgeable as a well-trained private teacher.

Software isn’t the only tool you can use to learn at home. There are MANY video courses and books that claim to help you learn to play, including numerous ones available through the Internet. In our experience, the quality and value of these is highly variable. Determining the worth of an individual “method” can be virtually impossible for the beginner. That said, there are a few principles that will serve you well in evaluating various self-proclaimed “revolutionary” methods. First, if a method promises to teach you to play in a day, a week, or a month or asserts other “miracles” associated with its use, be cautious. Almost by definition, these “play-in-a-day” methods must be incomplete and focused entirely on immediate gratification, rather than building the necessary knowledge of music theory, sight reading, and technique that can only come with hard work over time. You may learn to play a few simple songs, but what happens when someone asks you to play a piece not included in the method? Even Mozart, perhaps music’s greatest prodigy, couldn’t have learned to play piano well in a day. So unless you’re convinced you are so talented that you can absorb these other critical elements of music training through your skin, we suggest that you give little consideration to those methods that promise “miracle” results.

Setting aside the “miracle methods,” which, unfortunately, constitute the bulk of what you will find advertised online, what criteria can you use to evaluate other video, software, and book methods which don’t make such claims? First, look for detailed descriptions of what the method embodies, including what is taught at each level, the specific manner in which critical elements (music theory, sight reading, technique, etc.) are introduced, and the types of music taught (strictly popular tunes vs. a well-rounded collection of popular, jazz and classical works). Second, be wary of any method which uses “position playing,” rather than emphasizing reading music by recognizing intervalic relationships and notes. Position playing methods will ask the student to place the hand in specific positions on the keyboard which span five notes and to change the hand position to another specific hand position to reach new notes. Such methods don’t teach the student how to read music and generally produce students who are locked into playing by position. Third, give little weight to “testimonials.” In our experience, the promoters of methods offered online are usually very unwilling to give e-mail addresses that will allow you to ask your own questions of those providing the testimonials. This leads us to suspect that some of those individuals giving the testimonials are either paid for their comments or are friends of the promoter and, therefore, incapable of giving an unbiased, let alone knowledgeable, viewpoint. Fourth, look for a detailed statement about what the promoter considers unique and advantageous about the method. Merely stating that the method is unique does not constitute evidence that the method is advantageous for anyone, let alone you! Fifth, look for a money-back guarantee. If the purveyor of the method is that sure that the method is good, he should be willing to give you your money back within a certain specified period of time if the method doesn’t work for you. Sixth, if you can’t find enough information on the Web site advertising the method to draw an informed conclusion, look for an e-mail address that allows you to write the person selling the method, not just an address for orders. Then, write the person with your questions. If you don’t get a reply that answers them, you can draw your own conclusions.

It may seem like a miracle when, after putting in a lot of time, effort and commitment, you are able to play the piano, but the fact is that this achievement is no miracle at all. If you’re willing to bring that kind of commitment to the table, chances are you’ll learn to play at least to some extent, irrespective of your level of inherent talent, the method used, or the way in which you do it. You’ll almost certainly learn faster and avoid mistakes with a good private teacher, but, like a lot of things, playing the piano is, in the final analysis, “5% inspiration and 95% perspiration.” There are no miracles involved, just good, hard-working students who really want to learn to play.


I hope you found the article as intresting as I did. 🙂

In the following posts will provide you with reviews of the best software for helping you learn and practice piano.
This type of software is not only for beginners. There are some software to point up to advanced to students who want to perfection themselves. Others teach you harmony, composing, and improvising. There are excellent software out there that can make you a better piano player. We will review them in the following posts. Keep tuned!.
Please write us comments!

Cheers!

Questor

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  • Start Piano Lessons Now & Play Like A Pro. Impress Your Friends Today!

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Learn to dance Disco! No classes needed!

November 2, 2006

Ever wanted to learn Disco dance moves?!
No time for teacher, no time for classes… feel too embarassed?! haha

Guess what?! Internet has evolutioned to provide you new ways of learning how to dance!
This is actually incredible! Dschiniguis Khan (a name I had to study hours in order to spell correcly!) and his partner,
provide you a set of detailed lessons in YouTube: as free videos!.

You will probably may not understand a word of what they are saying -it’s finnish- but don’t worry, set of pictures are worth more than a thousand words! I was really amazed when looking at this video.

First Khan will show you the detailed moves in slow motion, and then the music turns on, and the demonstration begins!

Enjoy!

Cheers!
Questor

Speak Spanish? Check out also Edutainment in Spanish