What Is A Key Signature?

If you've played the piano for some time now or are just beginning with piano lessons, by now you know that the key signature is the sharps or flats, or in some cases the absence of sharps or flats, that appear immediately after the clef sign at the beginning of every line of music. Without a key signature, accidentals would have to be placed throughout the music in front of particular notes each and every time they occur. It is easier on the eye and mind in the long run, believe it or not, to indicate at the beginning of the line which notes will be affected by sharps or flats and then to remember to alter those notes as the song is played.

A key signature is just a convenient way of noting the sharps and flats that occur in a particular scale, specifically the one on which the melody of the song is based. There is no rule that says a melody has to stay within the boundaries set by one scale. If a melody strays from those scale tones, accidentals are used to show the variation. Since it is possible to write a song without using a key signature, and only using accidentals, it stands to reason that even in a song which has a key signature, a melody line could wander into a new key by the use of accidentals which would not affect the original key signature at all.

Applying these ideas to a song, let's say that a song basically begins and stays in the key of Ab major from the beginning to about measure 16. Then you you come upon a G7 chord, which is a very important chord being the dominant seventh in the key of C major. It normally does not occur in the key of Ab major. Now we are firmly planted in the key of C major and we can stay there until measure 31 and then in the following measure our ears get ready to hear a key change back to Ab major.

In a song, there can be a lot of shifting of tonal center as one key then another becomes king of the mountain for a few counts. When you look at sheet music, you will notice that all this key changing is done with accidentals and that the key signature is changed at the beginning of each line of the song thereafter. For more exciting, professional piano playing, find songs that modulate and change keys throughout the song. This will surely add spice to your piano playing!

Warmest Regards,

Free Improvisation in D Major (Ionian Mode) -- piano solo

 I just love this very beautiful song!

Free Improvisation in D Major (Ionian Mode) -- piano solo

Here's what 7noteman has to say:

"I may need to say a word about free improvisation, and what that term means to me. Free Improvisation could imply no rules and no forethought at all. That is probably the most common understanding.

This piece was spontaneously composed and played, however, there were some limitations (rules) imposed and some forethought involved. I restricted myself to playing only the 7 notes of the D ionian mode (D E F# G A B C#). This is the same as the D major scale. No other notes were played. I only use chords constructed from this modal scale. Setting restrictions actually helps in free improvisation because it narrows your options and makes choices more clear. I also think there is a lot of value in improvising on 7 note modes because it deepens the understanding of 12 note playing when using more complex voicings. In terms of forethought, I had two very short melodic motifs that I used as my base. These little pieces of melody set the structure of the piece and give me something to play off of."

 So, let me know what you think... enjoy and have a great weekend! Oh, by the way, I hope you'll take one minute for this very short survey... thanks!
Click here to take survey

Warmest Regards,

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Piano Song Endings

Have you ever heard of song endings that sounded so fabulous that you like listening to over and over again?

This video lesson is called "Spectacular Ending".

Related Resources:

My friend James Stevens has some great song endings!


Warmest Regards,
~ D.
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Celine Dion: My Heart Will Go On - Music

A popular song requested by many of my students is the oldie but famous classic song:
Celine Dion singing My Heart Will Go On from the movie Titanic. Here it is in the Key of C. Why not move all the chords up and play the song in the key of D and then finally in the key of E. Give it a go!

My Heart Will Go On
(Theme to "Titanic", by J. Horner/W. Jennings (in C with no key change for the beginner)
            Intro             Am             G             F9             G                                                                                                      
            Verse 1                                                                                                                                                            
            C                                     G                                     F                        C             G                                                  
            Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you
            C                                     G                                     F                                                                                         
            That is how I know you go on
            C                                     G                                     F                        C             G                                                  
            Far across the distance and spaces between us
            C                                                 G                                     F                                                                             
            You have come to show you go on
            Am             G                       F9                      G                                                                                                      
            Near, far, wherever you are
                          Am                                  G                                     F9             Em             Dm                                               
            I believe that the heart does go on
            Am             G                       F9                      G                                                                                                      
            Once more you open the door
                                      Am                                  G                                     F9                      C             G             C          
            And you`re here in my heart and my heart will go on and on
            Verse 2
            Love can touch us one time, and last for a life time
            And never let go till we`re gone
            Love was when I loved you one true time I hold to
            In my life will always go on
            Link                   Am             G             F             G             Am             G             F             Am             G                                    
            Chorus 3
            You`re here there`s nothing I fear
            And I know that my heart will go on
            We`ll stay forever this way
            You are safe in heart and my heart will go on and on


My Heart Will Go On in Key of E ( for the intermediate player)

C#m  B  A  B  C#m  B  A  B  (intro)

E   B/F#  A/E  E  B 

E  B/F#  A

E  B/F#  A/E  E  B 

E  B/F#  A

G#m  C#m  B  A  B

C#  B  A    G#m  F#m

C#m  B  A  B  C#m  B  A  B  E
Warmest Regards,
~ D.

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How To Add the Ninth Chord

Figure 2: the common chord positions and their...Image via Wikipedia
 Chords in my opinion have one purpose, to support the melody line. Like in a painting, you don't paint the colors first then draw the lines of the image. In music there are so many chords to choose from that it makes it fun when you find the combination of chords that really brings out the melody line in any song.

Now where you place the 7th or 9th chord in relationship to the melody depends upon the song structure.

Let's say you are playing "Blessed Assurance" in C. The traditional chord structure would be:

blessed a - (E,D,C)
ssurance - (CEG)
Je-sus is - (ACF, BDG, CFA)
mine (G DE G)

Now if you add an inversion of a ninth chord you get:

blessed a - (E,D,C)
ssurance - (D E G)
Jesus is - (ACF, BbDbG, BDA)
mine (G DE G)

Just by changing the relationship of a couple of notes, the whole flavor of the melody changes. Try this out using a C and G bass. You should hear when the chord changes which bass note compliments the chord change.

Warmest Regards,
~ D.
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Happy New Year!

May you find each day just right for the hat you choose to wear!

The added blessing, many good songs to play on the piano in 2010!
Happy New Year to all from Piano Diana Blog!

Warmest Regards,
~ D.
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