How To Improve Your Piano Playing

How To Improve Your Piano Playing l Piano Diana





Dear Musicians,

I think if you're like most musicians, you're probably struggling to learn music theory. I'm talking about how melodies, songs, and chords are formed. Especially, how to use music theory to your advantage when it comes to playing piano by ear. Maybe you've wrestled with self-help books, "how-to" videos, and music training manuals - or you are taking piano lessons and getting a little stuck.

Having taught over 200+ students, I know learning the piano is not an easy task. It requires a great level of understanding, application, and commitment. I believe a musician can always seek to learn new things, like an unused chord progression and explore different genres of music.

With over 20+ years of teaching piano, I have helped students with sight reading. It means having the ability to read songs from sheet music. This is a wonderful skill to have and more importantly is knowing the theory behind what you are playing. When you improvise, you'll be adding style with chords.

My sight readers love to memorize songs, and that's a good thing. Another approach is simply recognizing why chords are played at certain points in a song. It's so important to play what you feel.

Advantages To Playing Piano By Ear l Piano Diana


Playing Piano By Ear (Advantages)


  • Being able to instantly recognize chords that are played in songs even without being at a piano.
  • Not required to memorize chord progressions (pattern of chords played one after the other) because understanding them will automatically incline you to know what chord to play next.
  • Will allow you to use the same methods to play virtually any song you want.
How Does This Help You?

  • You are able to learn songs faster and easier because you understand why chords are played at certain points in a song.
  • Allows you to improvise and add your own "flavor" to the song. This is especially advantageous when playing in a church as you can never predict how long a song will be sung or what key the singer might resolve to. In a band, this might be helpful if the leader simply instructs everyone to surprisingly repeat a part of the song or change the key in which the song is currently being played in. 
  • Saves you the money and time of having to go out and buy the sheet music to a song that you've already learned how to play by using the ability of your ear to recognize melodies, chords, and progressions. However, buying the sheet music isn't a bad idea if you want to learn specific parts to songs that have high levels of complexity. 
Here are some simple, easy-to-understand principles that every musician should know and utilize.

Learning How Melodies Are Constructed

It's important to understand how melodies are created. Because if you understand where melodies come from, you will be more apt to predict where the notes of the melody are going.

  • If you knew that a melody was being played in the Key of C, you would first assess whether this melody sounds like it is created from a major, natural minor, melodic minor, harmonic minor, blues or any other scale.
  • By knowing all of these scales and being able to recognize them with your ear, you can then eliminate notes that are less likely to be a part of the melody (unless they are used for other purposes, "accidental notes, leading notes.")
Here's An Example:

  1. Know the notes of the C Major Scale
  2. Know what notes are most likely to be played.
  3. Know what notes are not likely to be played. You should be able to predict what notes will be played (or for that matter, what notes have already been played.)
The notes of the C Major Scale is the easiest to memorize because it's all the white notes.

C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C

You'll start seeing what notes are immediately eliminated or less likely to occur throughout the sequence of the melody and what notes are most likely to be repeated.

Major, Minor and Modal Scales l Piano Diana


1. Major, Minor, and Modal Scales

Major scales make up melodies and chords. With the knowledge of scales, one can use a simple technique to locate any chord. For example, If you know that a C Major Scale consists of eight notes, C - D - E - F - G - A - B - C, and that three of its notes make up a major chord, all you would have to know is which three notes out of the scale make up the chord.

2. Major, Minor, Dominant, Diminished Chords

Do you know how to form the major, minor, diminished, and augmented chords? How about sixth, ninth, eleventh or thirteenth chords? For sure, chords come from scales. There are various ways of constructing chords. The Secrets to Playing Piano by Ear course covers lessons on half step, whole step and interval relationships. Plus, Scale degree studies on "subtonic," " the subdominant," "mediant," and "dominant" scale tones.

Here are some examples:


  • Major Triads = Major Third + Perfect Fifth
  • Minor Triads = Select the 1st, 3rd, and 5th notes of the minor scale. Add the interval of a major third on top of a minor 3rd. Lower the major third of a major chord a half step.
  • Major Seventh = Major Third + Minor Third + Major Third
  • Minor Seventh = Minor Third + Major Third + Minor Third
  • Dominant Seventh = Major Third + Minor Third + Minor Third 
The Secrets to Playing Piano by Ear

I'm excited to introduce you to the best theory book I personally have in my library, the Secrets to Playing Piano by Ear. Next time, let's explore some altered chords and more music theory.

Blessings,





"Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life." -- Art Blakey

5 Casting Crowns Songs to Learn

Casting Crowns: Lifesong l Piano Diana


I've played a lot of songs from Casting Crowns mostly in C Major, E, F, and Ab. If you like the band and you're familiar with the melody/harmony lines, then stop by some of their songs for chord charts.

American Dream

Praise You in this Storm

Voice of Truth

Word of God Speak

Today, I'm introducing a popular song that was introduced in 2005. It is very easy to play and I like to introduce my students to this so they can practice Chord Voicings in a simple key. Here's one to work on today, Lifesong.

Lyrics and Chords: Lifesong

Words and Music by Mark Hall

Key: C
Time: 4/4 Moderately Fast
© 2005 Club Zoo Music

Intro

C  /  Am7 /  G7sus  / Fsus2

                              C
Empty hands held high
                            Am7
Such small sacrifice
                                 F
Now joined with my life
                        Dm7
I sing in vain tonight
                        C
May the words I say
                           Am7
And the things I do
                               Gsus
Make my life song sing
                           F
Bring a smile to you
             C                       G
Let my life song sing to you
            Am7                    F
Let my life song sing to you

I want to sign your name
            G
To the end of this day
             Am7                         F
Knowing that my heart was true
             Dm7       Fsus2
Let my life song sing to you

C / Am7 / Gsus / F(add9)
                          C
Lord, I give my life
              Am7
A living sacrifice
                                  F
To reach a world in need
                                    Dm7
To be your hands and feet
                         C
May the words I say
                           Am7
And the things I do
                               Gsus
Make my life song sing
                           F
Bring a smile to you
             C                      G
Let my life song sing to you
             Am7                  F
Let my lifesong sing to you

I want to sign your name
            G
To the end of this day
               Am7                      F
knowing that my heart was true
              Dm7     Fsus2   C
Let my lifesong sing to you
         F/C  C        Am7  G      F    G   Am7      Gsus
Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you
         F    C          Am7 G      F  G    Am2       Gsus
Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you
          F   C        Am7  G        F     G   Am7    G
Hallelujah, Hallelujah let my lifesong sing to you
             C                       G
Let my life song sing to you
            Am7                    F
Let my life song sing to you
I want to sign your name
             G  
To the end of this day
        Am7                     F
Knowing that my heart was true
             Dm7      Fsus2    C
Let my life song sing to you
Let my life song sing to you
Let my life song sing to you
I want to sign your name
To the end of this day
Lord led my heart was true
Let my life song sing to you
C  /  Am7 /  Gsus / F(add9)  /  C


How To Play Lifesong

I think the song was recorded a half step higher but I found the chords to the song from Casting Crowns SongbookGetting familiar with Chord Inversions is so necessary to the listening ear.

L.H. / R.H. Chords

C  = C/GCE and C/EGC
Am7 = A/GCE and A/GCD and A/EGD
F = F/CFA and F/ACF
Dm7 = D/FACD
Gsus = G/GCD and G/CDG
G = G/GBD and G/BDG
Fsus2 = F/FGC
F(add9) = F/ACG

It's so important to know your chords! I wrote an article on how to form chords, here.

I like listening to these audio tapes for refreshing my mind on chord vocabulary and playing the chord structure on the keys. Visit, Chords 101 & 102.


All the best,

"Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life." -- Art Blakey




How To Play Parking Lot

SarBareilles: Parking Lot



In 2013 Sara Bareilles wrote a moderately fast song called Parking Lot.

“'Parking Lot' is a decidedly dark departure from the rest of the Blessed Unrest collection, as we hear Sara Bareilles sing directly to herself in a moment of frustration and desperation. The album’s recurring theme of battling creative and emotional immobility is fully present here, as Bareilles likens her current state to being stuck in a parking lot, wasting her resources without any sign of progress."

Lately, I've met some young people who have learned how to get out of the pit that they once were in. This song came to my mind. Are you familiar with this one?



Key: G
Tempo: 4/4

Parking Lot (Chords and Lyrics)

Em  C  G  G/B  C  G  C


Verse 1

 G6 Bm/F#  Em    C
It's a feeling 
              G       G/B
My hands and feet held to the floor
          C
Like I'm kneeling 
      G              C
Crawl straight to
            G6  Bm/F#
Where fate sent you
Em      C         G     G/B
Holding down the only solid ground
C          G       C        C           Bm/F#     Em 
I could find cause I don't want to try the other kind
             C      G    G/B                  C                
I don't have it yet a good sense of knowing when
       G  C         G6    Bm/F# Em
What I do should be immediate
Em           C            G      G/B            C   
But all this waiting for a sign from the other side
G               C       
For gosh sake this is
       G5 F#5 Em   Em   C    G   G/B
Just a timeline
C          G       C    G5 F#5 Em
Just a timeline


Verse 2
          Em      C        G  G/B               C
Yeah Sara stop it pick out your paralysis and unlock it
             G         C               G5 F#5 Em  
And flex the fear till it builds you a rocket
Em       C
And rise and if you fall
G  G/B               C            G        C
At least you end up between where you will be
    G5 F#5 Em      Em   C      G   G/B 
And where you will have been
C     G      C     G5 F#5
Yeah


Chorus

Cmaj7           C                Cadd2               Bm/F#      G                              
I can't keep paying for the same spot in the parking lot
G
Can't stay here no not anymore
G
Can't stay here no not anymore
   Cmaj7          C                Cadd2               Bm/F#      G     
Oh I just keep paying for the same spot in the parking lot
G
Can't stay here no not anymore
G
Can't stay here no not anymore


Break

Em C      G     G/B        C 
   Ooh Oh Oh Oh Ooh Wuh-Uh Oh
G         C      G5 F#5 Em
Ooh Oh Oh Oh Ooh Wuh-Uh Oh


Verse 3
           Em    C         
Wish I was lying 
                 G     G/B       C      
My worry circles my brain like it's dying 
         G       C          G5 F#5 Em
And that redhead vulture is well fed
    Em        C              G        G/B    C
But what that mutiny used to be is no use to me now 
G              C         G5 F#5 Em     Em     C
Tell me how it all turns out
      G   G/B       C      G      C    G5 F#5
Cause I'm not sticking around


Chorus

Cmaj7            C               Cadd2               Bm/F#      G                                
I can't keep paying for the same spot in the parking lot
G
Can't stay here no not anymore
G
Can't stay here no not anymore
   Cmaj7          C                Cadd2               Bm/F#      G     
Oh I just keep paying for the same spot in the parking lot
G
Can't stay here no not anymore
G
Can't stay here no not anymore


Break

Em C      G     G/B        C 
   Ooh Oh Oh Oh Ooh Wuh-Uh Oh
G         C      G5 F#5 Em
Ooh Oh Oh Oh Ooh Wuh-Uh Oh


Bridge

C
Can't breathe in the parking lot
C
Give me divine dissatisfaction
C
Give me the heart unsettled soul
C
Give me emotion into action
C
Cause I can't take this 

Outro

   Em    C
Anymore
      G       G/B    C       G       C
Can't breathe in the parking lot (Ooh Oh Oh Oh Ooh Wuh-Uh Oh)
    G5 F#5 Em  Em
Not anymore (Ooh Oh Oh Oh Ooh Wuh-Uh Oh)
C             G   G/B       C
Can't breathe in the parking lot (Ooh Oh Oh Oh Ooh Wuh-Uh Oh)
G      C         G5 F#5 Em
Ooh Oh Oh Oh Ooh Wuh-Uh Oh


Hear and Play offers a wonderful learning resource, Advanced Guitar 301.

Currently, I'm reading Beth Moore's Get Out Of That Pit. It reminds me of the song.

You may be interested in playing some other songs by Sara:

Brave

Little Black Dress

All the best,




"Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life." -- Art Blakey

Learn Can't We Be friends?


                                     photo credit: 藍川芥 aikawake FILM | Happy Childhood via photopin (license)

 The 1929 musical revue "The Little Show" was the showcase for this song. Since that time it has been welcomed into the world of jazz as a classic and recorded by such greats as Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, George Shearing, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra and Frank Sinatra. ASCAP rated this song among the top hits of 1929.

,


"Can't We Be Friends?" (Chords and Lyrics)

Music by Kay Swift
Words by Paul James

Key: Ab
Time: 4/4 Andantino

Fm                    Fm/Ab        G7 G7-5  G7
I took each word he said as gospel truth,
C7                             Db/F  C7
The way a silly little child would.
Fm           Fm/Ab            G7       G7-5  G7
I can't excuse it on the grounds of youth,
C7                             Fm Bb Fm
I was no babe in the wild wood.
Bbm         Fm/Ab
He didn't mean it,
G7-5              Fm
I should have seen it,
E6/C  C7+5  F  C/E  Ab7/Eb
Now it's too late!


Key of F (modulation)

G7/D  G7                        C7               C9
I thought I'd found the man of my dreams.
F         Db7      Dm7/C           D/A Db7/Ab C7/G

Now it seems, this is how the story ends:
C7     Dm       G9        C7
He's going to turn me down and say,
F            Bb7    F     Dm  Dm7/C
Can't we be friends?

G9   G7                    C7
I thought for once it couldn't go wrong.
F         Db7 Dm7/C           Dm/A    Db7/Ab C7/G
Not for long! I can see the way this ends:
C7  Dm        G9        C7
He's goin' to turn me down and say,
F           Bb7   F      Dm  F7
Can't we be friends?

Bb7    C  Bb9
Never again!
Bb7               F
Through with love,
      Fdim7       F
Through with men! 
        F+    Fm6  Fm6              Eb           Cm/Eb Eb7  D+
They play their game without shame, and who's to blame?

D  D7  A7+5  D  Gb6/Db  D9/C

G7                            C7 
I thought I'd found a man I could trust.
F          Db7  Dm7/C            Dm/A Db7/Ab C7/G
What a bust! This is how the story ends:
C7   Dm       G9           C7
He's going to turn me down and say,
F           Bb7   F  F6  F
Can't we be friends?


Rainy Night In Georgia is a popular song from the 60s. I have posted the chord progressions to Tony Joe White's piece. Also, Billy Vera's At This Moment is from the best of the 80s music!

Two great resources you may want to have and use in your music library are Jazz 101 and Jazz 201.

All the best,

-- LadyD

"Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life." -- Art Blakey

Mack The Knife: Lenny Dee

Mack The Knife: Lenny Dee l LadyDpiano


Mack The Knife

English words by Marc Blitzstein
Original German words by Bert Brecht
Music by Kurt Weill

Key: C Major, Modulates to Eb
Time: 4/4 Brightly

Lenny Dee has written an arrangement that is real nice. You can read more about him, here.

Mack The Knife Lyrics


Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white;
Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear,
And he keeps it out of sight!

When the shark bites with his teeth, dear,
Scarlet billows start to spread;
Fancy gloves, though, wears Macheath, dear,
So there's not a trace of red!

On the sidewalk Sunday morning
Lies a body oozing life;
Someone sneaking 'round the corner;
Is the someone Mack the Knife?

From a tugboat by the river,
A cement bag's dropping down;
The cement's just for the weight, dear;
Bet ya Mackie's back in town!

Louie Miller disappeared, dear,
After drawing out his cash,
And Macheath spends like a sailor;
Did our boy do something rash?

Suky Tawdry, Jenny Diver,
Polly Peachum, Lucy Brown;
Oh, the line forms on the right, dears,
Now that Mackie's back in town!

Oh, the shark has pretty teeth, dear,
And he shows them pearly white;
Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear,
And he keeps it out of sight!

Just a jack-knife has Macheath, dear,
And he keeps it out of sight!

Here's Lisa Stansfield singing Mac The Knife on YouTube. So many artists like, Bobby Darin and Louis Armstrong has done this song. Do you have a favorite song from this era?



Mack The Knife Chords

C6 = GACE/A
G7 = GBDF/A
C = GCE/B
Ebdim = GbACEB
Dm7 = FACD/D
G7 = GBDF/B
C6 = GACE/A

repeat

G9 = FABE/E
C = GCE/C
B7 = F#ABD#/B
Bb7 = FAbBbD/Bb

modulation

Eb6 = GBbCEb/Eb
Edim = EGBbDb/C#EGC
Bb7 = FAbBbD/DFAbC
Bbaug = F#BbD/DF#AbC
Eb6 = GBbCEb/EbGBbC
Cm = GCEb/F
F#dim = F#ACEb/C
Fm = FAbC/F
Bb7 = FAbBbD/D
Eb6 = GBbCEb/C
Bb7 = FAbBbD/DFAbCEb
Bbaug = F#BbD/Ab
Eb = GBbEb/G
F#dim = F#ACEb/C
Fm = FAbC/F
E7 = EG#BD/AbCbDG
Eb = GBbEb/Eb
Eb7 = G/GBbD
Ab = Ab/EbAbC
Cb = A/EbGbBb
Bb7 = Bb/FAbBb
Eb6 = GBbCEb/GBbCEb


Enjoy playing this famous song. It has a glissando in it, along with triplets in the melody line.

Have fun jamming along with this software product from HearandPlay, Backpocket Band.

All the best,

-- LadyD

"Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life." -- Art Blakey

Learn Love Will Keep Us Together

Love Will Keep Us Together: Chords l Piano Diana



One of my favorite Grammy award winning songs is a huge hit from the 70s, Love Will Keep Us Together! It's pretty straight forward and you'll be jamming in no time at all!

Love Will Keep Us Together

Words & Music by Neil Sedaka and Howard Greenfield

Key: C
Time: 4/4 Moderately

12 chords used in this song
C                                          Gm6/Bb
Love ... love will keep us together
                                 A7
Think of me, babe, whenever
                                F 
Some sweet-talking guy comes along, singing his song
 Fm
Don't mess around, you got to be strong
        C                              Caug
Just stop... cause I really love you.
C6                C7
Stop - I'll be thinking of you
F                C                G7sus4          C
Look in my heart and let love keep us together
C                                        C9
You... you belong to me now
                               A7
ain't gonna set you free now
                                     F
When those guys start hanging around, taking me down
Fm
Hear with your heart and you won't hear a sound
        C                                     Caug
Just stop... cause I really love you
C                                   Caug
Stop - I'll be thinking of you
F                 C               G7sus4             C
Look in my heart and let love keep us together
C7
Whatever
Eb               Bb      F   G#                                      C
Young and beautiful someday your looks will be gone;
Eb               Bb                    F         G#                        G7sus4
When the others turn you off who'll be turning you on?
G7sus4
I will, I will, I will
C                                 C9
I will be there to share forever
                                 A7
Love will keep us together
                                F
Said it before and I'll say it again, while others pretend
Fm
I need you now and I'll need you then
C6                                       Caug
Just stop... cause I really love you
C6                  C7
Stop - I'll be thinking of you
F                 C                  G7sus4            C
Look in my heart and let love keep us together
C7
Whatever



Repeat from "I will"

Here's a video of this popular song that was sung by The Captain and Tenille.



Chord Breakdown from the above chord chart with lyrics:


C =  C/EGAD

Gm6/Bb = Bb/EGBbD

A7 = A/EGAC#

F = F/FAC

Fm = F/FAbC

C = C/EGC

Caug = C/EG#C

C6 = C/EAC

C7 = C/EBbC

Dm7 = D/FAC

C = C/EGBD

Gaug = G/FAbBEb

Here's a free pdf of the song in D, Love Will Keep Us Together.












"Jazz washes away the dust of everyday life." -- Art Blakey
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