Steps to Memorizing Chords: Half-Steps, Whole-Steps, and Thirds

Today's video lesson was created especially for my new course, "Piano Chords 108." In this lecture, students will learn how to visualize and play half-steps, whole-steps, minor thirds, and major thirds on the piano.

What's in the video lesson below?

Intervals...

Half-steps and whole-steps are the two intervals that we use here to define minor and major thirds (which are also intervals).  It's the all-important thirds that we are especially focused on here, and we will construct them easily today, using just half-steps and whole-steps.

...Leading to Chords

In our chord speed-learning class called Piano Chords 108, you will achieve impressive memorization skills for chords by using the music theory concept of "stacking thirds."

As prerequisite knowledge for that class, this lecture is basically the stuff you gotta know.

After this Lesson:

Before moving on from this lesson, please be sure you can play (or visualize) both a minor and a major third on piano, starting on any given note, without stopping to think.  Even in the middle of a car chase, or a toddler's birthday party at that pizza-and-games place, this should be something you can do without thinking.

Assuming maybe you're not there yet, no worries! Today can be the day. It probably won't take more than one solid practice session after this video, for you to OWN what's covered in the lesson!

VIDEO LESSON (MEMBERS ONLY CONTENT):

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Announcing “Piano Chords 108: Lose That Chord Catalog”

UPDATE, Nov. 17, 2018: The first video lecture of this course has just been published!

HERE’S THE ORIGINAL POST (yesterday):

I’m excited to announce a new online music course in progress here at PWK, called “Piano Chords 108.”

Since our site is blog-like, this course will be published in installments. (That’s also how we did things this summer with “The Blues Piano Crash Course” and “A Study in Blues Piano.”)

This post below is the Course Introduction (just text for now).

COURSE INTRODUCTION

Welcome to Piano Chords 108!

Kent Smith here, your instructor.

This course provides a simple system for memorizing the “108 Essential Piano Chords.”

See the chord symbol, or hear the chord name, and you will know all the notes, with certainty!

Altered and Extended Chords

You’ll also acquire enough knowledge in this class to alter or extend any of those 108 chords. (Jazz students will need this additional skill, for sure.)

In the end, you’ll be able to determine the unique set of notes that define any one of HUNDREDS of chords, on the spot. This impressive accomplishment requires zero rote memorization of any chord. (What?)

Because of the above, my focus on “108” as being the number of chords you will acquire is an understatement. One can see (in the second, more optional part of this course) that the rest of the “standard chord universe” opens right up — as soon as you know how to alter and extend any member of the “Big 108” group.

When it comes to these 108 chords — by far the most common and useful chords in both popular and classical music — you will never again need a chord catalog, chord poster, or web search.

Even though this course has the goal of weaning students off chord catalogs, so to speak, I will definitely include a downloadable picture-based catalog for these 108 chords. Such a reference will no doubt prove useful for checking your understanding of this system. But ultimately, I don’t want you to need any such piano chord reference…

…Because that’s the whole theme and purpose of Piano Chords 108: Lose the catalog (so to speak)!

Here’s the scoop.

Continue reading “Announcing “Piano Chords 108: Lose That Chord Catalog””

How to Read and Play “Slash Chords” in Sheet Music

Slash chords in sheet music look like this:

G7/F

F#m/C#

etc.

Here’s a detailed tutorial on how to interpret slash chords on piano.  This lesson includes insights into several ways that slash chords are used, such as indicating an inversion, implying a descending bass line, or a simply notating a fresh chordal sound.

Composers and songwriters can use the “slash chord idea” in their creative thinking. That is, the effect of playing any given chord over bass notes that are not the actual root of the chord opens up endless possibilities. Some of the thinking behind these possibilities is discussed in this lesson.

Blues Piano Crash Course, #7: Walking Bass Line & more coordination

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson #7  (video)

Rhythm is never to be neglected in the Blues, even in performances that are so slow and sultry that it feels like we're all just breathing, no real beat, just waves...oh sorry, I spaced! Ha. Thing is, even a very slow blues is going to rely heavily on rhythm to give us another undeniable take on real life. We all know how "slow" can sometimes be more alive than "fast" anyway. It all depends right?

I'm saying that about rhythm here because this is the third lesson in a row where we've been practicing two-handed coordination on the piano. And I think I'd better explain myself, before you get too bored or too frustrated or both.

First, the more fun work (fun work? yep) picks up again after this third lesson on coordination. I swear. Also, you will learn how to do a walking bass line in this one.

Finally, this maybe-less-than-fun stuff is truly important, this coordination work on piano, because if your hands aren't "of one mind" -- coordinated -- then the exalted Rhythm Itself will suffer. And we can't have that in the blues, not on my watch, dig? If you want to sound great, instead of just good or worse, then quite often it's just a matter of fixing up that rhythm. Something that can mystify us sometimes -- that frustrating sense of "it just doesn't sound right" -- can often be traced back to one thing: The Lack of a Solid Groove. Rhythm is King!

The remaining content of this post is for supporting members. Your monthly membership is extremely affordable, and makes it possible for us to work full-time on the task of creating  FREE educational content, plus additional premium content, for members like you. This is a fast-growing site, and we really need your support as an "All Access" premium member   to keep this site alive.  (After signing up, you may need to refresh this page to open all the content.)

The Blues Piano Crash Course – Lesson #6: More practice & help with two-handed coordination

From The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson Six (video) "Put Your Hands Together - Again..."

More tips and practice on two-handed coordination for piano, using notes from the blues.

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Chord Voicings for Jazz Piano (rootless, left-hand, Type B)

"Type B" Rootless Chord Voicings for Piano

"Rootless voicings" on piano (especially for left-hand support) are great for handling big jazz chords that normally can't be covered by one hand alone. This video tutorial  shows you how to play a rich sounding II-V-I in the left hand, while allowing the bass player (or you, on another beat) to cover the root.

This is Part Two of a pair of lessons, covering "Type B" voicings.  The first lesson,  covering "Type A"  shows another way of executing the same idea, only with the notes in a different arrangement.

VIDEO LESSON:

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The Blues Piano Crash Course – Lesson #5 “Put Your Hands Together”

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson Five (video) "Put Your Hands Together"

Tips and practice on two-handed coordination for piano, using notes from the blues!

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“The Blues Piano Crash Course” Lesson #3: “Five must-know Riffing Devices”

piano with kent

The Blues Piano tradition is full of tried-and-true "stock" licks, as well as many devices for creating endless original solos. In this lecture, you will learn to use five such "must-know" riffing devices.

PREMIUM CONTENT VIDEO LESSON:

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“The Blues Piano Crash Course” Lesson #2: “A Left-hand Groove”

If you're going to play solo piano Blues, or you want to add a strong supporting groove to a band, then this lecture is for you. Learn to use your left hand to play a dance-able, foot-tapping chord rhythm, while freeing up your right hand to fire off licks and lay down supporting chords. (Later in this course, you'll master the art of putting both hands together as a dynamic duo.)

PREMIUM CONTENT VIDEO LESSON:

The remaining content of this post is for supporting members. Your monthly membership is extremely affordable, and makes it possible for us to work full-time on the task of creating  FREE educational content, plus additional premium content, for members like you. This is a fast-growing site, and we really need your support as an "All Access" premium member   to keep this site alive.  (After signing up, you may need to refresh this page to open all the content.)