Kent D. Smith is a professional piano and drum instructor, and a professional pianist/keyboardist, based in Orange County, California. He holds a degree in music and piano performance from Fullerton College.
At age seven, Kent began formal lessons in drums. By age fourteen he was a part-time professional drummer in a popular R&B band, playing gigs in and around the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. At that same age, he discovered piano and was hooked.
Having started classical piano lessons at age fifteen, Kent went on to graduate with honors from Fullerton College, with a degree in piano performance and general music, including jazz studies. Kent made his living after college as a pianist, keyboardist and sometime drummer in various bands.
Later in his twenties, eager to settle down with a more predictable income, Kent began a parallel career in software development. Now, recently retired from AT&T, he has returned to music full-time. Kent has gained a wealth of professional experience over several decades in teaching, performing, composing, and studio work.
“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.
Here’s a nice jazzy drill, to give you practice on:
(1) Adding interest to your melody lines, by sometimes preceding the “target tone(s)” of a chord with “approach tones;” and,
(2) increased mastery of any given scale, especially as it relates to the underlying chords.
As a result, the repeated act of mindfully (and not mindlessly) practicing this drill can increase your general facility with approach tones, as well as give you (possibly new) theoretical insights regarding chord-scale relationships. Dig? You’ll see.
Today I’m happy to present the next lesson in my ongoing course, Chords 108.
Class Audience: Any musician who’s struggling to memorize the individual notes to all those dang chords on piano or keyboards, and looking for a solution.
Today: Learn how to immediately call up the notes to any of the twelve minor chords on a keyboard — without having to rely on rote memory. This lesson applies to all twelve minor seventh chords as well.
Coming next: Dominant seventh chords.
*This series is currently FREE to the public, but will soon be a premium members-only course. Our members keep this site alive, and 100% ad-free. Thanks to all!
Today we have two video lessons, either of which is a good introduction to a pretty simple notion, which I sometimes like to call the “melody machine.” With this, I’m not suggesting some big new original conception. On the contrary, the concept I’m calling the melody machine is about as old as music itself.
If that nickname sounds a little gimmicky, it’s really not meant to be. I actually do call this device a “melody machine,” in my own thinking, part of an ongoing process of internalizing my favorite composition devices. Also, it’s fun to say, just like saying “Lollapalooza” or “Isn’t she pleasant?”
In a nutshell, this lesson shows you certain ways of using an underlying chord progression as a “thought generator” for creating melodic material.
Learn the essential elements of improvising blues piano, including the (minor) Blues Scale, the 12-bar Blues pattern, left-hand grooves, coordination exercises, and plenty of raw material for your own licks.
My goal is for you to start improvising great blues solos!
Although most of this course is in the key of C, there is a detailed lesson that covers transposing the blues scale, and the 12-bar blues progression, into other keys.
Is this what you’re looking for?
Students taking this course should be interested in learning blues improvisation. Improvisation in blues usually has an underlying structure, a key center, and a chord progression that is being followed. The rhythm and the chords give us that beautiful sense of a distinct groove, and the soloists do their thing “on top of” that. In this course, you will learn the basic structural stuff, but you will also be given (taught) the popular raw materials for creating blues licks and melodies in general. It will be your job to turn those raw materials into original licks. I can give you expert guidance, hints and tips and raw material, which I do, but in the end, it’s your solo! That’s the beauty of studying improvisation. You get to own it.
Blues-inspired improvisation is at the core of, and will always have an influence on, countless musical genres. The blues scales, blues chord progressions, the “Blue Notes”…these are staples of so much great rock, hip-hop, jazz, country, gospel, and so on. That’s just to name a few of the mega-genres that have “blue blood” in their veins!
We can either forget about, or fail to recognize, the blues roots in so much contemporary music, but it’s everywhere.
So, back to the question, “Is this what you’re looking for,” I would suggest “yes,” because you read this far, still hanging in, after reading what’s what, so therefore you might like the class. That may be an odd conclusion.
Preview: To help you get an idea of how these videos might work for you, Lesson #4 (link below) is currently watchable as a full lesson preview.
Recommended knowledge or experience
You will need NO ability to read music (true for this particular course, and for most lessons on this site).
Knowing the names of the notes on your keyboard (like E, F#, G) is helpful in this class, but is not absolutely required.
We do start out hoping you already play “a bit of piano.”
Musicians who are already experienced with another instrument, including blues guitar, can benefit from this course as well. That is, you could potentially (1) pick up some keyboard skills and/or (2) learn new theory stuff and/or (3) get new ideas.
To receive updates of all new posts on this site (including new blues lessons), you can provide your email address here (we never share your address with anyone, period!)
Helpful Course Documents
(Click document’s image below to download or view.)
Here’s a free downloadable piano chord catalog, which I recently put together, for all visitors and members.
Students: For anyone reading and watching my series called Chords 108, this can serve as a companion chord catalog for quick reference (specifically, for double-checking your new chord memory skills) .
Chords are listed alphabetically. Each chord is spelled out by using a simple image (consisting of dots on a keyboard, indicating which keys/notes make up the chord in question).
Important: This piano chord book can be useful to any musician, not just to those who are studying ‘Chords 108.’
In a nutshell, all the standard three and four-note chords are illustrated.
Now, when you see all those chords (over 108) in this collection, don’t be overwhelmed, because we are not learning any chords by rote in Chords 108. Instead, students are mastering a simple technique for calling up the notes of any standard chord immediately in one’s mind – using no outside references.
That’s why this book is optional; however, it can serve as an excellent study aid, especially to check the chords that you’re building mentally, against their picture entries.
MEMBERS: Here’s a new custom sheet, Prelude in C by Bach, from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book One. Prelude in C is an extremely popular piece that will never lose its appeal to piano players and listeners alike.
This sheet music has each note labeled with its musical letter-name, such as E, D#, A… Some markings (dynamics, etc.) have been omitted to make room for the added letters.
You can read about the pros and cons of marking in letters on sheet music, here.
Even among some good musicians, music theory is occasionally regarded as more of a “nice to know” thing. Interesting place to visit, but they don’t want to hang around too long.
By contrast, I am shameless enough – dare I say, proud enough – to put forth that I am a music theory GEEK. I like staying “all up in theory land,” and often.
Music theory teaches us WHAT works, and also what CAN WORK. And, if it AIN’T WORKING, it’s usually easier to know WHY, because you possess a systematic command of how rhythm, melody, and harmony work together.
Notice I put rhythm first. Too often neglected — but I put it first in my musical thinking. More on that in other posts.
OK…If you’ve read this far, I guess we have a quorum! Two geeks is always a quorum in my experience. Partly because it’s so hard to find a third geek, on short notice. Anyway welcome, can I get you some coffee? Orange Julius?*
Here’s brand new sheet music for members of PWK; this one is arranged for early intermediate piano: Clair de Lune by Debussy. The arrangement is in the key of C, for ease of reading, plus it has been simplified (easier to play). In addition, it’s much shorter than the full version which is also on my sheets page.
Today’s version of Clair de Lune has every note labeled with its letter-name, such as E, D#, A. Some markings (dynamics, etc.) have been omitted.
These letter-note labeled sheets are primarily for adults who are not taking piano lessons — especially those who have past experience reading music, but who might have forgotten the details.
Clair de Lune is the third movement of Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, in D♭ major. Its name comes from Verlaine‘s poem “Clair de lune“, which means “moonlight” in French.
Claude Debussy is probably the best known composer of the Impressionist school, a handful of pioneers who were mostly active in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Maurice Ravel, who wrote the popular orchestral piece called Boléro (along with tons of ground-breaking serious works), is also a famous Impressionist.
Here’s a new custom sheet, The Entertainer by Scott Joplin. This sheet music is simplified and abridged (two pages, key of C). I have also labeled the notes. Some markings (dynamics, etc.) have been omitted to make room for the added letters. Enjoy!