Trouble Playing Certain Chords? Some Notes can be Omitted!

UPDATED: Feb. 9, 2019.

Good day! Good evening! Today I’m sharing my answer to the following student question:

Sometimes I can play the C7 Chord, lots of time I am hitting the G# because I have to move my hand higher on the keys to sound the chord. Any hints on fingering or practicing this? Thanks much!

 

My answer: Continue reading “Trouble Playing Certain Chords? Some Notes can be Omitted!”

Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Sparks “Third Beat” Questions

In the film Bohemian Rhapsody, there’s a scene where Queen’s guitarist Brian May is pitching his song We Will Rock You to the band (film clip is below).

He says, “…now, I want you to clap on the third beat.”  Of course, this is a movie, and I have no idea if he really said it like that.

Regardless, I’m using this scene as a fun starting point to talk briefly about counting rhythm.

Fact is, when We Will Rock You is counted in the regular way, the beat looks like this:

Continue reading “Bohemian Rhapsody Movie Sparks “Third Beat” Questions”

Eastern Scales, Relative Minor, and The Educated Guess

Dear “Theory Geeks,”

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?*

Continue reading “Eastern Scales, Relative Minor, and The Educated Guess”

Music Theory “Trivia” Time!

Which interval is pictured above?

(a) Diminished Seventh.

(b) Minor Sixth.

(c) Augmented Fifth.

(d) Both A and C are correct, with name depending on the implied key center. They sound the same, by either name.

(e) Both B and C are correct, with name depending on the implied key center. They sound the same, by either name.

(f) The famous “Lost Interval of Egypt.”

THE CORRECT ANSWER  is….

Continue reading “Music Theory “Trivia” Time!”

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

Updated: Dec. 14, 2018

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.

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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

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

Memorize all 12 Minor Pentatonic Scales – Today. Yep!

The minor pentatonic scale is a hyper-cool five-note scale. An extremely popular source of melodic and harmonic material in many cultures, this scale’s distinctive signature is heard “all the time” in improvisational genres like rock, pop, blues and jazz.

For those of you who like to put words to your music: The word “pentatonic” comes from the Greek word pente, meaning five, and tonic, meaning tone.

The purpose of today’s lesson is to give you an easy pattern to memorize, and to show you how to use that pattern to construct any minor pentatonic scale. By “construct,” I mean you will visualize the correct five notes for the minor pentatonic scale, starting on any given root note.

As a result you will have “memorized” all 12 minor pentatonics on the keyboard today.

Continue reading “Memorize all 12 Minor Pentatonic Scales – Today. Yep!”

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.

 

Jazz improv practice: A nice drill using “approach tones”

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.

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.)