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How to Play Difficult Chords on Piano or Keyboards

FROM PIANO WITH KENT

FROM A STUDENT ON MY YouTube CHANNEL:

“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:

 Instructor · 8 minutes ago

Hi Dale! Thanks so much for your question! I think many other students can relate to this, so it’s great to have this discussion posted here. I have two suggestions to start with: (1) To get used to not hitting any neighboring notes, for any chord, practice playing the notes of the chord as an ARPEGGIO a whole bunch of times. In this case try playing C, E, G, then Bb, one note at a time, starting on C, up to E, then G, then Bb, then back down. Increase the speed of this arpeggio as you get more comfortable.  (2) You can always leave out the G entirely (in a C7). This is not cheating, because the C7 chord sounds nice that way, a bit more powerful and open sounding. Theory note: The important thing in playing any “complete” chord is to include the THIRD and the SEVENTH (if there is a seventh). This produces the “full effect” of the type of chord being played; so, this C7 example works fine. (In this case, the third is E, and the seventh is Bb.) Please let me know if these suggestions help, or if you have any other questions, of course!  Thanks!

STUDENT REPLY:

I’ve been doing the Arpeggio thingy (but not enough I guess) I did that trick with learning Triads and just moved it on to this.  Leaving the G out is something new and I will give that a shot, my music theory is not great so I had no ideer about the 3rd and 7th rule, I played guitar before but never paid a great amount of attention to theory, I think by trying to learn the Piano I’ve learn more about music in a few months than I did for years of playing the Guitar.  Thanks for excellent reply

Me:

Sure thing, Dale! One other suggestion, closely related to the arpeggio: With improvisation, like blues or jazz, feel free to play the root of the chord before or after the rest of the chord, or to occasionally play only the root and third, or to rhythmically outline the notes in a “walking bass .”  With improv, musicians can find interesting ways around technical hurdles without breaking any “rules.”

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FREE Interactive Piano Chord Catalog of 108+ Piano Chords

FREE VISUAL PIANO CHORD BOOK from PIANO WITH KENT!

UPDATE Nov. 17, 2020: You can now purchase a downloadable PDF version of this complete piano chord book HERE.

At bottom is a free interactive eBook which is an excellent reference for my Chords 108 series.***


***This book can also serve as a stand-alone reference, arranged alphabetically and by chord type.


The purpose of the Chords 108 series is to teach students of piano how to memorize all 108 of these chords without the use of an external reference (after one has mastered what’s covered here).

In the context of ‘Chords 108 this optional catalog may be used to check your understanding of the memorization system taught here.

 

OUR  FREE INTERACTIVE CHORD BOOK IS AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE, AFTER THIS DESCRIPTION:

Continue reading FREE Interactive Piano Chord Catalog of 108+ Piano Chords

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The Rule of ‘Three Times Right’ for Memorizing Any Task

How to memorize sheet music

How to memorize music with certainty?

Today, I want to share a very simple technique for being confident that you have memorized a section of music. This works for many similar things, such as an actor memorizing lines.

Continue reading The Rule of ‘Three Times Right’ for Memorizing Any Task

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Learn all 12 Major & all 12 Maj7 Chords by Pattern (not by rote)

<- Back to the Chords 108 Main Course Page

Welcome back!

Today we’ll learn the unique 3-letter formula the applies to every standard Major and Major Seventh Chord.

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!

Description: Learn how to immediately call up the notes to any of the twelve major chords — without having to rely on rote memory.  This lesson applies to all twelve major seventh chords as well.

Video Lesson:

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Chord Symbols: add2 or add9? (includes my video on using added ninth to chords)

Hi Everyone!

I recently received a question today (on my YouTube channel), an excellent one, the topic of which is subject to debate.  The question is in response to one of my videos about using add9 chords on piano.  (A link to the video is included below.)

I thought I would share the thread here:

VIEWER: Isn’t the D in Cadd9 supposed to be an octave higher? I guess I’m just confused as to why it isn’t Add2 instead.

Continue reading Chord Symbols: add2 or add9? (includes my video on using added ninth to chords)

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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. Continue reading Chord Voicings for Jazz Piano (Rootless, Left-Hand, Type B)

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Blues Piano Crash Course #8: Blue Notes & Pitch-Bending

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson #8  (video)

In this lesson, we master a couple of specific blues piano tricks of the trade.  I’m using the word specific here, because we’re going to use these devices with a goal in mind, a musical effect that is pretty specific.

The “tricks” in this video are focused on emulating those sounds of blues singers and other instruments who can bend their notes (slide or play between pitches).  You’ll learn about “blue notes,” and also pick up a blues-boogie playing technique called the slide-off.

Continue reading Blues Piano Crash Course #8: Blue Notes & Pitch-Bending

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How to improvise in modal jazz: “So What” by Miles Davis

Attention!

The following post is not just for jazz players!


It seems to me that contemporary modal improv, which had its jazz  birth in the late 1950’s, was a huge influence on the increasingly improvisational rock of the 1960’s, (even when players might not have consciously realized it!), and has never stopped being at the heart of so many great pop/rock/jazz solos until this very day.

This is a brief introduction to the idea of “modal jazz.”  We’re going to look at probably the most famous example of modal jazz, a tune called “So What,” by Miles Davis and Bill Evans.

We’re looking at this piece because (1) it was part of a ground-breaking approach to jazz improvisation and composition when it came out, and it’s still definitive of the modal jazz genre (maybe the definitive  recording?) (2) because “So What” is the best-known track on one of top-selling jazz albums of all time, “Kind of Blue.”

Continue reading How to improvise in modal jazz: “So What” by Miles Davis

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How to Find Your Way Across the Piano Keyboard Landscape

Here’s a musical overview of your piano keyboard, along with helpful hints for remembering the letter-names of the keys.

 

Linus the Jazz Cat
Linus the Jazz Cat

 

SHEET MUSIC WITH LETTERS 

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

“Type A” 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.

Continue reading Chord Voicings for Jazz Piano (rootless, left-hand, Type A)