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””

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.

Assuming that this one pattern is not forgotten (it won’t get forgotten, so long as you play any minor pentatonic scale now and then) , today will mark your permanent acquisition of all 12 of the minor pentatonics.

This lesson illustrates yet another example of how to avoid rote memorization of scales and chords. “Forget” that, I say! Discover and use their defining patterns instead. Patterns rule in music!

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.)

Blues Piano Crash Course #11: How to play blues in any key (transpose)

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

This sample lesson (complete) is available to our visitors, and, of course, to our supporting members!

Lesson #11  (video)

Learn how to transpose the chords, scales, and concepts you learned in this crash course into other keys.

“All the same things” apply to playing blues in any key.  You will simply be learning the steps needed to move your musical patterns and shapes — that is, the three main chords, the blues scale, your favorite licks, etc. — into any desired key!

Especially good keys for you to learn to jam in are:

Continue reading “Blues Piano Crash Course #11: How to play blues in any key (transpose)”

Blues Piano Crash Course #10: Turn-arounds and endings

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson #10  (video)

Turn-arounds and endings for the 12-bar blues.

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.)

Blues Piano Crash Course #9: The Melody Machine

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson #9  (video) "The Melody Machine"

This thing I like to call the  "melody machine" is by no means a new technique for creating strong melodies. Singers, composers and improvisers have built melodies this way forever.  In a nutshell, it's a specific way of using the underlying chord progression as a "generator" of melodic material.

Sometimes this "melody generating" concept doesn't get enough of a spotlight. By spotlight, I mean pointing it out and teaching it, in places where students can fully appreciate the power of the results.

So here's a great place for that spotlight:  the art and science of creating powerful blues licks!

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.)

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.

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.)

How to Riff on Van Morrison’s “Moondance” – Part 1

Kent here!

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.

First:

How to Riff on Van Morrison’s Moondance – Part 1

Quick links:   Lesson Two   Lesson Three

And this related tutorial is from my Blues Piano Crash Course