This piano introduction can serve you well in a variety of interesting ways. It can work very nicely whenever you want to create an impromptu introduction for a ballad that starts on the I chord.
Naturally, the chord that has the strongest tendency to resolve to the I chord is the V chord. We can see this by taking a look at the diatonic circle of fifths in the key of C Major:
The G7 itself can work. However, it can be made to sound a whole lot more intriguing by turning it into a suspended chord with some additional color.
A simple way to arrive at such a chord is to play the root note G in the bass area of the piano keyboard with your left hand as you right hand plays a four-note structure that is consistent with a Major 7 chord whose root is one whole step lower than that G, which happens to be F.
[It seems appropriate to mention that, although we are thinking “Major 7 chord whose root is one whole step lower than the root of the V chord,” this is for visual purposes only. The chord structure is certainly not functioning as a Major 7 chord due to the root G being played in the bass area.]
The result is a chord sound that is full of color. The chord itself can be referred to as a Gsus13 chord. Of course, the “suspense” is created by the suspended 4th, which is also the 11 of the chord.
“Put The Pedal To The Metal”
When played in conjunction with the sustain pedal being depressed, this chord voicing offers us so much flexibility. The chord can be arpeggiated in an manner that is suitable to your personal taste… ascending, descending… you can mix up the order of chord tones played… it’s all good… and it’s a marvelous way to approach that I chord.
Let’s take a look at an example from this “TV” Tips video tutorial:
For further enhancement, this suspended chord voicing can be used in conjunction the scale itself. Playing up and down the entire major scale of song key can greatly enhance your introduction. In this case, that would be the
C Major scale.
Consider this: the chord voicing above contains these notes:
G F A C E
There are only two notes of the C Major scale not being played here – the B and the D – which are the 3 and 5 of the chord, respectively. So, all the notes work with this suspended chord. You can freely play the scale ascending or descending… you can play patterns within the scale… the possibilities are virtually endless.
Have fun experimenting as you realize your personal creative musical potential on those keys!
Performing an effective piano arrangement can be compared to meeting an interesting person for the first time. How do you imagine the conversation would progress? Is it likely that this new acquaintance would know your entire history within the first three minutes of chatting?
Probably not. If it went that way, it’s pretty likely that there wouldn’t be a whole lot to share after that. The type of conversation leaves little room for mystery and would get stale pretty quickly. Furthermore, the person you’re talking to might disappear pretty quickly.
Easy Does It
Instead, you would be more apt to introduce yourself by name, maybe say a few words about the weather or environment that you are both a part of, and offer some additional light banter. Allowing the conversation to gradually unfold is conducive to the interaction having a chance to develop naturally.
As a performer, you are also “conversing” with your listeners. They may not be literally talking to you personally, but they do interact with what’s going on intellectually and emotionally. It makes sense to allow this interaction to develop gradually and naturally as well.
Whatever your particular skill level, you can indeed have a quality interaction with those who are present. Members of your audience, while sipping a martini, enjoying a meal, or quietly chatting, are not looking to be impressed by everything you are capable of doing technically. They do, however, place value on whether or not your performance compliments the ambiance or not.
Pace Yourself Through A Piano Arrangement
As people become more engaged with your playing, they are especially intrigued when a performer projects with a certain degree of finesse. Playing to your capacity during the first eight bars of a ballad doesn’t leave you with much room to develop. Actually, if you do choose to “put it all on the table” in a short amount of time, chances are you’ll be losing your listeners’ interest before you reach the bridge.
Put simply, don’t offer everything you know all at once. Be delicate in your approach. Allow the “conversation” to manifest in a tactful way. Again, reflect on a hypothetical interaction with a first time acquaintance. “Speak” to your audience with the a similar intent that includes sensitivity, discretion, and a desire to slowly reveal what you would like to share.
For example, if you intend to play through a couple choruses of Bart Howard’s Fly Me To The Moon, you might consider a delicate intro, playing through the first chorus at an especially low dynamic level, approaching the second chord with a little improvisation perhaps leading into some swing with improvisation, and finally resolving the last A and B section in a way that suits you. That’s only a suggestion and not to be interpreted literally. Just keep it interesting.
Focus On Your Choreography
By setting aside some practice time that focuses on the arrangement itself of a favorite standard rather than various technical aspects of your performing skills, you will soon discover that your maturity as a musician is greatly enhanced. However you choose to put together those arrangements, remember to always be your own voice. Your audience will reap wonderful benefits from that… and so will your integrity as a musician.
Is piano improvisation for beginners? After all, being able to improvise is one of those complicated musical skills that is reserved for those who have at least a few years of playing experience. Makes sense, right?
Well, it “makes sense” if you have listened to others who would have you believe that. Or perhaps you convinced yourself that the ability to improvise is a gift of a select few. Maybe you were so impressed by the performance of a master improvisor that totally spun your head and you just know that this stuff is beyond your reach at this point.
You Were Born With The Skill
However, the truth is that you’ve been improvising since you made your first appearance on this planet. That’s right. You were born with an inmate ability and desire to be creative. As an infant, you cried to be fed. If the meal didn’t arrive soon, you cried in a different way – louder, longer, or whatever it took.
When you first learned to pronounce words and put phrases together, you mimicked much of what you heard. Before long, you rearranged those words and phrases to express yourself in your own unique way.
Welcome to the wonderful world of improvising. You’ve already had quite a bit of practice, friend.
Start Improvising On Piano Now
By now, you probably already know how to “utter” a few notes on that piano or keyboard of yours. You likely can play some melodies of favorite tunes of yours. If so, you’re already equipped to begin improvising.
Yes, piano improvisation for beginners is not only a possibility. It’s a creative skill that you were born with.
If you have never attempted to improvise, then be grateful that you have the desire and a clean slate to begin with. From this point on, you’re going to break open a “set of paints” and begin to allow your artistic abilities to blossom.
For starters, choose just two measures of a favorite tune for which you know the chords. Once you have that, head on over to the Members area of “TV” Tips and watch the tutorial entitled “Creating An Improvisational Line.” Follow the procedure demonstrated as you apply the simple technique to the two measures that you have chosen.
Within moments, you’ll have successfully accomplished creating a short piano improvisation that will surely provide you with the incentive and optimism to go further. This easy-to- follow concept is a sure way to get your confidence in high gear and propel you forward.
Remember, this is one simple approach to piano improvisation. There are many. You have to start somewhere, so what are you waiting for?
One thing is for certain. Once you implement this idea, you won’t ever think or say, “I can’t improvise.” On the contrary, you’ll know that you have what it takes.
On Monday, March 2, 1959, pianist Bill Evans sat in with Paul Chambers (bass), Jimmy Cobb (drums), Miles Davis (trumpet), John Coltrane (tenor saxophone), and Julius “Cannonball” Adderley to record the first track So What on Miles Davis’ legendary jazz album Kind Of Blue. This is one of the most recognizable jazz tunes ever.
The Birth Of The “So What Chord”
This modal tune was comprised of two modes, D Dorian and Eb Dorian. Bill Evans’ comping on So What became iconic. The chord voicing he played most prominently throughout the form eventually became known by theorists and future musicians as the “So What chord.”
The “So What Chord” Structure
This is a chord voicing that ought to be in every cocktail pianist’s toolbox. As a soloist, you’ll likely find it to be especially flavorful when playing ballads. It can be very effective for introductions, too.
Let’s take a look…
We’ll use mode of D Dorian for illustration. Here is the D Dorian mode:
Keep in mind that, in modal playing, there are no “avoid” notes. In other words, all the scale tones work for both melody and harmony.
As we take a look at two chord structures that Bill Evans comped for this mode, it is clear that all seven tones of the Dorian mode are used:
As you can see, the “So What chord” is a voicing that consists of three perfect 4th intervals topped off by a major 3rd. The rather contemporary texture of those consecutive perfect 4ths in conjunction with the consonance of the Major 3rd is very distinct.
Since these two structures are derived from the D Dorian, remember that we have seven tones in this mode. The two above have A and B, respectively, as the top chord tones, Therefore, we actually have five more possibilities, making seven in total.
Yes, it’s true that the “perfect 4th – major 3rd” formula P4-P4-P4-M3 doesn’t exactly apply with all of those others (it does when you arrive at the top note being E) . However, we are still within the Dorian mode which results in some pretty interesting harmony. In context, when used properly, they can certainly add some stylish “pizzazz” to your playing.
Modal Harmony Can Spice Up Your Ballads
Let’s take a look at one way we can use this “So What chord” and its Dorian “neighbors” in our cocktail piano playing:
I have always loved eating stir-fry meals. I also enjoy doing some stir-frying myself on occasion. However, when it comes to my knowledge of the various seasoning combinations and the subtle “tricks of the trade,” I couldn’t hold a candle to a chef.
If you were to ask me to explain, in one or two sentences, how to stir-fry, I wouldn’t be able to offer you more than that. However, given my wok, a few shrimp, some vegetables, a little soy sauce, and spice or two, I’ll cook myself up meal that’s more than satisfying.
The point? You only need to know a tiny bit about what you love to put it across in a way that’s palatable. That includes playing cocktail piano.
Actually, starting out with just a couple of “seasonings” (piano chord voicings, for example) may be the better way to go. Getting back to my cooking… if an entire spice rack was put in front of me and someone said to me, “Go to town. Flavor it up!” I would probably overdo it and the resulting taste would likely be on the sickening side.
“Just Some Salt & Pepper, Please”
A simple cocktail piano tip: implementing a couple of basic chord voicing concepts is quite enough to serve your audience a musical “entrée” that will have them staying for dessert. It’s the quality of what you say that matters a whole lot more than how much you say.
For example, if you are at a point where your chord familiarity is currently limited to playing basic 7th chords, then go with that. Keep it technically simple while you play with lots of feeling. Use dynamics to express that feeling. Consider playing those chords as arpeggios, perhaps playing each chord tone as quarter note. Alternate that with simply sustaining the chord.
Take It Up A Tiny Notch?
If you would be open to utilizing those 7th chords in a slightly more interesting way, I created a video session that can have you sounding a little more “pro” as you perform those favorite ballads of yours. Again, it involves using just a couple of those “seasonings” to begin cooking with.
Underlying everything is the necessity to accept and appreciate exactly where you’re at, remaining open to expanding your knowledge and enhancing your skills gradually. Remember, music does not require complexity to sound good.
Use What Feels Natural
I didn’t plan on mentioning it here but, as I was just contemplating, an old Federal Express commercial came to mind. Remember the one where the guy talks at a rate of a thousand words a minute? I recall thinking, “That’s a pretty cool skill to have.” That said, I know that I don’t need to speak that rapidly in order to express myself effectively. If I tried, it certainly wouldn’t come across in a natural way. For that reason, no one would want to listen.
Be YOU… give yourself permission to express your music simply and freely… aspire to learn…
Yes, you read that right. You might refer to yourself as a beginner when it comes to playing piano. However, the word “beginner” is relative. If you’re playing piano at all at this point, that means you have at least some technical ability going for you. That’s all it takes.
Also, whenever the word, “jazz” comes up, players in the earlier stages of the game often equate that with having to learn all those complex jazz piano chord voicings, scales, and patterns. However, that’s not the case at all. Sure, you can develop as time progresses and you’re sure to enjoy learning all that stuff as your playing matures. But, right now… yes, right where you are… you can sit at that piano or keyboard of yours and… well… get jazzy.
You Were Born To Be Jazzy
Furthermore, playing “jazzy” or improvising implies creating. Don’t assume that you have to be an “advanced” player to be able to improvise. You were born to create. It’s your innate ability and inherent right to do so.
So, how about it?
Set up one left hand chord position… one right hand chord position… and you’ve got the ball rolling! In order to help you with this, I am going to encourage you to listen and view an episode from our “TV” Tips members area. Please become a member. Membership is completely free and you’ll also gain access to all the “TV” Tips episodes.
I’m going to provide the video here. However, in the members area, you’ll also be able to download the PDF supplement:
Focus On What’s Important
As you get into this, setting your priorities will be conducive to quicker success, though there’s no rush getting anywhere. Let’s touch upon these priorities:
establish a slow & steady rhythm with that left hand
begin playing very little with that right hand
relax & feel the “groove” (most important)
Jazzy Cocktail Piano = Playing With Feeling
Those are the most important points. You see, many beginners have the false impression that playing a lot of notes is what makes good music. That simply is not true. Feeling your music is where it’s at. Actually, a pretty great musician who knew something about feeling music (whom you may have heard of) put it this way:
“The important thing is to feel your music, really feel it and believe it.”
— Ray Charles
Break The Mold
By the way, when it comes to that right hand improvisation, the notes presented are intended to get you going. You don’t need to play any more than those in order to sound terrific. That said, if you feel inspired to play outside of that scope, by all means do so!
As you become more and more confident with this, you will learn to relax more and more. That will lead to more confidence… more relaxation… it’s a continuous cycle. You’ll experience this for yourself.
Before you know it, you’ll not only be impressing yourself, but you’ll be turning the heads of anyone who happens to be within hearing distance. Keep playing… keep smiling… feel good… love what you’re capable of…
Home hobbyists to well-trained classical pianists have shown an interest in cocktail piano lessons. It’s no wonder why a pianist of any skill level and background would want to acquire cocktail piano skills.
You never know when the opportunity may arise. A local restaurant may have the need for such a performer. Hosts of private parties are becoming more and more in touch with how a cocktail pianist can enhance the ambience by setting just the right mood. Home enthusiasts often enjoy entertaining their guests and are usually open to sharpening their skills. In short, enhancing your cocktail piano skills offers rewards to anyone who appreciates this art form and can open you up to more possibilities.
That said, learning how to play cocktail piano style, even to the experienced concert performer, can make it necessary to look at those keys from a different angle. In some ways, it might be involve going back to basics.
One of the first cocktail piano lessons for beginners might include looking at your chords in a new light. This doesn’t mean you need to put yourself through an advanced jazz piano chord voicing “boot camp” in order to get your playing to sound more professional. Not even close. Sure, it’s nice to be open to learning more chord voicing textures as time goes on. That said, you can make more of just a little with very little effort on your part.
For example, take those basic chords you know. I’m referring to your triads (three-note chords). For example, here is an Fmaj chord in its basic root position:
Easy Cocktail Piano Technique
Simply opening this triad by moving the A to a position that is one octave higher does a few good things for us:
It provides a nice “open” sound texture
Because of the wider interval created by removing the A from the middle of the chord, we can play the chord lower on the piano keyboard without sounding rather “muddy”
It allows us to harmonize a melody in “pro”-like manner that actually sounds good
Let’s look at an example of how we can use this strategy:
Our “TV “Tips area of this site actually provides lot of cocktail piano tips for beginners and other levels. It consists of a growing series of short video tutorials that are short enough to grasp easily so that you can begin implementing the cocktail piano techniques demonstrated right away.
You see, it’s not about adding to your piano playing toolbox as much as it is using what you know to your potential. Sure, learning more chord voicings, piano fills, and other “tricks of the trade” is lots of fun and can enhance our playing but what is truly behind making it all work is the performer. How you perform always means more than what you use to perform with.
So, take some of your practice time and devote it to using what you know to greater degrees. Take those triads and their inversions and start opening them up. The same can be true of your 7th chords, of course. The point is use what you know right where you are and have fun making music with it.
The Best Cocktail Piano Tip Ever: It Works Like Magic
Can there really be one cocktail piano tip that supersedes all others? I mean, really, when you consider all the techniques and strategies that one has the potential to master – chords, chord voicings, piano fills, improvisation, left hand accompaniment patterns, arpeggios, walking bass lines… on and on and on it goes…
Perhaps it seems difficult for you to put your finger on that one special nugget that can turn everything around for the better, huh?
Okay, well, it’s about to be unveiled…
(drum roll please)
Here it is…
There you have it… the most powerfully effective cocktail piano playing technique that you will ever master:
Be yourself and play within your means.
Some live that. Some don’t.
So, what’s this all about?
Have you ever attended an engagement in which you had to listen to a speaker for 20 minutes or more? Chances are you have. As a matter of fact, you’ve likely attended several.
Has any of those speakers come across as one who obviously possessed a large vocabulary and seemed to flaunt it during that speech? All the points were made… all the bases were covered… he or she tried to convey that they knew what they were talking about… and there were very successful at… almost putting you to sleep?
On the flip side, maybe you had the pleasure of listening to a speaker who wasn’t so fancy with words but somehow knew how to pace himself or herself in a way that kept your attention… even causing you to want to hear more? Perhaps it was that person’s use of space… a sense of humor… a relaxed persona… genuine sincerity. You sensed that this person was worth listening to.
THAT is what we’re talking about here. Let’s acknowledge a couple of scenarios:
1) No doubt, you have some technical skills that you are very good at… actually, you’re so good at them, that seemingly no effort is required on your part to execute them. While you’re performing, if those techniques were words, they would just seem to “roll of your tongue” in such a natural fashion.
2) Are there other technical skills that you aspire to master that you’re not yet entirely in command of? Well, congratulations for wanting to enhance your skills. We can only commend you for your enthusiasm and commitment to your craft. That said, when you incorporate those strategies into your playing, do they sound as if you are trying to make them work? There’s a significant difference between putting something across in a natural way and making an effort to “fit in a musical idea” that you don’t know like the back of your hand.
Whether you are performing in a way that more closely resembles #1 above or #2, consider this:
Your audience knows it.
Sure, they may not know the specifics about what you are playing. They may not have the tiniest clue about performing. Maybe they don’t even know an A on the piano from a G. However, they sense confidence.
There’s no getting around that. Actually, you wouldn’t want to, would you? After all, if you’re feeling a certain mood while performing, it’s likely that you want to convey it to your listeners. Just remember, they sense it all.
Okay, it’s understood that while you’re learning new playing techniques, practicing involves incorporating them, fumbling here and there, sometimes getting it perfect, and sometimes making a royal mess of things. That’s all just fine. It’s all a part of learning.
That said, reserve some practice time for not practicing. Yes, you read that right. Use that time for performing confidently. Focus on all those attributes of yours that make you feel confident as you play. In other words, “trying” is not a part of the equation. You’re at your best… you feel your best… you KNOW from beat to beat that everything is going to be just fine. Yep, that means even if you make an “error”… you’re feeling good about yourself as you play. There’s no looking back. You are in the NOW.
When you lose yourself in the NOW, you can’t go wrong. You’re there. You have no concerns. There’s no doubt. You just know it’s going to happen. You can even secretly celebrate each performed beat as a success. Actually, you feel better and better as your performance continues.
Now (speaking of that)… we’re not suggesting that you don’t take an occasional musical risk here and there. That’s a part of the fun and growth as a performer, too. However, take those risks confidently. The concern about being right or wrong during your performance is non-existent.
If this all seems a bit strange to you, that’s a good thing. You see, that means you’ve been exposed to a way of thinking (actually, more feeling than thinking) that can open new doors for you in terms of playing with confidence.
In other words, it takes practice. Yes, now you’ve got the ticket: the goal is to practice being yourself while playing within your means with confidence. That’s the greatest cocktail piano tip you can implement.
No other piano playing technique can replace this – no chord voicing, no piano fill, no improvisational lick, no anything. When you feel confident, that positive energy is conveyed to your listening audience. When you don’t, you’re cheating yourself and your audience.
That’s about it as far as making the point here. However, as you give this some of your own personal attention and you would like some help in this area, perhaps a coaching session might be of value to you. I’m available for that (just ask). More importantly, however, tune into you and how you feel as you play. Truly, you have the potential to be your best at any given time. Let that be now, friend.
The illustration below is actually snapshot from 1-2-3 Cocktail Piano #2, which serves as a nice follow-up to 1-2-3 Cocktail Piano #1. Here we see the three chord tones from an E minor triad being played:
E G B
However, we opened up this three-note chord by taking the G out of the middle and placing it one octave higher. Thus, the order of the chord tones being played are (we are playing a 10th interval from the E to the G):
E B G
In the video, we demonstrate this technique being used in two different ways, playing in a 4/4 meter:
1) Each chord tone being played as quarter notes (E-B-G back to B, for example)
2) Two of the chord tones being played as eighth notes and three of them being played as quarter notes (E-B as eight notes followed by G then B then E, each as quarter notes, for example).
Play around with the order of the chord tones. Mix it up! Yes, playing the Root first on beat one does set it up nicely. The following chord tones you play can be alternated. Also, if you happen to be playing a song in 3/4 time, playing each chord tone as quarter notes just once takes care of the measure, of course. That said, incorporating some eighth notes adds additional momentum. By the way, this works especially nicely when you alternate (play a measure or two as quarter notes followed by playing some eighth notes).
Depending on the size of your hand, this may come as more or less of a challenge if you are to have each of your fingers readily available on all three chord tones. However, allowing your arm and wrist to help makes this significantly easier. As a player with relatively short hands, I can confirm this : )
I would strongly encourage you to take any triad and apply this “rolling” technique, using it in the context of your favorite songs. As you become more and more comfortable with it, you will find that the technique becomes a natural part of your playing!
For those of you not familiar with chord voicings, it is the way a musician arranges/organizes and plays chords on a piano in order to create interesting sounds. In this post, we will explain why chord voicings add vibrancy and pizzazz to your ballads, how learning one chord voicing at a time is to your benefit and offer you an opportunity to add style to your playing with ProProach – your key to enhancing your piano playing with chord voicings. So let’s get started!
Why Chord Voicings Add Pizzazz To Your Ballads
Chord voicings are an incredibly powerful tool for creating a unique and exciting sound in your ballads. Compared to playing the basic chords of the song, chord voicings can add a much greater level of depth and texture to your performance. Not only will adding chord voicings make the tunes you love more interesting, but they can especially add a touch of pizzazz to your ballads. When used correctly, chord voicings can be used to create rhythmic interest, colorful harmonic progressions, and unexpected turns that will keep your listeners engaged throughout the performance. Unlocking their secrets is the key to unlocking beautiful piano chord voicings in your favorite tunes!
Learn One Chord Voicing At A Time
Learning one chord voicing at a time is key to masterful cocktail piano playing. To unlock stunning chord voicings, take the time to practice and become comfortable with each voicing before you move on. You want to learn it to the point where you own it and can use it “on command.” The simplest chords can sound beautiful if your technique is solid, so work slowly and refine what you already know before adding more complicated voicings to your repertoire. Practicing one chord voicing at a time will help you focus on technique and quality over quantity – including transposing them to the various keys and incorporating them into several tunes. This will lead you to becoming an incredibly creative harmonic player!
Proproach: Your Key To Enhancing Your Piano Playing With Chord Voicings
Are you looking for the key to unlock the secrets of stunning cocktail piano chord voicings? Look no further than ProProach! This powerful 25-week program allows you to enhance your piano playing by providing a wide range of chord voicings that can be incorporated into your repertoire. No matter your skill level, ProProach facilitates efficient and effective learning with its tutorials, graphics, and complimentary videos. Whether you’re just beginning to explore chords or are an experienced musician, ProProach is the perfect resource to take your cocktail piano playing to the next level.
In conclusion, cocktail piano chord voicings can add an extra layer of flavor to your playing and bring any piece to life. With a bit of practice and experimentation, you’ll be able to make the most out of these powerful chord voicings. From classic jazz to modern pop, they will open up new possibilities in your playing and give you more control over your sound. Have fun mastering this essential element of the pianist’s toolkit!