Piano Playing Techniques
If you’ve been playing the piano for some time, you will eventually get to the stage where you want to learn how to play your favourite songs on the piano. Sometimes, you might be able to find some online keyboard lessons for the song you want. Sometimes, you might be able to find a copy of the sheet music. But often, you won’t. You’re on your own.
So now what are you doing to do? Just give up trying to play your favourite songs on the piano and stick with the things that you can find lessons for? Of course you won’t – if you’re determined enough to learn how to play the piano via online lessons, you’ll find a way to learn how to play the songs you want – no matter how obscure they are!
The best thing you can do here to play the songs you want to on the piano is to learn how to play them by ear. This is not as hard as you think it might be. There are a number of sneaky tips you can learn that will help you pick up any song that you want to learn how to play. As a bonus, a lot of the techniques can also be used to transpose a piece of music from a key that’s really difficult to play (something with lots of sharps, such as E major) to something easier (G major or C major).
Sneaky tip #1: Start by listening to the bass of the song. Sure, the singer sounds great and that’s what has really captured your attention. But to be able to play the whole song rather than just the melody, listen to what the bass is doing (this bass could be played on a keyboard or on a bass guitar, but this doesn’t matter). As one old jazz number from the 1930s or thereabouts put it, it’s the left hand that’s got the boogie. This is where the ability to slow down a song but keep it at the right pitch is fantastic, as you can run through the notes until you get the right one. Hint: if you have trouble remembering, write the note down above the words.
Sneaky tip #2: Learn the basic chord progressions and how these work in each key. A huge number of songs just use three chords or four chords. And they’re always the same three or the same four! (As an example, you can hear the same chord progressions in Shakira’s “Waka Waka”, Justin Bieber’s “Baby”, U2’s “With Or Without You” and heaps of others). The order of these chords might be different from song to song, but the actual chords won’t. Here are the really common chord progressions for some of the easiest major keys to play on the piano:
- C major: C, F and G (three chords); C, G, A minor, F (four chords)
- G major: G, C and D (three chords); G, D, E minor, C (four chords)
- D major: D, G and A (three chords); D, A, B flat minor, G (four chords)
There are some other common chord progressions for minor keys as well. One that turns up a few times in bluesy numbers (in the key of A minor) goes A minor, G major, F major and E minor/major/seventh. There are others!
Sneaky tip #3: Skip these steps and look for a website that provides the chords and the lyrics for guitar players. This will give you the chords you need for the song where you need them. You can now move onto the next step. Unless you want to transpose the song into an easier key, in which case you will have to shift each chord down a set number of semitones (be careful with B, C, E and F).
Sneaky tip #4: Use the bass and the chord progressions to build the rest of the harmony. If you’ve put in the hard yards on the piano and learned your chords and arpeggios, you should be able to build up the rest of the harmony for the right hand and the left hand. Practice these chords and use your voice to do the rest. In fact, you could get away with just doing this if you’re playing with a band.
Sneaky tip #5: Start adding in the “frillies” once you’ve got the chord progression down pat. This is where you try to play the melody on top of the chords, or where you play broken chords (arpeggios), or where you do a few fill-ins. Fill-ins are often scales in the appropriate key… easy!
Tagged as: free piano lessons, piano chords, piano chords tutorial, piano music, piano online, piano online lessons, Piano Playing Techniques
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