The Pop Piano Book Paperback – November 1, 1998

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The Pop Piano Book Paperback – November 1, 1998

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  • 58 Reviews
  • July 2, 2019 Last Review Date
  • April 4, 2014 First Seen Review Date
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Discussion and Reviews on Reddit

Tools for improving chord and progression knowledge? [R]

1 month, 2 weeks agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
July 2, 2019

I don't even know if this is the right sub to ask. This sub seems way more devoted to solo piano work, which I've been doing my whole life and am pretty good at. However, my dream is to play in band and I'm realizing after jamming with my friends a couple times that I lack mastery on keys, chords, progressions, playing in different styles, etc.

I'm looking for any tools, progrmams, books, videos, etc that can help me improve my musical theory so I can be a better keyboardist. Essentially, I'm trying to hone in on some basics without going through a beginner's lesson. Wondering if anyone can point me in a good direction.

1 month, 2 weeks agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
July 2, 2019

For direct theory stuff you can start here.

For more of those ideas in the context of comping patterns for various styles you can use this book.

The second book is great, and does have a bit of a large theory overview at the beginning, but if you don't have a good grasp on contemporary theory build from the basics, you might have trouble really grabbing onto some of the thicker concepts. He jumps into "upgrading" and extensions pretty damned fast and if you find that you're not even good at things like diatonic triads and 7th chords or how to build basic chords and progressions, then it might just turn into a lot of rote exercises.

For playing in pop styles you have to get beyond the rote read-it-off-the-page mind set and really start to internalize theory concepts and then learn how to put them into practice.

Multi-instrumentalist trying to move to keys full time, I have a few [R]

2 months, 3 weeks agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
May 29, 2019

Hey guys, this is my first time posting over here. I know this probably falls under the category of “common sense” but I thought maybe my case was specific enough to warrant a post. I’ve played instruments my whole life. I grew up playing guitar, I marched snare for 7 years and played drums/percussion for years before that. Ive played a bit of bass too, and I’m comfortable gigging and sight reading at a pretty decent level on all three.

So I know what y’all are thinking, “why doesn’t this asshole just play one of the instruments he’s been playing his whole life?”

About 8 months ago a friend of mine asked if he could store his synths at my place. A sweet old Crumar Performer and a microkorg. I realized that from my years playing vibraphone I know all my scales and chords and there’s no reason for me NOT to start applying myself at keys. I’ve also gotten into repairing and modifying synths, which is a whole new challenge from guitar pedals. The workmanship put into some of these instruments is truly awe inspiring.

So over the course of the last 8 months I began practicing A LOT. I think I’ve fallen in love with the piano/keys more than any other instrument. I’m 21 years old and already a performing musician as a “multi-instrumentalist” but I have never played keys live.

Another thing, I’m going back to school in the fall. It’s a really good program that’s a lot like Berkelee’s, with a heavy emphasis on networking and musicianship. I’ll have the next 4 years to practice and get better before I’m back on the road. I normally wouldn’t consider paying for music school, but due to a very specific disability bill that was passed in my home state a year ago I can go for free.

My gear at the moment: Juno DS61 Korg Minilogue Yamaha PSR-32 (circuit bent) Mackie 12 channel analog mixer A few pedals

I’ve got a couple questions: 1) Would I be shooting myself in the foot to “throw away” everything I’ve learned on other instruments to go full time with piano? 2) I’m really into funk, what are some of the comping tricks from a harmonic standpoint? I’ve been studying a lot of George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Richard Tee etc. but It’s just not coming together for me. Is it less about the function of a chord and more about the color in funk? Whenever I’m playing something like Superstition I have no problem using chords for their texture (maybe it’s easier on a clav?) 3) How do I go about putting all that gear together in one signal chain? I work in live audio but everybody hooks up their own keyboard rigs, i just plug it all into a DI box. 4) Any pedals I should check out for keys/synth? I recently lost all of my pedals (and a lot of other gear) to faulty home wiring in my studio. I know that sounds really weird, but they are all FRIED. It’s unfortunate, but the silver lining is now I have a fresh start. On an unrelated note, i now have a shitload of pedal parts so anything analog and buildable would help my wallet but I’m never opposed to spending money on a pedal I’ll use. 5) As far as education is concerned, the free college thing doesn’t just cutoff once I get a degree. It’s valid for any undergraduate study. If I wanted to spend 10 years in school getting a degree in everything from composition to music business at 3 different universities I could. Obviously this comes from the taxpayer, but there’s a lot of politics surrounding this particular bill and it was passed for a very good reason. I intend to take full advantage of this opportunity without abusing it.

Sorry for the long post but I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, ya know the “I started too late so I’ll never be good enough” thing that we all deal with on every instrument we pick up. Any guidance or advice is welcome! Thanks

2 months, 3 weeks agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
May 29, 2019

So I'm a guy who had a very classical background starting with trumpet in school and went to a NOT Berklee like traditional music school. You can hear me bitch about how out of touch traditional academic music programs are with the reality of being a pro musicians frequently around here... so you've already got that advantage.

I didn't really take up piano seriously until 26 and sort of by accident due to circumstances. It's also when I started learning some of the real world skills that made me realize just how relatively shallow and empty traditional academia was. I compare it to getting a Comp Sci degree and spending 4 years learning how to program for punch cards and only then going out into the world of modern computers and smart phone apps and thinking, "Wait... wut?"

Anyway, that rant aside, I was a trumpet player and I actively gigged and such (in more classical settings) and then started up piano very late.

Would I be shooting myself in the foot to “throw away” everything I’ve learned on other instruments to go full time with piano?

Well, no, you won't be throwing away anything. Also, DON'T throw away anything. One of the biggest things I've learned is that my versatility is what gets me employment. Piano is my main money make, but I still get gigs on trumpet. I literally sometimes play both at the same time. I've picked up other instruments to varying degrees over the years and get gigs on them. I often just get gigs where I'm playing multiple instrument and have become often the only person who could actually do a certain gig. You need someone to sing a one-to-a-part a capella piece, then lead some songs while walking on guitar... then play piano... then play organ. Well, good luck finding someone else with all of those abilities because everyone ends up feeling like being a jack of all trades is a master of none.

Well that's not how that work (the rest of the saying is something like "often better than a master of one"). Due to expectations you often don't need to be the BEST at anything because most audiences can't even tell.

Can you tell if someone is playing a Bb, C, Eb, or piccolo trumpet? I can. Does that fucking matter? Can I tell what gauge of guitar strings, or what pick thickness, or what pedal setup you're using on guitar by listening. Probably not, but you could probably tell a lot by just listening to another guitarist... does it matter? Not really.

The ultra fine details and subtleties are over-empahsized and only noticeable to musicians trained VERY specifically in your area. You, as a trained musician probably can't pick up a ton of subtleties about different piano brands... certainly not by ear. So it just doesn't matter. Our audiences aren't people who are trained to be experts in our specific areas. It's usually lay people.

For fuck sake, you can be playing their favorite song... something they've heard 100 times from a recording and they still might not be able to tell if you completely fuck up the chords. Either that or they don't care.

Also, so much of your previous knowledge will transfer to piano, but honestly, a ton of piano stuff will end up transferring BACK to make you better at everything else you do by recontextualizing it.

I’m really into funk, what are some of the comping tricks from a harmonic standpoint? I’ve been studying a lot of George Duke, Herbie Hancock, Richard Tee etc. but It’s just not coming together for me. Is it less about the function of a chord and more about the color in funk? Whenever I’m playing something like Superstition I have no problem using chords for their texture (maybe it’s easier on a clav?)

Honestly, this book is almost certainly beyond your technical level, but the answers are all there. You'll find lots of comping patterns very specifically for that. Funk is just hard to comp. It's a lot of very sparsely voiced stuff with extremely complex 16th note subdivision. Probably some of the hardest comping you can do. That book in general will give you a lot of good comping concepts for various styles.

Which brings me to a side note.

Ive played a bit of bass too, and I’m comfortable gigging and sight reading at a pretty decent level on all three.

Sightreading or sight comping? I mean, I can sight comp basic chord charts on guitar and I can sightread almost anything on trumpet. But ask me to sightread on guitar and I'll give you a blank look. I've gotten good at both on piano, but for years I was just good at sight comping and my reading is only very slowly catching up with a lot of work.

The other thing is, while guitarists will rarely be asked to sightread you'll likely find that if you play piano, you will get asked to sightread a lot more.

As I was making a living playing in bands and doing more contemporary work, I just kept finding people that heard I played keys assume that meant I could just easily accompany a choir from a choral octavo on the spot. I could not. But I kept getting more traditional work thrown my way just because that's the expectation for pianists. To not learn to do that well is leaving a lot of money on the table.

I've always made it a point to try to never say "I can't do that." I'm never there, but I keep trying. That not only has opened more doors for me due to versatility, but the compliment I get most often is just how easy to work with I am because I'm very chill about just doing whatever combination of things and just making it happen in the moment without getting to freaked out about it (at least outwardly). This is a huge thing for networking. Apparently a lot of people really are fussy, limited, or picky about what they will and won't (can and can't) do.

This also means that you probably need to get comfortable playing on actual pianos with weighted keys. The biggest downside to piano compared to almost anything else is that you're at the mercy of the instrument at the venue in a lot of cases and that almost always means a piano. If you only play on unweighted synths, you'll gonna have a bad time. Synths are still great, but going weighted to unweighted is much easier than the opposite.

How do I go about putting all that gear together in one signal chain? I work in live audio but everybody hooks up their own keyboard rigs, i just plug it all into a DI box.

That's highly personal, but honestly, it's not much different than the way you would do it with guitar (which can be very similar in how personal it is). I don't work with a ton of pedals because I use a Nord and have most of that stuff on board (because fucking bringing a bag of pedals and a laptop to every gig). Any effects you can just treat it like a guitar and run it between you and the DI box.

Some things like and expression pedal are just going to connect to the keyboard and not have anything to do with the chain and probably require the keyboard to support it though I'm sure some conglomeration of stuff could make it work somewhere down the chain to but I wouldn't want to deal with that sort of headache.

I would often run everything to an amp that I could use as a stage monitor and then use the main output from the amp to run to the DI box. At home I pretty much run everything directly to the mixer or through my looper and then to the mixer.

Any pedals I should check out for keys/synth?

You can try out almost anything. For pure functionality of practice I just couldn't live without a looper these days. If you've got the cash, a bigger loop station over a ditto looper is just amazing. It can also be very useful for live gigging solo.

As far as education is concerned, the free college thing doesn’t just cutoff once I get a degree. It’s valid for any undergraduate study. If I wanted to spend 10 years in school getting a degree in everything from composition to music business at 3 different universities I could.

While the atmosphere of a Berklee like school might give you more bang for your buck in just drinking in stuff from a lot of degrees (especially compared to a traditional school where a decade would still leave you clueless going into the real world of music)...I still think the most useful stuff comes from just getting out there and doing it.

Most of the most important stuff I've learned is just from experience and often the hard way. It's all about finding yourself in situations and suddenly realizing what skill set you actually need that you might not have picked up in school. Sometimes that's just because you're working with non-musicians who don't know what they fuck really want and what they are doing.

A lot of it will come from working with people who may have gone to more traditional schools and are super out of touch with what you're even talking about.

I mean, to be fair, a lot of this subreddit could talk to you all day about Chopin etudes and various concert pianist, but as soon as you start talking synths, signal chains, and DI boxes... they have no clue. Seriously, the amount of people who have advanced degrees in music but literally wouldn't be able to plug up a keyboard or guitar to an amp is insane.

But these are the type of people you run into in real gigs and getting the experience of how to work around all sorts of situations is super useful. So I highly recommend getting as much real world experience as you can where you're not always working with competent people.

You might be able to get some of that on the side while getting more degrees, but do be careful not to spin your wheels too much. Also, go check out /r/synthesizers

Gospel sounds [R]

4 months agook_reset posted submission on musictheory.
April 15, 2019

I'm interested in rootsy gospel music - the kind of thing that inspired soul music of the 60s. Can you recommend articles, books, or other resources to delve into this genre? What are the top genre defining tracks or artists, and how can I get familiar with some of the typical chord progressions and techniques involved? Is there a gospel 'real book'? I talked with a guy at a bus stop once who was headed to a gospel gig - he said a lot of it was improvising and he didn't know what songs they'd play in advance, and they just had to follow along as best they could. That sounds pretty interesting, I'd like to know more about how that all works.

4 months agook_reset posted comment on musictheory.
April 15, 2019

There's about 200 pages just on gospel in The Pop Piano Book by Mark Harrison.

Edit: A preview from the author --

What do you do to not end up hating the song? [R]

5 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
March 22, 2019

Guys, so yeah, the fourth piece im learning is gymnopedie number 1, by erik Satie, but i ALWAYS struggle with timing and metronome, so i end up havin to play the same song 999x and getting tired of it.. Any tips?

4 months, 4 weeks agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
March 23, 2019

Is this sort of playing impractical without the foundation of reading sheet music?

Yes, mostly because of the lack of resources and the lack of having some way to conceptualize rather abstract concepts.

I'm trying to think of a way to analogize this. Have you ever watched a movie or TV show and a person's name was either very odd either because it had roots in a foreign language or it was a made up fantasy word? Maybe something like like the Dora Milaje in Black Panther.

It might take you several times hearing it and you still can't quite make it out or repeat it yourself. You might try to sound it out in /r/BoneAppleTea fashion and end up with laughable results as you guess the closest thing you can to something that is more familiar to you.

Sure, names like Brian or James or Rebecca are probably easy. You are familiar with those names. But things you're less familiar with, you might try to make into something closer to what you're already familiar with.

Now, seeing something like Dora Milaje written out and hearing it, you go "OOOOHHH!!" and you have a much better idea of what they are saying.

So why is that? It's because you speak English, understand the alphabet, and having it written out gives you something familiar to reference it against and helps you understand what you're hearing.

This happens in music to. If you don't understand basic theory and how music is written, you're going to just be guessing a lot of times. New harmonic concepts will seem very abstract and random to you.

Making it worse, particularly for playing in bands is that you won't be able to have a concept "homophones." So names like Rebecca and Rebekah are the same to you at least in how they sound. Well, Cmaj7 and Dmaj7 sound the same and have the same function, but if you don't know how those chords are spelled, you can't use them interchangeably when playing in different keys without a bit of a mind fuck.

Cmaj7 is 4 white keys, Dmaj7 is 2 white and 2 black. Making it worse, Dm7, Em7, Fmaj7, G7 Am7, and B7b5 all use 4 white keys. They feel like Cmaj7 but have totally different functions.

This is very confusing and gives you no point of reference for codifying ideas without basic music theory.

Similar to the situation of Dorm Alashay (Dora Milaje) you will start guess and simply a of things. This is something that people without a good theory background or very limited facility often do. You see this a lot of times when people transcribe things for guitar. They can only play a handful of chords, so they try to make everything fit into those chords. So instead of a F, they might instead use Dm. It's "close" and even nearly functionally equivalent in the key of C... nooot quite right. People also frequently drop 7ths and other extensions because they just can't figure out what they are. They just go for the /r/BoneAppleTea version.

Do you need to go through the beginner/intermediate songbook type stuff in order to develop the skills you need? Or is that just an inefficient waste of time if sight reading at “performance tempo” isn’t my goal?

Well, it's a mixed bag. Sightreading is a very specific skill that will take a lot of very specific effort, but you don't need it at a high level to meet your goals. Mind you I was making good money playing in a band for years with absolutely piss-poor sightreading skills and they are something I really started investing in later. But I did have the skills to read well... just not sightread well. I had to teach myself a lot of contemporary theory concepts on my own that weren't taught to me in college.

But I was able to do this because I spoke the language of music and could use tons of targeted resources to fill in my gaps. I mean, stuff like Youtube is cool and all, but it's scattershot as hell. When you have a specific problem, it's almost impossible look up and solve your problem.

It's like Googling "How do I spell Dora Milaje" if you can't spell it in the first place. Granted, there are other ways to get there ("WTF are they saying in Black Panther?!"), but with music it can actually be pretty hard to specifically target those issues without a fundamental grasp of certain things. You can flounder around all day trying to solve very specific problem that would be easy to fix if you just had the tools to discuss and understand your question.

I see this sometimes on /r/musictheory where someone literally can't even put their question into word because they don't even know how to ask and have trouble explaining it even with everyone desperately trying to help translate.

When I was once very interested in composition, I remember being so frustrated that I couldn't replicate what I heard in my head on any instrument. I just didn't know what my head was hearing. These days, I could pluck a harmony and melody out of my head very quickly... in some cases without even consulting an instrument. I know what I'm hearing, but that's because I have a language to describe it. If you want to get there, you really need the language.

That doesn't mean you need to spend endless time practicing classical music that doesn't appeal to you, but book like the Alfred Adult All-in-One do hold a ton of the absolute fundamental concepts that will apply to the pop music you might be interested in. There's huge amount of emphasis on I, V, and V chord progressions.

Contemporary Music Theory is a great resource for learning more about how the type of music you're likely into is put together and figuring out how musical patterns and relationships work, though it is a bit less of a work book for practicing and more of a pure theory book that you would have to find a way to make into practical stuff on your own. It's my absolute go-to theory book for pretty much anyone because it's vastly more relevant than the common practice period focused college theory texts or even most popular online theory resources.

I want to be able to listen to what a guy is going in a song and be able to come close to replicating it or at least use it as a source of inspiration in my own playing.

The Pop Piano Book would do a ton to move you closer to to this goal, but it's probably well beyond you at this point. Realistically it's just a great example of why you need to be able to read music... so you can use incredible resources like this one.

'There are no stupid questions' thread - February 19, 2019 [R]

6 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Feb. 19, 2019

Please use this thread to ask ANY piano-related questions you may have!

Upvoting is a good way of keeping this thread active and on the front page longer.

Note: This is an automated post. The next scheduled post is Thu, March 07, 2019. Previous discussions here.

6 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Feb. 19, 2019

Oh, there is. You can absolutely learn to do on piano what you do on guitar. But it's just much more demanding.

I frequently recommend this book. It's pretty dense with theory to start and a lot of technical pre-requisites, but it does get into comping patterns. It's not aimed at the melodic style improv that many people think of it, but it totally is aimed at learning how to comp (much the way you would strum a guitar) in a lots of different styles.

How would you teach Gospel and soul piano? [R]

6 months, 1 week agook_reset posted submission on musictheory.
Feb. 12, 2019

What progressions, scales, licks, bass, rhythms, modulations? Any cliches? It’s hard to get the bigger picture, I hope someone can help me how to structure the learning process and what to focus on/ listen to

6 months, 1 week agook_reset posted comment on musictheory.
Feb. 12, 2019

Mark Harrison's book, although pretty old at this point, has a really great breakdown of classic gospel patterns. The last 200 pages are devoted to gospel styles.

Second, learn hymns and gospel standards. Look up "shout music": that's one of the most exciting patterns, but extremely simple and flexible.

Third, there are a million youtube videos of gospel tutorials: this guy is one of the best. Very clear explanations and demonstrations.

Piano Teacher for an expirienced pianist [R]

7 months, 2 weeks agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Jan. 7, 2019

Hey, so first off, I couldn't find much in the FAQ about this so I decided to ask you guys:

So basically about me, I'm 19 and was taking classical piano lessons from 5-18 years. The last year I've been teaching myself less classic related skills such as playing by ear, learning different scales, chords, chordprogressions and left hand patterns. What I want to play is for example: Interesting sounding songs by ear, interesting sounding improvisation and to have a generally wide arsenal of skills, knowledge and twists in my "free" play.

But for the last few months I've been unsatisfied with my progress by self-teaching and I think that I would definitely be faster with a teacher. Someone who can teach me stuff about usefull chords, chord-changes, key-changes, left-hand-patterns and all the good stuff.

Now to my question: What would you call a teacher like this and how can I find them? For the record, I don't have jazz-teachers in mind and I'm looking for something more comprehensive than plain blues-lessons.

Thanks for any answers!

7 months, 2 weeks agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Jan. 7, 2019

I don't have jazz-teachers in mind and I'm looking for something more comprehensive than plain blues-lessons.

This sounds like a real misunderstanding of scope. I would say that jazz is the superset of theory understanding. That meaning, if you understand jazz theory at a high level, everything else is basically a simpler subset of those ideas.

Equating jazz to blues is like equating the harmonic vocabulary of Debussy or Wagnerwith the most childish 3-4 chord Mozart stuff.

Blues is basically 3 chords... the same 3 chords... as in... 3 dom7 chords. I mean, there's more to it than that, but it really is the simplest subset of music you might put under the "jazz" umbrella.

Part of me would definitely recommend you find a jazz teacher and hopefully one who plays actively. That said, high level jazz musicians often run into the same problem as high level classical musicians in that they are completely out of touch with what is hard and what's easy because they've been doing it for so long and have trouble building a student of from scratch. Experienced jazz teachers have likely had enough classical crossover students to get better at this, but I do run into a lot of experienced jazzers who get way too high concept.

It's easy to tell someone to play like they are singing, or to "just feel it" or to "Play the sound of a rainbow"... but that's an issue of using ideas that work on their level in trying to teach someone who just needs to know the building blocks.

It might be really hard for you to find someone who is a good fit. You might specifically want to look for someone who is playing in more pop styles. Unfortunately, in my experience, those who have a largely pop background (where the theory is often less dense) can have poor understanding of specific music fundamentals and some of them may have no formal training at all.

Finding that perfect Venn diagram is difficult.

I will throw some resources at you though while you hunt.

The Pop Piano Book - This will help with most of the very specific things you listed. It starts with a pretty long, but cursory (in scope) theory primer with some practical exercises and applications that you need to have down. Then it moves into sections that cover comping in different styles with the theory behind what's happening and why thoroughly explained. I'd recommend working straight through it or at least running it down as a survey first before jumping deeply into whichever specific area you want to tackle. The specific concepts actually build on one another and it's laid out such that common elements from one particular style come up again in styles that appear later in the book.

You ear will get a lot better when you actually know what you're listening for through theory. Take this as an example. If I showed you a picture and said "there's an animal in there... can you spot it?" You might be able to. But if I said, there's a dog in the picture, you'd spot it faster. If I told you there was a Dachshund specifically, you'd be able to find it even faster. You have a frame of reference for a dog and a Dachshund so the pattern matching software in your brain works more efficiently.

This happens with theory too. Understanding concepts like backcylcing static chords, or #5s on turnarounds gives you that frame of reference and when you have it... those sounds will stick out to you like the Dachshund in the picture. Your ear is incredibly aided by having a good understanding of theory.

And increasing understanding of functional harmony can help you with making your "free" play sound better. So instead of noodling just on the I, IV, and V chord, maybe you realize places you can throw in a secondary dominant. Maybe you'll understand how to use tritone substitution to create fun chromatic motion. Maybe you'll understand some common pieces of modal mixture that can make something sound suddenly epic (hint bVI-bVII-I). All of these ideas can help you also move seamlessly between keys. A better understanding of jazz harmony will increase the density of the sound where you need it and it also means there are more common tones to use so that you have much more melodic and harmonic freedom to move around.

I'd also recommend this series of theory books. They start off simple enough that if you had zero theory background, you'd be fine. But also (and almost more importantly) if you have a classical theory background, they will help you reframe it into a much more useful theory vocabulary that most contemporary and working musicians use. Unfortunately, a lot of the common practice period theory stuff is... kinda bad. It builds walls around how you think of many theory concepts. I had to actively unlearn a lot of it to start to really understand the larger scope of theory as it's used in pretty much all music not just in the last century of popular music... but seriously, CPP theory pretends theory stopped a couple of hundred years ago and lacks the terminology to really even talk about it.

It's like trying to explain algebra without using letters. At some point you just can't.

Struggling with accompaniment [R]

1 year, 1 month agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
June 23, 2018

So I'm a 19 year old pianist who has been playing for 11 years or so, though I didn't start working hard until a few years back. Nevertheless I'm slowly starting on ARCT level repertoire, but I'm also a singer, and with how much I've focused on solo piano, I often don't know what to do when I want to accompany myself singing, so I usually just end up playing block chords in the right hand and octaved bass notes in the left to a simple rhythm, which kinda works fine most of the time but it gets boring and I kinda want to step up my game in that regard.

Examples of the kind of accompaniment I would ideally want to be able to do include:

(yes there's a lot of Sam Tsui there, haha)

1 year, 1 month agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
June 23, 2018

Grab this book. Not only will it help you learn to comp in many styles, but if you pay attention to the theory stuff that it really tries to force you to grasp, you'll mostly be able to pick up on almost any other comping style by just understanding what's happening.

'There are no stupid questions' thread - June 08, 2018 [R]

1 year, 2 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
June 8, 2018

Please use this thread to ask ANY piano-related questions you may have!

Upvoting is a good way of keeping this thread active and on the front page longer.

Note: This is an automated post. The next scheduled post is Sun, June 24, 2018. Previous discussions here.

1 year, 2 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
June 19, 2018

The Pop Piano Book will help you a lot with comping in different styles.

How would you describe this style of piano playing? How can I learn to play like this? [R]

1 year, 3 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
April 24, 2018

The pianist is Leon Huff. I don't think he's classically trained but definitely self-taught. He's known as a songwriter from the Sound of Philadelphia in the 60's and 70's. He's produced hits like "Love Train" by the O'Jays, "Me and Mrs. Jones" by Billy Paul and "If You Don't Know Me By Now" by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes.

I want to learn his style of piano playing. I have some songs listed below. If you can listen to the piano parts in these songs that have been accompanied by him, I would appreciate some feedback on how I can learn this style of piano playing for myself. Thank you.

Touch Me In The Morning by MFSB (1973)

The Whole Town's Talking by Billy Paul (1973)

Back Stabbers by The O'Jays (1972)

T.S.O.P. (The Sound of Philadelphia) by MFSB (1973)

If You Don't Know Me By Now by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass (1972)

Love Is The Message by MFSB (1973)

1 year, 3 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
April 24, 2018

Well, this depends a lot on where you are right now and if you have any background in piano or music at all currently. I'm gonna go finish my cooking a meal and I'll jump into the longer explanation, but knowing where you're at will let me give you better suggestions.


Okay, so I'd probably call this some sort of R&B, but that's messy. The thing to understand about musical styles is that the definitions get really wonky. "Classical" means almost nothing specific. It could mean Baroque, Romantic, 12-tone... all very different sounding things. Jazz could many anything from Dixieland to Bebop to strange fusion and free jazz stuff. Pop could be anywhere from country, to metal, to hip hop. Of all of the pop sub-genres, I'd say R&B is the one I find the hardest to nail down in that it retains so little of the same DNA from iteration to iteration over history. If I listen to country from 1920 and 2018, I can see similarities, but if you listen to early R&B and compare it to modern R&B, they don't even sound the same, nor does stuff like this that sat firmly in the middle, but most people still broadly refer to it as R&B.

I'm sure someone could give you a slightly more nailed down sub-sub-sub-genre, but I'm not sure if that's ultimately what you're after.


Alright, so if you have no background, you're about to be lost, but I can say that most of this stuff shares some pretty common ideas. A huge thing in this particular music and in almost everything you linked is use of a lot of 7th chords and often, parallel 7ths. The IMaj7-IVMaj7 groove is present in several of the tracks. For the minor stuff, Im7-IVm7 also happens a lot. There are also some thing like IVMaj7-VMaj7 (which is sort of an odd move since the V isn't dominant here, but it's common vamp in this era before bouncing to IMaj7).

Probably the biggest hallmark of this stuff is the V11 chord... or at least that's what it seems most R&B people call it, though it's more technically a V9sus4 or V7sus4. It's just easier to think of in slash notation as IV/V or IVMaj7/V (for those confused, I'm not writing secondary functions, just using an alternative Roman numeral notation for these structures).... in the key of C that would be F/G or FMaj7/G.


Okay, still haven't heard back so I'll carry on. The way to get good at these styles is to be able to listen to them and emulate them by hearing the sorts of patterns that I mentioned above. Understanding theory will help infinitely in knowing how to listen rather than just blindly (deafly?) guessing by ear. It's easier to put puzzle together if you're looking at the picture on the box and the pieces are all right side up. Blindly transcribing without theory is like doing it with the cardboard side facing up on each piece.

The book I always recommend for this is The Pop Piano Book. It's got great bang for your buck, covers lots of styles, and explains the theory that goes with them so you understand how and why things work. Even if it covers some styles you might not be interested in, they are worth looking over because it's amazing how much very disparate styles tend to actually borrow from one another when you break them down theorywise.


You still haven't popped back in. If you have no background in piano or music, you're just not going to be able to jump in at this level. Don't be mislead by the idea that this particular pianist may have been self-taught. That doesn't means it's the best way, nor does it mean that his results were typical. People always tend to use extreme outliers as a model and excuse for why they think they can self-teach or why they think they can start in their 20s and become a world famous classical concert pianist, or why they think they can make a living in music.

Don't be that guy. If you don't have any background, you'll really need a teacher. If that's absolutely out of the question for you, there are other resources to get started, but realize that you're not going to necessarily even be starting to work on music like this for at least a year or two. At the very least you'll have to develop some technical facility and grow some basic theory knowledge before jumping into slight denser theory topics and slightly more technically demanding comping ideas behind this type of music.

If you pop back up, I might make some suggestions for how to start.

Where to start for someone who is new to piano but not music? [R]

1 year, 4 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
April 13, 2018

I've been playing a variety of string instruments for most of my life (violin, guitar, bass, etc.), I have a good command of treble and bass clef, perfect pitch, and a solid understanding of theory. My ultimate goal is to be good enough at piano to play basic jazz, work out arrangements, and eventually, sight-read simple things.

I know that I need a good scale and etude system since I don't know the first thing about fingerings, but I don't know where to start. I would prefer to do it this way rather than by learning specific pieces since I have limited time and ambition, and I don't have the structure in my life for a teacher at the moment.. I'm not looking to become a concert pianist, but more of a well rounded musician who could play interesting chords and basic melodic lines without much trouble.

Tldr; I want to be able to play keyboards decently in a variety of styles and I'm looking for a comprehensive, straightforward method that will help me achieve that goal without wasting too much time on the things I already know. Thanks

1 year, 4 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
April 13, 2018

Here's an inception style link to a post with a link to another post where I made recommendations for people more or less in your position.

While you may be been to aim purely at the technical mastery, I'd highly encourage you to work through the sightreading book and method book. Reading better will open up a lot more resources to you a lot more quickly. And putting some of your ideas in context of reading simple stuff will be great.

I definitely don't think you should play big pieces (a mistake too many pianists make at the cost of efficient technical improvement), but playing lots of small stuff out of simple method books will help a ton as it will highlight very specific technical hurdles you need to overcome, but without having and overwhelming amount of different problems going on (hard rhythms with big chords with crazy fast scale runs for example).

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Given your longer term goals, I'l throw in some other resources I think will be useful to you... much later. Definitely start with the scale/arpeggio book, method book, and sightreading book, but you might start dabbling in some of these others.

The Pop Piano Book is my go-to recommendation for people wanting to learn in lots of styles. It's explained not just with examples, but theory explanations of why things work, which will make you much more adaptable. I would start here before any other style book.

I'd also recommend the Keyboard Style Series of books from Hal Leonard for any particular style you want to get deeper in. For jazz, I'd absolutely recommend Intro to Jazz Piano from this series.

Make sure you work through that book BEFORE you take anyone's recommendation for The Jazz Piano Book. Great book, not for beginners to jazz (and especially not straight up beginners)... not to be worked through without guidance.

I'd also highly recommend Patterns for Jazz. While you won't be ready to play through this on piano, get it now and work through it on your other instruments. So much of jazz is mentally understanding the language. Being able to do what it asks on your other instruments (stuff like outlining different chord types while quickly jumping between keys) is absolutely essential and the mental side of that will translate to piano.

In the meantime, you'll get much better at playing your other instruments from a technical perspective. Kill all the birds with one stone. You might find different approaches to the exercises work better for different instruments. For example, it's easy to spell an arpeggio from different key roots on guitar (with moveable and barre shapes), but forcing yourself to spell them from the 6th, 5th, 4th, and even 3rd string (where applicable) will make you know your neck a lot better.

Help with chord changes to jam [R]

1 year, 4 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
April 2, 2018

Studio Jams has a really funky version of Yakety Sax, and I’m trying to recreate the funk at home. I’m trying to get the changes down, but need some help/feedback. It seems like it goes

Bb | % | % | F | Bb Ddim | Eb Ebdim7 | Bb—-

and I’m not quite sure what happens at the end. Does what I’ve got seem right? How does the rest go? And maybe someone could (functionally) explain the diminished chord in I-V-I-iiidim-IV?

1 year, 4 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
April 3, 2018

There are tons.

I think The Pop Piano Book is a particularly good starting place. Even if you're already pretty knowledgeable, this will probably fill in a lot of gaps. The preface is a lot of theory and technical pre-req stuff that if you don't know... you should.

Then the book has lots of sections for different styles. While it might be tempting to jump around to the different styles you like, I'd actually recommend at least giving it a survey run in order because the author basically is laying out techniques that makes a particular style sound like itself, but if you go through in order, you'll actually find that he's adding techniques cumulatively and you'll probably be amazed at just how much everything uses the same ideas as everything else with just a few tweaks.

It's basically a book of comping patterns in different styles, but with each having a pretty detailed theoretical analysis. Knowing why something works makes it easier to pick out patterns in tons of different styles of music, particularly when they are all borrowing from each other.

Intros, Endings & Turnarounds is another great book. It will assume a lot of knowledge and expect a lot from you in terms of jazz theory and doesn't go into nearly as much detail, but it basically has tons of examples using very common progressions with them clearly laid out in a shorthand that I think is brilliant for adapting Roman numerals to a more complex jazz language.

Using that shorthand to mentally chunk ideas together and practice them in every key makes this stuff a lot easier and practicing them like that will not only make you better at it technically, but it will make you have to think better in each key and think more in harmonic relationships which is super useful. Additionally, as a result of the repetition of running it through multiple keys and thinking of those relationships, your ears will get absolutely saturated with it and it will tend to stick very well so that it's much easier to pick out these commonly repeated ideas in music and to improvise them pretty easily on your own.

I'd also look for other books by those authors. They are both fantastic at their theory driven approach.

I want to transition from classical piano to pop music. What are your advice? [R]

1 year, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Jan. 18, 2018

Hi, I have been classically trained in piano for some 8 years. I have basic knowledge on music theories such as scale, key and chord. I now really want to learn to play some pop stuff like comping or improvising. From classical lesson I can play pieces from Beethoven or Chopin or anything that I can read and play, but with pop music I find it hard to make just chords from lead sheet sound not boring so I am asking you for advice as to what I should practice or learn in order to be better at pop piano.

Also, I have tried to practice on my own from watching Youtube videos on the topic, but when I search for stuff like comping I found that most of the video are about jazz or blue. I want to know whether jazz blue and pop piano are similar things? (Can I learn to play pop from those jazz tutorial vids?) Also, from watching Youtube vids I've found Bill Hilton's channel which I learn stuff like voice leading or some basic comping pattern. I think his vids are good and I'm now considering buying his book "How to really play the piano?". What are your advice on this? Will this book be a good start or you would like to suggest other books?


1 year, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Jan. 18, 2018

While I have mixed feelings on Bill's book, a lot of people have said they found it useful and so I'll chalk that up to me maybe being a tad out of touch.

If you really don't have a lot of experience playing in pop styles, his book may make a good primer for you. It covers a good range of things, but for me personally, it doesn't go deep enough. That said for you, it may show you a good number of possibilities you hadn't considered.

I really like Bill's channel and I feel like he puts out so much great content for free, buying his book almost feels like tossing some money in the tip jar if nothing else to keep supporting such a great guy.

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That said, my recommendation is always The Pop Piano Book. A huge portion at the beginning is just practical theory knowledge for playing in pop styles, understanding the reading of charts, understanding extensions, some exercises to help you really get more comfortable inside of keys to know how to use them.

Then it just goes on to cover tons of different styles. It's actually laid out progressively and I'd say it's worth covering chapters on styles that you aren't even particularly interested in even if you're giving them a bit of a run-through survey. His choice of style orders shows you how much different styles basically use the same concepts in slightly different ways and the styles that incorporate the most concepts are toward the back.

This book is a comping book. Each style chapters starts with rhythmic elements isolated and then moves on to comping patterns and harmonic ideas. Each pattern is explained theorywise so you understand why and what you're doing so that that knowledge will transfer to broader use.

Mark Harrison also has a ton of other great books. He authors several in this series. I highly recommend picking up books in that series after The Pop Piano Book if you want a deeper dive in a particular style. The ones by Mark Harrison and John Valerio are particularly fantastic just because they are great at teaching through books (John Valerio's other stuff is amazing if you want to get deeper into jazz). That said, most of them are pretty solid, I'm just biased toward the style of those particular authors.

I think the most useful thing about The Pop Piano Book is that through the theory knowledge you gain, and through seeing how it's used in real examples you're playing, you'll learn how to listen to other music. So when you want to comp closer to the particular style of anything, even things not covered in the book, you'll probably understand the elements of how things are put together and be able to copy them quickly, or just steal licks.

How does a pianist's repetoire differ from a keyboardist's? [R]

1 year, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Dec. 19, 2017

I am primarily a keyboardist with an ambition to play a variety of music, which I'd say mainly consists of rock, pop and jazz (fusion). It seems like the vast majority of people on this sub are classical pianists. I visit here often so I don't miss out on the skills and knowledge gained from playing and reading about classical piano, but it's left me a bit clueless about what I should practise to perform the best in the genres I mentioned. I'd appreciate any advice or insight about how to overcome this obstacle!

One issue in particular is the lack of learning materials for keyboardists in comparison to pianists. Classical music is almost always recorded via sheet music, but if I want to learn a keyboard part from some rock or jazz song, it seems like learning the part by ear is always required.

I'd also be thankful for any recommendations for keyboardist-central forums!

1 year, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Dec. 19, 2017

>One issue in particular is the lack of learning materials for keyboardists in comparison to pianists.

You might want to start here and then add to your skills in specific styles by grabbing some of these.

There are a huge amount of resources for playing in contemporary styles. They aren't teaching you songs, but rather how to understand what's happening in those styles and how the theory works so that you know what to listen for and how to reproduce patterns that give those styles their sound.

Literature on accompanying on the Piano [R]

1 year, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Dec. 5, 2017

Hello there! I am studying music to become a teacher and right now I'm taking classes for accompanying on the piano (for singing, mainly pop etc.). I learn the most important structures for accompanying the most important genres, but the piano is not my main instrument (started to play for the entry exam at my university) so everything besides the main structures is quite hard for me to learn just by getting it shown, so here's my question: Does anyone might know some good literature on all those styles and litte things you can improvise while accompanying? I would really like to professionalize my playing and I think a good book would help me a lot. Thanks for your help!

1 year, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Dec. 5, 2017

I think you're looking for this.

It's pretty much a big book of comping patterns for various styles. There's a huge preamble of theory and preparatory technical stuff. Even if these aren't styles you specifically want to comp for, they are honestly worth learning as they are sort of the baseline most other styles.

At the very least, you'll likely get good at knowing how to listen and copy ideas from music you're trying to emulate, which is super important for pop comping (essentially reducing the drums, bass, and harmony into a piano part).

Best pop piano chord book—how to. Book thing. Oh dam. [R]

1 year, 8 months agozak33d posted submission on piano.
Nov. 30, 2017


Hope all is well. So I’ve been playing the piano for a few years with a teacher—anyways.

I’m looking for a book that would help teach me how to play pop books (Disney, etc). I’ve found a few on amazon but reading the reviews never help. Does anyone here know, use, or reccomend a book that would help me learn how to play a pop song.

I know it’s more about learning left hand chords etc. I think.

Thank you for reading and thank you for your help.

1 year, 8 months agozak33d posted comment on piano.
Dec. 1, 2017

someone recommended this recently in a similar thread, supposedly a very good choice (personally dont know it tho)

Can someone point me out goods books or other resources that focus on vamps, walking bass lines and basically all types of patterns for the Left Hand? thanks 🖖 [R]

1 year, 9 months agoNov. 10, 2017


1 year, 9 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Nov. 10, 2017

The Pop Piano Book has a good mix of stuff from various styles. I'd say it's more of a two handed comping book, but so much of the content will leave you with lots of ideas for the left hand alone.

Playing Keyboard Basslines is the definitive book on walking bass for piano. This a purely left hand book and a pretty damned exhaustive covering of the topic. This is definitely a jazz aimed thing though, so if you're expecting funkier or poppier stuff stick with The Pop Piano Book.

The author's of the above two books (Mark Harrison and John Valerio respectively) are fantastic resources period, so you might want to browse their catalogues for other great stuff.

Complete Book of Improvisation, Fills, & Chord Progressions is one I found by chance at a used book store and holy shit was it a surprise! This has a lot of material dedicated to left hand stuff as well as some fun fills (as the title would imply). This book is definitely a bit more diatonic focused. To me it feels like it's aimed a church musicians who want to add flourish to pre-existing music and many of the ideas remind me a lot of the type of things I see prelude/postlude arrangements.

None of that's a bad thing. While not everything in the book is solid gold (unlike the above two), I honestly think what is does have is absolutely invaluable and honestly fairly unique in terms of materials I've stumbled across (which is a lot). I'd still highly recommend it, particularly if your emphasis is less on jazz or or more harmonically exploratory music.

Peace and long life. 🖖

Learning pieces faster and dealing with anxiety? [R]

1 year, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Oct. 15, 2017

I’ll try to keep this backstory as short as I can.

Recently, a friend of mine asked me if I’d be willing to play at retirement homes with him. I agreed, as these places are usually fairly low-pressure and easygoing, the elderly are nice to be around, and I would earn some volunteer hours from it.

I’ve been playing “classical” piano for around ten years and am practicing for RCM level 10. I thought I’d be fine just going there and playing some Beethoven or Chopin. However, actually going there made it blatant that playing a lot pop/feel-good music there would fit much better than laying out one enormous sonata. My friend (who’s pretty much on the same level) has a vast repertoire of such songs.

On the other hand, my repertoire was two songs, as my pieces tend to revolve around syllabus, so I started learning. I’ve been wanting to learn some OSTs/weeb music anyway. But I have no idea how he can pick it up so fast— I’ve been working on one easy song for over a week (1-2 hrs per day on this ONE SONG) and can only play it at 50% speed while riddled with mistakes. My time slot is half an hour, people. What am I supposed to do? Play the same two ABBA songs and my one terrible mess of a song over and over again?

This has only worsened my anxiety (in case you couldn’t tell lmao). I just got back and my hands are still shaking after having to sit there, fumbling in front of a lot of people for half an hour. Even playing my familiar pieces didn’t alleviate the shaking or fear at all, and they ended up turning out terrible as well. They aren’t even judgmental (they’re actually quite nice) so I have no idea where this is coming from.

TL;DR: I don’t know any music appropriate to perform in a retirement home setting, my learning speed is painfully slow, and I’m extremely anxious about it for no reason.

So I guess my questions are: how do you learn quickly and efficiently in a different genre? And how do you deal with extreme nerves on this level?

Thanks for reading this. Any advice or words of wisdom would be greatly appreciated.

1 year, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Oct. 16, 2017

> I’m guessing it was either sight reading the wrong way or the wrong material.

I doubt it's the wrong way, more about the material. It's something so many overlook. I work with too many people who are absolute beasts at reading stuff in their wheelhouse, but you but something they are less comfortable with in front of them, they crumble.

With pop music, it's usually the rhythms. Just so many complicated syncopations, odd groupings of 16ths and strange composite rhythms. When it starts getting into jazzier stuff, it ends up being lots of chords they just aren't used to wrapping their hands around. And so much of reading even melodic content is being able to quickly chunk it together harmonically and put your hands in those shapes, but if you're not used to those shapes, you stumble, then loose your place. This stuff is also a lot more likely to have non-diatonic elements.

This all trickles down into learning new music. It includes lots of unfamiliar elements to many with a mostly classical background.

I'd recommend browsing used book stores for songbook collections. Some of the Best Ever and Decade series by Hal Leonard are good collections that occasionally pop up, you can just buy those if you like (cheaper on Amazon). Start learning some stuff and if you're already comfortable with reading, you'll eventually get better at reading as you get more familiar with certain elements of the styles.

I'd also recommend The Pop Piano Book. This will take a lot of time to work through, but you'll come out with a much better command of theory and hopefully know how to apply the skills to comping and realizing stuff in lead sheets.

'There are no stupid questions' thread - September 25, 2017 [R]

1 year, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Sept. 25, 2017

Please use this thread to ask ANY piano-related questions you may have!

Upvoting is a good way of keeping this thread active and on the front page longer.

Note: This is an automated post. The next scheduled post is Wed, October 11, 2017. Previous discussions here.

1 year, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Oct. 9, 2017

I recommend The Pop Piano Book. It will help you with the theory you need to understand and then goes through several styles. Optimally, by the time you're done with the book, you'll know how to comp in many different styles and you'll know what to listen for to copy styles that aren't explicitly covered.

Thinking differently about piano [R]

1 year, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Oct. 5, 2017

I've been playing piano since I was a kid. I haven't had a teacher for well over ten years, but I did for my first 6 years or so. Nowadays, I generally just pick a piece I like and learn it, memorizing as I go.

In college, I taught myself guitar. I was able to pick it up very quickly. I started strumming chords and singing, soon graduated to learning licks and playing scales. Within about 4 or 5 months, I was comfortably able to solo/improvise, with an intuitive understanding of chord structure and following the harmonic ideas of a song.

I'm not able to do that at all with piano. I can't just sit down and play what comes to mind like I can with guitar. And plenty does come to mind. I compose classically and have written some pieces I'm very proud of. My issue is that it's always a very belabored process translating from my head to the keys, and I lose so many of my ideas as I'm trying to work them out.

So at the root of this issue - I think very differently about piano and guitar, and I would like to bring some of that guitar thinking to piano, but I don't really know how to do that. Are there resources out there that can help with this? Even just a few keywords I can use to search Google/YouTube with would be helpful.

Thank you!

1 year, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted comment on piano.
Oct. 6, 2017

Why guitar lends itself to this

For a guitar you only need to know the shape of a chord. And as a beginner, you probably only learn one shape. You probably know cowboy chords (not hatin' just sayin'). The thing is, on guitar, you don't need to know how to spell these chords and due to the layout of guitar, you don't need to really know how to voice them either because the guitar takes care of that pretty well naturally.

It's also pretty easy to improvise in box shapes, particularly with a two-note-per-string pentatonic shape.

On piano, you need to know how to spell chords and how to voice them. To improvise with that same pentatonic idea, you need much more technical ability to sound fluid. On piano, pentatonics are harder than majors. It's the opposite on guitar. Since pentatonics are easier to solo with, and they are easier on guitar, it's just easier to solo (very basically) on guitar.

Now, if you're actually good at moveable chords and not just open position chords, you know it's still easier. You learn progressions, but most of them are similar... and once you've learned a moveable chord or progression in one key, you practically have learned it in every key.

I also find that guitar (and accordion) has an interesting relationship between the ear and the physicality. Because certain progression are frequently the same with a distinct physical feel, you actually start to associate that sound with those physical motion. So if you're an open chord guy, a I-IV-V progression will most likely be G-C-D. You've tied your ear to a single motion and it really gets embedded in a way that makes your ear work better (the same often happens for ear-only pianists who learn to only play in one or two keys).

And like I said, even if you did that as moveable shapes you're probably still following the same motion (I with root on 6, IV with root on 5, V with root 5 up two frets).

Making this happen on piano

Now, part of the problem is that you don't have this locked in system for piano. You can play even 3 simple chords a dozen different ways and then multiple it by all the keys you have to learn it in. Of course, if you actually spend a ton of time working in every key, you'll find that they don't feel that different, but initially it's rough for most.

You also have the problem that "strumming" the piano is much harder. For the guitar, there is a hand dedicated to rhythm and the other to chords. But on piano, both hands take part in voicing the chord and both hands are involved in maintaining rhythmic interest.

I've gotten good over time at emulating a lot of very common strum patterns on guitar just by listening and learning to break it between my hands. I try to explain it a bit in this video where I was responding to a specific reddit question about a specific song.

You can probably take some of those ideas and make them work for you.

But that's not going to make you sound very pianist and is honestly a terrible way to take a very non-pianist instrument and try to directly replicate it on piano. Instead, you should learn lots of comping patterns in various styles that are idiomatic to the piano.

I highly, highly recommend this book for your case in particular. I'd also recommend this book as well. The first book definitely goes over some basic theory ideas and some technical pre-reqs early on, but I think you might be better served also working on some theory explicitly out of the second book. This is especially true if you have only a classical theory background.

The Pop Piano book (after its preamble) basically goes through a lot of style and shows lots of comping patterns in those styles.

Now, rather than just physically memorizing them the way you probably mostly learned guitar, you need to actually understand and internalize what's happening theory wise that makes them tick. Practice them in many keys. You can start applying a lot of those ideas to lead sheets and fake books. But also, you'll find that your newfound awareness of what's happening in music will make it much easier for you to hear and pick out what other pianists are doing and emulate their ideas.

Question about starting piano [R]

1 year, 10 months agoPianourquiza posted submission on piano.
Oct. 4, 2017

Is it effective to learn piano by first just learning and practicing chords? I don't have a lot of time right now to devote to learning, but I am sure I could practice a few cords a couple times a week.

I saw you all have a pretty intensive guide on how to practice, would I be better off just reading that before I jump into actually playing any chords?

1 year, 10 months agoPianourquiza posted comment on piano.
Oct. 4, 2017

Try something like the Pop Piano Book by Harrison.

Two Handed Keyboard Grooves? [R]

1 year, 11 months agoSept. 21, 2017

Can anyone recommend a book that focuses on two handed keyboard grooves? Grooves where the left hand is doing a bassline and the right hand is doing chord stabs or riffs. And vice versa I suppose. Bluesy stuff. Funk. Soul. When I say grooves, I mean repeated patterns that are either static or go around a progression and make you wanna move ye'r butt. And as opposed to full on songs where things might be constantly changing. An ideal book would be progressive (easier stuff up front) and start pretty basic (I'm a beginner on the keyboard, but fairly musical on guitar/bass).

1 year, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Sept. 21, 2017

The Pop Piano Book definitely comes to mind. It's probably a bit technically advanced for you, but it does start a bit easier and get harder.

Why do we want chords to be closer together for the left and right hand? [R]

2 years agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Aug. 4, 2017

So, I've taken some classes and have gotten some tips from people, that you should try having chords (left and right hand) playing different inversions of each respective chord so they're close as possible. For example, when improvising. I understand the usage because it makes a piece sound more coherent, with less variation. So a bit more stable. This might be very convenient for certain sections of your piece that you want to sound more solid.

However, there are also many pieces that the left hand is off doing it's own thing in several octaves or is just distant from the right hand, and what not. And personally, I think I like that style a bit more. But it's looked down upon? Because the clarity of chord progressions suffers when it's like that?

Can someone expand on that? Why in improvisation do we want the hear the chords closer together, but a composed piece has more freedom of movement?

2 years agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Aug. 5, 2017

>And when I mean audiation, I also mean my brain-fingers translation. So I play the wrong note. For example, if the melody requires a minor third, I would mistakenly play a major second interval. I'm not sure, if this is a hearing problem on my end, of if my fingers just automatically wants to go down a second.

So is the audiation correct in your head and you just translate wrong? This could be any number of things. Either an ear-training uncertainty or a technical uncertainty, or likely both combined to create a problem. Now, if you feel confident-ish but when you push the key you realize it's wrong, that's a bigger problem mostly with ear stuff.

For a lot of stuff, just having a better grasp of the theory will bridge the gap. If you're about to move to a Dm7 chord and you know the note is in the chord, you've just narrowed it down by process of elimination. If your audiation is decent, it's unlikely you'll be off by a full 3rd, so you've very likely to find your note by theory. You'll just get better over time hearing things as chord tones or as non-chord tones and that will greatly improve how much you are able to play whatever you hear in your head either when freely improvising, or playing a known tune.

For free-improv noodling, the mistakes isn't that big of a deal. Like you said, you can just move to the note you want, but when playing a standard, it can be an issue if it's too frequently. There are too many places where you really need to land on the melody note and no alternative works well.

Maybe it would help you to spend more time just doing free-improv with a fixed chord progression. Try to play what you're hearing as you go, and sort of take note when you're a bit high or low and pay attention to what's happening harmonically and how you play off of it. This will help you a lot at hearing and recognizing specific colors of chord and non-chord tones. It will help you catch some of your weaknesses and work on them and will probably introduce you to some new harmonic ideas by pure happy accident of hitting the wrong thing but it sounding really good anyway.

> In addition, my rhythm doesn't really seem to be improving after a year. It might be I'm playing too fast for my technical ability. And so since I'm improvising, I know I can take my time in playing the next chords.

Haha, you can make this work for you doing drawn out cocktail intros, but yeah, you probably need to get your rhythm in check. I can't tell from what you're saying if it's technical or not. It sounds like it might just be an issue of processing what you intend to play (I assume from a lead sheet or something) fast enough. You can work out the technical side by just doing a lot of exercises through chord progressions in various voicings and inversions to make sure that's not an issue. But you also have to work on the mental part of things.

When you look at a chord (in a chart, not explicit sheet music) you need to immediately know the 3rd and 7th of that chord and have any number of voicing options ready to go. It's very similar to sightreading in way where often a limitation is just show fast you process a chord or collection of notes in an arpeggio or melodic line. If you can't process it fast enough, you can't play it even if you are able to execute it technically.

Though, in my experience, you can remedy a lot of the reading barriers faster than the technical barriers just because there are so many variations (most of them rhythmic, not harmonic).

Anyway... if you get some of that out of the way, I'd highly recommend working with a drum track or metronome. Some of sort of drum track can be great for doing standards or other contemporary styles and feel a bit less clinical than a metronome, but you should definitely work with them.

If you can't execute, slow down. You'll probably find places where you can play easily and those you can't. Focus on the problem areas and don't waste time on the rest. When you fix the problem, start moving the tempo up. Try to get a point where mot of it is equally challenging and just keep moving up gradually, but really make sure you're accurate.

This is all assuming you don't have some deeper underlying rhythmic problems I'm not aware of. I've seen some "rhythm deafness" that I really couldn't figure out how to fix well in others. However, Adam Neely had a video not long ago talking about some interesting things regarding the rhythm deaf that sort of changed my thoughts about how serious of an issue it might be.

Back to your teacher. I'm not saying she's not accomplished. But I know and work with a lot of very accomplished musicians who play very well and know theory very well... within a very tightly closed system. Basically their classical training and execution is great, but their knowledge of broader theory is terrible and often the create problems trying to apply outdated classical concepts to contemporary styles and settings. Heck, /r/musictheory is full of people who have graduate degrees and are amazingly adept at period theory, but so often they trip all over themselves whenever someone brings up contemporary questions. Even very simple jazz chord questions sometimes get laughably misinformed answers over there. There's a disconnect in the language used between the two for one, but also there's just a huge gulf in their knowledge based on what is the general method of teaching college theory.

Unfortunately, she probably has no idea what to do with 7th or 9th chords or even how to spell them. Generally, despite spending years in theory classes and going to school for music, for most people, unless they went to a contemporary centered school (like Berklee) or got a jazz studies degree... they never learn a damned thing about bigger chords, how to read jazz chord symbols, how to voice chords, or any of the theory behind how that harmony works. This is why I get so frustrated that schools waste so much time on parallel/direct 8ves/5ths, augmented 6th chords, and other crap that virtually never is of real world value, even in teaching (which is what most people do with a music degree).

I was talking to my wife (another musician) about your thread and as soon as I said that parallel 5ths were mentioned she was like, "Did you tell him to find another teacher?" She had the same facepalm that I did about how relatively irrelevant that concept even is to playing piano. Both of us were classically trained, but have since gigged a lot both on the classical side of things, but also on the jazz and contemporary side and have had to learn what we should've learned in our classes after the fact in the real world. We're surrounded by classically trained people who don't speak the language, don't realize it's an issue, and even think they are superior for not lowering themselves to that stuff because the think it's below them. We were both good students who thought what we were learning in college was super important, useful, and the gospel truth and have since realized how misguided for reasons based on the self-insulating culture of academic music.

I just fear based on your interests you piano teacher might just no have that skill set. She might be an amazing performer and teacher of classical music, but just really not know how to help you here. I know and work with tons of teachers just like her.

Anyway, I understand it might not be a great time to depart and it sounds like you have plenty of other fundamental issues she can help with you and you may honestly just need a few more years of form training to clean some of that up first anyway, but just realize that she might not know all. Just because someone speaks Spanish doesn't mean they also speak German. Jazz/Pop/Contemporary music and classical music and fundamentally different languages. They share a lot in common, but it's unfortunately rare to find someone who understands both.

Either way, I'd highly recommend this book for you to work out of. It spends a lot of time early on covering some of the theory concepts necessary for these styles and then breaks them apart pretty well. There are other resources that will get even deeper into the specific styles you mention, but this is the best bang for you buck getting started and will really help see how similar many pop styles are. And if you're deep in jazz yet, this will probably be a good in between step anyway since digesting ideas of larger harmony (7th and 9h chords in particular) will be a great primer before jumping into deeper jazz concepts.

Going to a pop & rock music school. What should I be practicing on the piano? [R]

2 years agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
July 27, 2017

I have a few years of experience with classical music, but how should I get good at comping in bands or playing solo pop pieces?

2 years agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
July 27, 2017

This book will help you a lot with comping patterns for a lot of styles and some more contemporary theory stuff. That will be the most bang for your buck and where I'd recommend starting.

If you want to look at other specific styles a bit more in detail, check some of these books out.

New Clavia Nord Stage 3 demo - what song is that at 3:00? [R]

2 years, 1 month agoJuly 11, 2017


2 years, 1 month agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
July 11, 2017

It's probably because they are all very standard ideas and licks used in tons of gospel piano music. I mean, you probably heard it in some song you're familiar with it, but there are probably dozens of other gospel tunes or even gospel arrangements of songs that sound very similar.

Chromatic approaches, diatonic walk ups, backcycling fourths, crushed notes. It could literally be used as an introduction to almost any old gospel hymn. It's the same concept as the 4 chord song, just with common gospel licks. Just searching youtube for gospel organ, the first match was someone playing an organ using a ton of the same ideas.

It's the same way any country tune using slip note ends up sounding like "Last Date" or pretty much every other country tune of the era that uses that concept.

If you want to play this style I'd recommend The Pop Piano Book to get started. All of these concepts are covered there.

How do people play a duet with improv? [R]

2 years, 2 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
June 4, 2017

Been getting into piano and I'd like to also play duets with others in the future, but how do they do that? Do they learn pieces together? Is it possible for you/me to make an improv on the spot?

2 years, 2 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
June 4, 2017

If you have a good background reading, this book might be a good place to work from. It does jump in pretty theory heavy and assumes a good bit of theory knowledge, but the early chapters are meant to be a quick review to get you up to speed before jumping in deep.

This book is mostly about how to comp in various styles, but everything is presented with a good emphasis on the theory and understanding why this stuff works. You can apply a ton of that to the sort of improv OP is talking about.

What style of jazz is this and how should I go about learning it? [R]

2 years, 2 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
June 2, 2017
2 years, 2 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
June 2, 2017

A mix of R&B, light funk, and gospel/soul.

This book will get you started with some of the theory and mechanics of a lot of styles, including these.

'There are no stupid questions' thread - May 04, 2017 [R]

2 years, 3 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
May 4, 2017

Please use this thread to ask ANY piano-related questions you may have!

Upvoting is a good way of keeping this thread active and on the front page longer.

Note: This is an automated post. The next scheduled post is Sat, May 20, 2017. Previous discussions here.

2 years, 3 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
May 12, 2017

First off, braces don't stop you from playing trumpet. One of the best players I grew up with only got better after getting his braces on and then even better when getting them off. He was 4 year All-Stater who got them on during his sophomore year. He currently makes a living playing for a military band. They force you to learn to play efficiently without lots of pressure. Use your air, not you chops. Plenty of people navigate playing brass instruments with braces, so don't let that be an excuse.

As for soul, there's nothing unorthodox about piano in soul music, just that most piano education is exclusively classical so most pianist never learn to get comfortable playing without sheet music and understanding contemporary theory well enough to use it freely at the keyboard.

The best place I can recommend starting is with this book. The problem is that you really need to build up a lot of understanding of basic chord theory and the figure out the specifics of the style as you go. While this book covers lots of different styles and you can jump around, you'll learn a lot in terms of concepts by just at least giving it a survey cover to cover. It sort of builds up with gospel being at the end because it's one of the more conceptually involved and uses a lot of things previously discussed in the book.

The R&B section is pretty early on and covers a lot of the basics of what might be used in modern soul. Soul essentially is secular gospel, but tends to incorporate a lot of things anywhere from R&B to smooth jazz. Generally it's going to be a lot of about larger chords. Most of you harmonies are going to be 7th chords and quite often you can upgrade them to 9ths with some 13ths through in (particularly on V chords). Some soul stuff might get crunchier and use more alterations.

Much of that might be beyond what you can grasp now because I don't know where your theory is, but I'd suggest working with that book a bit. Jeff Schneider's Youtube channel has some videos here and there covering some ideas for harmony in R&B/Gospel/Neo-Soul styles so you might check him out the try to fast track, but realistically you'll probably need a pretty good grasp on theory to even follow many of his videos and you'll definitely need it to actually be about to functionally play.

I assume you're being given charts with chord changes on them?

Improv Improvements? [R]

2 years, 3 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
May 3, 2017

Hi there

All ye pianists/keyboardists out there, I was wondering if you have any tips on improving improvisations?

I'm 21 and I have been tinkering about on the piano since early childhood. Learned the usual classical stuff but now I play keyboard in church. I also play a bit of keys in a rock band setting.

Recently I've noticed that my improvs tend to be rather predictable, not only in terms of chord progressions but also general themes and riffs. Is there a way to keep allowing yourself to think out of the box, and not stick to a familiar style?

Advice is much appreciated thanks!

2 years, 3 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
May 3, 2017

When you improvise, you're only playing what you already know... so increase that by learning new licks or styles. Listen to more music in styles you'd like to sound like and maybe transcribe some of those licks if you have the theory background to help you do so. Practice them in every key so that they are just at your finger tips.

It's not necessarily an issue of "plugging them in" though you can do that. It's just adding them to your mental library and when the moment strikes you, you might play them or some variation on them in the moment.

Also, just explore more styles and the theory behind those styles so that you have more tricks in your bag.

I'd recommend The Pop Piano Book as a starting place. It's gonna be more about comping patterns in various styles, but you'll probably be able to pick up a lot good ideas anyway particularly for church and band playing.

While that book is probably the best bang for your buck, if there are other styles that interest you, Hal Leonard's Keyboard Style Series goes a bit more in depth in a lot of different styles (including more emphasis on soloing for many of them depending on the author). At the very least understanding the basics of various styles makes it easier to transcribe licks and steal cool ideas to incorporate into your playing.

I want to play in a casual band - how do I get into this? [R]

2 years, 4 months agoHilomh posted submission on piano.
April 6, 2017

I spent about 10 years getting trained in classical piano after school, but literally have 0 skills playing with other people. Like, I've accompanied people maybe 3-5 times, but with sheet music, and always with the expectation that they'd follow me. And it's been entirely for classical music.

Now I'm a lonely 25 year-old. I wanna make some musical friends that I can jam with, because I know that's a thing people do. The problem is, I don't know what that entails and whether I at all have the skillset for it.

I can't improvise or play by ear very well. I can add chords to a melody but not in a skillful manner (in my opinion).

I've bought a few rock and pop books and have been having fun learning music from them, but that's still sightreading, which I assume isn't the skillset I need to do what I want to do. I'm a fantastic sight-reader but I just don't know whether that's useful when hanging out with other musicians.

What exactly does a keys player in a band do? Are they playing the bass line? Just playing chords rhythmically with one hand? Playing the melody?

I'm afraid of contacting people because I'm afraid I wouldn't be good enough and I don't want to embarrass myself.

Also, what kind of a keyboard would be good for this? I own a Roland FP-80 but it's too heavy for me to lift. This is really a question for down the line.

2 years, 4 months agoHilomh posted on piano.
April 6, 2017

You're right that you shouldn't be contacting people at this stage yet. Fortunately, there are some resources that will help you.

Buy this book ASAP. It will answer your questions and give you answers to questions you haven't even thought of.

Curriculum to start learning the style of playing in the following video? [R]

2 years, 5 months agoMarch 11, 2017

I have the feeling that just learning classical piece after classical piece is not going to cut it to start incorporating the playing styles in this video.

I'm assuming learning chord progressions, scales, etc.

2 years, 5 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
March 12, 2017

Well, I don't know where you're starting from, so it's a bit harder to say. The fundamentals are key and for people starting out, a classical-ish beginning is the way to go. Play and read lots of stuff in a variety of styles and don't get caught in a cycle of just learning one overly difficult piece of classical rep after the next. A lot of that is difficult just because too many teachers take that route and it's in the piano teacher culture, which is quite different from the piano performer culture.

That has a lot to do with where most teachers come from. Most had some formal training from someone who taught the way they are now teaching and they don't know any other way. And when you think about it, most of professors giving instructions in universities about how to become a performer.... are not performers. They come from a long line of teachers who went straight through college to get their doctorates and teach, but didn't spend much time gigging or out experiencing other styles unless you're talking about very specific schools that have a more contemporary bent and are actually aware of what freelancing looks like (Berklee for example).

Anyway, that rant aside, you need to get the basics and then if possible get a jazz teacher. I personally feel like jazz is the master language for this stuff. Once you understand jazz theory, pretty much everything else derives from that and shares ideas from the larger harmonic context found in jazz.

Then it's just an issue of learning it all. The more you learn and branch out stylistically, the more you can know what to listen for in these styles that give them their character and steal it to incorporate in your own playing, but that start with being familiar with a wide range of styles that give influence to all of these sounds.

Hal Leonard has a series of books covering a lot of styles that can let you dip in.

I think a starting point for dipping into some of those is this book. It covers a wide swath.

That said, if you don't have a good background in basic playing, it's going to just be a bit much.

Ressources for pop piano accompanying? [R]

2 years, 6 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Feb. 14, 2017

Hey guys, do you know of any good piano books, website, videos that cover that topic? I'm not a beginner but I want to improve from jamming down some chords and playing easy bass patters while playing with a band. A book in the style of Tim Richards Blues Piano school would be amazing.

Thank you in advance!

2 years, 6 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Feb. 14, 2017

Man... I absolutely must get my hands on that Tim Richards book. It comes up constantly and it sounds like it's a great resource, but I still don't have any first hand knowledge of it.

Regardless, here is my go-to recommendation for people in your position.

You might also look into the Hal Leonard Keyboard Style Series for some other specifics, but I'd definitely start with The Pop Piano Book. It's likely that if you invest in Mark Harrison's very theory drive approach you'll likely start noticing lots of patterns in pop music in general and be able to steal more ideas by ear.

'There are no stupid questions' thread - January 12, 2017 [R]

2 years, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Jan. 12, 2017

Please use this thread to ask ANY piano-related questions you may have!

Upvoting is a good way of keeping this thread active and on the front page longer.

Note: This is an automated post. The next scheduled post is Sat, January 28, 2017. Previous discussions here.

2 years, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Jan. 12, 2017

You probably have the technical and reading skills to get started in this book.

I would start there to sort of get an overview of some of the larger theory concepts and comping patterns for those styles and then if you want to go a tad deeper, you can check out specific books from this series.

None of these are the be-all-end-all of their genre, but you'll get a lot of out of a pretty dense overview and realize how and how often elements shared between styles even if they don't immediately sound the same.

Variation on an FAQ: how do I get started in other genres after so long playing one? [R]

2 years, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Jan. 10, 2017

I've been playing classical piano for the past 8-9 years, so I'm not really a beginner at this point, which is why I'm asking this, but with the experience I already have, how should I get started in other genres of piano (e.g. jazz, blues, pop)? The most important thing right now is improv. Playing classical, the music has always been written on a piece of paper in front of me, and I don't know how to approach weaning myself off of the printed page. Am I approaching this the same as an absolute beginner would, or would I go about it differently? Thanks for any help you guys can give.

2 years, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Jan. 10, 2017

Well, you have the advantage of being able to read music and already have a grasp of understanding lots of basic theory concepts (I assume). But you'll have to be careful to weigh that against the disadvantage that often comes with lots of knowledge in one area... impatience. It's the same with accomplished instrumentalists trying to learn another instrument, a ear only players learning to read sheet music, or sheets only people learning to play by ear.

It's often easier to just keep working on what you're good at and it's difficult to humble yourself and sound like an infant working on something you're not as good. This is especially relevant with improvisation for people who are long time classical players because they are so used to play the "right" notes all the time and they want to play a "correct" improvised solo and don't allow themselves much room for exploration by way of mistakes.

Just keep that in mind as you approach new styles and you'll be fine. You might sound bad and it might be slow learning new concepts and using different approaches and you just have to push through those new fundamentals if you ever want to get better at it and you have to resist the urge to fall into old habits.

A mistake people sometimes make in thinking about improvisation is that it's full spontaneous with little preparation, much like speaking extemporaneously. Except it's not true with improv or speaking. If you were going to give an extemp speech, you've already spend years learning to speak your language. If you're good at public speaking, you've probably spent good deal of time practicing how to speak well. You might not have practiced a givens speech word for word or even practiced a topic, but you've practiced how to to speak. Improv is absolutely like that. It's a ton of preparation that allows you to improvise, but it's slightly more structured than many people think.

Now to a large degree, you already have a lot of the tools to get started right now. You have some technical ability. You know how to spell a major scale. I made a video about this some time ago (and desperately need to update and streamline it). It goes into a lot of the concepts I'm talking about and will get you started with using the tools you already have.

But going beyond the concepts in the video (mostly about learning to use and trust your ear), you'll need to get a much deeper understanding of the theory and stylistic elements behind the styles you want to play in. I really like recommending this book to people wanting the largest coverage of pop styles and there's a lot of overlap with certain jazz concepts, particularly in terms of larger chord structure in those styles. I feel like the book covers a huge amount of ground with concepts that are common to a vast amount of styles you're hear. You're understanding of what you hear in music will increase greatly and that will help you transcribe and steal ideas you hear and like, which is important.

For a start in jazz and particularly how to approach stuff like using lead sheets, I recommend this book. It covers a lot of bedrock elements of how to approach jazz standards (including the understanding of ii-V-I and 3-7 voicings) and by the end you'll know how to at least make a basic rendition of a song based off of a lead sheet. Beyond that you could dig much deeper with the Mark Levine book though I don't personally think it's a good starting point for people without at least a bit of grounding in jazz which is why I recommend the Mark Harrison book first).

You can also look at a lot of these books. The ones authored by John Valerio and Mark Harrison are particularly well put together. The Mark Harrison blues book in this series is pretty good and will give you a lot to chew on. I've heard good things about this Tim Richards book and keep meaning to pick it up to review for myself, but by all accounts it's solid.

If you get through all of that and want to go super deep, there are a lot of John Valerio books (like this, and this, and this) that I recommend. Really, anything by him is fantastic because of his pedagogical approach of building a foundation and then adding elements on top of it rather than just throwing lots of concepts at you (a reason I don't think Mark Levine has a good systematic approach).

Mark Harrison has a similar style with his variety of pop things and really covers the theory.

If you want to go really deep after that in jazz, Bert Ligon's Jazz Resources and Technique books and fantastic. I'm working in them currently and loving it.

Just remember to be willing to work on things you might think are easy or silly or below you. Be humble. Any time you think you know how to do something, don't skip over it... actually put your hands and the keys and see if you really can. I've found many situations where in doing so I realize that I'm not as solid I as I thought. Always be willing to work on foundational stuff just to make sure it's all there. I'm literally transcribing children's songs right now with no reference (something in one of the Ligon books) just to see how good I actually am. That might seem below someone who already plays decent by ear and makes a living playing music, but I've learned long ago that most of my roadblocks come from assuming I can do something or that it's too easy for me to bother with rather than just doing it. If it's really that easy, then you'll blaze through it and only lose a few moments. Or, you might find that it's not as easy and create a necessary building block in the foundation of your skills.

Good luck!

Need help identifying the style of a piano solo [R]

2 years, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Jan. 6, 2017

Hi everyone.

I'm trying to learn to play this song and there is a (small) part where the piano plays solo for a bit. However, I don't know what that "style" of solo is called which makes it difficult to learn more about.

Here is a link to the song. The video should start just before the solo:

If anyone can point me in a direction where I can learn more about how to play a solo like that, it would be much appreciated. :)

2 years, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Jan. 7, 2017

While I don't disagree with transcription being a good idea, I think people recommend it too quickly without considering the implications. If you're having trouble hearing this it's because you're not familiar with the style.

Think of it like language. You could easily listen to someone speak in English and transcribe it. But if you needed to transcribe someone speaking Spanish (assuming you don't speak it) at best you could just write down phonetic sounds. You wouldn't even necessarily know where distinct words or sentences were happening.

So what if you decided to learn Spanish entirely by transcribing phonetic sounds, figuring out their context, and trying to copy them. Sounds like a horribly inefficient waste of time doesn't it?

Well, it's he same concept whenever someone steeped jazz oriented styles tries to tell someone without that background to just start transcribing jazz. It's like a Spanish speaker telling an English speaker to just write down what they hear word for word and ignore learning vocabulary, grammar, etc.

So how do you learn that stuff? Theory. Theory is the grammar and vocabulary of music. When you learn the theory behind these concepts then you're not desperately trying to slow them down and pick apart one note at a time. You'll hear something and understand what is happening in that style that will allow you to quickly identify it. It will be like transcribing someone speaking English. You hear it, you understand the words, and you write them down. You'd never dream of writing English down as a random collection of phonemes because you know it well enough to know what is being said.

I listened and instantly heard a lot of concepts and licks I understand. I'd still have to listen more than once and probably sit down at the keyboard to transcribe it 100% faithfully, but I hear full "words" in that solo that could identify. I could play a short solo that imitates that (like paraphrasing someone's sentence) pretty easily.

So if your goal is to actually understand what's happening and be able to transcribe it, I'd recommend this book. It will help you learn the grammar to be able to approach this and a lot else in contemporary music.

Best way to play simple accompaniments based off chords? [R]

2 years, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Dec. 31, 2016

Basically I like to sing songs while playing an accompanying instrument. It's easy with the guitar: you just look up the chords on ultimateguitar and off you go. But with piano it sounds a bit lame to play the chord. I've tried messing around with inversions and the like, but is there a sort of cheat way that I can play a decent sounding, simple accompaniment to songs based off chords??

2 years, 7 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Dec. 31, 2016

Well, this book might help you a bit. It's likely a bit above you, but you can probably pull a lot of ideas out of it for creating good comping patterns.

How good is your ear? [R]

2 years, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Dec. 5, 2016

I’ve been playing piano for a few years, and 2-3 months ago I started to obsess about playing by ear. I never worked on ear training before. Now I'm doing exercises every day to improve that. It’s a slow process but I'm seeing some results. Very little results, but that's music I guess.

I’d like to know about your personal experience with ear training.

How good is your ear? Can you play anything after 1 listen or do you struggle to play happy birthday?

How much practice/time have you put into this aspect of music?

How did you learn?

How hard was the whole process for you?

Any tips/tricks for beginners like me?

2 years, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Dec. 5, 2016

Mine's not as good as I'd like it to be, but certainly better than some of my peers. The fact that you're working it on it actively at all is already going to give you an advantage. For those who can't at all, it's because they've never tried.

Often people who got really good at reading are unwilling to put on the training wheels so they can look and feel like a fool trying to do something they aren't good at. They will give up on playing by ear and just find some music since that's the easier route for them. The same is true of people who play great by ear. They are unwilling to slow down and learn to read because they already have an easier method for themselves.

This makes people think it's somehow magic when someone can sightread like Tom Brier or play a song amazingly well after one listen like chewymelodies.

But it's just a skill you cultivate.

For me, a lot of it came from just being forced (particularly when I joined at band and found myself doing it on the spot relatively frequently). Sure, I had ear training classes in college, but I find that the academic methods for ear training can be abysmally limited in scope for real world ear playing (just like academic theory).

I feel like people fall into two camps with ear. Some, like my wife, just seem inherently good at doing it without thinking a lot about it. It's ridiculous how good she is with melody. Of course she's very technically proficient on her instruments (wind instruments) and knows enough theory to make sense of when things are diatonic and not.

I personally am not as good as she is at that, but my harmonic ear is significantly better than hers. For me, I'm very mindful of theory. Knowing how things work and move in a theory context and knowing how certain things sound makes it much easier for me.

There are so many chords that absolutely jump out at me. dom7#5s, Maj13#11, #9s and b9s, dom11 chords (or dom9sus4s). So many chords have very clear color to them. And then there's obviously context. Hearing obvious progressions like I-vi-IV-V or ii-V-I is pretty easy and so much else fits around those in context. Being aware of common substitutions and alternative cadence patterns. Tritone subs in a jazz context standout. iii subbed for V in pop context stands out.

Also secondary functions and anything outside the key jump out at me so then it's just an issue of figuring out what it is. There are so many common ones. IV moving to iv in major key happens all the time. V/V and V/vi are really common.

And then obviously when it comes to certain styles when you realize what makes a style sound like it does it just a handful of tricks that give it that particular quality.

When I picked up this book I learned a lot of those specific sounds and once I was familiar with them I heard them everywhere.

So even as a guy who came from years of being a sheet music only guy, I was definitely able to learn. But for me the theory was my key rather than just raw ear power.

Tutorials (books/videos) on playing accompaniment, jazz/pop style? [R]

2 years, 9 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Nov. 13, 2016

I'm looking for books/videos on playing accompaniment (for vocal), mainly pop style with a little bit mix of jazz. Something like this:

I've read up on Mark Levine books, they seem to be pretty advanced and focus on solo/instrumental jazz, which I don't really need all of it. I'm a guitar player and recently came to piano, so I'm looking for something more beginner friendly. Thank you.

2 years, 9 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Nov. 14, 2016

This is a good book for that kind of thing. There's a gospel specific chapter toward the end which will cover a lot of the concepts like you're hearing in the Norah Jones tune you linked. She's also using a lot of concepts common to country (the walk downs and the slip note stuff) which are also covered a bit.

The Mark Levine stuff is pretty advanced and is almost more of a reference for you to jump around and get ideas rather than a book you work through from start to finish. If you work out of the book I mentioned, it actual works better to work cover to cover more or less; at the very least you might want to give the whole thing a survey before deep diving into a given chapter on a specific style.

The early parts of the book just cover the sort of theory concepts and some technical pre-reqs for that type of playing with examples. Then it slowly works through several styles.

The thing is, the styles basically get increasingly complex and the styles later in the book rely on theory concepts that come from styles earlier in the book. Gospel is pretty late because it's really relying on a lot of ideas with more blues influence and a lot of thicker chords. But the skills build on themselves and being well rounded will help a lot.

Additionally, if you get pretty good at understanding these concepts, it's makes it much easier to listen to a song like the one you linked and basically deconstruct it by ear so that you can replicate it.

You can take a deeper dive with some of these books if there is a style you want to get a little more out of. The ones by Mark Harrison are particularly well done.

I did a fun Eb Major improvisation with this adorable violin player [R]

2 years, 9 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Nov. 13, 2016
2 years, 9 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Nov. 13, 2016

Most of what is happening on the piano in this video is pure comping. To get good at that type of improv you just need to develop technical proficiency and essentially learn a lot of comping patterns (preferably in every key to help solidify rounded technique).

Knowing some theory and how to read jazz chord symbols will help a ton. It's pretty easy to start finding common patterns. He's basically playing I-iii-ii-V. A little more accurately I think it's EbMaj7-Gm7-Fm7-Bb7. Beyond that it's just copying his little bass line (which is simple approach tone stuff) and the feel of his right hand then throwing some licks and fills in here and there.

Optimally you could just start with something really simple and ramp it up. Try I-vi-IV-V in a comfortable key (C for most people). Literally just play single note octave whole note bass and simple chords over the top in something like straight quarters... then just mess with rhythm.

Part of it is just doing it and getting comfortable with it conceptually. You can use resources like this book to get more comfortable with theory and learn a lot of comping ideas in different styles, but eventually you'll want to just start copying people. Hear a progression or rhythm you like? Steal it. Play it in every key.

Over time you'll understand how to be more and more flexible, modulate at a will, change styles on the fly, etc. I mean, I look at a video like this and can replicate what he's doing stylistically more or less in about 2 minutes. That's not to brag, but it's to show that if you develop the building blocks you can do it too. Think of it this way. You an probably look at any key on the piano or note on a page and tell me the name of the note, but there are kids and those not musically trained who would find that amazing. OMG, there's like 88 keys... how do you know all of their names? Well, really there are only 12.

Same here. He seems to be doing lots of complicated stuff, but in my head I can simple reduce it down to a very simple chord progression and a simple approaching to comping over that progression. I'm not thinking about all of the individual notes he's playing in his right hand... they are irrelevant. I know the chords he's playing and can play them however I want and get a variety of effects and get a similar feel.

What do you Dream of Doing on the Piano [R]

2 years, 10 months agoCookingachicken posted submission on piano.
Oct. 18, 2016

What do you dream of doing on the piano? For example, my dream is to play Rachmaninoff's 2nd Concerto with my dudes at the Boise Philharmonic, what about you guys?

2 years, 10 months agoCookingachicken posted on piano.
Oct. 18, 2016

This is the best book I know to teach you to read chord charts and fake books. It's great to play with bands and guitar players.

It's a little heavy on theory up front, as you need to understand the concepts of chords and triads, etc. but if you've been playing for two years, it should be easy enough to figure out.

I've reached the (admittedly low) ceiling of my art. How do I improve my (free) accompaniment of songs? [R]

2 years, 10 months agoOct. 14, 2016


2 years, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Oct. 14, 2016

This book is a good place to get started filling in your understanding of theory (including the jazz/blues inspired bits that crop up in a ridiculous amount of music), and learning tons of comping patterns in tons of styles. It's pretty much tailor made for what you're asking about.

Piano Accompaniment [R]

2 years, 10 months agoOct. 11, 2016

Hi, I'm doing my diploma in piano this december. the thing is, i never really learnt how to accompany a song... as in, without playing the melody with the right hand. what are examples of accompaniment patterns? If you can, link me to any sheet music for visual aids

2 years, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Oct. 11, 2016

Man, this thread is why I'm frustrated with academic music programs in a nutshell. People with advanced degrees often don't have actual functional skills on their instruments because unless they went actively seeking it on the side, they would never get it. So many can play advanced rep, but....

  • Are they able to sightread sufficiently to be a rehearsal pianist?

  • Do they know how to practice efficiently to prepare a large amount of music in a short amount of time?

  • Are they able to follow a conductor, ensemble, or soloist to be able to accompany?

  • Can they maintain decent time at all?

  • Could they use a lead sheet and make an accompaniment on the fly?

  • Do they have enough basic ear and theory understanding to pick up simple songs by ear?

So many of the practical skills are ignored in lieu of immersing them in serious, legit rep. If someone is reading this and knows it applies to them, especially if they are getting a music degree, take stock in you ability to do some of the actual functional skills that a working pianist might need because I promise you that unless you're the 0.01% playing intense classical rep is not at the top of that list. At the very least contemplate taking a turn toward a collaborative piano degree.

Anyway, with that rant over, what are you trying to accompany? I'm assuming you mean pop because if you were doing legit stuff you'd probably just toss open your copy of 24 Italian Songs and Arias or whatever else fits the bill.

My go-to recommendation is The Pop Piano Book because it covers such a wide breadth of styles, explains the theory along the way and slowlys build on ideas in a progressive manner throughout the book. From there you should at least have the tools to fake it pretty well. You won't always be using the comping patterns verbatim in a real world situations, but hopefully it will prepare you to be adaptive and listen to able to play appropriate accompaniments.

EDIT: Another helpful tip is to be mindful going forward. If you are playing a piece of music and see a good pattern, steal it. Pick a simple chord progression and use that pattern across that progression... and now do it in every other key. Additionally, if you just hear a good pattern, steal it; do the same. It might be worth simply listening to simple, 4-chord pop songs while you're at the piano and just trying to emulate their feel even if you need "cheat" and look up the progressions if your ear isn't there yet. Don't just take the notes played in the song, but try to distill down a representation of both rhythm and bass so that you could could potentially be the sole accompanist for an instrumentalist or singer trying to perform that tune. Once again, every key when you're done.

How do I play Piano Accompaniment like this guy? [R]

2 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Aug. 30, 2016
2 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Aug. 30, 2016

This kind of playing relies on a very broad variety of skills, so it's hard to point you in a single direction. I mean, I could break up this particular song and tell you what's happening from an accompaniment standpoint, but that only tells you how to play this tune, not necessarily how to implement these skills into your playing.

You need to have a pretty decent grasp of theory, how chords are spelled, how chord progressions work, and then the types of tricks that give a style of music its flavor.

I tend to recommend people start with The Pop Piano Book. Mark Harrison covers a lot of the basics of theory for someone in your position in the beginning bits. The book covers a lot of different styles and his approach is to explain what is happening from a theory standpoint.

This is what's important. You don't need to just play the examples, but you need to pay attention to what's happening that makes something sound like it does and get good at be reductive. This book won't cover this style specifically (though this one might get a little closer), but it will give you a much better grasp of the concepts that go into being able to adapt to various styles and know how to "just play."

'There are no stupid questions' thread - July 04, 2016 [R]

3 years, 1 month agopianoboy posted submission on piano.
July 4, 2016

Please use this thread to ask ANY piano-related questions you may have!

Upvoting is a good way of keeping this thread active and on the front page longer.

Note: This is an automated post. The next scheduled post is Wed, July 20, 2016. Previous discussions here.

3 years, 1 month agopianoboy posted on piano.
July 15, 2016

There is a core set of basics that are common - e.g. understanding music notation, rhythms, time signatures, scales/keys, chords, being able to read and play hands together, etc. However, here are some differences I can think of off the top of my head:


  • Expected to play exactly as written, every note perfectly. Phrasing is considered more important.

  • On average, way more variety of types of musical elements throughout a piece, and often way more difficult. Left hand can be as complex or (moreso) than the right-hand.

  • Due to the variety and difficulty of the various musical phrases, usually requires much more honed technique (and experience with a variety of techniques) to be able to play everything well - e.g. play ascending 3rds fast and evenly, playing 4 independent lines at the same time (e.g. in a fugue) and you're expected to bring out certain lines louder than others, etc.

  • Lots of teachers and method books for learning classical pieces/style.


  • Most pieces based around a 3-6 chord progression that cycles over and over, which greatly reduces the complexity of learning a song. Usually a simple melody with chord-based accompaniment. Accompaniment often follows a syncopated rhythmic pattern, with various licks/riffs thrown in.

  • Music is often not written out with exact notes to play. If it is (e.g. buying sheet music MusicNotes), it's often not what the pianist/keyboardist on the original recording played, as the sheet music will include the melody whereas in a band often the keyboardist just accompanies with chords while the singer sings the melody. You'lre often better off following a chord chart / lead sheet (e.g. in a Fake book), and it's expected that you will fill in the missing details (exactly what notes to play, what rhythms to play, how to voice the chords, etc.) yourself -- a bit like Jazz, but often in pop/rock you're trying to play it a specific way to make it sound as close to the original recording as possible, unless you're purposefully making your own unique cover version.

  • Left hand especially is much simpler in rock than in classical - usually single notes or holding chords, only changing with the song's chord changes every few beats... or even no left-hand at all if you're playing in a band.

  • No emphasis on having to play exact notes, no emphasis on good phrasing. Basically, you can usually be "sloppier".

  • Requires ability to pick appropriate chord voicings, licks, and rhythms to achieve the style of the song. Since this often isn't written out for you, it usually takes lots of experience and good listening skills to be able to do this well.

  • You need to be able to read and understand chord notation (e.g. Gmaj7, Ebmin7b5, C5, Dsus2) and helps to understand chords in context of the key with Roman Numeral notation (e.g. I bIII IV vi V7).

  • Not many teachers or books that can teach rock/pop piano well. Often you end up learning on your own over many years.

One book that seems to get recommended a lot for learning pop/rock piano is Mark Harrison's Pop Piano Book. Although if you're a beginner, that probably still moves too fast. I don't know of a good comprehensive resource.

You guys. THIS is why we learn our triads. [R]

3 years, 4 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
April 2, 2016
3 years, 4 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
April 2, 2016

The funk chapters from this book are a good starting place. In general the whole book is good for actually understanding what you're doing and what's happening in various styles of music. Not only do you realize how the same everything is and how much everything borrows from everything else, but, if there's something you don't get, thinking through it in this structured way lets you deconstruct things you listen to and make them into something actionable.

I'll admit that this particular example is pretty complex, but I definitely recognized some tricks that I've picked up over the years and anything I thought was cool and out there, I could mostly pick apart and figure out what was going on functionally so I could put it to use. Heck, I've done the same thing stealing licks from Kyle Landry.

This type of video would actually be great almost for that purpose if it wasn't so damned frenetic. I keep toying with the idea of tearing apart these types of videos into smaller pieces and tutorializing what's going on. Not just "This is how you play this by copying my fingers" like too many Youtube channels, but actually explaining what's going on so you can put it to use. Some of the flashiest stuff out there is actually fundamentally simple. I keep waiting for large chunks of free time and they are never available. Maybe the gigs will slow down a tad in the summer.

What is the best way to learn alternative playing styles like Funk or Jazz? [R]

3 years, 5 months agoMarch 22, 2016


3 years, 5 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
March 22, 2016


The Pop Piano Book has two pretty solid sections on funk. The book is great for someone coming at it with some background and a more analytical approach. It can really help you understand some basics of that style. The book also touch on several other styles and is a great place to get started understanding some of the harmonic and rhythmic vocabulary of the various styles. Working straight through will help you see how much different styles tend to share certain concepts but use them different to different effect.

Another Mark Harrison book, Intro to Jazz Piano is one someone asked me about in the past, but at the time I didn't own. I worked through it and really think it's put together in a pretty sound way to give you a fairly practical introduction to how to use basic jazz ideas mostly for being able to realize a lead sheet, but with a bit about improv. Either way, the skills in it a pretty much mandatory and I really like his approach to them.

A lot of the other books in the series are good, with the Mark Harrison ones being exceptionally good.

If you want to get a little deeper and more comprehensive, this book really gets into it. I really like John Valerio's approach that builds upward by teaching you something fundamental and then building on it and making it all relevant in real context. All of his other books I've picked up have been great too. His walking bass book I feel is absolutely the definitive book of its kind. His Jazz Piano Technique book is amazing and will humble almost anyone and is aimed at the idea of building improvisational chops.

Thoughts on improv

There are a lot of ways to approach improv. I think a lot of people fresh to the idea want to jump of in the deep end a bit too hard. It's easy to get wrapped up in obsessively thinking about all of the scales and patterns and theory of everything and be paralyzed by it all. I actually made a video discussing this a while back that's aimed toward the idea of learning to use your ear a little more rather than your theory geared toward people with that sort of background. Bill Hilton's latest video is a fantastic and very practical exercise aimed specifically at piano that basically uses the same concept I talk about in my much less succinct video.

Also, be mindful that at some level, it's not all purely improvised. You can learn very difficult licks and work on plugging them in over chord progressions and to some degree you might feel like this starts to make it feel contrived and less purely improvised, but I assure you pretty much everyone does this. Sure, if you only have two licks, people can tell. But the trick is building up lots of licks and knowing how to use them. Additionally, building the licks builds some additional technique.

Eventually, you can put it all together. You're using pre-practiced licks and gluing it all together with purely improvised ideas based largely on your ear and partially on your understanding of theory. But just keep in mind that those are a ton of moving parts and if you don't let yourself improvise until you have them all working... you'll never improvise.

Coming from a classical background, you get too used to playing perfectly and not allowing for mistakes, but you've got to leave that behind.

Practical considerations

Your left hand generally needs to be good enough to go on auto-pilot. Bill Hilton mentions it and gives a great example for you to use. You could use almost any fixed chord progression, or a very simple blues/boogie woogie style left hand that requires the least amount of effort. The big hurdle is putting it all together. If at all possible, I'd recommend you working left hand alone with a backing track so that you don't have to wait until you're totally comfortable with your left hand and don't feel constricted by it. Then, separately, keep working that left hand and playing simple ideas over it (like the 2, 3, 4 note ideas I mention in my video).

Just don't get derailed by your inability to do any one thing. It'll take a long time to make it all work, so just isolate and work your way up. Don't be afraid to copy someone else's licks. That doesn't make you a hack. That's just part of the game.

'There are no stupid questions' thread - February 11, 2016 [R]

3 years, 6 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Feb. 11, 2016

Please use this thread to ask ANY piano-related questions you may have!

Upvoting is a good way of keeping this thread active and on the front page longer.

Note: This is an automated post. The next scheduled post is Sat, February 27, 2016. Previous discussions here.

3 years, 6 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Feb. 17, 2016

Where to get started with Gospel Piano [R]

3 years, 6 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Feb. 14, 2016

Hey guys, I'm a classically trained pianist looking to get into gospel piano along the likes of Walter Hawkins and such. Are there any exercises or books to help get me started? Thanks in advance!

3 years, 6 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Feb. 14, 2016

The Pop Piano Book has a section gospel. While there may be deeper books, I've not yet had to get in that deep, but the way Harrison explains things from a theory standpoint, you'll really get a grasp of what's happening. You'll basically work through some of the stuff and think, "ooh, that's what happening when I hear that thing happening all the time" and then you'll be able to replicate that idea.

Much of it is borrowed from blues ideas, and much of it also crosses over into a ton of other areas. The primary idea is what Harrison calls backcycling... basically running back in and out around the circle of 4ths from the given harmony.

So if you have a C chord, you can hit C, then rock up to F, then Bb, often just over a C bass. Try rocking from a C in root to an F in 2nd inversion and up to a Bb in 1st inversion then back down. You've probably heard that dang near everywhere. For what it's worth, similar ideas also get borrowed from blues into country and even a lot of rock.

You can probably get a little deeper after messing around in the Harrison book, but it will definitely give you a very solid foundation especially if you're the type coming to it from a classical/theory mindset. Having that basic understanding will make it much easier to watch gospel pianists and steal their ideas since you'll have a good grasp of the larger concepts and will be able to more easily pick out the detailed color bits without having to reinvent the wheel when it comes to analysis. When I checked out /u/playboyjesus's link to the Ethel Caffie Austin videos, I immediately recognized tons of the backcycling as well as particular chromatic bass approaches that Harrison covers pretty well.

EDIT: For what it's worth, you can get the Gospel book as a standalone, but I'd highly recommend getting the full Pop Piano Book because of the value of it all.

I'm very overwhelmed at the moment. I'm just trying to play chords but all the patterns i've found are, in my words, boring and unmusical. [R]

3 years, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Dec. 10, 2015

so lets bring up some tablature right? Simple, Intro, E, A, E, A.

I play both the E and A chords with the root note being played to octaves lower and i play the e and a as minors since they sound better but i also play an A inversion to make it easier. It sounds alright. but i don't know how to play anything but that.

This is really hard to explain so bear with me. If i look up patterns they're all just one note on the lower octave held for two beats with a chord being played every beat. think thump-ba-ba-thump-ba-ba or even Thump-ba-thump-ba. it's just not musical enough for me, I haven't found anything that created a melody with a broken chord and it's frustrating. it's sounds like shit to say the least. Youtube is an absolute shitfight since a lot of the people making the videos are catering to an audience who are just learning chords and trying to figure out how to play them.

My singing teacher can do what i'm asking so easily but when i'm paying $50 for an hour lesson for something but i'd rather not waste the time learning to play chords with her since i can learn it in my own time, i can't learn to sing in my own time. she literally just looks up guitar chords for pop music and plays amazing chords (cause she plays a lot of jazz) without any real hastle. I've tried looking it up but i haven't found anything.

3 years, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Dec. 10, 2015

I can't tell exactly where you are as far as knowledge since you don't describe rhythm in musical terms and don't know what an arpeggios is. Normally, I'd recommend The Pop Piano Book, but I'm not sure if you have the vocabulary to use it. If you do, and you're using a teacher, it's a great book. It will talk about construction of chords, has some drills for arpeggiating them, but the real meat (to me anyway) are all of the various comping patterns for different styles. The books has tons of patterns for a lot of styles, so practice them and then just apply them to any set of chords.

At some point, when you've practiced lots of different comping patterns, it really does become second nature the way your teacher does it. It's mostly just looking at the chord, knowing the feel you want, and having the tools to make it sound that way pretty much instantly.

Accompanying oneself on a piano [R]

3 years, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Dec. 6, 2015

So...I've been playing piano for years...mostly classically. My technique isn't the best.

However, I've always wanted to get into playing piano and singing. I know a couple patterns already--that which I could scrounge from the internet--but I sort of need more.

To be specific, I'm mainly playing standards or ballads now and although I am trying to do more, I want to start with these first.

Basically, I have a couple patterns I use, but it ends up sounding like I play every song of the same genre (e.g. ballad, or faster swing) the same way.

My standard Ballad pattern is usually playing Left (1-5), Right (chord), left (5); rinse and repeat. It works, but it is not something I want to play every time.

So I guess the best question is: how should I go about playing piano and singing at the same time?

For example, how would I play something like You're the Top, or The Way You Look Tonight?

I'm basically fakebooking.

3 years, 8 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Dec. 7, 2015

I personally use a walking bass with pretty standard chord jabs for "The Way You Look Tonight." I do have to admit that singing with walking bass can be a little difficult though... or at least getting to where you sing without such a metronom-y robotic style can be. I've found that both stride patterns and waking bass tend to make me so rhythmically aware that it's difficult to sing with tasteful rubato like you would expect for the types of tunes that employ those types of patterns.

Of course, these days I just cheat 90% of the time and use a looper to lay down changes while my wife or some other duet partner takes a full head and then I can sing however I want (and take solos on other instruments).

That said, it is possible. Pseudo-stride (using two hands rather than one to play the actual stride) can work great for self accompaniment and it's exactly how I accompany myself singing something like "Basin Street Blues," "Rubber Duckie," or "Ain't Misbehavin'," though I'll usually have to play a real stride if I want to take a lead over them.

Listening and watching people play just to copy their patterns is a great method. Find comping pattern you like, play it over a chord progression, and then practice that progression around the circle of 5ths/4ths.

Another idea would be to get some books like this one, or any of these that appeal to what you're trying to do. You'll end up finding tons of useful patterns there.

You can also just find good published arrangements and reverse engineer the basic feel of the comping patterns and adapt it for singing over. Books like this one and the others in that particular "The Best ... Songs Ever" series provide great solo arrangements that you can easily just kill the lead on and steal some great comping patterns.

Help finding pop/blues piano music, especially from 70s/80s/90s [R]

3 years, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Oct. 21, 2015

I am 24 and grew up with asian parents that never really listened to 'popular' music so I am still constantly being amazed at well-known songs from previous decades that I'm just now hearing. I played classical for over a decade and have just recently gotten into jazz/blues/pop accompaniment and am kicking myself for not starting earlier. I am looking for songs similar to this I am also really digging bands such as Huey Lewis, Chicago, and such. What are some of your favorite pop piano pieces?

3 years, 10 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Oct. 21, 2015

Start working through this book. With a heavy classical background, it should be pretty easy for you to jump in, but there will also be a lot of concepts that are very new to you.

When you start understanding how different styles are constructed from a theory and mechanical standpoint, you'll listen to something like the tune you linked and quickly understand a lot of what's happening and understand how to replicate that sound. For instance, that tune sounds a little less bluesy to me (not so much b3 and b7), but sounds more like it has some pentatonic slip-note (almost country style) ideas going on. So more 2s and 6s, possibly 4s being used to diatonically spice up the chords. But the heavier use of 7ths and some sustained 2s (9s) draw it away from country and make it sound a little more 80s pop with almost a new age influence.

3 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Sept. 20, 2015

I've been taking piano lessons for seven months to learn the fundamentals, but have to put a hold on that for awhile welcoming a new baby to the world.

I still want to grow over the next several months toward playing a lot of the sheet music in my collection for classic R&B/soul tunes from 60s & 70s.

Problem is, I'm having trouble moving from reading/playing simplified Fake Book pieces to seemingly more complicated popular tunes.

Are there any good resources for helping me connect the dots as I take a break from regular lessons?

3 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Sept. 20, 2015

I'm not entirely clear what you're trying to do, but this book can help you get more comfortable with taking leads from fake books and applying appropriate ideas. It covers both comping and faking with leads in a variety of styles, including R&B and gospel. Depending on the type of soul stuff you're talking about, it's going to share a lot with gospel as it is basically secular gospel.

You could also check into this series of books for some slightly more targeted and deeper ideas in various styles, though I feel like the Pop books will give you more overall and you can go deeper from there later.

At the very least, if you practice a lot of the comping patterns from the book, even if you don't feel entirely comfortable realizing your own versions of tunes on the fly from a lead, the technical practice of lining up many of the rhythmic components of each style as well as understanding a little more about the theory will makes it much easier to work from pre-arranged sheet music written in those styles.

Help Wanted: Need to Increase Overall Funkiness By 200% or More [R]

3 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Sept. 18, 2015

Hello r/piano,

It has come to my attention that I cannot bring the sting, move with the groove, punch in the crunch, or lay down that funky sound. My funk theory knowledge is limited to a few minor 7th chords and a few basic riffs.

Does anyone know of any resources I could use to increase my inner afro? I tend to learn best from books, but online video series work okay as well. My goal is to be able to improvise noises like the kind that come out of Vulfpeck/Chicago/etc. I don't even know what to google. Previous attempts have just led me to "here's how to play a blues scale". I know there's some gospel in there, and some blues, but there's also something that I can't quite replicate.

Hugs and kisses in advance

3 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Sept. 19, 2015

I probably sound like a broken record by now, but this book will help you with funk and more. It specifically has chapters on R&B Funk and on two hand staccato patterns.

Funk mostly has to do with heavy downbeats and then a lot of chopping up subdivisions of 16ths to get a good groove.

The book also covers other styles, and ultimately, the more you know about more styles, the more you see the crossover. Blues, country, and gospel have an amazing amount of overlap for example. It mostly comes down to the subtlety of rhythm, voicings, and depths of chords, but they are all very mixolydian focused and blend into one another greatly. Gospel, while more harmonically like country/blues is more rhythmically like funk. Funk share a lot of rhythm with gospel, but more harmony with R&B. While funk lends itself to the denser harmony of of R&B, I'd still say it's more harmonically centered around ideas from the minor pentatonic scale with lots of rhythm stuff.

The book will explain this all in great depth.

Also, if you're going to practice funk, I highly suggest practicing both with a metronome and a funk drum track/machine of some sort. For putting together funk bits, you might need a metronome at ultra low speeds just to wrap your brain around all of the subdivision, but as you get that down, you really really need to be playing with drum tracks to really find the pocket. Heck, as a general rule, I'd recommend people play with drum tracks who tend to play in pop styles. The feel of your comping and improvisation can be heavily affected by the feel or the rhythm and if you'll be playing with a drummer, it's good to practice that.

My improvisations are boring and repetitive. What is an efficient way to expand my improvisational musical "toolbox"? [R]

3 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted submission on piano.
Sept. 8, 2015

This topic was kind of inspired by another topic here. I am a classically trained pianist who just has not made much headway in improvisation for the last few years, and I'm looking for a more consistent way to improve. I know there are jazz lick books, but are these appropriate for those interested in kyle landry type improvisations?

To be a bit more specific about the rut I'm in, in terms of LH patterns, I can either play single bass notes, blocked chords, arpeggios, or some 1 5 8 5 or 1 5 10 5 pattern. In the RH, I am much more lacking - I just play notes over the scale, hitting the chord tones 75% of the time (and ending up arpeggiating). I'll throw in blocked chords on the melody for some emphasis but that's about it.

I also don't have much conviction in terms of which figures to use as well. For instance, I would never feel that the LH pattern 1 5 8 5 is more appropriate than 1 5 10 5 in one situation. Or if I decide to start playing the entire RH melody with blocked chords, (say some melody that goes C D E), I would really not know why I might want to do CGC, DGD, EGE, versus say CGC, DBD, EBE. I find that I would probably do the former because I play more thinking about hand positions and patterns than on these subtle harmonic nuances.

I also only know a few chord progressions, and again, I don't really have much conviction on which one to use. I play over Pachabel's canon all the time, I use I vi IV V plenty, and I'll throw in I -> III or ii -> iv cause those sound nice. There isn't much more I do.

Are there books or guides for people in my boat, that mechanically and exhaustively outline how one might expand their musical toolkits? Many of the guides I've come across are too general, or more often, they simply have the same overlapping beginner material on the basic figures, ending with "from here, just experiment and see what sounds good". I will still experiment of course, but the past few years of practice have shown me that this approach is just too inefficient. Can anyone give me some guidance on a concrete, systematic, and efficient way to expand one's improvisational vocabulary -> and understand why one might use these new ideas?

3 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Sept. 8, 2015

Mechanical and Exhaustive Outline

This book is a great place to start honestly. Picking up a lick book and copying it will only get you so far. I did mention my lick-based (and successful) colleague in the other thread, but understanding what you're doing and why it work from a theory standpoint lets you mix and match rather than simply plugging in a particular lick every time you see a certain progression as if it were a mathematical equation. I feel like I've really become and evangelist for virtually all of Mark Harrison's work. He does a great job of explaining tons of patterns and ideas from all different styles of music, breaking down the theory and then putting several ideas together into cohesive examples of mixing and matching different concepts. The aforementioned books almost exactly fits your criteria and will do a ton to help achieve a sound like /r/davidrussell323.

One thing I will say is to review some concepts and actually try to do some of what seem like simple ideas early in the book the way he says to and in all keys. Sure we all know our diatonic triads and probably our diatonic 7th chords.... in C. Now actually try to play quickly up through all of your diatonic 7ths in Bb... E? F#? You'll likely have an oh shit moment. It's sometimes easy to gloss over things we think we know, but if you're so certain, it'll only take you a few moments to either breeze through it or find out there's a gap you didn't even know you had. And sometimes these might not seem immediately useful, but assure you so much of it is.

Kyle Landry

As for Kyle Landry style improvs, Kyle is rarely doing anything harmonically complex. The vast majority of his stuff is purely triadic. Kyle has a fantastic ear for grabbing a melody that fits over a given chord progression or just quickly jumping over to something in his medleys. In stuff like his canon improvs, he's just taking a giant bag of tricks and throwing them at a single chord progression. I've often watched and paused little sections and just grabbed out bits. They are generally quite simple concept wise, but he's got blisteringly solid technique and execution that allow him to do very flashy things.

But if you see a trick like that and you like it, steal it, hit it with the metronome and play it in every key. One my favorite tricks of his (and one of his favorites I'd guess based on how much he does it), is the quick arpeggios that almost feel like a gliss. He basically plays 1-3-5-1-1-2-5-1-1-3-5-1 across three or more octaves playing the first note of each four with his left hand and then quickly grabbing a one octave arpeggio with his right before repeating the higher note with his left hand again and then ascending again with his right. He just does it stinking fast. But you take it, slow it down, practice it in every key for major and minor triads, now it's in your bag. You can use it in any situations at will. I've modified a version of it for my own personal use that leans more on 7ths and 9ths.

So that's another thing you can do... steal a trick, modify it, and make it your own.

Left Hand

You think of 1-5-8, or 1-5-10, but what about 1-5-9? Or maybe even 1-5-9-11 creating tension leading to the next chord? Mark Harrison's book will cover plenty of other patterns. Don't forget about semi-stride ideas. Kyle uses those plenty where he just really reaches and grabs something low before jumping back up to the chord or even an arpeggio. It has a very dramatic effect.

Chord Progressions

Steal these too. If you hear something you like, find out what it is. If you want a new chord progression from a pop-ish style, you can probably figure it out. Just listen to the bass first and use your theory knowledge to fill in the gaps. If the first note is C and it sounds like C major it probably is. If it descends immediately to B, it's almost certainly G/B rather than B or B7 because you have enough theory context to know what makes sense.

If you want to save the trouble, look it up on Ultimate Guitar (but just be wary that it might not be 100% accurate), or maybe even just find the first page a place like enough to figure out the chords. But if it's something that doesn't have one of these options (like someone's improv), just follow the steps to figure it out.

Now go mess with that progression in a ton of keys. Nothing will embed a progression in your head like forcing yourself to think about the Roman-numeral relationships in every key. Heck, if you just want to find some cool progressions, you can Google it. There's certainly to be a "best" or "top 10" progressions out there for all different styles.

BTW, my shower looks like a madman lives in my house. I use shower crayons to write out chord progressions on my shower walls and while I'm showering, I try to think through them in different keys.

More ideas

Now if you want to pick up a skill that Kyle obviously has, take a melody you know well and pick it out. I'd suggest something like the Elder Scrolls theme. Figure out the melody in whatever key is most comfortable for you, and now, based on basic theory knowledge, figure out what the chords are. The melody can usually guide you because the melody note is usually a chord tone or sounds very much like it's suspending to a chord tone. So if you have an A in the melody, it's some sort of D, F, or A triad most likely (for such a simple example).

This is a skill worth practicing and at some point you might also start noticing how many different songs use the same chord progression or pieces thereof. Then you can start stringing bits of familiar tunes together like Kyle does.

The more time you spend with your ear, the more patterns emerge. Certain sounds just pop out as unmistakably as the color green or the flavor of a ripe orange. Context also helps a ton. I swear almost nothing stands out to me more than V11 (or V9sus4, or F/G) chord that gets used in funk, R&B, and jazz so much. Or V7#5... or V7#5#9 or V7b9. In general turnaround chords are some of the most uniquely obvious sounds. But also movement from I-III (yes, major III) is a sound that shows up in a lot of contexts that I love. I-bIII or I-bVI are great and very obvious sounds. Another is movement between parallel major triads by either a major or minor 3rd. Go listen to something like Spiderman (or really a lot of comic books movies) and watch the composer write heavily arpeggiated strings doing something like C - E - Ab - F - A etc. It's a striking sound.

But most of all, have the context to even know that something is a "thing" in a given style will make you hear it constantly. It's like when you learn a new word and it suddenly pops up freakin' everywhere. If you take something like the I-vi-ii-V progression and mess with it... now you'll hear it everywhere. Lately I've been working on some 80s style rock ideas and holy crap do I just hear the ideas all over everything these days.

How can i play for peoples entertainment? [R]

3 years, 11 months agoSept. 7, 2015


3 years, 11 months agoYeargdribble posted on piano.
Sept. 7, 2015

Do you understand how to read from a lead sheet? Do you have a basic understanding of theory or how to use chord progressions? One of the easiest ways to just play for people is to just improvise over simple chord progressions. I-V-vi-IV or I-iv-IV-I are easy ones to start with that you can easily play with in any key.

Then you apply in the trick like sus2s that add more color but you need a few more tricks. Something like this book might help you pick up a lot of tricks in a variety of styles. If you want a more specific sound or what to take a deeper dive, you can check out some of these, though for the money, the Pop book is probably one of the best values out there. The idea of sus2s (or I think 9-1s is how Mark Harrison labels them... same thing) is mentioned among other things and lots of comping patterns.

If you can play a basic comping pattern and understand how to move between keys you can basically improvise on the spot things and even melodies almost forever. Then it's just an issue of deepening your understanding of more styles and patterns so you can take the requests when someone says they want something more chill, or more upbeat, or jazzier, or bluesier, or rockabilly, or whatever (these are things I hear plenty).

>Any tips on how to be a good performer, not just player?

This is not even the same question haha. I've found that you can be a great player and have all of the showmanship of a doorstop. So entertaining people can often be more about being engaging than being the most proficient player on the planet. Obviously, being flexible helps a lot. There are plenty of people who are great, but they are very style limited and you immediately are a less entertaining person when you have to say, "No, I can't play that style" half a dozen times in a row.

5 years agoBeowulfShaeffer posted submission on piano.
July 30, 2014

Please don't take this in the wrong way, but I consider myself an expert at playing nearly any pop, rock, or song with a well-defined melody by ear. I can sit down, listen to the song, and put together a nice arrangement by ear.

But there's one thing I am not sure how to do, and I call it "embellishment" because I don't know the right music theory term for it. Here is an example of what I mean:

I can play "O Holy Night" by ear, it's just I am not sure what is going on when he does the "runs" up and down the keyboard. What is that called?

What should I practice/drill/study in order to learn this technique?

5 years agoBeowulfShaeffer posted on piano.
July 30, 2014

Have you seen pianoboy's stuff at

Also, I recommend Mark Harrison's Pop Piano Book.

I need contemporary piano comping advice and resources [R]

5 years, 2 months agoBeowulfShaeffer posted submission on piano.
May 23, 2014

I've been playing piano/keyboard at a church now for about 6 months. I've only been playing for about 2 years and I feel like my piano comping has gotten into a rut. A lot of the times I just stick to the same boring 4/4 patterns that I found work. So I was wondering if you guys could send me some video resources or some recordings of music that you think would be helpful to dive into. Obviously I'm dealing with a more pop style of piano so no jazz comping resources unless you think they'll really pull me along in this style of playing.

5 years, 2 months agoBeowulfShaeffer posted on piano.
May 23, 2014

I found Mark Harrisons Pop piano book to be excellent. Half of the book is exercises that are seriously worth doing and the second half is sort of cliff's notes on a variety of pop genres.

If you've ever studied cadences or ii-V-Is in jazz the book will be familiar.

Soloing on organ [R]

5 years, 4 months agoBeowulfShaeffer posted submission on piano.
April 4, 2014

I'm mainly an acoustic piano player, and I think I'm getting pretty good at jazz and blues improvisation. The thing is, I play in a band that requires me to play quite a bit of organ, and I'm having quite a bit of trouble improvising. So I was wondering if any of you have experience with jazz or blues organ (or rock, really), and if you could point me in the right direction. If so I would really appreciate it. Thanks.

5 years, 4 months agoBeowulfShaeffer posted on piano.
April 4, 2014

Get a copy of Mark Harrison's pop piano book. It has a fairly unique take that I found quite useful. The first 100 pages seem pretty dry but some of the "drill" exercises are really good and translate very well to the kind of licks you're looking for in a variety of genres. It's definitely a step above most "learn to play [shitty renditions of] blues/pop/jazz in 21 easy lessons" books.

100 ultimate blues riffs is ...okay but worth getting ahold of and playing through. It also some ideas you could steal.

The short version is that it's all about the pentatonic, baby. Learn it. Love it. Live it. That famous solo in the Allman brothers "Jessica", the piano outro in "Sweet Home Alabama" and the crazy keyboards in "Frankenstein" are all largely built on pentatonic and blues riffs.