In A Sentimental Mood: Ways To Harmonize

Fun Fact: The gorgeous Duke Ellington composition In A Sentimental Mood begins with an ascending melody formed from a pentatonic scale. These same pickup notes (F,  G,  A,  C,  D,  F,  G) could also lead into the Gershwin classic Someone To Watch Over Me, but would land on another starting chord and go into a whole different tune altogether. (See Idea #29 “Chromatic Pickups”, notated on page 44 of my book Amazing Phrasing-Keyboard, found here): https://www.amazon.com/author/debbiedenkemusic

The following solo piano arrangement of Duke Ellington’s ballad is in the standard key, with an improvised salute to Leon Russell’s A Song For You nestled inside. Both pieces use similar chords in the key of D minor/F major.  I used contrary motion to harmonize the opening phrase in various ways, plus you can see additional ideas from the “birds eye view” of my hands on the piano keys. Find an explanation of certain techniques included below the video. Click link to watch on YouTube: https://youtu.be/cHzp5ZPFnYI  

0:05-0:10 LH plays contrary motion with single notes

0:10-0:18 See LH Easy Tip #1 where the bottom note of a minor triad moves down in the following video:

0:39-0:43 LH Contrary motion starts on Ab7 moving down to Dm

1:16 Bridge begins in key of Db

1:46-1:50 LH Contrary motion starts on Bm7(b5) down to F

1:57-2:03 Easy Tip #2 moving 5th used on Gm chord

A7 (b9) transition into new tune

2:34 A Song For You easy tip #1

3:46 Back into Bridge of In A Sentimental Mood

The ending moves the opening phrase of 6 notes in keys:

Ab,  F,  D, and ends in B (roots move down by minor 3rds)

12 Key Improvisation Ideas For Piano: Just 1 Scale 7 Notes!

K-Pop, Early Classical Music, Contemporary Christian Praise Hymns, Folk Tunes, New Age Piano, Country & Western Music: When it comes to improvisation, what do these genres have in common?  Hint: Musicians will often sound “right in the pocket” by creating solos made up of just 7 notes (using only 1 scale) over the entire tune!

For the above genres of music (including certain even eighth note Jazz & Gospel styles), the 7 notes of the major key center scale work well for improvising over the whole piece. It’s an easy concept to keep in mind that may enhance your solos (without having to think of too many confusing options), so you can focus on building nice melodic lines with rhythmic variety. When we build solos upon one scale it’s called playing diatonically – which can sound good, provided the tune’s harmony doesn’t stray far from the home key.

Pianists, keyboardists, and guitarists also have the advantage of being able to build chords diatonically by combining notes built across a scale. In the following video tutorial I’ll show you how to do just that by using the D major scale – the key center of the K-Pop hit Euphoria – sung by 정국  Jungkook of the popular South Korean boy band BTS. Watch how the entire music video (harmonic devices are expained above the bird’s eye view of my hands on the keyboard, followed by all scale and chord building exercise examples), is created with just these 7 notes: D E F# G A B C#:

The 12+ ideas to explore vary from easy to challenging, and are time-stamped  – see the video’s description box (visable underneath on YouTube).

If you want to hear Jungkook singing in the official BTS music videos which inspired my Euphoria Piano Cover Jam plus this Tutorial, check out this 3 chord version (G  A  B-) https://youtu.be/MA6UBcKmeEk

You may also want to check out this Euphoria Piano Version (Jungkook vocals with piano accompaniment) that uses more chord variety (All still related to the key of D major): https://youtu.be/jZtZkdhmceg

Subscribe to my official YouTube Channel for more easy piano arranging improvisation tips!  https://www.youtube.com/c/DebbieDenke

And if you’d like to have something tangible to put on your piano while you practice/listen along, find all 3 of my piano improvisation book/audio methods (The Aspiring Jazz Pianist, Amazing Phrasing – Keyboard, The Complete Church Pianist) see “Books” on my website or go here to order: https://www.amazon.com/author/debbiedenkemusic

Hope you have fun exploring the key of D like I did! – DD

Music Game #1: “Tip Jar” (Playtime For Teacher & Piano Student)

Feeling slightly “under the weather” but still wanting to teach, I asked 2 adult jazz piano students to meet online for lessons. Educators know that teaching over the internet requires extra energy to communicate, and I was a bit short of breath. What valuable lessons could I give my inquisitive students that would keep their fingers busy while I listened, hydrated,  and encouraged them, with minimal talking on my part? I took a couple hits off my inhaler and came up with a “game plan” (modeled after real life situations I’ve had as a performer), and tested it out on my students. Together we had a good deal of fun playing these online socially safe music games. Continue reading “Music Game #1: “Tip Jar” (Playtime For Teacher & Piano Student)”

Block Chords (Locked Hands Style) vs Spread Chords: How Pianists Create Them

There are certain types of rich chord techniques the jazz pianist ought to have under their fingers in a piano/bass/drums or larger group setting. Both Block and Spread Chords may be used for a full sounding effect during the melody of certain tunes. Additionally, these styles may be used to build intensity during a piano solo, or culminating in impressive spread chords at the solo’s highpoint. Continue reading “Block Chords (Locked Hands Style) vs Spread Chords: How Pianists Create Them”

Add Jazz Pizazz To Holiday Hits: Play by Ear & Improvise Piano Tutorials

December is the perfect time of year to develop one’s ear training skills. We’ve been by saturated listening to Christmas & Holiday tunes playing all over the place since Halloween, and know those familiar jingles a jing-jing-jingling quite well by now, so well in fact we can’t seem to get them out of our heads! So you may as well face the music and do something creative with these tunes as long as you are hearing them over and over, right? Continue reading “Add Jazz Pizazz To Holiday Hits: Play by Ear & Improvise Piano Tutorials”

Explaining the Greek Modes

Observe today’s music theory illustration pictured above. Notice the photo of these colorful Four O’clock Flowers – each bloom is unique, but they all are linked together as a family that grows from the same parent plant.

This week one of my newer adult piano students eagerly read ahead in my book Amazing Phrasing – Keyboard, and got a bit confused trying to understand the Greek modes/scales we refer to in both jazz & traditional music theory. During her first lesson this enthusiastic lady Continue reading “Explaining the Greek Modes”

The Old Rugged Cross: Old School Hymn Played Gospel Style with Sunday Mash-Up

Ever notice how certain old hymns have chords and candences like other familiar tunes? (Especially the ones in 3/4 time can sound like Irish or Country Waltzes, Holiday Hits, or early American Songs.) I was MONKeying around with this request for The Old Rugged Cross, getting ready for a memorial service, when I kept getting distracted by other tunes which sounded similar.

Continue reading “The Old Rugged Cross: Old School Hymn Played Gospel Style with Sunday Mash-Up”

What Do Jazz Musicians Think About When Improvising?

 What goes on in your head when you improvise? Are you thinking about something in particular, or just playing “anything” and not really thinking at all? How are you able to improvise with other musicians you’ve never played with before and sound so good together?

The orthopedic surgeon who was vacationing on a recent Jazz & Wine Riverboat Cruise sincerely wanted to know what goes on inside a jazz musician’s brain. Continue reading “What Do Jazz Musicians Think About When Improvising?”