Improvise Many Styles, Just 7 Notes!

Early Classical, K-Pop, Contemporary Christian & New Age Music: When it comes to improvisation, what do these genres have in common?  Hint: You can sound great using just 7 notes!

For the above styles of music (plus certain Jazz & Gospel tunes), the 7 notes of the key center scale works well for improvising over the whole tune. 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 using rhythmic variety. When we build solos upon one scale it’s called improvising diatonically – which works fine provided the tune’s harmony doesn’t stray far from the home key.

Pianists, keyboardists, and guitarists 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 #kpop hit Euphoria, sung by Jungkook of the band #BTS). The entire video – all exercises and examples – are made using only these 7 notes: D E F# G A B C#.

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

8 Ways to Play 4 Notes: If I Had You (solo piano ideas)

If I Had You (1929) is a cute YOUtune that can be played various tempos; I chose to arrange it with a slow swinging ‘saunter through the park’ feel.  The tutorial part of this first video explores 8 different ways to harmonize the opening 4 chromatic melody notes in the main body of the tune. Watch the video all the way through, and you will get a bird’s eye view of many stylistic solo piano devices such as single note or octave bass lines, broken 10ths, soft swing bass, and the Bud Powell LH shell voicing using the root and 7th, which are all suitable for small hands. Continue reading “8 Ways to Play 4 Notes: If I Had You (solo piano ideas)”

When The Saints Go Marching In (Lesson in Jazz Harmony)

Memorial Weekend 2020 felt like a relevant time to revisit this recording of When The Saints Go Marching In, to honor the lives of heroes lost during both the past and most recent of days. The concept of my arrangement was similar to a New Orleans Funeral or Celebration of Life – a contemplative piano introduction, followed by a jubilant jazz band send off: Continue reading “When The Saints Go Marching In (Lesson in Jazz Harmony)”