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

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”

Notes To Choose For a 12 Bar Blues (Easy RH Improvisation Tips)

By popular request I filmed this tutorial exploring my easy go-to ideas a pianist may play over a medium-up tempo jazz blues in the key of F:

The original tutorial shown below was meant to be simply a lesson on a LH device called The Bud Powell Shell. Many of you then asked if I could share what RH “licks” I was using on my video, Improvising 28 Bars of Blues.  Continue reading “Notes To Choose For a 12 Bar Blues (Easy RH Improvisation Tips)”

Big Ideas For Small Hands: How To Write a Full Sounding Piano Arrangement

Let’s take the lovely ballad Skylark (by Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael), and learn how to enhance a ballad’s melody with beautiful chords and a foundational bass line. In this video observe how I took a chart from an old fakebook and updated some chords more to my liking, a process called reharmonization:


Continue reading “Big Ideas For Small Hands: How To Write a Full Sounding Piano Arrangement”

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”

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)”