Piano Lesson: How to Use Tritones to Harmonise Melodies

It has been mentioned that one can use tritones as passing chords or as a substitute chords, but little has been mentioned about using tritones to harmonise melodies! Please note that you will not use this technique all the time or right in the beginning of a song. You may want the person whom you are accompanying to get used to the song first before you play this phat chord.

Here is a list of all 12 tritone chord in case you are not familiar with them:

TRITONE CHART

BASS

LH

RH

G

F + B

E+A+C#

Gb

E + Bb

D#+G#+C

F

Eb + A

D+G+B

E

D + G#

C#+F#+A#

Eb

Db + G

C+F+A

D

C + F#

B+E+G#

Db

B + F

A#+D#+G

C

Bb + E

A+D+F#

B

A + D#

G#+C#+F

Bb

Ab + D

G+C+E

A

G + C#

F#+B+D#

Ab

Gb + C

F+A#+D

TIP: let’s say one plays the chord: C + E + G. You see, your ear will be more inclined to ‘hear’ the G note compared to the other notes since the G on top (on the far right). Unless you have done ear training the ear tends to struggle figuring out the middle note, E.

Another point to note is that the ear struggles to make sense of dissonance and understands more non-dissonant tones.

The point is, when using these tritones or any other chords, try to put the dissonant tones in the middle (the ear struggles to hear these) or bottom and the non-dissonant tones on top (far right on your right hand chord). The ear is more likely to hear these pleasing notes.

This is the reason why musicians put the melody on top when playing or harmonising chords for solo performance if the there is no singer to sing the melody.

When playing these tritones we shall be using the same principle of putting the melody on top (far right in the right-hand chord).

What is a dissonant tone?

The scale of C is C,D,E,F,G,A,B,C. Then when one plays the chord C + E +G# (this is a C augmented chord), this chord is dissonant due to the dissonant note G#. Note that G# is NOT part of the scale of C and hence creating dissonance in the chord.

Example


Let’s do an example in the key of D with the popular song: I Surrender All

I will only deal with the section that I have chosen to phaten, which is the chorus itself.

First let’s determine the melody for the chorus in this key:

D(I),Db(Sur),B(re),A(nder).

Now, these tritone chords normally move chromatically, so we are going to change the melody just a little to:

D(I),Db(Sur),C(re),B(nder).

This melody may look different now, but if you listen to the midi file you will hear that it makes sense and is recognisable. You can always play around with the melody if in the end it will still be within the context of the song. Use your ear for judgement!

Now, we want to keep the melody on top, all we have to do now is choose tritone chords from the tritone chart which put the melody on top (far right).

Our melody again: D,Db,C,B. Here then are the tritone chords below which have the melody on top:

Melody

LH

RH

Notes

I

D

Db+A+D

D Major 7

Sur

F+B

E+A+C#

tritone

Re

E+Bb

D#+G#+C

tritone

nder

D#+A

D+G+B

tritone

Experiment then with these chords on different melodies or on songs that you already play. One cannot play these chords all the time, just choose a portion of the song that you wish to spice up and then use these tritones, you can’t use them for the whole duration of a song.

Remember: If it sounds right, play it!Let your ear be the judge and then analyze with the theory later.

To listen to midi, please click here


If you would like to be able to download the midi file, please click here

Piano lesson: The Power of the Major Seventh

Jazz and gospel music use a lot of 2-5-1 progressions. In the key of C a 2-5-1 progression would be:Dmin-G7-CMajor7. This comes from the fact that C-D-E-F-G-A-B=1-2-3-4-5-6-7.

The major seventh is used to construct minor 11 chords. Minor 11 chords can be used in place of minor chords. Let’s say we are in the key of Eb, F will be a minor in this key. An advance way of playing this chord in this key would be:

LH

RH

F C F

Eb G Ab C (Ab major seventh)

But then, the more advanced way of playing the chord according to GOSPELKEYS EXTREME is this:

LH

RH

F C G

Ab Eb G Bb (Ab Major 9)

This is a minor 11 chord, a very versatile chord that you can also use as a passing chord. Please note that when playing this minor 11 chord, the thumb playing the G and the Ab should almost touch, they are a half a step apart!


How to construct the minor 11 chord

Scale of F=F-G-A-Bb-C-D-E-F-G-A-Bb=1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10-11

Or you can look at it like this: Fmajor scale=F(1)-G(2)-A(3)-Bb(4)-C(5)-D(6)-E(7)-F(8)-G(9)-A(10)-Bb(11)


Therefore the formula for minor 11 chord:

LH=1-5-9 and RH=b3-b7-9-11

Then, just replace the numbers with the corresponding notes from the scale of F.


Let do an example for a C minor 11 chord


Scale of C major=C(1)-D(2)-E(3)-F(4)-G(5)-A(6)-B(7)-C(8)-D(9)-E(10)-F(11)

Using the above formula, we then get:

LH= C-G-D and RH=Eb-Bb-D-F

Now let’s play a 2-5-1 in the key of Eb.

What chord can we play on the 5th scale degree(i.e. Bb)? Well, this will generally be a dominant chord. Have you ever heard of tritones? If you do a search here at Hearandplay.com, you should get an explanation of tritones.

But this is how I personally look at it, a tritone of a specific note is a flattened 5th away of that note. Suppose we wanted to find the the tritone of C, the answer is Gb, since Gb is the flattened fifth in the key of C.

Now, the tritone of Bb is the note E(b5 of Bb). Now since these notes are tritone relatives, when you play the Bb on your LH you can play a Emajor or Eminor chord on your right hand.

Here is then the 2-5-1 in the key of Eb:

LH

RH

F C G

Ab Eb G Bb

Bb F Ab

B E Ab (Emajor)

Eb Bb F

G D G

Now let’s add those minor 11's as passing chordsbetween the II and the V.

LH

RH

F C G

Ab Eb G Bb

G D A

Bb F A C

A E B

C G B D

Bb F Ab

B E Ab (Emajor)

Eb Bb F

G D G

Enjoy the chords!

To listen to the chords, please click on this link: http://zone.hearandplay.com/index.php?name=PNphpBB2&file=viewtopic&t=8331

PIANO CHORDS BASICS

Wouldn’t you like to listen to songs on the radio and then be able to follow with your piano what you hear on the radio? The key to doing this is to learn to play the piano by chords - learning to play the piano using the chord method.

There are a lot of chords out there and a lot of variations thereof. But the basic chords that you will find in every type of music are the major and minor chords. These are also known as major and minor triads, due to the fact that they consist of three notes each.

The key to learning piano chords is to start with the fundamentals – from first principles, which is – learn first major and minor piano scales. You see once you know how to play major and minor scales it becomes easy to learn piano chords.

There are 12 major scales on the piano, but the principle to forming them is the same for each key and each key will consist of 7 unique notes. For example, in the key of Cmajor the scale will be: C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C these major scales sound the same as when you are singing “do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do.

Now, for every chord that exists, there is a formula to it. For major chords the formula is: 1-3-5 and for a minor chord is: 1-b3-5(the “b3” just means that you flatten the third note. Let’s say we want to form a C major chord, what you do is take the major scale of C and the convert it to numbers, that is, C-D-E-F-G-A-B-C=1-2-3-4-5-6-7. Now C major chord=1-3-5=C-E-G. Congratulations you have just learned a C major chord. This C-E-G just means that these are the notes that you will press down with your hand on the piano to play the chord. Note also that there are various ways to play any chords. If a chord has 3 notes, it means that it can be played in 3 different ways and if it has four notes, then it can be played 4 different ways. The chord we have just formed has 3 notes; hence it can be played four different ways, i.e. C-E-G, E-C-G and C-G-E. The method of playing these chords like this is called chord inversions.

Basically to learn piano chords, you start learning piano scales then chords then progressions (songs). Once you begin to learn and practice, forming piano chords will be second nature to you, you will eventually play them without thinking. With you chords you can harmonise melodies to you favourite songs using chord inversions. When using chords to play songs will make your songs sound fuller.

SHEET MUSIC VS PLAYING BY EAR

This debate has gone on for far too long. The are advantages and disadvantages for both types of playing. Classical musician would prefer sheet music while gospel musician would prefer playing by ear. This is probably due to the fact that classical pianist perform with an orchestra, which is a very formalised art form and as a pianist or violinist you are not allowed to improvise and do your own variation of what the orchestra is playing, whereas a gospel musician for example plays more by inspiration and there is usually not sheet music before hence he will be more inclined to improvise as long as the improvisation is within the framework and parameter of what the band as a whole is playing.

Disadvantages of using sheet music

People who depend solely on sheet music to play tunes usually cannot improvise. Someone else has already improvised for them via the sheet music. Usually these types of musicians cannot accompany a vocalist and usually struggle to learn simple tunes like “happy birthday” on their own, they do not play by ear, and they play by what is written before them.

Advantages of using sheet music

People who use sheet music, usually have good technique. They don’t just bang their fingers on the piano, but they play with technique. On the music sheet itself, you have to play notes a certain way, either loud or soft, slow or fast. It is an awe to watch a classical pianist play, especially when they play scales.Classical musician who read sheet music tend to become great jazz musicians because of all the technical skills they learn while using sheet music.

Disadvantages of playing by ear

Many bands or groups usually use sheet music to play. Sometimes bands don’t practice and may depend on sheet music only during their live performances. If you cannot read in such a setup, you can’t play. People who play by ear can’t play with an orchestra because they can’t read sheet music.

Advantages of playing by ear

People who play by ear can hear a song on the radio and immediately follow it on their instrument. In a live situation they can accompany a vocalist easily, even if they hadn’t rehearsed a particular song before. They are able to improvise on the spot using their creativity and ability to hear.


HOW TO PLAY CHORD INVERSIONS ON PIANO

MAJOR & MINOR CHORD INVERSIONS

Note that if a chord has 3 notes, it means it can be played 3 different ways. This means that a C major chord(C-E-G) can be played in 3 different ways.

That is, you can play this chord in the following ways:

1. C-E-G (Called a root inversion, the C note is on the left)

2. G-C-E (Called a 2nd inversion, the C note is in the middle)

3. E-G-C (Called a 1st inversion, the C note is on top)

For a C minor chord:

1. C-Eb-G (Called a root inversion, the C note is on the left)

2. G-C-Eb (Called a 2nd inversion, the C note is in the middle)

3. Eb-G-C (Called a 1st inversion, the C note is on top)

What do I do now?

Well begin to practice your inversions for all the major and minor chords in all 12 keys until you are comfortable in playing them.

Here is a list of all the major and minor chord inversions, master these and you will be well set to be on your way to playing songs.(M=major; m=minor). Practice these on the piano each day.



HOW TO PLAY A MINOR SCALE ON PIANO


Well, that’s a peace of cake!

Let’s use the major key of C as an example:


1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7

C... D...E.....F....G... A....B


On your piano, go to the sixth degree, there you will find the A.

The Aminor scale is the C major scale but starting on the 6th, it uses the same notes, therefore the Am scale= A B C D E F G A (C major scale rearranged).

Now you may ask, where am going with this?

Well let’s do 2 examples


Let’s say someone asked you to give them a Bb minor scale, what would you do?

Remember our table of scales, yes, there is nothing new! Just find in which key is Bb a 6th scale degree on the table. Bb falls on the 6th scale degree in the key of Bb, therefore you would use the notes of the Db major scale to find the Bb minor scale which is:



Now, the Bb minor scale would use these notes but starting on the sixth, i.e.:

Bb C Db Eb F Gb Ab.

Congratulations for reaching this point!

I have spent a lot of time explaining SCALES. Once you master this concept of scales, learning to play piano becomes easy, the only ingredient needed to succeed, would be your time, passion and patience.

Make sure you don’t do to the next section without understanding scales and knowing your scale degrees. It wouldn’t hurt to go through this section once again for the whole concept of scales to sink in.

Note: you don’t have to play your scales like a Mozart before you move to the next section; the most important thing is that you understand this concept of scales. You will master playing scales as you practice.

SUMMARY:

1. There are 12 major and minor scales

2. There are 8 notes in each scale

3. RULE for forming major scales is this: when moving from the 3rd degree going the 4th and when moving from the 7th going to the 8th, you only move 1 half step, for the rest of the notes in that scale; you only move 2 half steps/whole steps between them.

4. Learn/practice scales using the order of the circle of fourths.

HOW TO PLAY PIANO CHORDS

You now understand your major scales; this means that you have done the hardest work in your process to learning to play the piano.

Major and minor piano chords are very predominant in all music, so we shall start with these.

Major chords

How do I form, for instance, a C major chord? Well, remember this:

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7

C... D...E.....F....G... A....B

Now, the formula for a major chord is:

1 35 , translating that into notes we get,

CEG

That’s it! It does not get any easier than this my friend.

This chord above is a C major chord.

Here is another example, this time we will construct say, an F major chord.

1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5 – 6 – 7

F...G....A....Bb..C.....D....E

Formula,

135, write this in terms of notes we get:

FAC

Minor chords

The formula for a minor chord is: 1 – b3 – 5

So a C major chord will be: C – Eb – G

And an F major chord will be: F – Ab – C

CHORD FINGERING (How do I lay my hands down on the piano to play these chords?)

Let

· t=thumb

· i=index finger

· m=middle finger

· r=ring finger

· p=pinky

ROOT INVERSION

chord

C

E

G

finger to use

t

m

p

This means that when you play a C major chord with your right hand, you are going to use your thumb to play C, middle finger to play E and your pinky to play the G note.

Another way to play the root of C major is this:

ROOT INVERSION

chord

C

E

G

finger to use

t

i

r

Other fingerings:

FIRST INVERSION

chord

E

G

C

finger to use

t

i

p

SECOND INVERSION

chord

G

C

E

finger to use

t

i

r

Later we’ll do 4-fingered chords; this is how you will finger them:

Cmajor 7 chord,

ROOT INVERSION

chord

C

E

G

B

finger to use

t

i

m

p

SECOND INVERSION

chord

G

B

C

E

finger to use

t

i

m

p

C add9 chord,

ROOT INVERSION

chord

C

D

E

G

finger to use

t

r

m

p


Don’t worry concerning these chords; I will be explaining them as time goes on.

Note that you may come up with fingerings that are more convenient for you than the ones I’ve provided. If that’s the case, go ahead and use your own fingerings!

Playing piano chords: harmonically or melodically.

You can play piano chords either harmonically or melodically. Normally we play chords harmonically for fast songs and melodically for ballads, but this is not necessarily a rule because even for ballads pianists do play their chords harmonically a lot.

Let’s say we have C major chord: CEG

If I wanted to play the chord harmonically, I will play all of the notes of CM together, at the same time.

If I wanted to play the chord melodically, I will play the notes individually: C, E and then play G or I can go down with it, like this: play G, E and then C. If you want to you can even start on E, go to C and then play G, the choices are yours. Just experiment with different combinations and come up with your own style!

You can also mix the combination by playing the chord, first harmonically then melodically.

Try this for the CM chord(C-E-G)!

C-G → C-E → C-E-G

Try some of your own combinations and see what you can come with. To play piano, experimentation is what is going to take you to the next level and makes learning interesting and fun!

There was an error in this gadget