Archive for January, 2014


Lead Sheets and Fake Books: What Are They?

Thursday, January 30th, 2014
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Lead Sheets and Fake Books

Good morning. This is Duane. Today I’d like to talk about lead sheets and fake books. If you don’t know what a lead sheet and fake book is, you really need to know that if you want to learn to improvise at all. Professional musicians use fake books all the time and fake books are full of lead sheets. Let’s talk about what a lead sheet is. A lead sheet is simply the melody of a song with the chord symbols above it. No harmony is given, nothing written in the bass clef or anything like that; just the melody and the chord symbols.

A song may … A lead sheet might go like this [music 00:00:41-00:00:52] and that’s all it gives; just the melody. But then it gives the chord symbols. So first chord of that particular song is F minor 7th, second is B flat minor 7th, the third is E flat 7th, A flat, D flat, G 7th, C, C minor. So that’s what’s given. When I learned to play the piano, I was kind of thrown into the fire. When I was 14 years old I had a chance to play. I was a freshman in high school. Had a chance to play with the school dance band, which was very exciting because all the other guys were seniors; the drummer and sax player and guitarist and so on. I had to kind of adapt in a hurry and I didn’t know chords at that time.

I had to do a crash course on chords and I had somebody, fortunately, that told me what the main chords were. I sent off for a little chord chart and dove into learning chords. Then after I knew chords, of course, I didn’t know what to do with them. I would have played [music 00:01:57-00:02:03] and really struggled but I had to do more than that as a piano player. They showed me how to accompany somebody without playing the melody. I might go like [music 00:02:15-00:02:23] and then they showed me how to do a little rhythm to it. [music 00:02:26-00:02:36].

It’s a gradual process. I’d like to show you exactly what a lead sheet is and what a fake book is. I’m going to grab one here. This is called the “Ultimate Fake Book With Over 1200 Songs”. I hope you can see that. I’ll just kind of flip through it here. They are in alphabetic order so you can look up songs alphabetically: “It’s Only a Paper Moon”, “It’s Now or Never”, “Johnny One Note”, “June in January”, “Let the Good Times Roll”, etcetera. Lots of … 1200 songs here and all it is is the melody and the chord signs above that. They include the words, too, but that’s not related to music. You need to learn those chords that go with the melody and you need to know then what to do with it.

That has to do with arranging and improvising. Let me just show you a few more. These probably cost like, I don’t know what they cost nowadays. This is $45.00. Here’s one that has 650 outstanding songs. Cost $22.50. Let me tell you the price has really come down a lot. When I was 14, fake books were illegal by the way. Music stores had them under the counter and they would sell them to you for an inflated amount. When I was 14, I bought this … I’ll show you my original fake book. This is my original fake book. As you can see it’s falling apart. I paid $50.00 for this back … and that was a huge amount of money back then. It didn’t have near as many songs as those other fake books I showed you.

You can get fake books of all sort. This one is put out by Reader’s Digest, “Family Songbook of Faith And Love”. They include more … those are fake books, okay. They got the chord symbols but they also have some left-hand written-out parts, too. Might be good to start that way. I’m just going to show you a few fake books here. This is one of piano classics. These are classical pieces here and it says fake book but it … no, I’m sorry that’s not a fake book. That’s just a book of classics. That isn’t either. Well,, anyway, you get the idea. Here we go. Here’s a “Classical Fake Book” so if you want to learn some classical tunes and improvise on them, this is a good kind of book to have.

Anyway, I just wanted you to know about fake books and if you don’t have one, you can buy them on-line at amazon or lots of places or your local music store. They’re good to get and then just … It’s a good thing to do is get one and practice. You can practice your piano styles at improvisation and so on with those fake books. So that’s it for today. Come on over to PlayPiano.com and sign up for a free newsletter because we have things like this everyday about piano-related subjects and chords and so on. Hope to see you there. Bye bye for now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MBRYl81GD0

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Key Of G Major: What We All Need To Know About The Key of G

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014
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Key Of G Major: What We All Need To Know About The Key of G

Good morning, this is Duane. Today I’d like to take a look at the key of G, playing piano in the key of G major. When you play any kind of song in the key of G, of course, you’re basing your playing on the scale of G, which goes like this.

Now why does it have F sharp in that key? It’s because of the rule of half steps and whole steps. Every major scale has to have a whole step above the bottom note, above the root, and then another whole step, then a half, then a whole step, whole step, whole step, so that would be a half step, so we got to go up a whole step and then a half step. So if you don’t know the formula for major scale, be sure to memorize this, it’s very easy. Whole, whole, half; whole, whole, whole, half. Whole, whole, half; whole, whole, whole, half. So that’s a scale we are basing – are playing on in the key of G.

Now the primary chords in the key of G are the one, four and five chords, as they are in every other key. So what’s the one chord in the key of G? The first note in the G scale, we’ll take every other note, a root, third and fifth, and that’s a G chord.

What the four chord? One, two, three and four. That’s a C chord. And the five chord is the D chord. Again, why am I playing that note? Because that’s in the G scale, isn’t it? So that’s why I have to play that F sharp, and that’s why that chord is major, otherwise it would be minor, wouldn’t it? All three chords: one, four and five are major chords when you are playing the key of G. So if I play a song like this …

I was just using the primary chords in the key of G. And that silo is kind of a – what I was doing there is kind of a country twain kind of a style. I was playing the G chord but I was gracing off the second to the third like this. The melody was D at that point, so like that. But you can play in any style you want, of course.

In jazz it would have a different feel like that, wouldn’t it? It just depends on what style you are playing in, but the primary chords are always the same. The one chord, the four chord and the five chord.

Now there is three secondary chords too, aren’t there? The two chord, that would be A minor; the six chord, that would be E minor; and the three chord, it would be B minor. So we have three primary chords: one, four, five; and three secondary chords: two, three and six. With that we can do six chords in any key, we can play a ton of songs. You’ve heard songs like that. And that’s using the one chord, the two chord, the six chord and the five chord [effect 00:03:57].

Alright, that’s it for today, so learn those well and we’ll see you again tomorrow with a little tip about piano playing and music theory. If you like this sort of thing, come on over to playpiano.com and sign-up for a free newsletter on chords and chord progressions and all things related to piano play, so I’ll see you there. Thanks, bye-bye for now.


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Rapid-Fire Piano Runs In Slow Motion

Monday, January 27th, 2014
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Rapid-Fire Piano Runs In Slow Motion

Good morning. This is Duane. We’ve been doing a series of videos on how to play in various keys, but I’m going to take a little break from that this morning because we’ve had a lot of questions about what fingers to use and how to do those rapid-fire piano runs in slow motion. Let’s take a look at that. I’m going to do it in extreme slow motion here. Let’s take this run right here. It’s a G7 suspension. In another way, Audrey called it G7 suspension, and later, I’ll tell you about what else it could be, okay?

Notice, my left hand’s playing G and D, and my right hand’s playing F, A, C, E. You could do that as a, that’s a low G so that’s the root, and that would be the fifth, seventh, ninth, eleventh, thirteenth, but it’s also going to be viewed as a G7 suspension because the fourth is taking the place of the third, so I can play it like that too. I’ll do both, but let’s take this run and do it very slowly. Play each note from the bottom up with your pedal de-pressed, then you bring your thumb underneath your right hand and play the same four notes. Bring your thumb under, play the same four notes. Go as high as you want. That’s as high as I’ll go, and then you simply turn around and come back.
When you run out of fingers with those same four notes and bring your little finger or you kind of have to maybe lift your hand a little bit, and play the same four notes. Okay, let’s do it again. Now, my left hand is just sitting there, but actually, if I play that faster, I’ll probably bring my left hand up and play the chord to give a little support. Let me do that three times. Get the idea there? Okay, I’ll slow down now.

Okay, a little bit faster this time. I’m going to bring my left hand up to the chord. When my right hand gets back, it’s about to run into my left hand, then I pull my left hand back down to a lower root. By the way, don’t play the chord down here. It sounds too muddy. Just play the root and the fifth, or you can play, if you prefer [inaudible 00:02:59]. See there, that even gives it a little better support, particularly if you come up then and play the chord. Again now, that’s just one run, but you do the same thing to all the runs you want to do.

It sounds a little more complex because of the black notes involved. Let’s do this, so let’s make it just a G7 with a 13th in it. All I’m doing is bringing that C down to B, and it’s the same chord, or if you don’t like the 13th, just play a G9, G7 9th. F-A-B-D, that’s even easier. Remember, keep your pedal de-pressed so it hooks all those notes together. Let’s try one more. Let’s go up half a step and go to B-flat 7th. All you do is move those two middle notes from white notes to black keys. Here’s a minor 9th. You can do it to any, that’s G7 suspension. Now sometimes too, you can use a tremble low left hand. For example, I could do this.

That even gets it more support. All I’m doing in the left hand is playing a tremble over the same chord. Tremble is where you just alternate your fingers rapidly like that, then your right hand, playing the same notes but applies in higher octaves, okay? Well, there’s some ideas on what fingers to use and how to practice very slowly, and I want to emphasize, you do need to practice very slowly. If you’re an absolute beginner, you may despair at the thought of ever doing that, but believe me, there was times that I couldn’t do that at all, that I watched the people play that and it seemed out of reach for me, but eventually, even with these old short fingers, I was able to do it to some degree.

Now, understand that people’s dexterity is different and their finger shapes are different. I don’t expect to ever play as well as somebody with really good coordination. I don’t have particularly good coordination, but I accept that and I just do the best I can, and you can too. Okay, that’s it for today, so if you like this sort of thing and find it helpful at all, we have a lot more material like this at playpiano.com, so come on over and sign up for our free piano tips. Thanks. Bye.


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Playing Songs In The Key of A Minor On The Piano

Friday, January 24th, 2014
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Playing Songs In The Key of A Minor On The Piano

Good morning. This is Duane and today I’d like to take a look at the key of A Minor. We’re doing a series of short little videos about various keys that are popular for people to play in and the last two videos we took up the key of F based on the scale of F and then on its relative minor scale, the key of D. We talked about the three kinds of minor scales so I won’t go into that again.

The key of A Minor is based on the A Minor scale which goes like this. That’s the A natural minor scale. However, as we said there’s a harmonic minor scale which goes like this. You see that step and half in between the sixth degree and the seventh degree of the scale? That’s what gives it that distinct flavor.

Bear in mind there’s two possibilities here and I think I’ll give you an example of both. “Summertime,” that’s in the key of A Minor based on the harmonic minor scale. How do I know that? Because when it came to the five chord, it was major not minor. It would be minor, the five chord would be minor if it was based on the natural minor scale. Let me do it again. There’s an A Minor chord, E chord, A Minor, E, and there’s a four chord. Okay, let’s come back to the scale of A Minor. The one chord is A Minor, the four chord is D Minor and the five chord is E Major. Why? Because we’re using that harmonic minor scale. That’s why in “Summertime” and lots of minor songs you have the five chord being major. In most minor keys, the one chord is minor, the four chord is minor, but the five chord is major.

In classical music that’s true. Here’s Chopin’s “Prelude to C Minor.” See that’s minor. It’s in C Minor so that’s the one chord, that’s the four chord which is minor, that’s the five chord and back to the one chord. That’s very, very common.

Let’s come back to the scale of A Minor again. A natural minor scale. A harmonic minor scale. We said the three primary chords in any minor key are the one chord, so we’ll build a chord on one, A, C, and E. We’ll build a chord on four, that would be D Minor. We’ll build a chord on five, that would be E Major because of that raised seven. That’s how most minor songs are formed, using the harmonic minor scale to form a major five chord.

Now listen to this. That’s based on the natural minor scale. That’s A Minor and now we come to the four chord, back to the one chord. It’s clearly based on the natural minor scale because it has as minor one chord, a minor four chord, and a minor five chord. Why? Because it’s based on that natural minor scale. I know it’s a little confusing but get used to that. You’re going to face that in music all the time, that there’s two possibilities that you’re going to run into in minor songs. It could be based on the harmonic minor scale with a raised seven or the natural minor scale based on the natural seven.

Now the key of A Minor is relative to the key of C. Why? Because they use the same scale. You see if I play the C scale from C to C and I play the A scale from A to A, I’m using the very same notes aren’t I? That’s what makes it relative. That’s true on other minor scales. For example, if I play the C minor scale I’m not using the same notes. If the played the B Minor scale I’m not using the same … If I played the B Flat Minor scale I’m not using the same notes and so on. That’s what makes A Minor relative to C Major.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy this kind of stuff, come on over to Play Piano and sign up for our free tip newsletter, a lot of stuff having to do with piano and music theory and so on so see you there. Bye-bye for now.


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Songs That Toggle Between Major & Minor Keys

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014
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Songs That Toggle Between Major & Minor Keys

Good morning. This is Duane and today I’d like to take a look at songs that use both major & minor keys in the same song. They kind of toggle back and forth between major and minor. There are several, well more than several. There’s Lots of songs that do that. They are written in minor keys, but you will hear then change from major to minor and then back to minor. I think the reason for that is what we discussed yesterday. The primary chords in a minor key are 1, 4 and 5, but the secondary chords are different. The only useful secondary chord in a minor key is the 2 chord. The others are either augmented or diminished trais which don’t really function too well as the home based chords for a given key.

We looked at the scale of F which had the one flat in it, B flat. When we play in the key of F we’re basing our playing on that scale of F and the primary chords are 1, 4 and 5. The F chord, the B flat and the C chord, right?

Then we looked at the key of D minor which is relative to F major. What makes it relative? It’s a relative because it uses the same scale. The primary chords in the key of D minor are D minor, 1 chord, the 4 chord, G minor and the 5 chord, A. In minor the one chord in a minor key, the 1 chord is minor. The 4 chord is minor, but the 5 chord is major. Whereas in a major key they’re all major aren’t they? One, four and five. They are all major ones.

Let’s take a look at a song. I think you’ll recognize it. [Piano playing] That’s in D minor. The first chord and the last chord is D minor and it’s obviously in the key of D minor. We’re going to use the three primary chords in the key of D minor aren’t we? D minor, G minor and A 7th and we did that as we played through it, but did you notice it switched to F major somewhere along the line.

I’ll take it slow this time. We start out at D minor. [Piano playing] D minor, A 7th or I’ll just call it the A chord, D minor. D minor, D minor, A, D minor. D minor, now what’s that? That’s a C chord which is a member in the key of F. The one chord in F. B flat which is the four chord in the key of F. A, D minor. We’ve toggled from D minor to F major and back to D minor all in the verse.

Now we come to the chorus. C, F, B flat, F, F, B flat. Now we go back to what? D minor, C, F, B flat, G minor, A and back to D minor, B flat and ends in F. It starts out in D minor and ends in F major so we clearly have many points in the song where it toggles back and forth between the two keys. As you play various songs in minor keys I want you to look out for that. You’ll find that happens quite a bit. Like I said my suspicion is it’s due to the fact that there aren’t too many useful secondary chords in minor keys so composers choose to go to the relative major key for a while and then back to the minor and so on. That was clearly the case there.

I’m going to play it once more now that you know what the form is. You watch out for it. [Piano playing] Just a good example of songs that go back and forth between major and minor.

That’s it for today. If you enjoy this sort of little tip come on over to playpiano and sign up for our free tip newsletter. We will be sending you things like this every day; ideas on piano playing and music theory and so on. Thanks and we will see you tomorrow with another idea like this. Bye-bye for now.


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