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jodi Offline OP
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I have a question for you guys. First of all, I am not an adult beginner. Ok, I mean, I'm an adult (most of the time), but I'm not a beginner. I've played for a long time. I have always had the ablility to play by ear - (which hindered my sight reading abilities for quite awhile when I was younger), meaning I can transpose things from what I hear on a record (gee, am I dating myself?) to the piano, and get them down eventually. But I've not ever felt comfortable with on the spot improvisation. You know, where the tune comes out pretty much nicely as you are going along right from the beginning.

So recently, I've been messing with that. Mostly chord progressions, not always a known tune, often one that is made up as I go along. I fumble a lot - it takes a couple of tries sometimes to get where I want to be (meaning, I hear where I want to go with the next chord, but my hands don't always hit that place right, and I have to slide down.

SO - here's my question. How come I find it the easiest to do this improvising/chord progression thing when I start in the keys that use all the black notes - C# maj, F# maj, Bb min? (I think I got that right - I'm also a theory dope)? Is that just me, or does anybody else notice this? (Am I even asking this question in the right forum?)

smile Jodi

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Quote
Originally posted by jodi:
(Am I even asking this question in the right forum?)

smile Jodi
Hey, just because we seem to spend most of our time talking about llamas, the numbers 1 and 2, mr_super-hunky in a speedo, and (more recently) hurling insults at each other doesn't mean we're not capable of answering a simple music theory question!

And I'm sure somebody will be coming along shortly who can give you an answer. laugh

More seriously, I remember reading on the main piano forum somebody advising a beginner who was piano shopping to try playing only the black keys, because they were all in the same chromatic scale or something and therefore no matter which ones you pressed when, they'd sound good together. So I bet that's why you find it easier to improvise in, because even if you hit a technically "wrong" note, it will still sound good.

Now, will somebody from the Pianist Corner drop in and give the RIGHT answer to that question? wink

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You're in good company. Irving Berlin played every tune that he came up with in F#. He had to hire writers to transcribe what he played.

When playing by ear, the black notes are easier because they're so accessible. There is a lot more freedom for the fingers. In contrast, with C-major, the fingers are all scrunched up.

The only reason Mike (of pianomagic) selected C-major for us to stick with until we mastered it is because as beginners it's very important to be able to easily identify accidental notes when playing tunes by ear. And in C-major, if you're playing a black note, you're in accidental territory.

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try playing only the black keys, because they were all in the same chromatic scale or something and therefore no matter which ones you pressed when, they'd sound good together.
Pentatonic thumb

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jodi Offline OP
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Originally posted by Bob Muir:
in C-major, if you're playing a black note, you're in accidental territory.
Ok, that cracked me up. I don't know why. It sounds like a good signature line to me.

smile Jodi

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jodi Offline OP
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the pentatonic thing makes sense sort of. But I still end up on F natural and C natural and B natural a LOT. Which makes me think it's the accessible thing for me - the notes are easier to find. If you start out your chords in C# major, it is incredibly easy to pick out tunes like "Send in the Clowns" I've started to understand how some of these songs were created. Very interesting.

smile Jodi

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Jodi,

You must be able to "transcribe" (not "transpose") music down from listening the records/cds. This is an excellent skill, because you can hear exactly what is being done in the music and play it exactly. (I can also do this, but mostly guitar/brass band/choir music, not as easily on piano and orchestra music)

This skill is actually differnt from what most people call play by ear in this forum, and I think below is what you are also asking about.

There is another type of "play by ear" which is playing music and improvising on the fly without music, but knows how to play through a song, just knowing the melody and not knowing much about the arrangement. By knowing the inner strucutre of music and knowing how it flows, you know which chords will come next, so you can play through a song. There is a program that does teach you how to do this (sorry, I won't name which because this has been the "hot" topic in this forum smile )

Re: Black keys. C# and F# major consists of mostly black keys except for B natural, F Natural in F# major and and C Natrual nad F Natural in C# majoor. So I can see why you land on those notes alot. As noted, you are playing mostly pentatonic, if you just play the black keys and if you add the above white keys, then you are adding back the rest of the major notes that are missing in the pentatonic.

Pentatonic scale is one of the easiest scale to improvise, which is probably why you are saying you think C# and F# major are one of the easist key to improvise on.

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Cruising in from PC....

Black notes alone represent a pentatonic scale.

Most pop / popular music is constructed around a pentatonic (five note) scale.

This is the crutch for many pop guitarists - very many pop songs are written in Am pentatonic. if in doubt, start there!

if I have to improvise a piano fill in, a good place to start is a pentatonic.

There is not a lot more to it.

There are several different scale types (myxalodian, aeolian etc), but pentatonic is a good place to start.

Ask further questions if you wish.

Adrian


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personally - I think that the hand is physically most comfortable playing in keys that utilize all the black notes - thumb on white/fingers on black - it really fits nicely. Once you get past all the sharps or flats in the key signature it works. As far as improvising goes, the pentatonic scale wil almost always "work" in one way or another - it can be major or minor - so its relatively "safe" but I would encourage you to try to add more notes to your lines - a good place to start is with the 9th: add it to the pentatonic scale or, better yet, start on it with the traditional 7-tone major or harmonic minor scales (depending on the key).

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jodi Offline OP
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Originally posted by johnny boy:
Jodi,

You must be able to "transcribe" (not "transpose") music down from listening the records/cds.
yes - I meant transcribe. (musical vocabulary isn't my strong suit either laugh )

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Ok, this is helpful. RSVP Bob sent me to a website awhile back that had these chord progression charts - like flow charts - they told you what chords usually led into what other chords, and how to resolve (is that the right word) phrases of chords. I started to mess with it, now I seem to have lost the URL.

smile jodi

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jodi Offline OP
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Originally posted by pianojazz:
so its relatively "safe" but I would encourage you to try to add more notes to your lines - a good place to start is with the 9th: add it to the pentatonic scale or, better yet, start on it with the traditional 7-tone major or harmonic minor scales (depending on the key).
Sorry - you lost me there. If I start with big octave chords in both hands - C# G# C# (LH). F G# C# F (RH) and I'm noodling around with these sort of arpeggio chords and a sort of folk song melody between the keys of C# and F# (major) - i don't understand the adding the 9th part in? Or am I just (as usual) confused?

smile Jodi

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Jodi

Do you understand how intervals are worked out?

Have you come across the circle of fifths?

It may well be that a little simple music theory will advance your understanding a great deal.


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jodi, with a C# chord, playing a 9th just means you're going to play D# somewhere in the chord; either in the left hand or in the right.

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You can all amaze and astound your friends by just noodling on the piano. As long as you play only the black keys, it will all sound in tune and harmonic.

It actually will sound rather impressionistic.

Try it!

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Originally posted by Nina:
You can all amaze and astound your friends by just noodling on the piano. As long as you play only the black keys, it will all sound in tune and harmonic.

It actually will sound rather impressionistic.

Try it!
I did exactly that after Church service last Sunday and anyone who was still hanging around came up to me and asked me why I wasn't playing in Church yet, pretty cool stuff. Also, I noticed a lot of gospel players favor the keys of Db, and F# and I guess now I know why; it's pretty hard to screw up.

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Interesting thread. AJB is correct in that there is a lot to know about music theory. There is a lot of mathematical concepts and acoustical physics involved in the science of music. You don't need to know it (theory) to be able to play a musical instrument well but it does help to have some fundamental understanding of music theory.

Unlike the PM method of mastering the key of C before going on to other keys, I am occasionally playing/practicing in other major cords, flats and sharps. F seems to be my favorite key which includes the key of Bb.

The beauty of playing by ear is to experience the free flowing improvisation of the cords and melody notes. You get to "play it like you want to".

Regards.

Rickster


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>Irving Berlin played every tune that he came up with in F#. He had to hire writers to transcribe what he played.

Funny you should mention that..I was just trying to play Berlin's "Always" by ear the other day in the key of C (PM method). The first few phrases were real easy, and then I got into the "accidental territory", E and B7 chords, etc. The PM method teaches you how to choose the correct accidental chords to play, though, so it all worked out well in the end. smile Have you tried that tune yet, Bob?

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Nope. Firstly I'm not familiar with the tune, secondly, I'm sticking pretty close to cieoc songs until I'm better at the left hand styles. You may have heard my Loch Lomond in the recital - aiy!

But I'd LOVE to hear your rendition of the tune! How 'bout posting it in our ABF Piano bar ? thumb

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How about "Moonlight Serenade" instead? That's the only one I have in MP3. All the rest are MIDIs and sound terrible.

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