Monday, December 10, 2007

Free video on playing "Joy To The World" on the piano using rhythm and chords

I thought you might like to know that there is a free short video on playing "Joy To The World" on the piano using rhythm and chords and all sorts of exciting arranging techniques.

You can watch it at Video on "Joy To The World"

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Beethoven's "Fur Elise" & How It Was Written

One of the best-loved of all classical pieces is Beethoven's Fur Elise.

Ludwig van Beethoven is one of the most famous classical composers of the western world. Beethoven is remembered for his powerful and stormy compositions, and for continuing to compose and conduct even after he began to go deaf at age 28.

Beethoven scholars are not entirely certain who "Elise" was. The most reasonable theory is that Beethoven originally titled his work "Für Therese", Therese being a gal named Therese whom Beethoven intended to marry in 1810. However, she declined Beethoven's proposal, which no doubt contributed to his depression.

The piece begins with a trill-like melody flowing into an arpeggiation of Am and E7 -- the I and V7 chords in the key of A minor. The next section uses the same theme -- or an approximation of it, but in C major and G major. At the end the minor theme returns.

For details on the piece and how it was written, go to:


Monday, November 19, 2007

Christmas Carols Galore

Here are some familiar old carols that can be played on the piano (or guitar0 with just a few chords:

Silent Night
Away In A Manger
Joy To The World
Deck The Halls
Go, Tell It On The Mountain
O Come, O Come Immanuel
Star Of The East
The First Noel
The Holly And The Ivy
While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks
God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day
O Christmas Tree
Angels We Have Heard On High

For a quick way to learn how to do that, go to:

Christmas Carols for those just starting out

Monday, November 12, 2007

Music Scales -- A Ladder Of Notes

If you were anything like me, you hated to practice scales when you were a kid taking lessons. I couldn't see any possible use for playing scales, or even knowing them.

Boy was I wrong!

Without scales I wouldn't have a clue how to form chords, improvise, make up fills and riffs and so on. Plus I wouldn't have the technique to play what I need to play.

So thank heavens for my teachers who drilled scales into me.

If you need to brush up on your major or minor scales, please go to:

Friday, November 09, 2007

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Saturday, November 03, 2007

What fingers should I use?

Lots of people have asked me over the years what finger to use on such and such a piece of music.

I can usually suggest a workable fingering, but people's hands are so different, that it is hard to generalize.

I have a very small hand, so I can't reach things on the keyboard that people with big hands can. So I use a different fingering than they do.

For some general principles of fingering, please click here.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Playing Songs On the Black Keys Only

When I was in high school I had a wonderful friend who played the piano, but mostly just using black keys. I was just the opposite -- at that point in my learning experience, I tried to avoid the black keys -- the dreaded sharps and flats!

But he got a great sound out of just the black keys, and in time I found out that he was playing the pentatonic scale -- a 5-note scale used a great deal in Asia and in Africa. Of course you don't have to play the pentatonic scale on black keys -- you could play it on any major scale just by leaving out the 4th and 7th degrees of the scale; for example in the key of C the notes would be C, D, E, G, and A -- leaving out F (the 4th degree of the scale) and B (the 7th scale degree).

Here are a few melodies you can play using a pentatonic scale:

Swing Low
Amazing Grace
I'm Just a Poor Wayfaring Stranger
Deep River
Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen
This TrainAmen (1 white key)
Kum Ba Ya (1 white key)
Were You There?
When the Saints Go Marching In

Friday, October 26, 2007

What can you play on just the black keys?

Yesterday I wrote an article about the pentatonic scale, and mentioned that the 5 black keys on a piano form a pentatonic scale (penta=5). A student of mine sent me a YouTube video which illustrates this perfectly. Here it is:

How to learn to read music without it taking forever

I read this in an article on the web:

"Sight reading is the act of reading and playing a piece of music before having ever seen it: on sight. This technique is a vital one for musicians to learn. Being skilled in sight reading makes reading a piece of music easier; the musician doesn't have to labor over every note and re-teach themselves the common patterns. Sight reading, after a decent amount of practice, becomes like second nature."

Well, nice, but not quite.

Sure -- it's great to be able to do that, but about 99% of working musicians CAN'T do that -- including me, so don't feel bad if you're one of us. (I can sight-read most printed music, but there's plenty of complicated scores that take me lots of time to master.)

For the classical musician it is imperative to be able to sight-read well, but for most pop and gospel and rock musicians, something less is usually quite adequate. Why? Because in pop and folks and gospel and rock and jazz, musicians don't usually play a song as it is written anyway. Instead, they use the sheet music as a "map" to give them the general directions of a song, then by adding their own skills to it create something much more exciting than the usual piece of sheet music.

All a pop musician really needs is a knowledge of chords and some music theory, then an overview of how reading music works. After all, music is made of melody, harmony, and rhythm, so you can get a fairly clear picture of reading music as a whole in just a short time.

You won't be great at reading music, of course, but you'll get the idea, and you can develop your sight-reading skills lots more as you go along. That's what I call "coming in through the back door."

Can you learn to read music in just a few hours?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Would you like to Tango? (on the piano, that is)

Latin-American rhythms are a lot of fun to play on the piano because they keep both hands busy -- sometimes playing different rhythms.

But the rhythm of the tango is not as complex as one would think, but because of the interplay between various instruments, one micht get that impression.

There are two basic types of tangos — the Spanish Tango and the Argentine Tango.

The basic structure of the Spanish Tango is in 4/4 with a quarter notes on the first beat followed by an eighth rest on the first half of the 2nd beat followed by two quarter notes in each measure, whereas the Argentine Tango is in 4/4 with three quarter notes followed by 2 eighth notes per measure.

To complicate things a bit, the Spanish Tango sometimes has a two measure rhythm, with the 2nd measure consisting of eighth, quarter, eighth, quarter, quarter.

All this plus many other rhythms are covered in detail in Rhythm Piano.

Monday, October 22, 2007

How To Harmonize Any Tune With An Appropriate Chord In The Left Hand

I used to wonder how in the world good piano players knew which chords to use in a song -- when there was no music in front of them. They would play song after song effortlessly without ever looking at a piece of sheet music.

I remember a man in Hollywood named Dave who was known as "THE piano teacher". Big names -- recording artists -- took lessons from him. Students and others sitting around the room in his studio on Cahuenga Blvd. (between Sunset Blvd. and Hollywood Blvd.) would call out songs and Dave would play them one after another. If he didn't know the song, he would ask them to sing or hum a few bars. Before long he was playing the song with both hands -- not just the tune, but harmonizing each melody note with a beautiful chord. I loved it, but I had no idea how he did it.

I was so impressed by his ability to do this that I pumped up my courage and asked him if he would give me private lessons. He said he would, but his prices were out of my league at the time (I was in college). But a few months later during the summer I saved up enough to take 6 weeks of lessons.

By the time those 6 weeks were up, I was able to do pretty much the same as Dave -- not quite, but close. And I was thrilled! What I learned that summer -- even though it cost me a great deal -- has been worth a fortune to me -- not only in money, but in terms of satisfaction and just the sheer joy of being able to harmonize any song with a series of appropriate and beautiful chords!

For the full story, please go to "How To Harmonize Any Tune With Beautiful Piano Chords!" at

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Transposing a song from one key to another

Transposition is changing the key of a piece of music, or changing the notes without changing their relationship.

This is often done to make the piece of music easier to play or sing. It's a common practice in bands that don't perform their own material; the singer may wish to cover a song with vocals that are far out of his or her range. Transposition can correct that problem by shifting the key into a range that is comfortable for him or her. Transposition is also used with instruments. Some instruments (called transposing instruments) are not tuned to the same note; for instance, a bass clarinet is tuned to a B flat and a high clarinet to an E flat. Transposition of the sheet music for these instruments ensures that they won't sound awkward and flat when playing with the rest of the orchestra or band.

Transposition by scale degree uses the scale degrees of a piece of music to determine the relationship between the notes. Each note in a piece is assigned a scale degree (tonic, submedian, etc.) and the same scale degrees are used for the new chord. This type of transposition is potentially simple, as the relationship between the notes will always remain the same, regardless of the key.

Transposition by harmonic interval uses intervals as a guide for the transposition. By finding the interval between the dominant notes in the two keys, one can deduce the interval between the all the notes. If the difference between the notes is a major third, then transposition of all the notes will be done by a major third. This type of transposition is also potentially simple but calls for an added carefulness when dealing with accidentals that aren't expressed in the key signature.

I personally use a combination of the two, but the real secret to transposition is to be able to think in each key; in other words, to be as fluent in one key as you are in another. Most people start out playing everything in the key of C, since the scale of C has no black keys. I have a friend that did just the opposite -- he played everything in the key of Gb, because that way he could use all the black keys and only a couple of the white keys.

In any case, get familiar with all 12 major keys and all 12 minor keys. That way you won't be in a "foreign country" when you need to play in some key you aren't used to. It's analagous to learning to speak 12 languages to some degree -- at least enough to get by.

And by the way, many people confuse transposing and modulating. Modulating is the process you use to get from key to key -- like a smooth hallway between keys.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Medicine & Jazz Piano

Over the years I have taught scores, if not hundreds, of doctors and medical professionals learn to play the piano better. Many of them play jazz, and often not just for their own amusement, but they form combos and play weekends at resturants and clubs and rest homes and rec centers and you name it.

I don't know what the connection is -- maybe they just need a release from what they do all week long -- but it seems to happen again and again.

I don't often plug other people's courses, but I came across a young med student who is also a terrific jazz pianist, and he has come out with a course on playing jazz piano. His name is James Wrubel. Check it out at "How To Play Jazz Piano".

And even if jazz isn't your favorite style, you can still learn a LOT that will help you as you play songs in your style.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Adult piano courses

We are working on a new shopping cart for our web site which will be much easier to navigate and operate. It's not done yet, but if you want to have a look at it, go over to Adult Piano Courses.

Friday, September 28, 2007

The simple secrets to harmonization

Have you ever wondered how in the world the really top piano players knew which chords to use in a song -- when there was no music in front of them. They would play song after song effortlessly without ever looking at a piece of sheet music.
I remember a man in Hollywood named Dave who was known as "THE piano teacher". Big names -- recording artists -- took lessons from him. Students and others sitting around the room in his studio on Cahuenga Blvd. (between Sunset Blvd. and Hollywood Blvd.) would call out songs and Dave would play them one after another. If he didn't know the song, he would ask them to sing or hum a few bars. Before long he was playing the song with both hands -- not just the tune, but harmonizing each melody note with a beautiful chord. I loved it, but I had no idea how he did it.

I finally got up the courage to ask him if he would teach me how to do that too. Read the rest of the story here.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Jazz piano videos

Here are some short videos of a jazz pianist teaching some of his techniques including some jazz chords. Good stuff! Jazz piano Click on the link at the top of the page that says "Video Clips"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Piano PDFs & Piano Ebooks

There is a growing trend for more and more music publishers to come out with piano PDFs and other forms of piano ebooks. I think it is a good development, because it does away with the delay between wanting to learn some aspect of piano playing and the fulfillment of that desire. With a physical piano course there is often a time gap of a week or more before the course reaches the individual buying it because of shipping time. But with a downloadable piano course a person can decide they need to learn that particular thing, and 60 seconds or so later actually be learning it!

Of course downloadable piano courses are much shorter in length than DVD piano courses and cannot by their very nature show full-motion video. But even that will change someday not too far off.

Here are a few PDF piano courses a person could download and start learning immediately:

"Become a Musical Mindreader"

"Power Piano Chords"

"Instant Chord Finder Software"

"Piano Tabs & Guitar Tabs"

Saturday, September 22, 2007

What in the world are "piano tabs"?

Do you know what piano tabs are?

If you don't, please don't feel bad. I didn't either.

I've used chords in my piano playing all my life, but when the phrase "piano tabs" or "chord tabs" started coming up in various places, I started asking my musician friends what they were. Most didn't know -- like me.

So I asked a teen-aged guitarist if he knew what they were, and he said "I know what guitar tabs are, but I'm not sure what piano tabs are"

So I hired a writer I know to write an ebook on piano tabs. The more she got into the research needed to write the ebook, the more she saw that guitar tabs and piano tabs are very similar, so asked me if she could include guitar tabs in the ebook.

I said "Sure -- why not?"

She just finished it, and it opened my eyes, so I thought there are plenty of other piano players who, like me, would like an overview of piano and guitar tabs and how they work.

My name may be on the ebook, but as I said, I didn't write it. (It cost quite a bit to have it written and then have all the illustrations put into an ebook).

So if you are curious about piano tabs as I was, you can pick it up at
"Piano Tabs & Guitar Tabs".

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Winchester House of Mystery

Have you ever been to the Winchester House of Mystery? It's a house built by the widow of Winchester (of Winchester rifle fame) around San Jose California. It has about 160 rooms and cost over $5 million to build -- from 1884 to 1922 (38 continuous years!) I remember as a kid going there with my folks and being quite excited about staircases that lead nowhere, doors that open into brick walls, etc. etc. If you want to check it out, go to

The reason I bring this up on a blog devoted to music and piano playing is because our site,, resembles that house. It has a zillion rooms with hallways that lead nowhere, and is like a maze a person can easily get lost in (I sometimes get lost myself).

That's because I'm not a technical guy at all -- just a musician who loves to share what he's learned with others -- and so it has been built over the last 10 years by a variety of people, some of whom didn't really know what they were doing, with no master plan in view.

But I'm happy to say that those days are almost over. The entire site is being redesigned by a wonderful talented guy named Pat Pelzel who really knows what he's doing, including building a brand-new shopping cart that is easy to understand. It won't be done for a couple more months, but you can look at it in progress at

It will make it much easier for everyone to find what they need!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What We Learn When We Learn Music (Besides Music)

Professor makes case for musical mind

Don’t forget to thank mom and dad for those piano lessons when you were a kid. Chances are, whether you liked it or not, the hours spent practicing scales and sonatinas probably made you a little bit smarter, Mesa State College biology professor Gary McCallister says.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Piano man can lower blood pressure

Here's some exciting evidence that music is good for you. We've known it all along, but it's nice to have in confirmed from time to time.

Read about this guy who plays in a hospital and lowers the blood pressure and stress levels of people coming into the hospital.

Piano man can lower blood pressure and reduce stree levels

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Chord substitutions using "Silent Night" as an example

You can create your own chord substitutions to freshen up any song just by using a couple simple principles:

Teach Yourself Piano?

Back when I was a kid it was unheard of to learn to play the piano without a teacher. Oh sure -- lots of people picked out tunes by ear, played pleasant sounds and patterns, or learned a few chords from friends. But virtually no one became a competent pianist by teaching themselves.

I took lessons from Mrs. Graham, a nice little old lady who lived by the college I later attended, from the time I was 6 until about 8, when an opening finally occured in the teaching schedule of Luzetta -- the most famous of the local teachers in my home town. I took lessons from her for about 4 years and learned all the scales and drills and hundreds of little songs until I could finally play some easy classics.

But it wasn't until I was 14 that I really took off in my piano learning, and from then on it was a matter of teaching myself and taking a series of 'crash' lessons from professional pianists, most all of whom were recording artists of some sort.

What got me motivated to teach myself? I'm out of time, so I'll tell that story tomorrow.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Did you take piano lessons when you were a kid?

I'm looking for several people who took piano lessons as children to share anecdotes about their experiences in an article I'm putting together.

If you have had a funny experience at piano lessons -- such as making up an excuse for why you didn't practice like "the dog ate my piano book", or a negative experience -- such as the teacher slapping your wrists, or making you play scales endlessly, drop me an email telling me about it and giving me your permission to use it in an article.

If I choose to use your story, I'll send you a small thank-you gift, so please include your mailing address. Send your email to: and put "kidslessons" in the subject line so I don't miss it.

I will look forward to hearing from you!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Playing piano from chord symbols in a "fake book"

Most professional musicians play from a book called a "Fake Book". I bought my first fake book containing only about 200 songs when I was a teenager -- they were illegal then, but most musicians owned them -- for $50. That would be equal to $500. or more now. But fortunately, they have since become legal, so you can buy a real good one with 1000 songs now for $50. or less. A fake book contains just the melody (tune) and the chord symbols of a song, so you have to know chords to use one. But when you do, your playing comes alive -- you're only reading a few notes, but playing lots of notes.
Most people learn to play the piano by playing just the written music. Playing by written music is exactly what the phrase says it is -- playing the exact notation on a piece of sheet music. But playing by chord symbol is very different. Instead of following the harmony note by note, you follow the chord symbols (i.e. C7 or F) written above the harmonies, filling in the gaps with...well, whatever you want as long as it sticks to those chords. Of course, you'll still read the melody (it is, after all, often what makes the song recognizable) but even that is completely open to interpretation. Playing by chord symbol allows you a freedom that playing by written music simply doesn't. The freedom to create. The freedom to invent. The freedom to arrange chord patterns in the way you want.

Does that mean playing by written music is less important than playing by chord symbol? No. The ability to play by written music is an extremely valuable skill, one that even some of the most famous musicians don't possess. And while you don't necessarily need to know the skill backwards and forwards to create great arrangements, it's a great help.

For lots more info on this subject, please go to "How To PLAY More Notes Without READING More Notes"

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Music education: What is Music, Anyway?

We all know that music is recognized as the "universal language" -- doesn't matter what the language is, we all sing, we all hum, we all whistle, and many of us play some kind of instrument -- from primitive drums that make just one basic sound (although any drum can be made to create various pitches depending upon the tension of the membrane being used) to sophisticated synthesizers which can create anything from orchestral scores to sound effects and everything in between. (If you could pull back the curtain and look in, you would see that most of the musical backgrounds you hear on TV shows are not created by orchestras, but by one guy at his synthesizer!)

But what are the elements music is created from? There are really only 4:




Tone Color

If you want to add "words" to the list above, be my guest, but words are not part of ALL music, so I'll leave it out, and just focus on the big 4:

Melody is the tune of a piece of music or a song -- the part you whistle or hum or sing or play as a solo.

Harmony is the tonal environment which supports the melody and gives it context. Harmony involves either intervals (the distance between the melody and the supporting tone) or chords (3 or more supporting tones).

Rhythm is the pulse, or beat -- the mathematical pattern that sends music down the road from here to there.

Tone color is the sound you hear -- either the sound of a human voice, or a sax, or a piano, or a drum, or a guitar, or any instrument or combination of instruments -- usually many all mixed together forming a "musical meal" called a song or a piece or a composition or an improvisation or all of the above.

In future editions we will take up each one of these elements separately, then later see how they all blend together.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What is an arpeggio? Is it the same thing as arpeggiation?

When you play individual notes of a chord one at a time instead of as a unit, it is called "arpeggiation". So an arpeggio is simply a broken chord -- a chord broken up into it's respective individual notes.

You often hear beginners play simple arpeggios, such as the C chord repeated over and over up the keyboard or back down. But arpeggios can also be complex; for example, you can arpeggiate any extended chord such as a 9th or 11th or 13th or any alteration. And you don't have to go straight up the keyboard -- you can hesitate in any octave, then continue, or head back down and then up, or change chords in mid-stream -- there are lots of variations.

For an example of arpeggiation, you might want to take a look at the short video on tremelo-fired runs. It is an example of one type of arpeggio, yet beginning with a tremolo.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Silent Night - Chord Substitutions on Christmas Carols

One of the most creative things you can do to make your songs more interesting as a piano player is to use chord substitutions. Instead of playing the same old chords everyone else uses, why not create your own combinations?

It freshens up a song harmonically and redefines the melody.

Here is a short video example of how to use chord substitutions using Silent Night as an example:

Click on this link learn how to do this to Christmas Carols such as Silent Night.

And click on this link for the definitive course in Chord Substitions.

How people search for piano-related help online

I subscribe to a service that provides data on the words and phrases that people use to search for piano-learning help on the web. It's amazing what a variety of terms people type into search engines such as Google and Yahoo and MSN. Here is a very short list of actual phrases people use (and there are literally hundreds and hundreds more):

music harmony online, gospel music videos, piano chord how-to, piano songs music, music speed learning, dowvload keybard muzic (yes -- that's exactly how they spelled those 3 words! And there are lots of other mis-spellings, such as cord, kord, paino, pano, ceyboard, and hosts of others -- it boggles the mind!), lesson of music, music leson, piano leson, chord keyboard, www play music, popular piano music, musical chords, piano notes chart, and on and on.

Most all of the needs expressed by these searches can be at least partially filled by simply going to a good music authority site, such as and signing up for free piano chord instructions by email newsletter.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Free piano chords...

I saw an ad on the web advertising "free piano chords!", as though someone owned them and was giving them away free on a limited basis.

Obviously, not only all chords are free, but notes are free and rhythm is free and melody is free and...

It's the instruments that play the music that cost -- except for the human voice, of course.

But if anyone is looking for a free LIST of chords, or free PHOTOS of chords, then here's a couple places they can find them:

Diminshed chords

Augmented chords

6th chords

Friday, August 24, 2007

Keyboard chord tutorial

Many of the best keyboard chord tutorials are not only free, but available instantly on the internet. I know Jermaine has many, as does my friend Dave, and I have at least 100 -- probably more like 200 by now.

Here are a few:

Major chord tutorial

Minor chord tutorial

7th chords tutorial

There are lots more, but that will suffice to get someone started. Then they can sign up for an entire series of piano lesson tutorials on chords and chord progressions.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Where to study piano chords online

One of the wonderful things about the internet is that it is now possible -- for the first time in history -- to get instant information about most any subject. For example, if you want to learn about minor chords, you just type "minor chords" or "minor piano chords" in a search box on Google or Yahoo or MSN or any search engine, and presto! -- in a matter of seconds you can be learning minor chords. There are even videos on minor chords as well as photos and illustrations, and on and on.

Then if you really love what you see on the net, you can often get in-depth piano courses on the subject on DVD's you can order online. Think about that -- just over 10 years ago you would have had to either enroll in a college course or seek out a private piano teacher to learn these things. Now you can do it in a flash!

Do we live in an amazing age, or what?

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Where can I find the best piano books?

There are literally thousands of music books in general and piano books in specific, but it's sometime difficult to locate the kinds of piano books an adult looking to learn or review piano after many years would find useful.

The most helpful piano books for adults are almost always connected to a CD or DVD or video which goes along with the book. Why? Because without a teacher along side us on the piano bench, most of us would be lost using a book by itself. "Where do I put my hands?" "What fingers do I use?" "How do I use this in a song?"

The questions go on and on. For some help in this area, click on PIANO BOOKS.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Where can I find good gospel piano lessons?

I would go to one of two sites:

1. Black Gospel

2. Praise & Gospel

Positioning a chord on the piano keyboard

Positioning a chord on the piano is called "chord voicing". It means to arrange the notes of whatever chord you are playing in some order so that you obtain the sound you are looking for.

Sounds simple, and in a sense it is, but it also separates the boys from the men and the girls from the women when it comes to getting a unique sound.

For example, the F chord is composed of 3 notes: F, A, and C. But I can invert that chord, I can "stretch it" by leaving more space between various notes, and I can slightly offset the notes I play rhythmically so that a unique effect is obtained.

For a bit more information on chord voicing, go to: Piano Chord Voicing.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Blues piano videos

There is a short blues piano video at "Short Video Clips" on the site. If you're interested in the blues, check it out -- it's free.

Monday, August 13, 2007

What are "keyboard progressions"?

The question came up about keyboard progressions -- are they different from chord progressions.

The answer is no -- they are the same. Just different words for the same reality. I guess you could also call them piano progressions too, unless you play them on the guitar, in which case you could call them guitar progressions.

Progressions are simply units of a song or piece that move between chords. For example, if a song in the key of F has a chord progression that moves from F to Am to Dm to Gm7 to C7 to F, we might term it the "I -- iii -- vi -- iim7 -- V7 -- F" progression.

For a complete treatment of chord progressions, see "Chord Progressions"

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Piano Tips

One of the most useful piano tips I know has to do with eye movement when you are reading music. If you must look down at the keys to find a particularly high key or a particularly low key, don't move your head -- just do what I call an "eye flip".
Keeping your head pointed straight ahead at the sheet music while flipping your eyes down at the keyboard will usually keep you from losing your place in the written music.

It feels a bit strange at first, but you get used to it over time and it really helps not to get lost. With your eye sockets pointing straight ahead, it is easy to direct your gaze back to the printed music after glancing down quickly to locate a key.

"But I saw so-and-so on TV and he/she looked down at their fingers all the time."

My answer to that is simple: when you're on TV, you can do that too.

Seriously, when you don't need to refer to the sheet music, you can look anyplace you please -- at the keyboard, out the window, or whatever. But when you're reading music, if you don't want to lose your place and get lost, then I suggest developing the "eye flip."

More tips coming soon.

(Taken from "33 Tips To Becoming a Great Pianist")

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Questions about guitar chords & keyboard chords...

I have had quite a few interesting questions recently come in via email. Here are a few that I thought I would share, as they might throw some light on some areas of foggy thinking.

Q:"I have a friend who says he is learning piano with guitar chords. Is that possible?"

A: Yep. Chords are chords, no matter what instrument you play them on. The F major chord, for example, is always made of 3 notes: F, A, and C -- in any order. So if I play those 3 notes on the guitar and on the piano, the only difference will be the tone color of the instrument and the pitch. You can learn chords for both instruments from a piece of software called the "Side-by-Side Guitar & Piano Chord Chart" at

Q: "I know you sell piano courses on DVD, but I am looking for a DVD to learn keyboard playing. Where can I find DVD's for keyboards?"

A: There's no difference between a piano and a keyboard as far as learning chords and styles and so on. The only difference is in the touch -- the feel -- of the keyboard, and of course the sound it produces. So lots of people take my courses and learn on their portable keyboards, and later move to the piano.

Q:"Do you teach chords for keyboards?"

A: That, of course, has the same answers as the last two questions: chords are chords, and keyboard chords are the same as piano chords (or organ chords, or sythesizer chords, or...)

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Musical chords

Someone (a student of mine) asked me the difference between a chord and a musical chord. At first I chuckled at the question, because after all, a chord is a chord -- it's part of music.

But after thinking about it for a moment, I realized that it depends on how the word is used, and the intent of the question. Did she mean that she really doesn't know that all chords are music chords? While possible, that didn't seem likely. Or perhaps she used the word "musical" in the sense of "pleasant or good" -- one chord is musical, while another chord is discordant.

That started me thinking about words in general, and how we who speak English as a native language must drive other people nuts (there's another idiom!) with our idioms.

Take, for example, the phrase "candy box". 99% of us would assume that what is being spoken of is candy in a box. But to a person who grew up speaking another language, it could mean a box made out of candy. And that is a simple example -- it gets much more complex.

I have a young friend from Mexico that I joke with, and one day I called him a hot dog. He looked at me quizzically and asked "pero calliente?" -- which is the literal translation of hot dog. He wondered if I was calling him a dog that was hot.
So I explained the idiom, and he got a big kick out of it, and now calls me "pero calliente" every time I see him.

And so while I realize that phrases such as "musical chords" can mean different things to different people, I told the lady who asked that they are the same as any kind of chords. And chords, of course, are groups of 3 or more notes played simultaneously. (Unless you are speaking of "broken chords" -- but let's not go there...or "implied chords" ...and let's definitely not go there!)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Here's a way to learn chords on your CD player in your car...

A friend of mine has just come out with an audio series of chord lessons so you can listen and learn as you drive, work, play, or whatever. Check it out at Audio Series.

"Do You Know Of A Good Course In Singing?"

From time to time people ask me if I have a course in singing.

If you heard me sing, you would know for sure that I don't have a course in singing. But there is an excellent course available online called something like Sing-O-Rama It is very inexpensive and has good reviews. Listen to the creator of the course tell about it at Sing-O-Rama.

Pretty interesting.

If you take the course, please let me know how you like it -- thanks!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Piano For Adult Near-Beginners

"Classical Piano For Adult "Near-Beginners!"
(Who Have Forgotten Most Of What They Learned
When They Took Lessons As Kids)

One of the great things about this course is that Duane doesn't just teach you to play a song, but to understand the song in terms of form and chord analysis. That way you not only learn to play, but you understand what you are playing, which makes it much easier to retain and to memorize.

This course was specifically developed by Duane for adults who are "near-beginners" -- they read music a little, but aren't very advanced. There are thousands of adults like that who took piano lessons when they were kids, but have forgotten most of what they learned.

If you are one of these people, here is a way to get up to speed fast. On the DVD Duane walks you carefully through song after song, explaining the key and what chords to expect, as well as the form of the song. (Lots of pieces use the "AABA" form -- which means if you learn the "A" section, you've already learned 3/4 of the piece. All you have to do then is learn the "B" section and you've got it!)

You are really going to love this course if you enjoy playing classical music!

Please go to:

Saturday, June 23, 2007

"I Took Piano Lessons As a Kid, But I've Forgotten Almost Everything..."

"I Took Piano Lessons As a Kid, But I've Forgotten Almost Everything..."

There are literally millions of adults today who took piano lessons when they were growing up, but at some point along the way gave them up. Some couldn't care less, but many have an urge down deep to take up piano playing again someday.

Over the years I have never heard anyone say "I'm glad I never learned to play the piano", but I have heard hundreds say something like "I sure wish I had paid attention when I was a kid", or "My piano teacher was too strict (or too boring), but I would love to get back to the piano some day."

And most people that feel that way have the "round-tuit" problem that we all have; they mean well, but the busyness of life distracts them from starting to play again. And they really don't want to take lessons again from the little old lady down the street who can't tell the Beatles from Beethoven. Plus it's hard to work regular lessons into their already-packed schedule.

So what's the solution?

Please go to the full article to read and watch the short video:

"I Took Piano Lessons As a Kid, But I've Forgotten Almost Everything..."

Click here to watch the free 6-minute video!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Get The Skinny On Making Money At Home In Your Own Home Business...

A brand new book on making money working from home is now available from titled "Get the Skinny on Making Money at Home!" written by a musician in Oregon who has made his entire living from home for the last 40 years.
Medford, Oregon (PRWEB) January 22, 2007 -- An exciting new book on earning a living at home has been published by Keyboard Workshop of Medford Oregon. The 100-page book covers everything about working at home from creating your very own product line to marketing that "family of products" via direct mail and the world-wide web to press releases and article distribution.

The author, Duane Shinn, has made his living from home for the past 40 years, raising 4 kids in the process, and has created over 300 specialized courses on DVD and CD for adults about various aspects of piano playing and chord formations. He clearly shows how to leverage your natural talents into a family of products you can market to people all over the world -- most of whom you will never see.
Shinn writes: "It doesn't matter what your talents and skills are. Somewhere there is a hungry market for your skill. You just need to find that market and give them what they are looking for...your skill. Do you play guitar? There are about 19 zillion people in the world wishing they could "play like you." Do you play piano? Another gazillion folks are waiting for you to teach them what you know and can play. You can teach piano. I ought to know – I have operated a “one-man-music-school” in my home for many years, and taught many others to do the same."

     There has never been a better time in history than right now to start and develop your own business right at home. Just a few years ago there was no computer networking, so it was difficult to transfer the work you did at home to your place of business. But no more: With the development of the personal computer, people can work anywhere – and they are – in record numbers.

Even if you don't have your own product, or don't care to develop one, did you know that many people all over the world work at home, yet don’t even have their own product or service? Because of the growth of the internet, an entire community of people have been formed called “affiliate marketers”. Affiliate marketing is a commision-based business opportunity.You advertise and promote products, and receive commissions.  This type of business has unique benefits. There is no customer support. You have no physical inventory. You will have access to ads provided by merchants. You'll sell stuff you don't own to people you'll probably never see!

The book reveals at least 10 incredible benefits of working for yourself at home:
No boss!
No commute!
No time clock! 
No child care!
You get to see your kids grow up!
No dressing up!
The exhilarating sense of freedom creating your own product or service!
The joy of doing what you love, whatever that is for you.!
No limits to your income!
Tax benefits!
For more information or to order the book on "Get the Skinny on Making Money at Home for just $9.95 please go to:

About Keyboard Workshop:

Keyboard Workshop in Medford Oregon was born in 1965 and has taught thousands of people to play the piano using chords. Courses from the Workshop can be found at

Please go to Duane's Amazon Store

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

"7 Great Ways To Make Money In Music"

There are lots of ways to make a living in the music industry, and very few of them have anything to do with getting on stage and performing, or trying to crack the lineup on American Idol. In fact, most of them reward interpersonal skills and organizational skills more than they reward a strong voice, or the ability to rip the chords on a Fender, or bang out 1/64 beats on a drum kit.

Please go to the article now: "7 Great Ways To Make Money In Music"

How Musicians Can Use Podcasts to Publicize Their Music

As a musician, one of the best ways to start becoming successful in the music business is to build up a fan base. You need to get your music out there so people can start listening to it and enjoying it. Publicizing your music is extremely important, and while ten years ago it may have been a difficult task, technology has afforded you some very simples ways to get started. One new way that you can start getting your music out there is by using a podcast. Podcasts are excellent ways that you can inexpensively and quickly get your music out there to the public, which is extremely important to your success as a musician.

Please go to How Musicians Can Use Podcasts to Publicize Their Music

8 Easy Musical Instruments that You Can Learn to Play Quickly

There is really nothing in the world like music. There have been studies to show the amazing effect that is has on the human brain, such as the link between music and spatial intelligence. The only thing that can compare with listening to music is the ability to make our own music.

Not everyone is as gifted as the rest when it comes to playing music. Not all of us have the time, or want to invest the time in learning to play a complicated instrument such as the piano. That does not mean that we don’t all want to be able to play an instrument. There are easy musical instruments that you can learn to play quickly. Here are 8:

Please go to the article online at

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Piano tips audio postcard...

To get your Audio Postcard, turn up your speakers, and click on this link:

Listen for with you soon.

If for some reason you can't hear me, come on over to

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Come on over to my Squidoo page!

If you haven't been to Squidoo yet, you are in for a treat. Come on over and see my page, and if you like, you can create your own page.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Music therapy helping to change world...

An interesting article on the benefits of music:

A six-month pilot program using music therapy with sick children at Adelaide's Women's and Children's Hospital is being extended because of positive results.

And music therapy is also helping other groups such as refugees, young people with eating disorders and cancer patients.

Please go to the article to read the rest.

Friday, May 11, 2007

How To Know Which Chords To Use In a Song

There's a new downloadable e-book available on
"How To Know Which Chords To Use In a Song BEFORE You Play The Song!"
Check it out at:

Musical Mindreader

Famous Mothers in Music

There was an interesting article in ABOUT on "Moms in Music", and since Mom's Day is coming up fast, thought you might like to see it.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Chord Progressions

Here is a typical chord progression:

C Am7 Dm7 G7

It is commonly referred to as the "We want Cantor!" chord progression, because those are the first 4 chords of a famous song by that name.

But you can use that very same piano chord progression not only in "We want Cantor", but also in "Blue Moon", "Heart & Soul", "Unchained Melody", "Ebb Tide", &quo! t;Polka Dots & Moonbeams", "It's The Talk Of The Tow n", and countless other tunes. You can also use the exact same progression in gospel songs such as "He's Everything To Me", "I Am Not Worthy", and many others.

So if you knew that progression -- I mean REALLY knew it -- you could play countless songs, and portions of countless others.

This same piano chord progression also makes an excellent introduction to most ANY song.

And this very same chord progression also makes a great "turnaround" in dead spots in a song, as well as for use between 1st and 2nd verses of a song.

All this from just ONE chord progression!

There are at least a DOZEN piano chord progressions such as this that occur over and o! ver again in song after song, and in my Chord Progressions course you will hear me play each chord and explain each progression in detail. You will hear me make RUNS & FILLS & RIFFS of various kinds out of each progression -- runs & riffs & fillers you can use, no matter whether you play gospel music, rhythm & blues, pop, rock, ragtime, jazz, praise & worship, or whatever.

The principals are exactly the same no matter what style you play in.

By learning a few runs & riffs that flow out of each chord progression, you will be actually practicing the "fancy stuff" you can then include in thousands and thousands of songs!

Please go now to the web page that tells all about it:

Friday, April 27, 2007

I found a piano learning program for kids that is fun and actually works!

As you know, all of my courses are for adults, even though I have taught hundreds of kids in our teaching studio over the years. I just felt as though kids need a warm body sitting by them to help them along and motivate them, whereas an adult wanting to play the piano is self-motivated. So I have had to turn down lots of parents who have wanted their children to take my courses.

But I am delighted to tell you that I have discovered a wonderful piano learning program for children that is disguised as a game. It is lots of fun so it keeps the interest of kids from 3 on up (and I understand some adult beginners also use it).

Please go to

Monday, April 23, 2007

The facinating secret of learning just a few chord progressions...

Here is a typical chord progression:

C Am7 Dm7 G7

It is commonly referred to as the "We want Cantor!" chord progression, because those are the first 4 chords of a famous song by that name.

But you can use that very same piano chord progression not only in "We want Cantor", but also in "Blue Moon", "Heart & Soul", "Unchained Melody", "Ebb Tide", "Polka Dots & Moonbeams", "It's The Talk Of The Town", and cou! ntless other tunes. You can also use the exact same progression in gos pel songs such as "He's Everything To Me", "I ! Am Not Worthy", and many others.

So if you knew that progression -- I mean REALLY knew it -- you could play countless songs, and portions of countless others.

This same piano chord progression also makes an excellent introduction to most ANY song.

And this very same chord progression also makes a great "turnaround" in dead spots in a song, as well as for use between 1st and 2nd verses of a song.

All this from just ONE chord progression!

Please go to

Sunday, April 22, 2007

More Reasons Why Everyone Should Learn Chord Piano

Click below to play this 5-minute video from Google Video! (You might have to click twice on the start button to get it going, for some unknown reason)

Monday, March 19, 2007

Music software: Exciting things you can do in music on the internet using software!

Are you a musical prodigy as well as a tech savvy computer fiend? You might as well combine the two and look into the hundreds of ways in which you can not only learn, but create, and edit your music with your computer, using software readily available online. There are hundreds of options out there, many of them perfect ways for you to unlock your inner virtuoso.

Please go to to read the entire article.

Famous people who played the piano

Of our 42 US Presidents, two of them were pianists, both Richard Nixon and Harry S. Truman. Even today, famous politicians such as Condeleeza Rice serve who is a wonderful pianist, who at one time considered becoming a concert pianist before pursuing her degrees in international relations and economics.

Please go to to read the entire article.

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Music Theory & Harmony: Boring?

Music Theory & Harmony: Boring? No!
It's An Exciting X-Ray Into

How Music Works!

It's a sad fact that most people, including piano players, regard music theory and harmony as some abstract concept that has very little to do with the songs they play on their pianos. Nothing could be further from the truth. Knowing music theory and harmony is the key to opening a whole new world of exciting insights into the songs we play, and enable us to do things on the piano we never dreamed we could do, to say nothing of enjoying the process a hundred times more.

What is music theory, and how can I benefit?

Here are just a few of the wonderful skills and insights a person benefits from by learning music theory:

How notation works -- a huge advantage in sight-reading.

The hierarchy of rhythm -- solving rhythm problems before they begin.

All kinds of scales -- the "ladders of notes" every song is composed of. Major scales, 3 types of minor scales, chromatic scales, whole tone scales, modal scales.

How transposition and modulation works -- playing songs in different keys, and getting from one key to another smoothly.

Complex time signatures, and what they tell you.

Perfect, major & minor intervals -- helps ear training greatly.

Two-part and four-part harmony.

For the rest of this article, please go to

Friday, March 02, 2007

Piano Chord-Casts

If you listen to podcasts, here are some piano-related podcasts called "Piano Chord-Casts"


PS They are all free, of course.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Is It Really Possible To Play The Piano By Ear?

Is It Really Possible To Play The Piano By Ear?

Playing by ear is the ability to play a piece of music (or, eventually, learn an instrument) by simply listening to it repeatedly. The majority of self-taught musicians began their education this way; they picked up their instrument and began playing an easy melody from a well-known song, slowly picking out the notes as they went along. And even after these musicians master their instruments or a particular song, playing by ear still plays a large role.

Many pop and rock bands don't play or write their songs based on sheet music, they figure the songs out by playing by ear. It's even common among non-musicians. Ever sit down a piano and mindlessly pick out the tune to "Mary Had a Little Lamb"? What about grabbing a guitar and suddenly finding yourself playing the opening licks to "Smoke on the Water"? That's playing by ear. You're able to play part of the song just because you've heard it so often.

Playing by ear is a valuable technique for many musicians; learning songs based solely on hearing them is a great way to understand song and chord structure. In fact, a great number of rock and pop musicians learned to play their instruments this way. Instead of picking up a book or taking lessons, they concentrated on figuring out the notes and rhythms to a song until it was mastered. Then they moved on to another song. And another. Gradually, they learned their instrument just by playing by ear -- and in the process learned how to effectively structure a song in that particular genre.
To continue this article, please click here:

Monday, February 26, 2007

Piano Books: The Top Piano Books To Help You Become a Better Piano Player!

Piano Books: The Top Piano Books To Help You Become a Better Piano Player
There are umpteen zillion piano books available in music stores and online at such places as Amazon. And piano books are usually necessary if your goal is to become a better pianist.

But how does a person know which piano books are necessary and which books are redundant, to say nothing of good or bad. There are books on music theory, scales, chords, books about composers, books about music in general, and of course piano lesson books by Schaum, Williams, Alfred d'Auberge, Bastien, John Thompson, Glover, etc., etc.

The best way is to divide the study of piano playing into it's components:
General lesson piano books:
For the rest of this article, please go to:

Monday, February 19, 2007


In contrast to a unison or an interval, a chord is any group of 3 or more notes that are played at the same time. Broken chords, also known as arpeggios, are chords which are played one note at a time, but add up to 3 or more notes.

For full article, please go to:

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Music Chords: How To Become a "Chord Detective"

Music Chords: How To Become a "Chord Detective"

Over the years I have been a piano teacher I have had many people call or write me and ask me something like this:

"I play by ear, or by chords, but lots of music doesn't have chord symbols written in -- how do I know what chord to play when?"

"Our hymn book doesn't tell which chords to use -- how can I know what to play?"

"I read music but don't have a clue what chords are being used. How can I know what they are?"

What do you do if you want to play a song using chords instead of the written sheet music notes, but the song doesn't have any chord symbols printed -- symbols such as Cm7, G13, B+, D dim7, etc.?

There's a logic behind every note written in music, & you can learn to understand that logic, and therefore understand music. If you can read music to some degree but don't "see through" the written music -- don't understand what you are seeing -- it is now very possible that you can put on your "chord glasses" that good "chord detectives" wear to see through all that mass of black printed notes on a white page of sheet music to quickly understand what chords are being used and the "family logic" behind it all.
The "family logic" is this: In every key there are certain chords which are organic to that key -- "family members", so to speak. For example, in the key of F the 3 most used chords are F, Bb and C. In the key of G the most used chords are G, C, and D. In the key of Eb the most used chords are Eb, Ab, and Bb. Do you see a pattern here?

Chords are based on scales, and the chords which are used the most in any key are built on the 1st degree of the scale, the 4th degree of the scale, and the 5th degree of the scale. They are identified by using the Roman numerals I, IV, and V.

So the most used chords in any key are the I chord, the IV chord, and the V chord. They are the primary chords, and they are all major. They occur way more than other chords. The next most used chords are the ii chord, the iv chord, and the iii chord -- all minor chords.

Just knowing these simple facts gives a musician a giant advantage when learning or playing a song. If he or she knows the most likely chords that are going to occur in a song, based on the key of the song, then they can scrape together other evidence quickly to build an air-tight case that they know the chords of that song.

For example, let's take two musicians about to play from a piece of sheet music. Both read music, but only one knows chords and music theory. The first musician looks at the notes and sees a Bb in the bass clef as the first note, a Eb in the bass clef in the second measure, a Bb in the 3rd measure, an F in the fourth measure, and so on. He can play what he sees, but nothing else, because he doesn't grasp the fact that the first few measure have given away the fact that the primary chords have been outlined.

The second musician looks at the same music, but with "X-ray eyes". He sees through the same notes into the chord structure behind the scenes.

The first musician is tied to the written music and limited to the notes printed on the sheet music, while the second musician has the best of both worlds: he can read the music and play it as it is written, but he can also add chords and fills and come out with a much bigger, more interesting arrangement than the first musician.

The benefits of becoming a chord detective are many:

It allows a musician to immediately identify what key a song is in...
It allows a musician to know POSITIVELY which chords are most likely to occur in each song...
It allows a musician to look at the first measure and the last measure and immediately know the harmonic form of any song...


It works in any key -- major or minor...
It works with any kind of hymn or gospel song...
It works by releasing a musician from being "tied to the written music"...
It works by allowing a musician to add chords of his or her own...

The bottom line is this: knowing chords and music theory allows a "chord detective" to develop "see through eyes" that immediately perceive the structure of a song and then allow that musician to use both the written score and any fillers or improvisations he or she desires to add to a song.
For the entire article, please go to:

Monday, February 05, 2007

Piano Runs & Fills

Runs & Fills:
How To Add Real Excitement To Your Piano Playing!

We've all heard pianists who make us drool with musical jealousy when they play, using a tool box full of lighting-fast runs and clever fills that have us clamoring for more. I well recall hearing Errol Garner play "I'll Remember April" when I was about 14. I had no idea a piano could be played like that, and I was absolutely fascinated by all the interesting and exciting runs and fills he added to his improvisation of those standards.

If you're anything like me, you would love to learn how to "fill up the empty spaces" with scale fragments, chords, broken chords, and so on. Techniques such as 8th note runs , 16th note runs, 32nd note runs, triplet fills, and many combinations thereof -- some so fast you can't even see which notes are being played. Techniques such as"cascading waterfall runs", the fabulous "pro straddles", the exciting "tremelo-fired runs" and lots more. Learning how to "fill it up" with runs and fills would certainly take your piano playing to the next level.

After listening to countless pianists in all genres, I compiled a list of six types of runs and fills that they often use:

1. "Cocktail" runs --The lightning fast runs used by the great "show" pianists. One hand runs, two hand runs, open-octave runs, tremolo-blasted runs, cascading waterfall runs and more. Made famous by such names as Eddy Duchin, Carman Caballero, Liberace, etc., but also used tastefully by many others, such as Roger Williams and many "pop" piano players.

2. Embellishments -- Mordents, inverted mordents, trills, turns, tremolos, grace notes, glissandos, etc. These are the "finesse" techniques that give your piano playing class and grace. Virtually NO amateur piano players use these, so the pianist that learns these is putting herself or himself in a class usually reserved for professional pianists.

3. Piano tricks -- How to make your piano sound oriental, or make it sound like a drum or a music box? A bell? Latin? Country?

4. Evangelistic runs -- These are the octave runs and fillers used by the great gospel pianists of past and present such as Rudy Atwood and other evangelistic piano players.

5. Jazz & blues runs -- Using the "blues scale" up and down the keyboard, blue note-crunches, slides, etc. These runs are very useful not only in jazz and R & B, but also in "black gospel" (I hate to use that term because it sounds racist, but people use it to describe a certain type of gospel music, so I reluctantly use the term...but only in that sense of the word), fusion, and many rock-pop songs.

6. Fillers galore -- Filling up an empty measure with a counter-melody; creating an intro; creating an ending; developing "turnarounds", plus chromatic fillers, fillers based on the Dorian and Lydian scales and other "church mode" scales.

It is exciting for any pianist to picture himself or herself playing those LIGHTNING FAST runs up the keyboard and back down in time for the next chord, or playing CASCADING RUNS down the keyboard for a WATERFALL of wonderful sounds, to say nothing of using mordents, inverted mordents, trills, turns, tremolos, grace notes, glissandos, fillers galore, cocktail-piano runs, plus gospel-style runs as well as "blues runs" based on the blues scale!

Is it worth the effort to learn some or all of these techniques? It certainly has been for me, but every pianist will have to make that judgment for himself or herself.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Piano Chords: How Many Are There?

An interesting experiment is to ask people how many chords there are in music. You'll be surprised to find out that most musicians don't do any better at answering that question than non-musicians.

Why do you suppose is that?

It is probably because it sounds like one of those questions such as "How many grains of sand on the seashore are there?", or "How many stars are there in the sky?"

And in a sense it is, but in another sense, we can get a fairly accurate sense of chord population just by calculating all the chord types and then multiplying them by the number of inversions that are possible and the number of octaves that are possible on any given instrument.
So let's start with a listing of chord types:

Diminished 7th
Major 6th
Minor 6th
Major 7th
Minor 7th
Half-diminished 7th
Flat 9th
Sharp 9th
Sharp 11th
Sus 7th
Aug 7th
9th/Major 7th
Add 2nd
Add 4th
Flat 5th
7th with flat 5th

That's 25 of the most-used types. There are several other variations, but these chord types will do nicely for our purposes of estimating the total number of chords.

Each chord can be inverted -- turned upside down -- by the number of notes in the chord. For example, a 3 note chord has 3 positions -- root position, first inversion, and second inversion. A 4 note chord has 4 positions, a five note chord has 5 positions, and so on.

We will say for arguments sake that 4 positions is the average, knowing that some chords have more and some have less. So if we multiply 25 chord types by 4 positions, that gives us 100 possible chords per octave.

But of course we can build chords not just on one note, but on 12: C, Db or C#, E, F, F# or Gb, G, G# or Ab, A, A# or Bb, and B -- 12 different roots. So 12 times the possible 100 or so chords per octave give us a rough total of 1200 possible chords.

Some instruments only have the range to play 2 or 3 octaves, whereas a piano with its 88 keys can play 7 octaves -- 100 chords in the lowest octave, 100 chords in the next octave, 100 chords in the next octave, and so on up to the top octave of the keyboard.

So on the piano we could theoretically play those 1200 chords in all 7 octaves, giving us some 8400 possible chords. Of course, some would sound so low or so high that they wouldn't really be useable in a song. But still, they are possible.

So what's the answer to the original question? It depends upon the instrument and how many variations of each chord the individual musician uses -- but in any case, it's a bunch! For more, please go to:

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Did you know that music is based on natural "laws"?

Did you know that music is based on natural "laws" -- like gravity -- and by learning to understand how those natural laws work we can actually understand what we are doing when we play -- we don't have to be at the mercy of what someone else has written on a piece of music.

How many of these facts do you know about music & piano playing? Test yourself and then check the answers at the bottom of the page:

Did you know that by learning just 3 chords you can play hundreds of songs?

Did you know that there are only 12 major keys you can play in, but you only really have to master one key to play most popular songs?

Did you know that it is possible to easily match any melody note (tune) to a chord, so you can harmonize any note?

Did you know that Beethoven's Fur Elise and the blues song "Summertime" uses the exact same chords for the theme of the song?

Did you know that it is quite possible to predict what chord comes next in a song with accuracy approaching 85%?

Did you know you can use the same chords to play boogie, blues, new age, gospel, pop, rock, jazz, country - anything except classical music? (And even some classics!)

Did you know that by coming in through the backdoor of piano playing -- chords -- you can start making wonderful and satisfying sounds on the piano in just a few days instead of a few years -- even if you don't know Middle C from Tweedle Dee?

For the answers to the questions above, please go to:

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Blues Scale & It's Use

The Blues Scale

The blues started not as a piano style, but as a vocal style, and of course the human voice can sing "in the cracks" between the notes on the keyboard. So when we play blues on the keyboard, we try to imitate the human voice by playing BOTH the 3rd and the flat 3rd -- BOTH the 5th and the flat 5th -- BOTH the 7th and the flat 7th. We would play in the cracks if we could, but we can't, so we do the best we can by combining the intervals to imitate the quarter steps that a human voice can sing. (Certain instruments can do that too -- for example, the trombone. Since it has a slide, it can hit an infinite number of tones between any two keyboard notes.)

So in the key of C, for example, the blues scale would include:

C, D, Eb, E, F, Gb, G, A, Bb, B, and the octave C.
In the key of F the blues scale would include:
F, G, Ab, A, Bb, Cb, C, D, Eb, E, and the octave F.
In the key of G the blues scale would include:
G, A, Bb, B, C, Db, D, E, F, F#, and the octave G.

So in improvising you can craft a melody out of any or all of these notes. Start by creating a motif out of just 3 or 4 notes, then repeat that motif as you change chords.

For example, if you were in the Key of C, you might create a motif such as C, C, G, Bb C and repeat it in various rhythms as you play the C7 chord in your left hand, then again as you move to the F7 chord, and so on.

With practice and experimentation you can play your own variety of the blues as you master the blues scale.

For more info on the subject, please go to

Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and music educational materials such as DVD's, CD's, musical games for kids, chord charts, musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. A free lesson on music notes and music theory is available: "Music Notes & Flat Key Signatures" Duane holds advanced degrees from Southern Oregon University. You can sign up for his free 101-week online e-mail newsletter titled Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords & Sizzling Chord Progressions" which now has over 70,000 current subscribers worldwide.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Music Notes: How Pitch & Duration Are Determined

Music Notes: How Pitch & Duration Are Determined

Notes are the musical notation representing a fixed pitch. While the word strictly refers to the physical notation of a pitch, it's more commonly used to refer to both the pitch and the notation.

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Piano Lessons: Make Sure They Include Chords & Music Theory!

Piano Lessons: Make Sure They Include
Chords & Music Theory!

Proper piano instruction is an element extremely vital to learning the instrument well. Though it's very possible to be a self-taught piano player, piano lessons can really increase the speed and efficiency with which one learns the instrument. That's not to say that great piano instruction makes great piano players overnight; even the most naturally talented pianists still play for years before they consider themselves advanced. But proper piano lesson instructions will maximize those years to the fullest and ensure that the student is learning the correct techniques.
Though teaching styles always vary from instructor to instructor, piano instruction generally covers the same basic areas: fingering, , music reading, scales, technique, and sight reading. The early lessons will cover fingering and posture, making sure the student knows how to hold his or her hands and where to put them on the keys; series of scales practiced repeatedly will be the basis of this area. Piano instruction will then move on to notation essentials, starting with the basics of notes and key signatures and time signatures and then moving forward to more advanced concepts in rhythm, tempo and dynamics.
Many of these concepts are introduced into the piano instruction while the student is learning to read music, a practice that runs through the entire course of the piano instruction. Teachers will assign short, easy pieces to kick start the student's music reading knowledge and eventually move forward to more advanced pieces. Sight reading, the ability to play a piece of music without ever having seen it, is sometimes placed sporadically throughout the piano instruction, after a student is fairly well-versed in reading music.
One crucial element of piano playing that is often left out of traditional piano lessons is the study and practice of chords and music theory. To learn to read music without understanding the theory behind the music and the chords and chord progressions that form the music is almost like teaching a surgeon to cut without understanding the human anatomy and it's interrelated parts. The student will be able to play the piano from a piece of sheet music, but take that music away or have it blow off the piano and he or she is immediately in big trouble.
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Monday, January 01, 2007

Transposition and Modulation

How do transposition and modulation relate? Are they the same? In this newsletter we're going to take a look at both of them and see what makes them tick.

I'm sure that you have had the experience sometime in your piano-playing life when someone asks you to play a song -- but in a different key than in which it is written. It might be a singer wanting you to lower the song a step so he/she doesn't screech. It might be a song leader wanting you to play a song in a more comfortable keys for a congregation or group. It might be a trumpet player looking over your shoulder and wanting to play along with you -- but when he/she plays the same note you are playing, it sure doesn't sound the same!'s your job, as pianist, to get that song moved to a different key. That's transposition -- playing or writing a song in a different key than in which it was originally written.

Modulation is similar but different -- modulation means the process of getting fro
m the old key to the new key. In other words, if I'm playing in the key of C, and then want to play in the key of Eb, I have to learn to modulate -- move smoothly from one key to another without being too abrupt and jarring.

There are basicly 3 ways to transpose:

1. by intervals
2. by scale degrees
3. by solfege -- the moveable "do" system.

But since solfege applies mostly to singers, we will ignore that possibility and just take up the first two:

1. Intervals: If the new key is an interval of a minor 3rd above the old key, then all notes in the song will also be an interval of a minor 3rd higher. In other words, if you are transposing from the key of C to the key of Eb, which is a minor 3rd higher (or major 6th lower -- whichever way you want to look at it), then all melody notes will also be a minor 3rd higher:

"G" in the key of C would become "Bb" in the key of Eb. "E" in the key of C would become ":G" in the new key of Eb. "A" would become "C", "B" would become "D", and so on. All chords would also move a minor 3rd higher. The "C chord" would become the "Eb chord", the "F chord" would become the "Ab chord", and so on.

2. Scale degrees: Each key you play in has it's own scale degrees. In the key of C the scale degrees are: C=1, D=2, E=3, F=4, G=5, A=6, B=7, C=8. In the key of Eb, however, Eb=1, F=2, G=3, Ab=4, Bb=5, C=6, D=7, Eb=8. So if I want to transpose Silent Night, for example, from the key of C to the key of Eb, I need to notice what scale degrees I am using in the key of C, and then use those same scale degrees in the key of Eb. For example, Silent Night starts on the 5th degree of the scale, goes up to the 6th, back to the 5th, then down to the 3rd. In the key of C that is: G-A-G-E. But in the key of Eb it is Bb-C-Bb-G. Why? Because the scale degrees 5-6-5-3 are constant -- we just need to apply them in each key. What about chords? Same idea. If the chord progression on Silent Night is the I chord followed by the V chord, followed by the I chord, followed by the IV chord, etc. -- then in the key of C that means C-G-C-F-etc., but in the key of Eb it means Eb-Bb-Eb-Ab-etc.

Modulation means getting between keys, so let's say you are playing in the key of C, but you want to get to the key of Eb smoothly, without jarring the nerves of the listeners. There are lots of ways to do it, but the main point is that you have to get to the V7 chord of the new key. So from the key of C to the key of Eb, that means getting to Bb7. How do we do that smoothly? We look for chords with common notes. Since the V of the V of the new key would be Fm7, we have C as a common note. So we hold the C in the C chord, and move the rest of the C chord to Fm7, then Bb7, then Eb, and presto -- we are there! I realize that may be a bit hard to follow with just printed words to follow, but if you saw it happen (like on a video) you would understand it instantly, I think.
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