Creative Piano Teaching: Months 6 to 12 (Part 3/6)

This is the third article presenting my piano lessons over 4 years, please start with the first article. With many new pieces introduced in the last lessons, there are no new pieces before lesson 20.

Lesson 17: Accompaniment Register (January 19th, 2016)

1- Progression Cycles of major ii-V-I in positions A and B: after each group of 3 progressions, reverse position from A to B or B to A, so that you don’t end up too low in the register. Avoid chord notes below C3 (one octave below middle C)

2- Arpeggios: C, Am, G, F, Bb

3- Scales: practice left hand only in 16th notes, to gain strength in the weaker hand.

4- Winter

  • Work on the rhythm, i.e. tap or sing it
  • Practice LH only for the first page

5- Satin Doll: do play the A9 (in 3rd inversion)

  • Step 1: RH: theme
    LH: bass, at 56 = quarter note
  • Step 2: RH: chords
    LH: bass

6- Blues form in accompaniment format: stabilize and loop the form, at 88 = quarter note

Lesson 18: iReal Pro! (February 2nd, 2016)

A fantastic accompaniment tool is iReal Pro, which we will start using more and more as I get more advanced.

1- Cycles: alternate between positions A and B as needed, to keep the register in an optimal location.

2- Arpeggios: add D

3- Scales: focus on the hard ones

4- Winter: focus on the part up to the key change, practice hands separately

5- Satin Doll: practice with metronome on beats 2 and 4, at 42 = half note. Same formats as last week.

6- Blues: keep working

7- Beethoven Moonlight sonata: identify the difficult passages

Lesson 19: Special Rhythm (February 9th, 2016)

1- Scales: continue; arpeggios: add Bm

2- Satin Doll: whole piece in accompaniment mode, without metronome

3- Winter:

  • continue with hands separate
  • listen to the tune
  • start the chorus
  • fingering trick for the Ab5: use 5-2

4- Blues:

  • add this rhythm on the right hand: tied half note +16th note, dotted 8th note, quarter note.
  • strengthen your Cm and Am blues scales

5- Moonlight: continue

Lesson 20: Beautiful Love (February 22nd, 2016)

1- Arpeggios: C, Am, G, F, Bb, Bm, Em

2- Scales: from now on, always practice rhythms without interruption, i.e. 8th notes, followed by 8th notes triplets, followed by 16th notes, over 2, 3 and 4 octaves respectively, hands together.

3- Satin Doll: practice in half-time, i.e. quarter note at 88, rather than half note at 44. This helps with strengthening the rhythm. Whole piece in accompaniment mode.

4- Blues form: another rhythm in the RH: dotted half-note and quarter note on 4th beat.

5- Minor blues scales: polish Bbm and Gm.

6- Beautiful Love, Jazz standard.

  • Listen to several versions of the song on YouTube, especially by Bill Evans
  • Analyze the chords, locate the ii-V-Is.

Lesson 21: Minor II-V-I (March 3rd, 2016)

1- Scales: make rhtyhm transitions more even

2- Arpeggios: add Gm

3- Satin Doll: 2 formats, accompaniment and trio. Practice with metronome beats on 1 and 3, then on 2 and 4.

4- Blues: new rhythm in RH: tied half-note + dotted 8th note, tied 16h note and quarter note. Put metronome to 16th notes to help with getting the rhythm clean. Practice appoggiaturas of the augmented 4th.

5- Practice the minor II-V-Is.

  • Make a table for the two types, with diminished 9th and with augmented 5th and 9th, for positions A and B (4 tables in total).
  • As for the major ii-V-I, identify which fingers move by how much at each step
  • In summary, the minor II-V-Is are: iim7b5 – V7b9 – im and iim7b5 – V7#9 – im, recalling that #9 implies #5 too, always.

Lesson 22: Satin Doll with iReal Pro (March 10th, 2016)

1- Scales at 80 = quarter note. Start hands separately. New rhythm for scales from now on: either start with 4 16th notes then 4 8th notes, and repeat this pattern, or start with 4 8th notes then 4 16th notes, and repeat.

2- Arpeggios: add Cm

3- Satin Doll: trio format:

  • focus on posture
  • start using iReal Pro, at 104 = quarter note

4- Blues: as last week

5- Minor II-V-I: focus on path 1 (i.e. Cm), in position A, for diminished and augmented 9ths.

6- Beautiful love

  • Analyze the harmonic progressions, identify the II-V_i, major or minor.
  • Practice in accompaniment format
  • Make a choice, a coherent choice, for the paths: bass path and chords path

Lesson 23: Subdivide the Tempo! (March 17th)

1- Scales at 80 = quarter note

2- Arpeggios at 45 = quarter note; add F#.

3- Satin Doll, all with the iReal Pro:

  • Step 1: in trio format, play only the chords in the LH
    get used to not looking at the iPad
  • Step 2: play the theme in the RH
    try to swing lightly the 8th notes
    for the theme, look at both the iPad and at the Real book for the score

4- Blues: focus on improving the rhythm, step-by-step:

  • Step 1: solidify the bass
  • Step 2: count aloud
  • Step 3: subdivide the tempo for more precision
  • Step 4: relax! Especially RH

5- Minor II-V-I: keep practicing

6- Beautiful love:

  • Accompaniment form: choose a path
  • Trio form: chords in LH

Lesson 24: Blues Form with iReal Pro (March 29th, 2016)

1- Listen to more music, identify songs and styles that you like, come back with a list of choices to learn next

2- Blues form in Cm

  • In accompaniment form: RH = chors, LH = bass
  • In trio form with iReal Pro (use Blues Simple, slow swing): LH only = chords

3- Arpeggios with inversions at 45 = quarter note: C, Am, Cm

4- Scales at 80 = quarter note, focus on Cm and Am blues scales

Lesson 25:  Clocks by Coldplay (April 7th, 2016)

1- Technique: scales and arpeggios, C, Am, Cm, A

2- Pop/jazz: blues

  • accompaniment mode: integrate better the rhythm, sing it to make it more natural
  • blues in Bbm: practice scales in Bbm and Gm

3- Jazz/theory: Beautiful love: put more ease in the accompaniment mode

4- Pop/rock: Clocks by Coldplay: identify the chords

Lesson 26: Ocean of Insanity by Kemilon (April 19th, 2016)

1- Scales and arpeggios: G, Gm, E, Em

2- Blues: accompaniment mode, feel the rhythm

3- Beautiful love at quarter note = 50, trio format

4- Clocks by Coldplay: play it with the metronome, or with the tune as a backing track

5- Kemilon, Ocean of Insanity: Kemilon was a heavy metal band that my teacher was part of before starting Shpik. The synthesizer part we will learn starts at 3:04 on the track.

Lesson 27: Resistance by Muse (April 25th, 2016)

1- Scales and arpeggios: B, Bm, Bb, Bbm, F#, F#m, Ab, Abm.

2- Blues with iReal Pro:

  • accompaniment + blues scales in RH
  • trio

3- Clocks:

  • with pedal
  • focus on the strong beats, both hands
  • accent on the top note
  • with metronome

4- Beautiful love;

  • Accompaniment mode at 55 = quarter note
  • trio form: hands separate: either LH = chords or RH = theme, at 100 = quarter note

4- Resistance, by Muse:

  • Introduction: first 8 bars, with sloppy tempo
  • Practice listening carefully and finding on the piano which notes played in the tune
  • Play the theme with the song as backing track
  • RH = theme, LH = bass
  • Include the pedal

5- Kemilon

  • Try to find the notes played
  • Download an application to slow down the song

6- Arpeggios with 7ths: C7, with all inversions.

Lesson 28: Doubling the Bass (May 24th, 2016)

One month since the previous lesson, due to vacations.

1- Scales and arpeggios: all of the them. Practice a few at random each day.

2- Blues with iReal Pro: practice with and withou looking at the iPad

3- Clocks:

  • double the bass at the octave for the chorus
  • for fingering the chords, prioretize using fingers 1-3-5 or 1-2-5.
  • practice at 120 = quarter note

4- Resistance: RH = theme, LH = bass, doubled at the octave + pedal; 120 = quarter note

5- Kemilon, section 1: D A D A F D E F G F E D C D E C // D A D A F D E F G F E D A and repeat. F E F A G F E F C B A D

6- Beautiful Love: iReal Pro in Ballad Swing at 60 = quarter note, in accompaniment mode; only RH = theme

7- Arpeggios with 7ths: C7 and G7 at 50 = quarter note. Nearly always start with the thumb as a rule for fingering.

Lesson 29: Hola les Lolos by Adamus (May 30th, 2016)

1- Scales and arpeggios: find the difficult ones.

2- Blues, all with iReal Pro, for trio format:

  • Only LH, loop the track
  • RH = pick notes from minor blues scale; LH: chords on the 1st beat

3- Resistance and clocks: like last week

4- Kemilon: practice first part at 60 = quarter note.

Second part: A A A triplet / 8th notes: C B C D / E D C B / D A B C / G A B F G A /G F E D C D E B / C (A G E triplets) x 6 times / 16th notes: A G F E / D C D E / D C / B A / G A B G / A

5- Beautiful love: using score + iPad for iReal Pro

  • Theme only in RH
  • Chords only in LH
  • next time, he will improvise while you play the chords

6- Arpeggios with 7ths: C7, G7, F7

7- A blues piece: Hola les Lolos by Adamus. A blues in D. Listen to the tune.

Lesson 30: Improvisation Theory (June 7th, 2016)

1- Scales at 72 = quarter note, not faster. Focus on evenness, precision

2- Arpeggios: practice a few at 42 = quarter note

3- Beautiful love with iReal Pro, trio format: RH = theme, LH = chords

4- Improvisation, theory based on scales

E.g. in F major, the ii-V-I is Gm7 – C7 – Fmaj7, leading to the scales of G dorian, C mixolydian and F ionian

In your head, think F major, without a specific starting note

Practice improvising on a ii-V-I without tempo/metronome: RH = a tonal scale, LH = bass

Classical degrees

1: Ionian
2: Dorian
3: Phrygian
4: Lydian
5: Mixolydian
6: Eolian
7: Locrian

5- The rest of last week

Lesson 32: Improvisation Practice (June 21st, 2016)

1- Scales at 74 = quarter note.

2- Arpeggios at 44 = quarter note

3- Technical exercise #1 for LH first, then both hands. Repeat the following pattern over two octaves, a pattern that goes up by one step at each repetition: C E F G A G F E D F G A B A G F E. Start at 58 = quarter note. At the end, play the inverse pattern to come down two octaves.

4- Beautiful Love at 50 = quarter note. Listen to the bass coming from the iPad.

5- Improvisation on Beautiful Love: with RH only and iReal Pro, focus on playing “valid” notes, i.e. in the relevant scales.

6- Blues improvisation in C with iReal Pro:

  • RH: a scale
  • LH: 3+7

7- Clocks: play softer, less pedal; quarter note at 100-110.

8- Resistance:

  • RH: melody
  • LH: play quarter notes instead of 8th notes
  • Pedal for full reverb effect

9- Kemilon at 50-60 = quarter note

10- Adamus: repeat 4x the blues form RH only, be happy with making mistakes, without haste, closed eyes, without counting, without precise timing

11- Arpeggios 7th: add Bb7

Lesson 33: All the Things You Are (June 30th, 2016)

Following much time spent on the blues form and Beautiful Love, many months will be spent on All the Things You Are.

1- Scales: 76 = quarter note; arpeggios: 46 = quarter note

2- Technical exercise #2: pattern going up C A G A F A E A D B A B G; pattern going down: G B C B D B E B F A B A D. Go up 2 octaves and return.

3- Beautiful love at 55 = quater note

  • Step 1: theme + chords
  • RH only, improvisation around the theme
  • RH only, free improvisation – use chromatism to reach key notes

4- Blues improv: blues scales over 2 octaves in RH, 3+7 in LH, in Cm and Am

  • Step 1: scales in quarter notes
  • Step 2: scales in 8th notes
  • Step 3: scales in triplets of 8th notes

5- Clocks: RH: follow the score; LH: alternate between quarter notes and 8th notes., at 88 = quarter note

6- Resistance: practice in a systematic manner

7- Kemilon at 54 = quarter note. Practice in chunks with the metronome

8- Adamus: relax. Follow video example.

9- Arpeggios 7th: Eb7.

10- All the Things You Are: analyze the piece, write down the functions, especially VI-II-V-I.

Lesson 34: (July 14th, 2016)

1- Scales at 78 = quarter note; arpeggios at 46 = quarter note

2- Technical exercise #3: pattern going up: C A G A F G E F D B A B; pattern going down: C E F E G F A G B D E

3- Beautiful love at 60 = quarter note

  • Step 1: theme + bass
  • Step 2: RH = arpeggios; LH = chords
  • Step 3: RH = mix arpeggios and scales; LH = chords

4- Blues improvisation in D at 55 = quarter note, in quarter notes and 8th notes

5- Adamus: bass notes:
D // A / A D // A / A#
A // E / E A // E / D#

6- All the things you are: RH = theme, LH = bass

7- Kemilon: learn next chunk: E D E F E F G F G A G A B A G A G F G F E F E D C B C D C

Lesson 35: Adele, Skyfall! (July 21st, 2016)

1- Scales at 80 = quarter note; arpeggios at 46 = quarter note

2- Technical exercises 1, 2, 3: aim for 86 = eight note, hands together

3- Beautiful love:

  • Step 1: trio mode
  • Step 2: without metronome: RH = arpeggios on chords, LH = chords
  • Step 3: add metronome to step 2

4- Blues in D: RH: constant 8th note pattern; LH: 3+7

5- Adamus: 63 = quarter note, subdividing the tempo.

  • Step 1: Sing the song with metronome
  • Step 2: play on the piano

6- All the things you are:

  • Step 1: RH = theme + metronom
    LH = bass
  • Step 2: RH = 3 + 7
    LH = bass

7- Kemilon: keep improving on speed

8- Clocks and Resistance: add pedal in between chords. Practice slow without metronome, and later increase speed and with metronome,

9- Adele, Skyfall: listen to the tune

The James Bond chord: Cmmaj9

Intro: Cm Ab Cm/F : 4x

C-/Eb C-/D Gsus4 G

Lesson 36: Last Technical Exercise! (August 12th, 2016)

1- Scales at 82 = quarter note; arpeggios at 46 = quarter note. From now on, do scales as such: 2 octaves in 8th notes, 3 octaves in triplets of 8th notes and 3 octaves in 16th notes

2- Technical exercise #4: pattern going up: C A G A D E F E D B A B E F G F E; pattern going down: G B C B F E D E F A B A E D C D E

3- Beautiful love at 66 = half note

  • Step 1: trio
  • Step 2: alternate rhythms each bar: 4 quarter notes | 8 8th notes, only RH arpeggios
  • Step 3: minimalistic solo improvisation RH only, listening to the bass given by iReal Pro

4- Blues in D at 53 = quarter note

  • RH = solo melody, gradually adding 1, 2, 3, 4 notes, slowly
  • LH = 3+7

5- Adamus at 80 = quarter note: sometimes on the IV with chromatic approaches

6- All the things you are: iReal Pro, trio format: RH = theme, LH = 3+7

7- Skyfall: play with intro with the tune, not too loud.

8- Kemilon: next chunk: in LH: D, C# and C only; in RH: E F G A Bb / D E F G A Bb / C# D E / G F E D E F G A Bb / D E F G A Bb / C# D E G F E / Bb A G A G F / G F E

9- Review the II-V-Is: major /minor; cycle 1/2; position A / B.

Lesson 37: Long Ago and Far Away (August 25th, 2016)

1- Scales, arpeggios at your pace

2- Technical exercises 1 through 4

3- Beautiful Love

  • Step 1: center the theme to middle C, note collisions between the two hands and adapt
  • Step 2: minimalistic solo, based on the theme, with small exits from the theme
  • Step 3: improvisation, targeting the next 1 beat on a valid note, i.e. in the chord arpeggio

4- Long ago and far away:

  • Step 1: Accompaniment form: RH = 3 + 7, LH = bass
  • Step 2: Bach mode: RH = theme, LH = bass

When the chord is alone in the measure, add the 5th on the 3rd beat

5- Adamus: practice the actual form, which is A D A D with D = 8 beats, A = 8 beats. Then G (4 beats) A (4 Beats), chorus, repeat. Complete the song

6- Kemilon: play with the backing track, perhaps slow it down.

7- All the things you are:

  • Step 1: iReal Pro, ballad swing at 60 = quarter note, trio mode: 3+7 in LH
  • Step 2: accompaniment mode, 3+7 in RH

8- Skyfall: D C G Eb.

  • Rhythm in bass
  • pedal: almost don’t raise it
  • chorus


This completes my first year of piano lessons.

Looking forward to your feedback!

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