Intermediate Piano Lessons: Year 2 (Part 4/6)

Here I detail my second year of intermediate piano lessons. For the first year, start here.

Lesson 38: Let her go, by Passenger! (September 30th, 2016)

1- Beautiful love: live it in the jazz mood!

  • Step 1: Play only the theme in the right hand (RH)
  • Step 2: Play only the chords in the left hand (LH)
  • Step 3: Play hands together
  • Step 4: Play a minimalist solo in RH only, with mostly long notes
  • Step 5: Play a solo in RH only, including part of the theme

2- Long ago and far away: use the chords as given in iReal Pro

  • In accompaniment mode:
    RH = 3+7
    LH = bass
  • In trio mode with iReal Pro:
    LH = 3+7
    RH = either nothing, or the theme

3- All the things you are: in accompaniment mode

LH = bass in whole notes

RH = 3+7 in half notes

4- Passenger, Let her go: accompaniment mode at 75 = quarter note; simplify the melody

5- Kemilon: practice very slowly, focus on chaining the notes

6- Choose a pop song, and start it on your own.

Lesson 39: The Unforgiven, by Metallica (October 11th, 2016)

1- Beautiful love:

  • Step 1: Only chords in LH
  • Step 2: Theme + chords
  • Step 3: Only RH: minimalist solo
  • Step 4: Solo improvisation without too many notes + chords: focus on not getting lost!

2- Long ago and far away:

  • Focus on improving the accompaniment mode, using chromatic approaches for the bass; choose a path for the bass

3- All the things you are: focus on aesthetics, same as last week, with pedal

4- Let her go:

  • Step 1: play through at 66 = quarter note; listen to the sound with the pedal; focus on the flow
  • Step 2: try playing with the tune as backing track

5- Metallica, The Unforgiven: make a proposition for the choice of inversions, to discuss next time.

6- Kemilon: continue.

Lesson 40: Doubling the Theme (October 18th, 2016)

1- Beautiful love:

  • Step 1: Theme doubled at the octave + chords in LH
  • Step 2: RH = arpeggios on chord notes; LH = chords
  • Step 3: minimalist solo with chromatic approaches in RH

2- Long ago and far away:

  • Accompaniment mode, with following notes in RH, as a choice of inversions, written with notation: chord / lower note / upper note:F6 / A / D; Dm7 / F / C; Gm7 / F / Bb; C7 / E / Bb;Abmaj7 / G / C; Fm7 / Ab / Eb; Bbm7 / Ab / Db; Eb7 / G / Db

3- All the things you are: same focus on aesthetics

  • Build the chords with 9ths
  • Play with a little more confidence, i.e. with stronger emphasis on the first beat

4- Let her go: listen better to the song to know it better

  • Step 1: LH only with song as backing track
  • Step 2: Foot tapping with the track
  • Step 3: play the whole song with the track

5- The Unforgiven: play quarter notes in RH, play bass doubled at the octave for the bass; play loud, rock style

6- Kemilon: with metronome

Lesson 41: minor II-V-I (October 28th, 2016)

1- All the things you are:

  • Step 1: accompaniment mode, focus on ii9 – V13 – Imaj9
  • Step 2: trio mode: RH = theme; LH = 3 + 7

2- Review of minor II-V-Is for All the things you are.

3- Long ago and far away: play very slowly, building the chords

4- Beautiful love with iReal Pro: theme with pedal + last week

5- Let her go: accompaniment format, at 76 = quarter note

6- The Unforgiven: find a better score…

7- Kemilon: continue…

Lesson 42: The Pump! (November 16th, 2016)

1- All the things you are:

  • A new concept, the pump, where on beat 1, the bass plays the fundamental, and on beat three, plays the 3rd+7th. Practice LH only, eventually add theme in RH
  • Trio mode: RH = melody, LH = chords

2- Quiz of all minor/major II-V-Is: e.g. play it if told to play an augmented 9th F# minor II-V-I.

3- Long ago and far away:

  • Accompaniment mode: with metronome
  • Trio mode: 3+7 in LH, theme in RH

4- Revise blues scales in Dm and Fm for Long ago and far away

5- Alice in Wonderland: start in Bach format, bass + theme

6- Kiss the rain, by Yiruma:

  • start learning the LH
  • analyze the chords, using pop symbols

7- Let her go: tap 8th notes or quarter notes, to get better with the rhythm

8- Kemilon: aim to play the whole thing at a uniform speed

Lesson 43: Tiny Shack (November 28th, 2016)

1- All the things you are:

  • Accompaniment mode: pump 3+7
  • Trio format: chords + iReal Pro

2- II-V-I: focus on augmented minor progressions

3- Long ago and far away:

  • Accompaniment format: RH = 3+7, centered around middle C; LH: walking bass
  • Trio format: both hands centered around middle C

4- Alice in wonderland: RH = whole chords, LH = bass. Aim for coherence in the choice of the bass line.

5- Kiss the rain

  • analyze again, taking care whether a 2nd or a 9th is present
  • Practice page 1 only, hands together

6- Let her go: add groove to chords. Focus on RH. Rhythm such as quarter note + dotted 8th + 16th + ( 2 16th + 8th) + quarter note

7- Kemilon at 52 = quarter note

8- Tiny Shack, by Shpik

Chord content: Asus4 as half note; Fmaj69 as dotted quarter note; Dm7add4 as 8th + half note + 16th; Ebadd2 as dotted 8th + quarter note.

Lesson 44: 500 Miles High! (December 21st, 2016)

1- All the things you are:

  • Solo mode: 3+7 (careful not to play them too low) + theme
  • Trio mode: iRealPro slowly, sacrifice some notes to lighten up. Careful with pedal

2- II-V-I diminished and augmented 9ths, with metronome.

3- Alice in wonderland, solo mode: RH = theme, LH = pump

4- 500 Miles High, by Chick Corea:

  • Step 1: only RH with theme and iReal Pro
  • Step 2: only LH for chords

5- Tiny shack, next chords:

Bbmaj7no3; G9no3; Ebmaj7#11

6- Kiss the rain: first 2 pages with one hand only; first page with hands together

7- Let her go: continue, focus on all but the chorus

8- Kemilon: learn last section with slowed down video, continue with metronome

Lesson 45: Anthropology! (February 10th, 2017)

1- All the things you are:

  • trio format at 66 = half note; alternate between two forms:
  • Step 1: RH = theme doubled at the octave, LH = chords
  • Step 2: RH = theme, not doubled, but add some junction notes, perhaps chromatic
  • Solo format at 50 = quarter note: RH = theme; LH = pump & 3+7

2- II-V-I: increase speed with metronome, focus on #9s, all positions

3- Alice in wonderland: only LH in dotted quarter notes; pump with metronome

4- 500 Miles High:

  • Step 1: listen to the relationship between the bass and the melody
  • Step 2: RH with iReal Pro
  • Step 3: only chords in LH

5- Review minor blues scales: E, G, A, F, C

6- Anthropology, by Charlie Parker:

  • Analyze the II-V-Is
  • Listen to the main song and to the improvisation solo
  • Find a path for the chords

Lesson 46: Constrained Improvisation (March 15th, 2017)

1- All the things you are:

  • Trio format at 66 = half note.
  • Step 1: RH = theme with octaves; LH = chords, pedal at each chord
  • Step 2: RH = solo, with constraint that in one bar, play freely, in the next, play one whole note only, and repeat
  • Solo format: hands separately, play on beats 2 and 4 of the metronome

2- II-V-I: quiz

3- Alice in Wonderland:

  • Solo form: keep working
  • Trio form: use following rhythm: quarter + quarter + dotted 8th + 16th

4- 500 Miles high: trio format, careful about precise timing of triplets.

5- Review minor blues scales: Eb, F#, Ab, C#, B

6- Anthropology: Bach format, play straight 8ths.

7- Find pop songs you would like to learn

Lesson 47: Diminished Scales, Montunos (April 19th, 2017)

1- All the things you are:

  • Trio format:Step 1: play the theme, without doubling at the octaveStep 2: solo improvisation, keeping it simple- without pedal
    – RH = dotted half note + quarter note
    – LH = chords
    – relaxed
    – aim for long simple lines
    – alternate with and without metronome
  • Solo format: RH = theme (no octave doubling); LH = pump: bass & 3 + 7

2- Alice in wonderland:

  • Trio format: Ireal Pro, RH = solo improvisation, alternating between 3 quarter notes and dotted half notes
  • Solo format: solid at 53 = quarter note; relax shoulders

3- 500 Miles High: montunos

  • Accompaniment format
  • Montunos on all chords except minor II-Vs
  • Lowest and highest notes of montunos are synchronized
  • Alternate notes played with the exterior and interior fingers

4- Diminished scale in C, hands separate

RH: 1-2-3-1-2-1-2-3-1 fingering: alternate halftone and full tone for 7b9 and tone/ halftone for diminished 7

LH: 4-3-2-1-2-1-3-2-1-3-2-1-2-1-3-2-1

5- Anthropology, Chris Potter versions: Bach mode = no pedal, but tied notes

Lesson 48: Bruno Mars! (May 22nd, 2017)

1- All the things you are:

Piano 4 hands practice

Solo only RH with iReal Pro:

  • Deep analysis of the scales first
  • Careful about subtle II-V-Is: (II-V) minor – I major
  • Ignore C7#5#9 and Gb13
  • Continue with metronome
  • Soften the pump in the LH

Learn the intro: RH = punch the chord; LH = bass line

2- Alice in wonderland: solo, with pump

  • Analysis, 5 of 5 concept. D7 is a 5 of 5 in C. A7 is a 5 of the 2. The Eb13 is isolated, comes from a chromatic approach

3- When I was your man, by Bruno Mars: choose your tonality for your voice

4- Anthropology, in Bach mode, with ease

5- 500 Miles high

Accompaniment format: LH = 1 on beat 1, 5 on beat 3

No montuno on the F#7b5

6- Diminished scale: F, with RH = 1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4…; LH = 5-4-3-2-1-4-3-2-1…

7- Augmented scales: start like a diminished scale for the first 4 notes, but then only full tones, for 3 notes, for a total of 7 notes

Lesson 49: Take the A train! (June 20th, 2017)

1- All the things you are: improvisation with iReal Pro

  • Step 1: theme
  • Step 2: theme + chromatism or diatonism or small rhythm
  • Tie the notes of the theme
  • No bass

2- Anthropology:

  • Trio format with iReal Pro, slowly, RH = theme, LH = 3+7. Tie the notes

3- Diminished scale: G. Fingerings: RH = 2-3-4-1-2-3-4-1-2-3-4…; LH = 4-3-2-1-4-3-2-1-4-3-2-1…

4- Take the A train, by Duke Ellington: summary of scales to be used for improvisation

C major; A minor blues; C minor blues; F major; F minor blues; D minor blues; D diminished; D augmented; G diminished

  • Bach format, 1+5 in LH; add II-V in 1. 2. boxes.

5- Someday my prince will come:

Trio format: RH = theme, LH = 3+7

6- Find a new pop song, for the purpose of discovering which notes are played.

Lesson 50: Someday My Prince Will Come! (July 11th, 2017)

1- Someday my prince will come:

  • Step 1: accompaniment format
  • Step 2: trio format, with microscopic variations on the theme

2- Take the A train: Bach format, RH theme, LH = 1+5 and a walking bass

3- Diminished scales: review

4- Augmented scales: D

5- Anthropology:

  • Trio format, RH = theme, LH = 3+7
  • Tie the phrases, not staccato
  • Identify better the musical lines

6- All the things you are:

  • Chart of improvisation #1: ideal in between atonal chaos and being too thoughtful and conscious
  • Explore the extremes in improvisation
  • Play all the things you are with 15 to 30 repetitions at a time, improvising in alternance in the atonal chaos or the overthoughtful mode

Lesson 51: Blue Suede Shoes, Cantaloupe Island! (August 24th, 2017)

1- Blue suede shoes, by Perkins/Presley:

RH = 3+7 (on beat 1); LH = walking traditional blues in 8th notes.

7th chords: add major 6th

2- Augmented scale: G. RH start on finger 2, LH, start on finger 4.

3- Cantaloupe Island, by Herbie Hancock: read score like a classical score, carefully

4- Jazz lick, 1st page

  • Step 1: LH: fundamental & 3+7
  • Step 2: same + pedal
  • Step 3: play the lick
  • Step 4: analyze the key notes (quiz on that next time)


While I had 37 pianos lessons in my first year, I had only 14 in my second year! I think this is quite normal, since as we progress, it can take a while before absorbing the new material, and being ready for the next lesson!

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