2

Piano as a
nd

Instrument

A Beginner’s Guide


Ben Yates

Copyright © 2005-2006 by Ben Yates

No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying and recording, or by any information storage or retrieval system without the prior written permission of Ben Yates unless such copying is expressly permitted by federal copyright law. Address inquiries to Ben Yates at 10 Ridgeway, Ann Arbor MI 48104.

All brand and product names mentioned in this manual are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective holders, including the following:

Microsoft® Office Word Sound Forge® ACID® Fruityloops® Yamaha®

Table of Contents
Introduction.................................................................................................................1 Pop, Rock, and Music Theory .......................................................................1 The Learning Curve..........................................................................................2 Equipment...........................................................................................................2 Formatting Guide..............................................................................................3 Audio Content....................................................................................................3 Learning Piano ............................................................................................................4 First Steps ............................................................................................................4 Making Friends with your Piano..........................................................4 Having Good Technique.......................................................................5 Getting your Bearings: Finding C........................................................6 C Major ................................................................................................................7 F Major.................................................................................................................8 Relative Names ..................................................................................................8 Voicings................................................................................................................9 Rearranging Notes ...................................................................................9 Adding Bass.............................................................................................11 G Major..............................................................................................................12 “If I had $1000000”........................................................................................13 A Minor..............................................................................................................15 Tapping Your Fingers....................................................................................16 “When I Come Around” ..............................................................................17 “If I had $1000000” Revisited .....................................................................18 D Minor .............................................................................................................19

.................................................................26 “Wonderwall”...................................................................................................21 Moving Fifths and Roots by a Full Step ...............................32 ......23 Moving Fifths and Roots by a Half Step..............................................................20 Chord Transformations...............“Evil Ways”...............................................................................23 “Praise You”........................................................26 Conclusion............................................25 “When I Come Around” Revisited.........................................................................................................................................................................................

and Music Theor y Piano as a Second Instrument is meant for someone interested in rock or pop music. or fraternity brothers tossing improvised hip hop back and forth. You can hardly walk down a city block without running across a guitar player improvising on front steps. Rock. you needed years of formal training. You should know most of these terms before going in:       Note Chord Scale Octave Half Step Whole Step This manual can be used by both experienced and inexperienced players. And if you wanted respect. with access to some sort of a keyboard or piano. a computer looping samples through an open window.Introduction One of the tragedies of the 19th century is that piano playing became separate from composing: starting with Liszt. Thankfully. Pop. this is 2006. it’s not something you’ll complete in single 1 . technical virtuosity was valued over musical understanding and composing ability. but unless you’re particularly talented.

experiment. A better keyboard should have hammer action – a simulation of the hammers in a real piano. As you improve. Use it as a guide. and as a push to learn new ways of playing. If you have a synthesizer or keyboard. The Learning Curve After you get comfortable with a section’s topics and exercises. and (depending on your experience with other instruments) quick to learn. but pianos are expensive. it’s almost impossible to play with feeling. don’t worry about being technically correct.late night session – nor is it comprehensive. 2 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . Yamaha is known for its realistic hammer action. its later sections both more complex and applicable to a wider range of possible playing. Equipment It’s best to have a real piano. depending on your interest and playing level) fooling around – have fun. Without touch sensitivity. and less interested in instruction as anything but a means to your own ends. The manual is designed with this attitude shift in mind: its first sections are relatively simple. make sure that it at least has touch sensitivity: that pushing keys harder creates louder sounds. you should spend some time (anything from minutes to weeks. you’ll probably be more interested in playing on your own time.

Have fun. Unfamiliar terms are also italicized. are monospaced and bolded. Chords in song text.      Musical notes are italicized. Chords in body text look like this: C Lyrics are monospaced. chords. let’s dive in.Formatting Guide As you read the manual. This manual is therefore accompanied by audio tracks demonstrating the notes. and songs described in the text. Alright. and lyrics falling on chord transitions. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 3 . M ajor. you’ll encounter text formatted in different ways. Audio Content The easiest way to learn music is by hearing it.

When you release a key. a note will stop. Pressing every black key consecutively creates a pentatonic scale (which sounds “Asian” or “bluesy”) 4 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . do so now. Nevertheless.Learning Piano This tutorial will guide you from basic knowledge to intermediate playing. and frequently in the future. if you want to become proficient and creative. the pitch of the tones increases. but playing tones on piano is in fact more straightforward than on many other instruments: each key corresponds to exactly one note. you’ll notice a few things:   As you move from left to right. the reverse is true. experimenting with sounds. You’ve probably played around on a piano before. but for instruments. If not. Instruction can only take you so far.   Pressing every white key consecutively creates a cheerful-sounding scale. unstructured playing is essential. First Steps A New Instrument Learning a second language is harder than learning a first. unless the rightmost pedal is depressed. there are concepts you should get under your fingers before playing music on piano. Making Friends with your Piano The piano keyboard can appear overwhelming at first glance. In your first few minutes playing around.

P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 5 . Nevertheless. cleanly plucking a guitar’s strings takes practice.)  Keep your wrists straight and relaxed to avoid developing carpel tunnel syndrome. Pressing every other key often creates a pleasing chord or arpeggio. (If you have long fingernails.  If you cannot comfortably play with a straight back and straight wrists. By contrast. Adjacent keys played simultaneously sound dissonant.    Pressing every key consecutively creates a chromatic scale. As with typing. The keyboard layout is periodic: the pattern of black and white keys repeats many times. but avoid using your fingernails . there are physical details a piano player should know:  Press keys with the tips of your fingers. pressing the keys should not bend your fingers and hands backward. Having Good Technique One advantage of piano is that it’s easy to produce clear-sounding notes: simply press the key. adjust the height of your seat. trim them. and so does producing smooth tone on a violin.

which is not uniform and thus can be used as a reference.Getting your Bearings: Finding C It can be difficult to know which note is which: the keys are unlabeled and identical. The first step in this process is to locate the note C. In this diagram. You’ll learn to identify each note based on the pattern of black and white keys. keys other than C are gray or black. C is the white key immediately left of each cluster of two black keys. (Figure 1) • Figure 1: The note C On the piano keyboard. Starting at one of the C notes. push each white key consecutively until you reach the next C -.you’ve played a C Major scale 6 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT .

ring finger. and little finger for this chord. depending on what’s most comfortable. Play the chord by pressing all three keys at once.C Major Chord This is a C Major chord (Figure 2) • Figure 2: C M a j o r Notes in the C Ma jo r chord are shown in white. The author uses index finger. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 7 . You can use whichever fingers you like.

for instance) is fundamentally similar. but because each chord of the same type (Major. 8 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . it makes sense to use a relative naming system rather than an absolute one. Major Practice moving from C to F Major and back again.F Major Chord Now move the top two notes up and play a chord again: this is F (Figure 3) Major. Relative Names More Precise Language We could call each note by its letter name. • Figure 3: F M a j o r The F Major chord is shown in white.

changing from C Major to F Major is sometimes called "moving to the fourth". The root of a chord is the note that corresponds to the chord's name. Major is E. the fifth note in the C Major  "Eighths" are not referred to—they are just considered roots played an octave higher. More specifically. F could be said to be a fourth. These (Figures 4-6) are all C Major: P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 9 . Rearranging Notes The notes in a chord can be played in any order. Moving to the fourth and back is the most common type of chord transition in folk music. Every relative name except "root" can also refer to the distance between a note and the root. Voicings Filling Out the Sound Every sound is similar to many other sounds. For example. Major is G—unsurprisingly. Thus. The root of C Major is C. it is also found in most rock and pop songs.  The third of C chord's scale. above C. every chord can be played in countless ways. Chords can be thought of in terms of relative distances as well. The third of a chord is the third note in that  The fifth of C scale.

• Figure 4: A C M a j o r chord starting on E • Figure 5: A C M a j o r chord starting on G 10 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT .

can add depth to the chord's sound.• Figure 6: A C M a j o r chord containing two C notes These permutations of a single chord are called voicings. an octave or two below the other notes. this time playing a Major chords and a low F under the F chords. Major. See what voicings you can find for F between various voicings of C Major and experiment with moving M ajor. Practice moving between C low C under the C Major Major and F Major again. and F Adding Bass Playing a chord's root with your left hand. you'll see its similarity to chord. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 11 . If you play F the C Major Major starting with F rather than C.

it will sound M ajor.G Major Chord Play a C M ajor chord. of G (Figure 7) • Figure 7: G M a j o r This G M a j o r chord is made up of B. and G. respectively. and E) down one note: they become B and D. similar to the transition between C Major and F This is because C is the fourth of G. and G Major. D. and F is the fourth of C. Major.) Practice moving between C if you start on G Major. is marked for convenience. the third and the fifth. You'll find that then move to C Major and back. 12 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . (C. F M ajor. then move both the root and third of the chord (C Major. which is not played.

Countless songs use only these transitions. then back is held for twice as long as the other chords. learn how it goes by listening to the recording. You may want to find voicings that minimize hand movement between chords. F M ajor Major. In this version of the song. 2) If you don’t already know the melody. including the 1990 Canadian hit “If I had $1000000”. and folk. Practice this loop until you’re comfortable with it. Most of the song is a repeating loop: C to C 1) Major. G M ajor. more precisely. F Major. rock. the melody begins on G. C G If I had a million F dollars (if I had a million C dollars) G I’d buy you a F house (I would buy you a C house) G If I had a million F dollars (if I had a million C G F for your house (a nice Chesterfield or an dollars) I’d buy you furniture P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 13 . these words often fall slightly before the chord is played. the three relative transitions) form the basis of much pop. Note that in the recording. Words falling near a chord transition are bolded. In the following aid:   Major chords are abbreviated with their letter names.“If I h a d $ 10 0 0 0 0 0 ” Putting it Together The three chords you've learned (or.

14 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . the first chord loop continues underneath it. and chordally: the final chord of the loop is G M ajor instead of C Major. there’s a variation. lyrically. . The chorus itself is another loop: F F G If I had a million C dollars (We’d build a tree fort in our F yard) G If I had a million C dollars (You could help me. C Major.C Ottoman) G And if I had a million F dollars (if I had a million C dollars) G I’d buy you a F K-car. wouldn’t be that F hard)... Before the chorus. melodically. there’s a spoken interlude. G C At the end of the chorus. C G And if I had a million F dollars I’d buy your G love Following the G Major chord. G Major . . Major.

A Minor Chord Play C Major. This is A Minor (Figure 8). C and E become the third and fifth. or reflective.) P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 15 . which you’ll notice sounds sad. and move the fifth (G) up. Although you can play almost all of the song now. The -F Major transition is especially striking. the final chorus contains a chord you haven’t learned yet: A Minor. You can play an A Minor white keys between two As. cool. (Transitions of this type are often found in Pop-Punk. Practice moving between A A Minor M inor and the other chords you’ve learned. • Figure 8: A M i n o r A Minor C M ajor is the relative minor of C Major : its scale uses the same notes as the scale simply by pressing all the scale.We’ll revisit “If I had $1000000” later.

not just where a piano is. Because so much music is structured around a drumset backing. don’t worry about pitch. When you’re learning the rhythms yourself. Classical music requires a mastery of this decoupling. but make sure your left and right hands are playing the beats they’re assigned. you can tap your fingers anywhere.Ta p p i n g Yo u r F i n ge rs Getting Rhythm Kids often try to scratch their heads and rub their stomachs simultaneously. but our requirements are less stringent. 16 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . Piano players face a similar task: decoupling the left and right hands so that each can play its own pattern. the high-pitched taps are made with the right hand and the low-pitched ones with the left. in part because you won’t be playing melodic lines. Of course. learning how to tap out simplified drumset beats will help your piano playing. In this recording.

–Paul McCartney. The Beatles Anthology Like Paul McCartney. around Liverpool. as exemplified by Green Day. and after a while everyone else had dwindled away to get jobs. and we'd make them very rhythmic to prove our point. at one time there were only three of us in the band. We were playing here and there. But much rock music (thanks partly to the Beatles’ wide influence) has strong. A M inor. G Major. but it still has some emotional depth.“When I Come Around” ‘The Rhythm’s in the Guitars’ In 1959. These rhythms are especially strong in pop-punk. Now apply the finger-tapping pattern: the right hand plays the chords. “When I Come Around” is one of the simplest of many simple Green Day songs. and we were all guitarists . F (and back to C M a j o r ). The right hand plays the chord one beat later. smile a lot. 'Where's the drums. Almost the whole song is one chord loop: C Major Major. Play the loop until you’re familiar with it. whatever. Listen to the original recording.George. bluff it out. go to college. guitar-rooted rhythms that we can easily replicate on piano. John and me. the chord letters are marked where the root is played (A Minor is denoted A-. then?' To cover this eventually we would say. We would show up for gigs just with three guitars. and the person booking us would ask.) P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 17 . the Quarry Men (shortly to become the Beatles) were down on their luck. There was not a lot you could say to that. we only have one type of instrument available. 'The rhythm's in the guitars. In the aid below. and the left hand plays the chord roots in rhythmic counterpoint.' stand there. In fact.

you can play the final chorus of “If I had G C I’d be rich 18 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT .C G A- F Well I heard you crying loud C G All the way across Atown. F You can play all of “When I Come Around” except for the chorus.. “If I h a d $ 10 0 0 0 0 0 ” Re v i s i t e d The Ending Now that you know A $1000000”.. F G If I had a million AdoG oF oG oF llars Minor. We’ll revisit the song later.

D Minor Chord Play a C M ajor chord. (Figure 9) • Figure 9: D M i n o r D M inor is the relative minor of F Major. This is D Minor. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 19 . then move every note up one step.

20 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . Now try playing the piano chords -. Today the transition sounds familiar. and there is no solution except time and repetition. When Santana released the single in 1969. You can use a variation on the rhythmic pattern from “When I Come Around”. instead. (The melody starts on A. American audiences were struck with the unfamiliar sound of the transition between these chords and the song reached number 9 on the Billboard charts. The scratch-your-head-and-rub-your-stomach challenge has returned. Simple Chords “Evil ways” has only two chords: D Minor and G M ajor. Now the hardest part -. but the song is still exciting if played well. Minor Add rhythmic counterpoint with your left hand. The following aid is included for convenience.“Evi l Wa ys ” Complex Rhythms. practice a few minutes each day.add the melody and lyrics.a simple alternation between D and G M ajor. playing very slowly at first. but only listening to the recording can give you a good feel for the rhythms. You can continue through the tutorial even if you haven’t been able to play and sing “Evil Ways” at the same time. Listen to the original recording. D M inor is denoted D-. until you can sing and play at the same time.) Don’t worry about being able to do this immediately.

This section introduces many complex ideas. and vice versa. liked to end his songs with a variation on this transformation. Chord Transformations Taking Apart the Harmonic Clockworks There are several simple note changes that will let you turn a major chord into a minor chord. . it’s easier to learn new songs and to create your own music. the first major composer to use chords. the Beatles used it to create original sounds. S. Moving Thirds by a Half Step J.(no chord) You got to change your evil Dways G Dbaby G D- G D- G before I stop loving you you got to Dchange G D- G baby. Bach. Don’t worry if you don’t remember all of them immediately. . instead. return here repeatedly as your playing progresses. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 21 . More recently. When you know chord transformations well.

Moving the third of major chord down by a half-step will always transform the major chord into a similarly-named minor chord. This is C (Figure 10) • Figure 10: C M i n o r The note E-flat is outlined in white. then move E down by a half-step -. to F-sharp (a black key). but to E-flat (a Minor. Likewise.not to D. (Figure 11) 22 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . This is D M ajor. black key). Play D Minor. you can turn a minor chord into a major chord by raising the third.Play C Major. then move F up by a half step.

• Figure 11: D M a j o r The note F-sharp is outlined in white. Likewise. moving a minor chord’s root down a full step creates a relative major chord. SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 23 . is A Minor. Moving a major chord’s fifth upward will always transform the major chord into its relative minor. The fifth becomes the minor chord’s root. Play F is A P I A NO A S A M ajor. to E (a white key). then move the G upward: this. Experiment with these new chords until you are familiar with them. Try this now by playing D Minor then F Major. as you know. Play C Major. This M inor. Moving Fifths and Roots by a Full Step This transformation has been widely used for several hundred years. Moving Fifths and Roots by a Half Step This transformation is frequently used in 1990s electronica. then move the root down a half-step.

then move the A to B-flat (a • Figure 12: B . 24 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT .f l a t M a j o r The note B-flat is outlined in white. This is B .F l a t Major.You can also turn a minor chord into a major chord by moving the minor chord’s fifth up a half-step. Minor. Play a D black key).

a song by Fatboy Slim. B-f lat Major (denoted Bb).) The chord loop is C Major. F Major.“P rai s e Yo u ” An Opportunity for Keyboard Players “Praise You”. Like most electronic music. and is therefore easy to play. juxtaposes a largely pentatonic melody with major chords. not harmonic. A piano rendition ignores the electronic sound textures. (If you have a high-quality keyboard -. Electronic musicians share with rappers a keen ear for phonetics. Listen to the recording to understand the rhythms. Bb We’ve come a long long F way C together Bb Through the hard times F C and the good Bb I’ve got to F celebrate you C baby Bb I’ve got to praise you F like I C should Notice how Fatboy Slim chooses the types of consonant and vowel sounds that fall on chord changes. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 25 . its greatest complexity is textural.a synthesizer or sequencer -you can have a lot of fun tweaking the sounds in this song.

it is still one of the iTunes Music Store’s hundred most downloaded songs.. This aid begins with the last line of the verse. the harmonics themselves are ambiguous. Just as the lyrics never move beyond general statements and the concept of a Wonderwall is never explained. Most of the song uses suspended harmonic patterns that only later resolve to definite major or minor chords. “Wonderwall”’s power derives in part from its ambiguity. An enduring Britpop hit.. 26 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT .“When I Come Around” Revisited Playing the Chorus Now that you know D Come Around”. C G Anot F right Major. you can play the short chorus from “When I .you can’t go forcing something if it’s just D F No time to search the world around D G ‘cause you know where I’ll be found when I come a- C -round G A- F “ Wo n der wall ” Beyond Standard Chords “Wonderwall” was Oasis’s only top ten single in the United States.

The main loop consists of several such unorthodox chords. C. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 27 . A. The left hand is added on the second verse. D (Left hand plays D) • Figure 13: “Wonderwall” chord 1 The first chord in “Wonderwall” consists of D. 1) D. Subsequent chords reveal it to be a variation of D M i n o r . and another D. C. A. numbered below (Figures 13-16).

D (Left hand plays F) • Figure 14: “Wonderwall” chord 2 The second chord in "Wonderwall" consists of F. D. 3) C. and G. It is a variation of F Majo r. It is a variation of C Ma jo r. C. A.2) F. C. and D. 28 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . G (Left hand plays C) • Figure 15: “Wonderwall” chord 3 The third chord in "Wonderwall" consists of C. A. D.

D (Left hand plays G) • Figure 16: “Wonderwall” chord 4 The fourth chord in "Wonderwall" consists of G. A. It is a variation of G majo r. A. C. and D.4) G. refer to the list above. ambiguous chords are denoted with numbers. In the following aid. C. Miniaturizations of the 4 chords are provided for convenience. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 29 .

. there’s a variation leading into the chorus: 1 I don’t believe 2 that anybody 3 feels the way I 4 do about you 30 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT . At the end of the second verse. .1 2 3 4 1 Today is 2 gonna be the day that they’re 3 gonna throw it back to 4 you.

P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 31 . . .Bb now C 1 and Bb all the roads we C have to walk are Dwinding and Bb all the lights that C light the way are Dblinding Bb there are many C things that I would F like to Asay to Dyou but I don’t know 4 how because Bb maybe D- F you’re gonna be the one that Bb saves me D- F and after Bb all D- F you’re my wonder- Bb wall D- F 1 1 Backbeat the 2 word is on the street.

Conversely.  If you want to learn more pop and rock songs. One of the disadvantages of practicing chords again and again is that simple music loses its novelty. pay particular attention to the way each note and chord transition makes you feel. you might begin noticing the many directions your piano playing can take. practice.  If you want to write your own music. Return to the parts you’ve had trouble with and play through them more slowly.Conclusion The first time you read this section. Get a book of scales and exercises. keep listening for chord changes on recordings – with practice. practice. You should also develop your “chops”. you’ll be able to figure out the songs out more easily. Practice. your technique. Figure out how to play all of the songs in this manual in their original keys. This will come with practice. in smaller pieces. tones. and rhythms (and. you probably won’t be comfortable with every topic and exercise in this book. and learn as many of the major and minor chords as you can. and experiment as much as possible. rephrase your ideas and emotions into the language of chords. you need to learn how to read music. Eventually. then gradually increase the playing speed. you’ll need to disassociate your right and left hands more completely. This is doubly true if you want to play in a group.  If you want to play classical pieces. (You might also notice that some of the music is formulaic. if you have a synthesizer or sampler. Buy a book about it or take a class. And finally. until you’re more confident. textures). 32 P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT .) Buy a book of chord references. Find a relaxed setting where you can play without an audience present.

S.a technically illegal compendium of hundreds of jazz standards. Bach’s “Minuet in G” (sometimes called “Minuet 3”). Depending on your taste in jazz and the your skill at singing while playing. you’ll develop a memorized collection that you synthesize and can put to use in your own solos. Learn the unfamiliar chords (don’t worry about the sharp and flat fifths and ninths at first).  If you want to play jazz. and bundles the CDs with sheet music). sold at most music shops -and find the songs you know (or buy or download songs you don’t know). and sing the melodic lines. Listen closely to recordings you like and learn the “licks” – eventually. you might want to buy a “Real Book” -. learn and practice scales. there are most likely simpler and more powerful ways of doing things that you won’t discover on your own. Acid.A good classical piece to start on is J. Even if you’ve developed your own techniques. so you can improvise over the recordings while they play. who was learning piano. and Sound Forge).  If you want to produce beats. be prepared for a long haul – jazz is difficult. P I A NO A S A SE CO ND I N ST RU ME NT 33 . Bach wrote this piece for his daughter. and a computer with lots of memory and storage space. and it combines technical simplicity with Bach’s typical brilliance. Also buy a physical book about some of your software. You may also want to buy a Jamie Aebersold collection (Aebersold records Jazz standards without melodic lines or solos. If you’re interested in Bebop and improvisation. get yourself copies of whatever your favorite software is (one possible suite is Fruity Loops.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful