Playing mood music (soft piano music)

Playing mood music (soft piano music)

Hi, I’m Greg Howlett and I want to welcome
you to this free lesson on how to become a better church pianist.
Over the next sixty minutes or so, probably more than sixty minutes to be honest, I am
going to give you some concrete things that you can do to improve your music.
By the way, if you bought this course somewhere, go ask for your money back. This is a free
course. I don’t know what will happen once I get it out there on the internet but it
should always be free. Now, some of you are worried because some
of you know what I do. You know that I play the piano professionally, you know that I
have a lot of instructional DVDs available on the internet for purchase and some of you
are concerned that I am going to take the next sixty minutes and waste your time with
a big infomercial trying to sell my other products.
Let me assure you that is not what I am going to do. Now I am going to mention products
from time to time; I have to because there is only so much I can get into in an hour
and sometimes I am going to give you part of what you need to know and say to learn
the rest or to go further with that, you may have to go on to something else. That will
happen a few times, but for the most part, I’m going to give you little things that you
can use immediately in your music. I’m not going to waste your time. I promise you of
that. This is not one of those bait and switches, it’s not one of those free seminars that you
hear about and you go to and you listen to somebody try to sell you something for ninety
minutes. This is not what that’s about. You’re going to get something very concrete and actionable
out of this next hour. But on the other hand, let me be upfront with
you. My goal is not only to help you but also help myself. I want to introduce you to what
I do and give you some, a little bit of insight into my DVDs, give you an idea of the way
I teach. And perhaps, down the road, it might be a fit to sell you something. We are going to be talking about a particular
style of music today. And I want to play if for you really quick. This is a song called
“Just as I Am.” We’re going to be working with this song. Now some of you know that song but all of
you know the style. It’s a style of music that is called reflective. Sometimes it’s
called mood music. Or we can just call it soft music. And it’s a style of music that
church pianists need to know. We use that style a lot in church playing under prayers
perhaps. Sometimes we’re playing while the congregational worship leader is talking.
Sometimes you might play through an invitation if ya’ll do those at your church. Sometimes
you might have a communion that you play soft music under. Its a style that church pianists
are called upon to do. And sadly, it’s a style that most church pianists have never been
taught. Here’s what we’ve been taught. I bet your in that position. You know that
style of music. Many of you have learned that, sometimes formally, sometimes in college,
sometimes from somebody else, maybe just from listening. But you may not have been taught
another style, the more quiet style. So when you get to points in the service where you’re
asked to play softer music, you end up doing something like this. Basically you play the same thing; you just
try to play it quieter. And it doesn’t work so well, does it? Well today, I want to talk
to you about how you can adapt and move toward that soft, gentler style. Now, we’re going
to be working through the song Just as I am but it doesn’t matter what song we work through.
If you don’t use that song in your church, you can certainly pick a song that you do
use. The principles we talk about, we’re going to apply to any song. And I hope you will
by the way. I don’t necesarily want you to be tied down to an arrangement even though
I am giving you a free arrangement with this class. But I want you to have some concrete
principles that you can use with any style that you play. A couple of little housekeeping things before
we start. First of all, make sure that you do download the two PDF files, the two printed
music files that are available with this DVD at Look at the bottom of
the screen and you can see where to do that. Those files are important, those pieces of
music are important because we are going to be talking about them through this class.
The first one is just the basic harmony, the four part harmony of the song. This is Just
as I am as you would see it in the hymnal. Four parts. The second is an arrangement that
I wrote; now I didn’t spend a lot of time on it. For those of you that like to critique
music, you will probably find much to critique in there. I spent maybe twenty minutes writing
out that little arrangement and I wrote it out for the specific purpose of illustrating
some of the things I am talking about today. So, it’s not designed to win awards. It’s
basically designed to serve as a big example for the concepts we’re talking about today.
But make sure you print those off. I’m going to be referring to those pieces of music often
over the course of the next hour. Now, let me tell you sort of how we are going
to go through this process. I’m going to give it, in my mind at least, I am dividing it
into three different sections. The first section, I’m going to talk about some overriding principles
for playing this style of music. There’s three of them and these are principles that apply
not only to this style but in general to the music that you play. So we’ll talk about some
overriding principles. Then we’re going to do some beginner, concrete things that you
can use in your music. About four things that will immediately be part of your music and
help you sound really really good with this style. And then, for those of you that like
more challenge, we’re going to get into some advanced things, some advanced concepts. And
we’ll do that at the end of the class and that’s where I may in some cases tell you
that you need to go check out other courses because I can’t cram all that into the twenty
or so minutes that we’ll have to allocate to that. Now, I hope you don’t mind; I brought my coffee
with me today. And I don’t have all the fancy cameras that I normally do. We’re using one
camera instead of three and we’re not using, I didn’t bring in the production company and
all those kinds of things but the quality that I use today is going to be just like
the quality that you see in my DVDs where I have all the cameras and all the lights
that I’m not using today. All you’re going to miss is a few camera angles and who wants
to spend too much time looking at me anyway. So, let’s get started. We’re going to start
with some overriding principles and there’s three of them as I said. We’ll spend a little
bit of time on this. Number one, number one overriding principle, something that you definitely,
definitely need to remember is you have to focus on harmony. Harmony is the critical
component of pretty much all music that you play; in this style or most styles that you
would play in church for that matter. You have to know, essentially, what chords that
you’re playing and you have to know which notes belong to each chord. Now if you’ll
pull out the sheet with the original four parts for Just as I am, you’ll see the four
parts but you’ll also see above the four parts where I’ve written in the chords. And the
way it works is if you see a chord, for example, the song starts with a C chord or for those
of you that know, that is also a one chord. We’re in the key of C, so the C chord we call
the one chord. The chords are numbered based on their position within the scale. So a C
would be the one chord, D would be a two chord, E would be three, F would be four and so on. But the song starts with a one chord and it
stays on that one chord for two bars or measures. And then it switches to a G chord or a five
chord. And then it goes back to a one chord. The song is very very simple harmonically.
As a matter of fact, it goes C, G, C, G, C, F, C, G, C. That’s it. That’s the entire song.
Or if you said it with numbers, it would be one, five, one, five, one, four, one, five
one. I want you to note of course that there’s only three chords in this song which is very
very typical in church music, at least in its basic form. You have a one chord, a four
chord and a five chord; C, F and G. That is not at all abnormal for this kind of music.
It’s pretty simple stuff. Most of you know what I am talking about. Now there’s a few
of you that don’t. Now for those of you that don’t, let me encourage you to take some time
and learn it. Now this is something that I’m not going to teach in this class. I’m going
to assume that you know it. If you want to, there is a course on my website called How
To Chart a Song. It costs a whopping $9.95 if you get the download version. And its an
hour long, it will give you examples, principles you can use to identify harmony in a song.
You have to be able to look at a song and write in the chords just like I did in this
arrangement. And you have to know, not in this arrangement, but this four part harmony,
and you have to know what notes belong to each chord. For example, you have to know
that a C chord has a C, and E and a G in it. F has F, A, and C. G has G, B and a D. Have
to know that stuff. Most of you do. For those of you that don’t, go learn it somewhere.
How to Chart a Song is the course that I mentioned. By the way, if you stay around to the end,
I’ll tell you how you can get that course for free, at least the download version. I’ll
talk about that at the end. But, make sure you understand the harmony. We think in terms
of harmony because harmony tells you what pools of notes are available to you to play.
For example, if you have a C chord, we know that we can play in either hand, C’s, E’s,
G’s and other notes as well. We’ll talk about that later. But it tells us, it’s like it
tells us the restraints, what is our limit on what notes we can play, what notes are
available to us to play at any time and then you’ll see that when we play the style, we’re
focused on playing those notes in various ways. If I tell you to play a C chord, you
could play this, play that, that. You could play that. Those are all C chords. Why? Because
they use the same notes: C, E, and G. All right, principle number two. Now this
is where we get a little more specific. This is where we are going to talk about some things
that most of you have probably never heard of. And this one sounds simple, as a matter
of fact I tried very very hard to make all this sound simple but its not necessarily
simple to apply to your music. It takes a little bit of work. Here’s the principle.
You have to spread out the notes. Spread out the notes that you play. That’s the layman’s
way of saying it. If you were going to say it from a more professional way or technical
way, you would that you want to use open voicing. Voicing is a term that refers to how far apart
the notes are on the piano when you play them. Now, let me give you a quick example of that.
If I told you to play a C chord, you could do this. Most of us would do this immediately.
We would play C, E and G; we would play them close together. Ok, not bad but it can be
better. What if we did this instead. Here’s the first way. Here’s the second way.
Which way sounds better? The second way by an infinite margin. It sounds way way better.
The notes are spread out. We have a fifth and a sixth between the two notes. OK, this
is where I want you to go in your music. I want you to go in that direction rather than
using closed voicing. Now you might say Greg, that’s hard to do. I know it can be hard to
do. I remember when I was told that I had to do it. I was studying I don’t know, six
or eight years ago with a great pianist, John Innes, and John told me, he said Greg, he
was listening to my music and he said, Greg, you cram too many notes together, especially
in your left hand. I was playing a lot of very tight chords. And he said you need to
spread it out. And I thought wow that’s not going to be easy to do. But the reality is,
I did it because I focused on it. I worked at getting better at the process of spreading
out notes or making my voicing open. And you can do it too as you work through it. I’m
going to give you a lot of ways to make that happen. Now, let’s talk about it. When you
spread out the notes, what you want to do is sort of distribute the notes between your
two pinkies. Remember, your pinkies are your limits. The left pinkie is going to play the
bass note, the root of the chord normally, but that’s going to be the low end of what
you are playing. The right pinkie is going to be the high end. Ok, so if you’re playing
this chord right here, let’s say you have a C chord and you play a C in the left pinkie
and the melody note is also C. OK, you have to put an E and a G in that chord if its a
C chord, right? Most of us do this. OK, we end up with an E and an G and we play a three
note chord in our right hand and play either a C by itself in the left hand or we play
a C octave. OK, very very typical. A lot of us were taught to play a lot of octaves. Here’s
what I want you to do instead. Take the G and move it down here. OK, notice how the
notes are spread out. They’re spread out, distributed between the two pinkies. That’s
where you’re going to get your best sound. You don’t want the notes all congregated toward
the top of the piano, you don’t want them down here toward the bottom of the piano in
the base. You want to sort of spread them out. That’s open voicing. It will greatly,
greatly improve your sound. Now, does that mean you have to get a ruler and get it exact.
Absolutely not, and by the way, sometimes, you’ll have closer voicing. It will just happen.
But in general, it’s just a good rule of thumb to try to spread out the notes when you play
them. Open voicing is very very important. All right, that’s number two, let’s go back
and review. Number one is you have to know the harmony that you’re playing. Number two,
once you know the harmony, and you know what notes you have to play, you want to spread
those notes out on the piano. Spread them out between the pinkies. Here’s the third
overriding principle. This is one that may be the most difficult for many of you to accept. Here it is in three words. Here are the three
words. Less is more. Or, if I wanted to do it in two words, I could just say, Play less.
Now, that’s hard for us, isn’t it. There’s a reason why. Many of us were taught from
an early age that you get good when you play more notes right. And to some extent of course,
that’s true. We start playing. Looks like I still need to learn Twinkle twinkle little
star. Single note melodies. And then we think its a big deal when we can do… And then
eventually, maybe we’re doing this. OK, and then we move on to Fur Elise. And then we
move on to simple Bach inventions. And then sonatinas. And then eventually, we move on
to Bach Preludes and Fugues and Beethoven sonatas and Chopin Etudes and the farther
we go through our music, the more notes we play. And in our mind, we’re getting really
good when we can just hammer the piano with a million notes going at once. That’s how
we’re taught and I’m not saying, I’m not condemning that but I am going to say this. You don’t
need to play a lot of notes when you play in church. Most of us play way, way, way too
many notes. I want you to play less. I want you to be efficient. Make the notes that you
do play count, but play less notes. You don’t have to play as much as you think you do.
Watch professional musicians and see if I’m not right about that. Watch how much they
actually play versus what the sound is like. It’s an issue of efficiency. Now I can’t teach
you everything about that and by the way, I’m still learning these things myself. This
is a lifelong study. But I will say this: let me give you two very specific things that
I want you to do. Number one, I want you to simplify the patterns that you play. OK, especially when you’re playing this style.
Here’s what I don’t want you to do. OK why do you need to do that when this will work
just as well. And you get the idea. You don’t have to play
something that sounds like a chopin Etude in your left hand. Nothing against Chopin,
that’s great; it just doesn’t fit in this kind of music. There’s a big reason why it’s
important to simplify. Something that you may not have thought about. It comes down
to this. Most of us are not great pianists. That includes me. Most of us are not great
pianists. Only the very finest pianists out there can choose between playing a lot of
notes and communicating and there be no tradeoff. In other words, there are only a few pianists
out there that can do both, that can play enormously technical music and communicate
it extremely, extremely well. The rest of us have to make a choice. A lot of us tend
to lean toward playing a lot of technical music at the expense of communicating. One
of the things that’s very important for you to understand is that there are far far far
more important things to do with your music than impress people. Way way more important
things. Don’t settle for impressing people at the expense of more important things like
touching people, like communicating a message in the music you play. Be very very careful
about that. That’s a good reason why you should simplify your patterns. Beyond that, its just
that the patterns sound better. They sound good when they are played simply when you
are playing this laid back music. You have a lot more control over the sound. It’s a
lot easier to make this nice and mellow.
Than this nice and mellow. See what I am saying? It’s a lot easier and everybody can do it.
Take the pressure off yourself. Place nice simple music. I promise you there’s a big
big demand for it. The audiences out there are getting a little bit tired of all the
flashy stuff. They want somebody that will make the piano talk to them. Focus on doing
that and you will be in great shape. OK, so simplify your patterns. Number two,
the second thing I want you to do when we are talking about playing less or the concept
of “Less is More” is I want you to avoid doubling. Now, when I say avoid doubling, what I’m referring
to is this. I want you to avoid situations where you are playing the same note within
a chord in multiple places on the piano. For example, if I tell you to play a C chord,
I only want you to play C one place in one octave, one register on the piano, OK? I don’t
want you to do this. This is a C chord but I have C in it twice. Don’t do that when this
would suffice. OK, now, a lot of us have a big problem right off the bat because a lot
of us have been taught to double. We’re taught as a matter of fact to do this. OK? I have
C, C, G, C, E and G. I have three, excuse me, C three times. I guess you could say it
is tripled there. And that’s very typical. Sometimes, we have it quadrupled. Don’t need
that. Am I going to say there is no place for that in church music? No, I wouldn’t say
that at all. But in this style, you don’t want the octaves. Get rid of them in your
left hand and get rid of them in your right hand. We don’t need them anywhere else. As
a matter of fact, anywhere, as a matter of fact, if you look at the arrangement Just
as I am that I, hopefully, you’ve printed out, the arrangement that I did, you will
see that there is not an octave in the whole song. And that’s on purpose. Octaves are not
necessarily a good sound anyway; they are especially not a good sound in this kind of
music. So in the left hand, we don’t want to play octaves. Now, I’m going to show you
in a few minutes what to play instead of an octave. In the right hand, I don’t want you
to play octaves either, but sometimes, its OK. If you find yourself in a position where
you really want to, go ahead. Of course, if you’re going to play an octave, it should
be the melody, right? And by the way, that’s a good rule of thumb. If you are going to
double any note, the only note that should be doubled normally is the melody note. OK,
sometimes the melody note and the root of the chord are the same. For example, this
chord here. OK, we have a C chord and C is the melody note. If you are going to play
a C with your left pinkie, you’re going to double the melody note. Has to be that way.
However, if you look at this chord and you see one note that’s doubled. It’s G, right?
The G doesn’t belong. Which G should you remove? Well, let’s go back to the last principle.
We want to distribute the notes. If we take away this G, we end up with that. Which doesn’t
sound so good so we want to actually leave this G and take away this G. OK? You’re thinking,
how am I going to do that on the fly? That’s a lot of thinking, isn’t it? And you’re right,
it is. It’s a lot of thinking up front until you do it for a while and then it becomes
like anything else; it becomes automatic. Your ear is your best tool for this. Once
you train your ear to start for these things, your ear will tell you when you’re wrong.
It will tell you when you’re doing silly things. Like playing octaves. I shouldn’t say that.
Playing octaves is not always silly. But let’s just say when you’re doing inferior things.
When you’re playing an octave and should be playing something else. Your ear will eventually
start telling you those things. Let your ear, train your ear, rely on your ear, your ear
is your best tool. Now, again, the rules are: You can double, but only double the melody
note. OK, and often you don’t even want to do that. As a matter of fact, most of the
time, you don’t want to do that. But there will be a lot of times where it will make
sense to double the melody note and don’t worry if you find yourself doing that. But
just don’t do this. OK, this is very typical; we have three C’s, 2 G’s and 1 E. That is
what we would call an uneven distribution, right? There’s no reason to have more C’s
than G’s. G is the melody note. The melody note is theoretically at least, the most important.
So if you’re going to have that played more than, if you’re going to play any note more
than other notes, it should be the melody note. OK those are the basic guidelines. We
are going to talk about how to implement those in a second. Let’s review them really quick.
Number one, we want to focus on the harmony. You need to know what chords are in the song
and what notes belong in each chord. When you get a new song, if you don’t know what
the chords are, go in and write them in. If you don’t know how to write them in, take
the course How To Chart a Song. And then learn. By the way, it will take you an hour to watch
it, a few weeks of practice and you’ll be good to go in this. We want to get you to
the point where you can read chords in real time as you’re playing. But certainly, as
you get started, it may take you a little bit longer. Nothing wrong, no crime with just
writing in the chords before you start playing. Number two, we want to spread out the notes
on the piano. We want to spread them out. We don’t want these kinds of sounds. We want
this kind of sound instead. OK, spread out notes. You want to distribute the notes between
the two pinkies as evenly as you can. Don’t crowd the notes in the left hand at the top
of the right hand or the left hand. Number three, we want to simplify what you play.
Less is more. And we are going to do that two ways. Simplify your patterns and number
two, avoid doubling. OK, those are the three principles. Now, we
are going to move into some basic application of how you would do this in real life. All right, we are ready to get started with
some basic things that we can do to move the sound in the way you want it to go toward
a nice mellow sound. These are things that I use. I’m not giving you things that I don’t
use. I use them all the time. As a matter of fact, this first one is something that
I use constantly, and I’ll show you that in a second. I call it an open arpeggio. It’s
a simple three note arpeggio that I play in the left hand constantly and it sounds really
good in this style. The arpeggio is three notes like I said and if you were going to
number the notes, you would say one, five, three. As a matter of fact, there’s two formulas
I need you to memorize: 1, 5, 3 and then 3, 1, and 5. Now those numbers are the notes,
the numbers of the notes in the chord. For example, a C chord: C is one, E is three,
G is five. So if I tell you to play one, five, three, I mean to play C and then go to G and
then play E, OK? That’s 1, 5, 3. It it was a G chord, you would play G and then D and
then B. OK? Now, why does this work? First of all, let’s contrast it to the normal way
you might play an arpeggio. A lot of you, if I said play an arpeggio in the left hand,
you would play this. In the song Just As I Am, this is how it would sound. Maybe you would do. Maybe play them up here.
Which is fine. But these open arpeggios will sound a lot better. Here’s the new way. OK?
You see you can get through the whole song just playing those little three note arpeggios
and in the right hand, playing a single note melody. That’s all you need and you’ve already
moved in the right direction. A huge move in the right direction. Again, the two patterns:
1, 5 and 3 and 3, 1, and 5. OK, 3, 1, and 5 means you start on E if you’re playing a
C chord and then play C and then G. Now why would you choose one or the other? Well you
would choose to do the second one to sort of alternate with the first one so the music
does not sound redundant. In this case, we are staying on a C chord for 2 bars. The second
bar, I would change it to 3, 1, 5. You hear the big big improvement there? Just a good
rule of thumb. If you are playing the same chord two times, don’t play the same arpeggio.
Switch back and forth between 1, 5 and 3 to 3, 1 and 5. OK? Very very good sound and an
easy easy thing you can do. Now, here’s something else you can do. If you want, you can put
something else at the end of the three notes. For example, you might keep the arpeggio going
another note or two. OK, so we’re playing a C chord, so when we get to E, you could
come up and play G and then C. Like that, maybe. Or you might do this. What am I doing
there? Well, I’m just rocking back and forth between the last two notes that I played.
So I play C which is one, five three, five three five three. Sometimes, you might just
do this. And in that case, I am just playing 1, 5, 3 and then going back to 5 and hanging
out there for a beat or two. You can do that as well. I’ll show you some examples of some
things I could do here in a second. But here’s the thing I want you to note. This actually
backs up an overriding principle that we talked about in the last session. And that is that
we want to spread out the notes when we play them. If you play this, that is what we called
closed; its closed voicing. Even though its not a chord like this, you’re still playing
closed voicing. Do this and you have open voicing. It sounds a lot lot better. OK? Really
really nice sound. If you pull out the arrangement that we have been going through Just as I
Am, we haven’t actually started going through it yet but we’re about to, you’ll note that
I am using this pattern constantly through this arrangement starting in the bar number
1. See that? OK, and then I rock back and forth, I showed you that a second ago. So
I start with a pattern and then I put a few more things on it as well. Bar 3, same thing.
And then I come back down. Bar 5, let’s see, and then I go up another note. Remember that
I said sometimes you tag something to the end of these arpeggios. And in this case,
I just extended the arpeggio by one note. Now by the way, you might say, well, why did
you choose an A there? Why didn’t you skip up to C? Well, you could skip to C. But I
will say this. The higher you move on the keyboard, the better arpeggios do start to
sound closer. OK, so you can’t get away with doing that, moving around by a third if you
are right here. You couldn’t move from this F to this A. But up here, it sounds better.
You can get away with it. And the reality is we often have to squeeze together the notes
in the arpeggio as we get higher on the keyboard because there’s only so much real estate before
you run into your right hand. OK, you sort of have to cram notes together as you get
higher on the keyboard. But again, let your ear be your guide. Your ear will tell you
when you are playing these arpeggios too close together. In this case, you can start with
1, 5, 3 and then go start moving by thirds or fourths or whatever. Keep the arpeggio
moving basically playing every note in order. Once you play that first simple pattern. Let’s
see, you see it again in bar 9 and bars 12, bar 13. In bar 13, I play a 5 note arpeggio.
But I start with 1, 5, 3. OK, And so on. That’s pretty much all the patterns I use through
here but notice I end the song with it as well. Again, that simple pattern. So this
is foundational. I don’t know, I didn’t count them but I would say at least 40 percent of
the time, in this song, I used that pattern. Now, if you always use that pattern, obviously
you have a problem. It’s going to sound a little redundant for sure, a little predictable.
But you can get away with it a lot. It really really really can be a foundation for where
you want to go. Simple three note patterns. 1, 5, 3, 3, 5, 1, remember those. All right, let’s put aside the arrangement
for a second and move on to the next thing I need to talk to you about. Remember I said
a little while ago that I want you to avoid octaves in both hands. Here’s what I want
you to do instead of octaves. It’s very simple really. I want you to play other intervals.
Now remember, an octave is an interval. It’s an eighth, what we call an eighth. I would
prefer for you to play sixths, fifths, sevenths. For those of you that can, ninths and tenths.
But avoid octaves or eighths. Don’t play octaves. Now, there’s a couple of reasons why that
really really works. Let’s talk about a practical reason first in regards to what we talked
about a few minutes ago. Remember how I said to distribute the notes between your two hands.
OK, from pinkie to pinkie, you want to sort of evenly distribute the notes. If you’re
playing an octave down here, you’re playing the same note so there’s no distribution so
what ends up happening is your right hand ends up doing all the work. It’s got all the
notes of the chord in it normally. Except for the root. And so you end up up here with
a lot of notes clumped together and just an octave, basically a single note in the left
hand that’s doubled. If you can play this instead, play a fifth here, let’s say, now
we have a note in the left hand that we can take out of the right hand which allows the
hands to be distributed, I mean the notes to be distributed across hands. See that?
As opposed to this, we can play this. OK? So playing an interval in the left hand not
only sounds good but also helps solve that problem we talked about, about distributing
the notes with the hands. If you play octaves, that’s not going to happen. OK? So in the
left hand, what I want you to do is play intervals. Now, the intervals can be composed of any
two notes that belong to the chord. If its a C chord, you can play C and G. You can play
E and C. That’s a sixth. You can play G and E. That’s also a sixth. For those of you that
can, most of you can’t, but if you can, you can play a tenth there. C and E, it’s a really
nice sound. If there is a seventh in the chord, which we haven’t talked about yet, we’re going
to talk about that in a few minutes, but if there’s a seventh, you can play 1 and 7 so
in the key of C, if its a C chord, you would probably play this, C and B. Doesn’t sound
good right now, it will later. OK. But I would prefer you play 1 and 7 to 1 and 8 or the
octave in other words. So be careful about that. You want to avoid the octaves in the
left hand. In the right hand, same thing. Don’t play octaves. Play open intervals instead.
Now, let’s take this down to a practical level. Many of you were taught a style of church
music where you would play a chord like this. OK, by the way, this piano has issues in the
upper end. I tune it regularly but it is out of tune right now so I apologize for that.
In the upper end. But you would end up playing a chord like this. You have a C and an E and
you would double the melody note which is G. OK? First thing I want you to do, get rid
of the melody note, the doubling. So we get rid of the thumb. Take the thumb off. Then
what I want you to do is eliminate the note between those two notes that are left. Try
to move that note to the left hand. But the two notes that are left will be an open interval.
In this case, it’s a fifth. If you use that strategy I just gave you, you will almost
always be playing fifths and sixths in your right hand. OK, and it will really really
sound good. So, again, those four note chords, we don’t want anymore. We want to play two
note chords. The way you do it is remove the octave and then remove the middle note from
the chord that’s left. Or, here’s another way you could do it. When you are trying to
figure out what note should I add with the melody note in the right hand to make an open
octave, choose the note from the chord thats the fartherest away from the melody note going
down the piano. OK, so if its a C chord and the melody note is G, what note do you add?
Well, the other two notes in a C chord are C and E. So, going down the piano, the first
one you come to is E, so we’ll skip that one and go down to C. OK? If the melody note is
E, we play G with it and skip C. OK, and if the melody note is C, we’re going to play
E with it, leaving out the G that would be in the middle. OK? Sounds really, really,
much better, cleaner when you take that approach. Now, look at the arrangement Just as I Am
for a second with me and let’s note all the open intervals in both hands. OK, you can
see them all over the place. Again, you can look through this song a long time and not
see any octaves but you will definitely see open intervals. Starting in the first bar,
see the two open intervals in the right hand. In the second bar, you have an open interval
in the left hand. It’s a sixth. Third bar, open intervals, these are sixths in the right
hand. Fourth bar, you have a sixth in the left hand. Fifth bar, open intervals in the
right hand, fifths and sixths. In bar 6, same thing. OK, in bar 7, you have an interval,
its a seventh, G and F is a seventh, even though we are not playing the chord together.
We’re playing it like this. It’s still an open interval, its a seventh. We’ll talk more
about that in a second. But as you go through this song, in both hands, you’ll see a lot
of open intervals, a lot of sixths. Now, you’ll see some more interesting chords as well.
For example, in bar 8, you have this chord here. That’s obviously not an open interval;
that’s a pretty complex chord which we’ll talk about in a little while. But I’m not
saying that every single chord, every single beat, you need to be playing an open interval.
You can do that from time to time. Its great, sounds great, but in general, you want to
stick with fewer notes in both hands. Open intervals, just switch out the octaves for
open intervals and you’ll be in great great shape. OK, just an important thing, number
2, basic thing that you need to use. Now, number 3 is, the number three principle
is, remember number 1 was the open arpeggio pattern, 1, 5, 3, 3, 5, 1. Second principle,
application was these open intervals. The third is what I call broken chords. Now, when
I say this, what I am referring to is when you play a chord, you don’t play all the notes
at the same time. For example, here’s a C chord. But sometimes, you might do this instead.
OK, now that’s still a C chord. But you just broke it up. You played it in two different
segments of time right, but at the end of the day, you are holding down all three notes,
its a C chord. Now, why would you do that? The reason you do it, there’s actually two
reasons to do it. Number one, it makes you have more control over the sound. It’s a lot
easier to control the sound when you are playing two notes like that and then one note than
trying to control three notes at once. If you know how hard it is sometimes to play
quiet, you know what I’m referring to. It’s hard to concentrate and control the velocity
at which you strike 3 notes versus 2 notes. So that’s one good reason. The second reason
I really like broken chords is because it creates movement. It fills up space. You don’t
want to have songs that always have you ending or resting for three or four beats on a whole
note, right? But if you broke open that chord, you can fill open, you can fill up some time
by playing little patterns. It could be this. It could be as simple as this. As a matter
of fact, the roll sort of accomplishes the same thing. But I really use those a lot to
fill up dead space. Let’s look at the arrangement. The best way to actually see this is to look
at the arrangement and you’ll see exactly what I am referring to. Let’s see, the first
place that it happens is in bar 4. In the right hand, I need this chord. This is a diminished
chord. And I want to get that chord, but notice what I do. I play it in three different segments
of time so I end up with the chord but I play this. OK, so there’s the chord. Now could
I have done this? I could, but doing it the other way allows me to fill up a beat and
a half of that bar. OK? So it helps. Now, let’s go on. On bar 7, in the left hand, I
want this open interval here but I play it in two different time places right? I’m playing
them as two different eighth notes. Again, fills up space, creates movement but also
gives you a nice soft sound. Ok? Notice how few notes I’m really playing. But I’m just
spreading them out and it feels like a full song. At least it feels right to me. You may
not like it at all for all I know. Let’s move on. You see the same sort of thing happening
in bar 10 where in the left hand, I’m playing. That’s a simple one. Instead of playing this,
I play this instead. OK, bar 12. Note that I am in the right hand. I’m playing a complex
chord there, C major 7, but I play 3 of the notes and then I add the fourth note on the
second beat. Again, movement and control of sound. Same thing here. I’m playing that in
the left hand instead of playing that interval, I’m playing. Same thing in bars 19, bar 19. Why am I doing?
I want this chord here but I play it this way. Again, movement, control of sound. And
I guess that’s all the ones, everything else we have already talked about and seen examples
of. But those are the things that you can do that will really really help you in this
sound. Again, when we talk about efficiency, playing less notes but making them count,
this is the way to make that happen. All right, one more basic improvement I want
to talk about. This is a subtle one, but its one that you can do pretty much immediately.
It’s another little, another little fancy way of saying it. here it is, three words,
take your time. Take your time. This kind of music wants to breathe. It wants to ebb
and flow. You know, there’s debate about this. During the romantic period of the classical
era, this is probably, there was more music written like this than in any other period.
But composers wanted music to sort of ebb and flow and they came up with a term for
it. It was called rubato. And we still use that term today. Now in the twentieth century,
most modern music is written on a very strict tempo and there’s a term, that’s called in
time. But today’s modern musicians also call this kind of music, they call it “out of time.”
And that’s not a derogatory term, they just talk about playing in time or out of time.
Play out of time, play rubato, it doesn’t matter which, whatever you call it. But that
really suits this style. One of the things that it does by the way is that it helps remove
tension from the music. Sort of hard to explain that. New age music by the way, which to me,
this is my somewhat uneducated opinion about it, but a lot of new age music seems to be
all about removing tension. And one of the ways they do that is they remove the need
or the feel where somebody has to play on a very strict tempo or rhythm. So you might
have, in this case you might have, if I’m counting it, it might sound like this. Slow
down. And then speed up. So you hear it. Sort of slowing down and speeding up, sort of tensionless.
Just sort of meandering. It’s like living your life without a watch on. Actually that
doesn’t work so well. When I stopped working as a software engineer ten years ago, I threw
away my watches and I said, I’m not going to live on a watch anymore. And what I found
is I’ve never worn a watch since but I still live on a watch because that’s the person
I am. I would be a much much happier more laid back person if I could come to the point
where I just sort of, you know, enjoyed the smell as you uh, tiptoe through the meadow,
enjoy the flowers, and the smell as opposed to always be wondering where you’re going
and are you going to be there on time. Those people are happy, they have less tension in
their lives. They get there when they get there. In terms of this kind of music, if
you play it with a strict tempo, it introduces some tension into the music that doesn’t necessarily
have to be there. And I want you to in general, play this style of music without that tension.
Just sort of meander around. Notice I called this when I labelled this music, I called
it, the label right here says heavy rubato, the style I want you to play it. If you play
this particular arrangement, by the way, you can take this arrangement into your church
and play it, I don’t mind if you do that. I would rather that you take the principles
from this arrangement and come up with your own for any other song you have to play but
feel free to use this arrangement in your church as well. You can keep turning it, play
it over and over again, and there’s an optional ending on it as well. But really, this style
of music, again you want to play it with a lot of rubato or play it so-called out of
time and you’ll be happy with the result. Happier with the result anyway. All right, those are the basic improvements.
Now believe it or not, what I have just given you is pretty much what you need , I’ve gone
through pretty much the entire logic of this arrangement except for the ending, the start
and the ending and a few of the chords. But if you look at this song and look at what
I am doing technically, I’ve explained every bit of it to you. The open intervals, I’ve
explained this pattern, the pattern that we’re playing in the left hand. We’ve talked about
the broken chords. Really at the end of the day, that’s what this song is. This little
arrangement is just illustrating these little things. And little basic things that you can
do too in your music. That being said though, I want to move on to some things that are
more advanced. Some of you are interested in more advanced things. And so I want to
talk about those for a little bit. And we, obviously some of the stuff I am about
to talk about, I’ve spent hours and hours and hours on in the instructional DVDs so
I’m going to give you some things. My goal is to give you some things where you can actually
apply them, some nuggets, self sustaining nuggets. In other words, I’m not going to
tease you and say, well here’s the first piece of the puzzle but you have to get the second
piece from the DVD. No, I’m not going to do that. I’m going to give you some nuggets that
you can use but then I’m going to say, if you want more advanced nuggets, go to the
DVD. OK? So we’re going to talk about some things over the next, I don’t know 20 or 30
minutes, probably not 30 minutes but 20 minutes that you can do in terms of advanced harmony.
The first one is sevenths, adding sevenths to your music. Now, if you read my blog, if
you study anything I’ve written, you know that I talk about this a lot. Adding a seventh
to a chord, a triad, is very important. All we’ve talked about to this point is triads.
C, E, and G. Three note chords. You add a whole new level of complexity and better sound
when you go to a four note chord. Thirty three percent more notes. And that last note, that
fourth note makes a dramatic difference in your sound and if you’re serious about playing
the piano and learning, this is one of the things that you need to learn first. If you’re
playing triads, you need to start adding the sevenths to your music. Now, I’m going to
show you how to do it. It’s not hard, well it’s a little bit hard to implement but the
actual thinking behind is actually quite easy. First of all, let me tell you about the sevenths.
Number one, there’s two sevenths that you can add. You can add a major seventh or a
minor seventh. The major seventh is the note that is a half step down from the root. OK,
so if we have a C triad and I wanted to add a major seventh to it, I would add a B. Now,
B is a half step down from the root and I’m not saying that you play it a half step down
from the root. That changes the chord. But you play it somewhere above the root but it
is the note that’s a half step below the root. OK? So, let’s say that we have a C chord.
Just as I am, let’s start the song. Ok, if I was going to add a seventh to that chord,
I would add a B. The only place I can really only add a B is I’m playing it right now,
right here. OK? Which by the way, sounds great doesn’t it? It’s a great great sound. So you
add the major seventh somewhere above, somewhere between the pinkies. Normally by the way,
you can add it with your thumb. That’s a place where it tends to always seem to work. I don’t
know why. Not always, but very very often. OK, that’s the major seventh, the note thats
a half step down from the root. The minor seventh on the other hand is the note that’s
a whole step down from the root. So if you were going to add a minor seventh to a C chord,
you would add a Bb. OK? B flat. So you might say, Greg, what’s the difference between those
two sounds. Does it really matter? Is it more, is it a taste issue? Is it a preference, does
it just create a different color of the chord? The truth is it is actually extremely important
to know whether to choose between the minor seventh and major seventh. It makes a big
difference. The seventh is very very important because it helps define how the chord is going
to behave. Where it’s going to want to go. Resolve to. And so you do need to know whether
to add the minor seventh or the major seventh to a chord. Now, I’m not going to tell you
to go to the course, I’m going to tell you right now which seventh to add to each chord.
You have to know your numbers. You have to know for example in the key of C, C is your
one chord, you have to know that D is your two, E is your three, F is your four and so
on. If you know that much, here’s what you do. You add the major seventh to all one and
four chords. Major seventh goes with one and four chords. Minor seventh goes with everything
else. Now, that is a very very general rule and there are exceptions but I’m not worried
about telling you right now. You’ll be fine if you do what I just told you. Add the major
seventh to one and four chords, the minor seventh to all the minor chords and the five
chord and the seven chord. OK, so the one chord, you would play that. F chord, you would
play that, that’s your four chord. The five chord, you would add the minor seventh which
would be F on a G chord. There are exceptions and by the way, sometimes it will not sound
good to add a seventh to a chord. That’s especially true with the major seventh. The major seventh
is a very dissonant sound. You have a B rubbing against a C. Very dissonant. Great sound but
very very dissonant. And sometimes, that just won’t sound good to you. It depends on what
the melody note is. I could give you rules but I don’t have time so here’s what I would
say instead. Just let your ear be your guide. If the major seventh sounds good, add it.
If it doesn’t, don’t. But in general, probably 70 percent of the time, I’m going to add the
major seventh to my one chords and my four chords. Again, there it is without it. Here
it is with it. That’s a great great sound. I love that sound. So you are going to do
that. The minor seventh on the other hand can almost always be used. You can almost
always get away with adding it to your chords and you should. Now take a minute and look
at the arrangement that I wrote out for Just as I am. Go through and look and see how many
of these chords do not have sevenths on them. I think there’s two. There’s a couple of minor
chords, bar 24 and there’s, let’s see, yea bar 10 I think doesn’t have a seventh in it.
But those are the only two chords in this whole song that don’t have a seventh. Or in
some cases, a sixth. I won’t talk about sixths today, but a sixth is sort of like a seventh.
There’s a couple of those in here, but for the most part, you are seeing sevenths everywhere,
every single chord. I tend to play sevenths on every chord. Now you may run into some
people from time to time that tend to be old fashioned and they’ll say you shouldn’t use
sevenths. Or, or if you are going to use sevenths, don’t use them all the time. Remember, sevenths
is basically, well its not new harmony, but it’s newer harmony. Certainly if you back
to a lot of classical music, it will be empty of sevenths, you won’t find sevenths in it
and its been one of those things that has grown slowly over time. It’s developed just
like a lot of things have developed in music. But you’ll find people that just don’t believe
music should have sevenths in it. To those people, I would say hog wash. Sevenths sound
great, you should use sevenths. And if they tell you you can use a seventh but don’t overuse
it, maybe use it once in a while, to those people I would say hog wash. Sevenths sound
great, use them as much as you want. Your music will be better for it. Better for..
If it works, use it. Don’t worry too much about the traditions of men in regards to
these things. If it sounds good, use it. And this is something that you definitely, definitely
should use. All right so, the minor seventh on every chord except one and four, add them.
how do you add them? Well, you fit them in again. Let’s say you have a C chord. If you
need to add the minor seventh, very very often you can put it in here with your thumb. Those
both work, those voicings both work. Notice how the notes are sort of spread out. Not
perfectly spread out but they’re spread out. it’s an open voicing. And so on. Now, play
the seventh with your thumb but sometimes you won’t be able to play it with your thumb
and in those cases, just put it in where it sounds good. Let your ear, let your ear be
your guide. I could say that a lot. When you’re talking about music, let your ear be your
guide. All right, so those are sevenths. Make sure you’re starting to do that in your
music. Let’s move on to the next advanced topic. The next advanced topic is chord substitutions.
The topic that everybody wants to know about. Now, let me just say this about chord substitutions.
My personal opinion is the whole term chord substitutions is a flawed term. Really what
we should be talking about is a bigger broader issue called reharmonization, which means
basically changing out harmony for other harmony. The reality is if you give me a set of chords,
there are a numerous, there’s an infinite, almost infinite number of other chord progressions
that would substitute for that progression. Really, when I’m thinking about reharmonization
or changing out chords, I’m thinking about reharmonizing a lot of chords or a string
of chords rather than just one chord. That’s the better way to think about it. And the
reality is, if you look at it chord by chord, there’s almost any number of chords that would
substitute for any particular chord. There’s a universal rule of chord substitutions that
I often say. First of all, any chord can substitute for any chord if the new chord works with
the melody note and it works with the chords around it. That’s true. However, there are
some chord substitutions that seem to work a lot and I can teach them to you in about
five or six minutes and so I’m going to. And we’ll see them in action. And this is only
touching the tip of the iceberg. I promise you. But these are things that you can use
right away and incorporate in your music and your music will sound better. Here they are.
Remember, to this point, we’ve talked about essentially three chords: one, four and five.
Most songs in your hymnal are going to be comprised of those three chords with maybe
an additional one here and there. So let me tell you what you can substitute for each
of those chords. Make sure you get this. The one chord: you can often substitute either
a three, which is a minor three. By the way, you always add the sevenths to these chords.
A minor 3 seven for a one chord or a minor 6 seven for the one chord. 3 or 6 will substitute
for 1. The four chord: you can substitute 2, minor 2 seven or 6, minor 6 seven. Minor
6 seven will also work. The five chord. Minor 2 seven or the seven chord which is a half
diminished chord which I don’t have time to talk about but the seven chord will also substitute
for the five. 2 for 5. By the way, I’m saying 2 distinctly on purpose. It’s not the 3 chord,
its the 2 chord. The 2 chord substitutes very nicely for the 5 chord and so does the 7,
OK? 3 or 6 for 1. 6 or 2 for 4. 7 or 2 for the
5 chord. Now, I’ve got some examples of that in Just as I Am so let’s look at them. The
song actually starts on bar number 9. Bar number 9. See that. Now, the orginal harmony
calls for two bars in a row of a one chord. OK, so it sounds like this. Here that? C chord
on both bars. Let’s change it. Let’s change it up. Now we’re going to leave the first
bar alone. We’re going to leave a C chord on the first bar. The second bar, let’s try
a 3 chord instead. Great sound, huh? Sounds really really nice. Let’s try the 6. I like
that as well. Now which one would you choose? Whatever your ear tells you, whatever your
preference is. Both of them will work. OK, what if you tried both of them? What if we
took that bar and we said I’m going to put a 3 chord on the first half of it and a 6
chord on the second half. By the way, that’s within the rules. You don’t have to substitute
a chord for the entire amount of time that the other chord is there. In other words if
you have let’s say a bar of a C chord, you could substitute the first two beats of that
bar, substitute a chord, substitute a chord for the last two beats of that bar. That’s
what I’m going to do here. I’m going to use a 3 chord and a 6 chord. OK, so we’re going
to start with 1. 1. 3. 6. OK, here that? So I substituted all, I used 3 chords in those
two bars. 1, 3, and 6. OK, let’s keep going. Now, I’m supposed to go to a 5 chord here,
but what if I went to 2 instead and then I went to 5. OK, so I substituted a 2 chord
for the first part of the amount of time that the 5 chord was being played. OK, let me go
back to my original music. The five chord is actually a bar long. So I substituted a
2 chord for the first 2 beats and then I moved to the G chord, the 5 chord, for the last
beat, OK? 2. 5. 1. OK, I’m supposed to go to the 5 chord but let’s go to the 2 chord
instead. Now, we’ll go to the 5. 1. I’m supposed to go the 4 chord here, which let’s do it.
Instead of staying on it though, let’s substitute the 2 chord. So I changed the 4 chord into
4 2. I’m supposed to go to 1. Let’s go to 3 instead and then 6. Supposed to go to 5,
let’s go to 2 instead. OK, so those are some substitutions that I did just with that song.
They’re not the only ones, you can come up with your own. I used a slightly different,
in the arrangement I use a slightly different formula and by the way, in the arrangement,
I also threw in some substitutions that are outside the scope of this class. For example,
this sound right here. We didn’t talk about this substitution right here. OK, I didn’t,
we don’t have time to talk about it today, but that is one that you can use as well.
There’s a few things going on in this song that I just don’t have time to talk about,
but you will see me using those minor chord substitutions that I just gave you. For example,
look at bar, should be bar 10. Yea, bar 10, notice we have e minor moving to a minor.
Originally, that was a C chord. So we substituted the 3 chord for the first beat and then you
see we substituted the 6 chord for the last two beats. OK, so that works well. And the
next bar, which is bar 11, was supposed to be G 7, which is your five chord and I substituted
D minor seven which is your minor 2 seven. OK, so there you have it. That’s your minor
chord substitutions. I call them minor chord substitutions because you are substituting
a minor chord for a major chord. And if you’re thinking in terms of triads, you have minor
triads and major triads. We’re substituting a minor chord for a major chord. OK, now we
have one more topic that I want to go over for a few minutes that is also in this song
and it has to do with the concept of color notes. Color notes are notes that we add to chords
in addition to 1, 3, 5, and 7 that give the chords that you play a little more pop. For
example, we could play a G seven like this which is fine, but we could also do this.
There is an additional note that I added. I added an A to that chord. Now you might
think, Greg, why did you add an A to that chord. Why does it have an A in it? Does an
A belong to a G chord. Well not the way you think about it normally. You think G, B, and
D and F if you add the seventh. but A is actually the ninth of that chord. And if you add the
seventh to a chord, all of a sudden you have all these extra notes available to you to
add to the chord as well. And you should. These notes sound really really really good.
So that would be one. What if we added this note? That’s a slightly different sound. I’m
adding a E, E natural to that chord which again, doesn’t belong. We call that it 13.
It doesn’t belong to the original triad but its the 13th of that chord. We could do something
like this. We’ve added an A flat to that chord which is a flat 9. We could even do this.
Flat 9, flat 13. These are all things that sound really good. Let me show you a few examples
through the song. The first one occurs on bar number 8. Ok, so we’ve got. OK, that’s
the example I just showed you. That A flat is a flat 9. E is your natural 13th. OK, don’t
worry, this is confusing and I’m going to give you some tips in a second to make it
easier. let’s see, in bar, let’s see, is it 13, 14, 15, bar 15, you see G seven altered.
Altered means its got flat 9, flat 13ths in it. Here’s how it sounds. That chord right
there has an A flat in it. That is a flat 9. That’s one of my favorite sounds in the world.
That right there is C seven with a flat 9, a d flat in it. A minor with a B in it. OK,
the B is your 9th of that chord. That sound right there. Flat 9 and 13. Now. Some of you
are thinking, what’s the big deal. Well, you’ve been with me for over an hour and I assume
that part of the reason you’ve stuck with me is because you either like the way I play
or you like the information I’m giving. If you like the way I play, these color notes
are a big part of how I get my sound. I add them constantly and they’re very important.
So this is a topic that’s worthy of your attention. Now, there’s two ways that you can learn about
extended chords. I’m going to give them to you really quick. By the way, that’s what
we’re talking about, extended chords, chords that go beyond just 1, 3, 5, and 7. Two things
you can do. Number one, you can take my course on Reharmonization and I give you a very systematic
approach to learning these color notes. Flat 9s, 9s, sharp 9s, 11s, sharp 11s, flat 13ths
and 13ths. And you’ll learn which color notes belong to each chord and when you would use
one versus another and so on. But here is a simpler way. This is something you can do
without buying anything. All you do is this. You pick up a song, and you write in the harmony
and then as you play through the song, you force yourself to stop on every chord and
look for a note that you can add to the chord that sounds good. OK. You don’t even have
to worry about whether it’s a 13 or flat 13th or whatever. Long term, you’ll want to learn
that, but right now, just try to come up with some sounds. In other words, teach you ear
how to look and hear sounds that are sound good but you’re not used to hearing. You have
to force yourself. Force yourself to get out there and start looking for those unusual
sounds and as you use them over time, they’ll become part of your vocabulary and you’ll
start using them instinctively. That’s the way I learned to play these kinds of notes.
As a matter of fact, I knew nothing about the technical aspects of extended chords for
years after I started playing them. So you certainly can. I can remember taking, as a
matter of fact, it was John Innes. I went in and showed him something I was playing
and I said, what is this? I didn’t know how to label the chord. And he told me what it
was, but I didn’t know but I was already playing it and you can do that as well. So don’t feel
like you have to become a theory expert to use these kinds of things. All right, so that wraps extended chords and
it really wraps the advanced section which means we’re wrapping up this course. Again,
in the advanced section, we talked about seventh chords, we talked about the substitions, chord
substitutions, and we talked about extended chords. And that pretty much wraps up what
I wanted to cover for the course. So let’s go through everything really quick.
We talked about overriding principles, overriding principles. You have to know your harmony,
you have to spread out the notes, spread them out and then, play less. Avoid doubling, simplify
your patterns. In the basic section, we talked about the open arpeggios in the left hand,
open intervals in both hands, we talked about broken chords in both hands, spreading out
the notes when you play them so you can control the sound and fill up dead space and we talked
about rubato, taking your time. And then we just covered those topics in the
advanced course. I hope you learned a lot. I hope these are things where you can feel
ready to go in your own music with some practice. A lot of these things you should be able to
do practically immediately with just a minimal amount of work. And some of them will take
some work. Let me briefly tell you a couple of things.
I promised you at the beginning that if you will do something for me, I will give you
that download, a free download of how To Chart A song. Free, it won’t cost you anything,
you can download it just like this course and watch it for free. And it really really
is sort of foundational to set up not only this course but pretty much everything I teach.
Everything comes back to what I am saying harmonically. This is how you do it. All you
have to do is this. I want you to send this note, send this course along to a decision
maker, somebody you know. Maybe your piano teacher, send them a note and tell them what
you thought about it and tell them to check it out. Maybe the music director of your church,
maybe another pianist in the church. Do that, copy me on the email, my email address is
greg at greg at My last name is spelled Howlett and you can
see it on the screen in front of you. But copy me on the email and send it on to them
and I will send you a link to download How to chart a song for free. Let me tell you
briefly about other courses available on the site. Another foundational course is Theory
for Church Pianists. Five hours of theory that church pianists need to understand that
sets up everything I teach. Not overwhelming. Like I said, it’s five hours. We teach only
what you need to know. Things that you don’t need to know about theory, we’re not going
to teach. Now, that sounds pretty simple, but the reality is you can get bogged down
in a lot of theory courses on college campuses, you’re learning things you’ll never use. And
they’re historical artifacts or whatever. We’re not going to cover those in this course.
I’m going to give you a finite, limited set of information that you really really need.
We have a course on arranging, how to arrange your own offertories, a course on congregational
accompaniment, that big stride sound that a lot of you play in your church when the
congregation is singing. Big, that sound. Oh, there’s a course in there on reharmonization
which I’ve been referencing which teaches you everything I just covered in the advanced
section but in 4 hours so there’s a lot of detail and I walk through a lot of very very
advanced things. Way way beyond the scope of what we just covered. Course on how to
play by ear, every pianist should, modulations, how to move between keys. There’s a course
on how to play lead sheets, how to play soft music that’s somewhat similar, not really
similar to this course but there’s a little overlap for the most part, its sort of a stand
alone course. Its not really like what I just covered. You’ll see if you take it. And then
a couple of other courses, how to accompany small groups and how to transpose. Nobody
likes to do it but we all have to from time to time. So I hope you will check those out.
Again, I’m Greg Howlett. Thanks so much for sticking with me. Jot me an email and let
me know what you thought about this course.

Comments (71)

  1. Thanks mate, I am a church pianist and your postings are very helpful! God bless you!

  2. Greg, you are always able to deliver pertinent information, practical knowledge, and then encourage me how to put theory into practice. I'd been searching for years for a good website for the church pianist and I finally found it a few years ago. Thank you.

  3. please please listen to my new composition .. /watch?v=zXKVyJ3KzBE

  4. God Bless u Thanks for the tips ive been practicing to play moody piano or Soft
    for our church 😀 Thanks A Lot

  5. I can say I defiantly say i try to use the less amount of chords possible


  7. Thank you so very much for all your help! Your tips are already making my music sound much better!

  8. 19:33 That is so correct!

  9. I love the concept of simplifying things so you have room for more beautiful things. It should apply to other aspects in our lives. Great contribution from you. I will take time to watch and learn from you. You are a great teacher.

  10. Thanks for this great gift…

    I'm not a church pianist but I have always wanted to master improvising with hymns since childhood. I like improvisation of which Bach was a/the master with his improvisations of chorales.

    you really break things down really well…i look forward to learning more…and will be checking out your DVD'S….

  12. Hi sir Greg. I have learned a lot on your video lesson. I've been playing in our church for almost 13 years but it's just now that I clearly understand some of the chords that I've been using. I use to play some of what you have covered but I can't explain it theoretically. I will pray that God will bless you more with this kind of ministry that you have.. I just wish that we could see you personally in our church one day.. You're such a blessing!

  13. Thanks so much for letting us view this video! I've got lots to learn, but some of the things I'm already doing but didn't know how to explain it. I am very relieved to hear that it's okay to play "out of time" (Rubato). I like doing this, and do use it all the time, but I was afraid that if a "advanced" pianist heard me play they would say it was incorrect. Now I will use it with confidence. I'm looking forward to going through more of your courses . . . once I get this one down.

  14. thank you a lot for this free lesson.. I think I'll purchase all lessons from you. Especially reharmonization is something I'm interested in. Do you also teach how to do runs and other fillers in a different course? I have plenty of piano courses, but none of them really break down the stuff as well as you do. Adding 7th, 9ths etc really does make a world of difference. Also I was wondering. Do you teach other piano styles such as the blues, rock?

  15. Hi Greg, i absolutely love your music 🙂 But just enquiring, how do i actually copy you on the email? By simply pasting your address on the email i am sending?

  16. Greg, trying to find a piano cover of Abide with me to sing to. Your's is the best and most beautiful I've found. In only ever record my voice because my video cam broke. If you're OK with me singing it to your piano arrangement, I'd like to do that and share it here. Please let me know. Wanted to get permission first.

  17. thanks. You want to hear it when I'm done???

  18. the Lord directs our steps….and I am so thankful that He led me here. Thank you for being willing to share pearls of wisdom with all of us church pianists who may not have had the opportunity to go to college, but still have a desire to polish the musical gifts that He has given us, for His glory. For your willingness to share your wisdom in full measure, He will return the blessing to you in the same measure, I'm certain of this! Thanks 🙂

  19. Glad you are enjoying it.

  20. You might looking at the course on Arranging. I don't currently have courses for other styles. Thanks for writing 😉

  21. Yes, rubato is fine but just don't overdo it. A good rule of thumb is this. Record yourself playing that way and go back and listen a month later. If it still sounds right, you are probably not overdoing it.

  22. Glad you enjoyed it.

  23. Lots of free resources and lessons on my website.

  24. Great. Glad you enjoyed them.

  25. So glad to hear it.

  26. It is just a matter of time and work.

  27. Glad you enjoyed it.

  28. Glad you enjoy them.

  29. Nice, what did you play at 0.18 mins

  30. Thank you very much for sharing this didactical video about playing soft piano style for religious music mainly. Yes, you're right when you say that we are tought in very closed structures. That's why this video has been very helpful for me to realize that these ideas help to make playing more elegant, not necessarily more difficult. I can understand clearly your English even though is not my mother tongue. Greetings from Mexico!

  31. Greg, Thanks for allowing the Lord use you. I can't begin to tell you how much I appreciate what you are doing. I took four semesters of music theory and I have never been able to successfully apply the concepts to playing hymns. Keep up the good work.

  32. Thank you sooo much, Greg!

  33. Greg, I have watched your stuff and enjoy your approach and your ability to impart knowledge. I must however say that your piano is hectically out of tune.

  34. Thanks for being honest and giving that dislcaimer upFRONT regarding your intentions—Atleast the viewing audience knows what they are in for and have a clear understanding of what to expect. That was a smart move on your part. One ReQUEST Greg—-can you just please go head and just play JUST AS I AM straight through! It is so beautiful, and it sounds so good on a well tuned GRAND.

  35. thank u so much for this. i'm a church pianist too..this helped me a lot

  36. At some point, I will record it. I like it too.

  37. My piano is always out of tune. It gets played to death and I have it tuned every few months.

  38. Glad you liked it.

  39. I know the feeling. Keep working and it will come.

  40. Glad it helped 😉

  41. Greg — Thanks so much. I am a big fan. Now I am an even bigger fan. I would (pray) that more church people follow your wonderful example and offer up their talents free at places like the internet. I know from experience that God will bless you greatly in all manner of ways for your willingness to give so freely.

  42. Greg !! I have to thank you SOO much for this free course. I took piano lessons as a child, and can read pretty much any song in the Church hymn. I've been experimenting with reharmonization, but the way you explained it in this lesson was AWESOME. I am now a subscribed follower, and will investing in your lessons. You've reminded me that Music is a life long pursuit.

  43. Hey Greg! I am looking to buy a new piano. I was wondering your opinion of the Roland f-120?

  44. Oh man! You rock! …but please get your piano tuned! I'd pay to hear the same lesson with a properly tuned piano. 🙂 Be well – and thank you so much, despite the complaint.

  45. Alright. I’m pissed. My nephew resides in the opposite room and he just grew superb at picking up a lot of women. He found the Master Attraction website (Search in Google) by Jake Ayres. Now I hear him bringing chicks back. He’s always pulling the hottest women back and I can’t help but hear it, which is nasty and I wish he never discovered that site. I’m envious!

  46. Hi Greg, I need to know the rules of chord substitution on a minor key song

  47. I think you could be interested in my cover by ed sheeran? 🙂

  48. Greg, thank you so much for these great tips! As a songwriter, composer, and church pianist, I truly appreciate what you have shared here!  You have helped me tremendously! May God bless you!

  49. Thank you so much for this great video lesson and
    I am glad of your help .
    May the Lord of peace himself give you peace
    at all times and in every way .

  50. Hi Greg, I am a fan from Brasil…this video was very useful to me…thanks! Now i am thinking in purchase the reharmonization dvd…we talk soon…God Bless You!

  51. This is the first time I have seen your videos and they are extremely good.I myself went up to grade 7 on piano,did not want to do grade 8 as I got a bit bored with the examination work,however your videos are very informative and I love the fact that one can see the chords on the piano keyboard light up.There are some great tips here for church pianists.Do you have a range of music books,if not you should have.

  52. I don't critique music, especially your music that you say you don't spend much time writing, I find even those pieces absolutely very beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your talent, that so far I have learned so much on. Keep up the great work, I know God is going to richly bless you and prosper you.

  53. Very helpful. Thanks, I appreciate your sincerity.

  54. I just discovered this video today.  I agree what has already been said. I am so glad God brought your lessons to the public. Thank you for sharing and being so open and honest about your content.  You've helped me and I would venture a guess many many other people who have not commented. God Bless!

  55. Greg, how do you feel about "rolling" the tenth? I am 82, shrinking hands! Playing for 70 yrs. I do roll them, perhaps I should eliminate them.

  56. Now at the end of this lesson, I am thinking where have you been all of my life!

  57. My hand is not big enough to play the open arpeggios 1-5-3 or 3-1-5. How can I do anything that is like those two chords?

  58. There's something very intriguing about an out of tune piano. it's a gem in itself

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