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#1189190 - 04/28/09 03:33 PM Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation!
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
You'd be amazed to find out that some of the most complex sounding pieces of music are actually simple to create. Take the piece "Caverns" for example. Here we use just one chord in the left hand to create a harmonic foundation for the right hand improvisation.

The right hand plays both melody and bass notes but the left is just playing one chord. The sound that is created is full and rich! But how can this be? After all, only one chord is used. The secret is in how the chord is played.



We use a simple ostinato pattern to create the backdrop. Now this backdrop is the key to the whole piece. It quietly goes on in the background while the right hand is busy playing melody. Bass notes are also called into play with the right hand crossing over the left. Back and forth the right hand goes and we end up with 2 minutes of music using just one chord!

This is an excellent example of the power of limits. We know what the chord will be - in this case D minor. We know that we will be playing melody notes from the D Dorian mode. Now we can relax and enjoy the act of making music. With the decisions of what to play out of the way, it makes the act of creating all that easier.
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#1190827 - 04/30/09 07:36 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: eweiss]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
What? No criticism yet? Come on. I can take it.
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#1190840 - 04/30/09 07:58 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: eweiss]
Rosanna Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/08/07
Posts: 1360
Loc: San Francisco Bay area
Ed,
I have to see your hands to "get" it. When I listen along, I can't visualize clearly what the hands are doing based on the verbal description. Thanks.
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#1190854 - 04/30/09 08:33 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: Rosanna]
Strat Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/07
Posts: 569
Loc: Toronto, Canada
To be honest, I don't find this exciting to listen to simply because there's no development. And the RH "melody" doesn't go anywhere and just sounds like random licks.

If you want a good example of a nice melody that revolves around one *note,* listen to The Beatles' "Blackbird." The whole thing revolves around one note : G. Every chord has "G" in it. Quite amazing.
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Started playing in mid-June 2007. Self-taught... for now. :p

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#1190865 - 04/30/09 09:06 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: Strat]
Ejay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/24/09
Posts: 216
Loc: U.K.
Honest opinion ;

It is neither complex, rich or interesting. Sounds like a repetitive single finger melody with a drone accompaniment. It is not exciting or stimulating but would , however, be good as a simple relaxation background piece.
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Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.
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#1190866 - 04/30/09 09:14 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: Ejay]
DaveInMichigan Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/17/09
Posts: 307
Loc: SE Michigan
I think it does illustrate how much one can do with one chord alone.
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#1190871 - 04/30/09 09:22 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: DaveInMichigan]
musiccr8r Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/16/08
Posts: 268
Loc: Denver
If your goal is to liberate any player to be creative, more power to you, I think it's a great concept. To listen to, however, it sounds too much (to me) like someone playing who doesn't have much experience, trying to be creative but not having the ability to think past the "box" they created in the LH. I am not saying that YOU are inexperienced, just that it isn't the sort of music that tickles my brain. But like I said, as an idea to get a beginning composer in the flow of creative process (rather like brainstorming or stream of consciousness writing), nice idea.

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#1190880 - 04/30/09 09:43 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: musiccr8r]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: musiccr8r
If your goal is to liberate any player to be creative, more power to you, I think it's a great concept. To listen to, however, it sounds too much (to me) like someone playing who doesn't have much experience, trying to be creative but not having the ability to think past the "box" they created in the LH. I am not saying that YOU are inexperienced, just that it isn't the sort of music that tickles my brain. But like I said, as an idea to get a beginning composer in the flow of creative process (rather like brainstorming or stream of consciousness writing), nice idea.

Thank you. It is designed to liberate the beginning adult student. To get past the "thinking" brain and just be in the moment.
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#1191385 - 05/01/09 05:14 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: Strat]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Originally Posted By: Strat
To be honest, I don't find this exciting to listen to simply because there's no development. And the RH "melody" doesn't go anywhere and just sounds like random licks.

If you want a good example of a nice melody that revolves around one *note,* listen to The Beatles' "Blackbird." The whole thing revolves around one note : G. Every chord has "G" in it. Quite amazing.

Strat,

I appreciate your assesment. But must there be development? Why can't this "background music" stand on its own as music?

As far as the melody going somewhere, what about Debussy? Many of his preludes are really odes to musical imagination.
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#1191436 - 05/01/09 07:29 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: eweiss]
Monica K. Offline

Platinum Supporter until Dec 31 2012


Registered: 08/10/05
Posts: 17699
Loc: Lexington, Kentucky
I really liked this, Ed. (No surprise to anybody on this forum. smile ) Actually, the only part of the piece I *didn't* like was the very last couple of measures, which seemed tacked on and out of character to the piece. Maybe that's contributing to what others saw as a lack of development.

I was also surprised to see how much can be going on within the framework of a single chord, which of course is the whole point of your exercise. smile

I think that what the critics of your method need to keep in mind is that this is stuff you'd be teaching to a very new beginner, with maybe just a couple of months of piano, correct? Compare that to what some more traditional approaches to piano would have their students doing. Isn't there a teacher on this forum who doesn't even allow (and my choice of the word "allow" is quite deliberate here) his or her students to play two hands together until 10 weeks?

I'd rather be playing "Caverns" at 10 weeks, myself. wink
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#1191451 - 05/01/09 08:14 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: Monica K.]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Hi Monica,

Yeah. It's mostly for adult beginners. But it's also for those who want to "loosen up" and play what they feel.

I like to compare improvs like this to free writing. In free writing the goal is stream of consciousness - to write where you're at.

I kind of teach the same thing (although I also teach composition) where the goal is to bypass the "thinking" left-hemisphere and delve into more creative right-brain ideas.

By the way, most students could probably create something like "Caverns" within a few hours, not weeks. It's just a D minor 7 chord in the left with melody from the D dorian mode.
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#1191502 - 05/01/09 09:55 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: eweiss]
Scruffies Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/21/09
Posts: 58
Loc: California
Ed... Im another fan of your offering simple improvs but would much prefer you showing the actual playing of the piece like you did with "reflections" since simplicity of playing is best demonstrated, and your explanation made it easy to follow. At least I think "reflections" was the piece where your video was a mini lesson on playing it. I can't locate the link ATM.

Im a very new self taught student struggling to learn to read music and working measure by measure on Moonlight Sonata M1 at the moment. But, Ive got a natural ear for music and play by ear, so for me improv comes easily while learning note reading is very hard. In fact, I am finding myself just using the sheet to learn (memorize) the sounds so I can play without really reading, probably a bad habit.

I appreciate the improv diversions you offer when you show how to play them... thanks.

/Scruffies

PS: I think there is plenty of room for all kinds of piano playing, classical, rock, new age, jazz, fake book, graded level..... and Im going to be playing several kinds.


Edited by Scruffies (05/01/09 09:57 PM)
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#1191513 - 05/01/09 10:32 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: Monica K.]
majones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 12/21/07
Posts: 331
Loc: Deep East Texas Piney Woods
My reaction while listening was this is something I need to bookmark so I can send guitar improve newbies to see what can be done with just one Dm7 chord and a D Dorian improv.

So I think it accomplished what you intended.

Malcolm


Edited by majones (05/01/09 10:38 PM)

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#1191523 - 05/01/09 11:15 PM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: majones]
eweiss Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/28/09
Posts: 2393
Loc: Beautiful San Diego, CA
Wow. Positive responses. I will post the actual lesson. Soon.
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Play New Age Piano
http://www.quiescencemusic.com

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#1203261 - 05/21/09 08:09 AM Re: Caverns - A One Chord Piano Improvisation! [Re: eweiss]
Tar Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/25/08
Posts: 296
Loc: Munich, Germany
It's almost one chord.

Strictly and literally one chord would be dull and uninteresting. What Ed has succinctly demonstrated is rather the power of a pedal note. In this improvisation there is the tonic minor (sometimes with the minor seventh) as well as the dominant major, but yes, the tonic drone can create wonders.
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