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#2127001 - 08/02/13 03:41 PM How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar
dragnet99 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/01/13
Posts: 2
I'm an indie rock/pop guitarist who wants to learn piano as a way to augment my songwriting, not to be a dedicated keyboardist. The approach taken to teaching these instruments is so vastly different, however, that I'm having trouble getting a practice routine and curriculum set up.

My understanding is that virtually all pianists have at least some degree of classical training, while most guitarists come from a less formal pop music background. So it's not at all uncommon for guitarists, even "professional" ones in touring, established bands, to play a basic library of root position chords for their entire careers. I mean there are probably folk guitarists who have spent their entire lives playing first position open chords, which most guitarists have down within the first few months. This is making it hard for me to understand how I should approach the piano.

I love voice leading and alternate chord voicing, but it's not essential for what I do the way it might be essential for a classical or jazz pianist.

On the other hand, I've NEVER heard of a pianist who can't play all of their chords in all positions.

This means the sheer volume of chords that the average pianist seems to know, compared to the average guitarist, is extremely intimidating. You've got major and minor triads (which, uncreative as it sounds, makes up 80% of the chords in my chosen genres), diminished and augmented, 7, m7 and dom7, sus2 and sus4, and onward into 9ths, 13ths, etc. Now multiply that by the number of inversions and you've got literally hundreds of chord shapes to condition into your muscle memory. I understand the theory of how chords are formulated and inverted, but I'm talking about actually being able to play any chord accurately, on demand. That simply requires tons of practice.

As a pop/indie rock keyboardist, it seems like insane overkill to learn all of those chords in all positions and practice them regularly. So I suppose my question is, among those of you who are more pop-oriented and less classical, am I crazy for thinking this is way too much? I've been learning my major/minor triads lately and have made great progress so far, but it's daunting to imagine that even though I can play almost every song I know (in root position, at least), I've still only learned about 5-10% of the total number of chords most pianists seem to have under their fingers.

What I'm getting at is that if I started by leraning say, maj/min/dim/7/m7/dom7/sus2/sus4 in root position only, my progress so far suggests I could be playing some decent keyboards for my own purposes (not professional standards, of course), within a matter of months. But when I think about all the other voicings a "proper" pianist would have, it feels like I've got years ahead of me before I'll even be close. I know that all musical instruments take years, decades and lifetimes to master, but I'm not talking about being a virtuoso, just basic rock band proficiency for someone who already plays another instrument. Is years of chord drilling really the only way to get there?

Thanks!

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#2127017 - 08/02/13 04:18 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Farmerjones Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/25/12
Posts: 196
Loc: USA
Welcome!

I just learn what I want/need, and don't call myself a pianist. smile

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#2127041 - 08/02/13 05:11 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
PaperClip Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/21/09
Posts: 521
Loc: Amsterdam, Holland
Hi welcome,

I play classical and don't play guitar. But I think the chord stuff is much easier on piano. The layout of the keyboard makes it very easy to remember it. As if it is a non existing problem as opposed to a guitar. But he, I'm not a pop music player.
_________________________
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Playing since May 02 2009

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#2127048 - 08/02/13 05:33 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 961
I don't think it's as much memorization as it is for guitar. That's because the 12 note pattern repeats and is easier to see in multiple octaves. For example, playing an inversion is just a matter of reorganizing the same notes, seeing notes jump octaves, but the notes still look the same (a D will always look like a D). This is way easier to see on piano than guitar. With minor chords (or 7ths for that matter), I like to see them as a variation of the major chord, that way you don't have to learn 12 more chords. Again, on piano it's way easier to see the third move down a half step and doesn't require a new hand position or a change of fingering the way it often does on guitar.
_________________________
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BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
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#2127075 - 08/02/13 06:26 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Newman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/27/11
Posts: 700
Loc: Australia
I agree with Brian. It's not as hard as it seems as first. Just start.

As I guitar player I found my existing knowledge gave me a good start (and puts you well ahead of a complete musical novice)and that my chord knowledge has improved remarkably over the last year and a bit.

And I doubt that "virtually all pianists have at least some degree of classical training". Many will. Many won't. But I tend to agree that most guitar players (me and all those that I personally know) have learnt informally.

Again, just start. My only tip. Don't just practice - play.
_________________________
Guitar since 1966. Piano (Kawai DP80) since 2011.

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#2127077 - 08/02/13 06:35 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
dragnet99 Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 08/01/13
Posts: 2
Thanks guys, I appreciate the insight. And you're all right of course that I really should just keep plugging ahead (which I am).

While I agree the piano chords are very logical and often more straightforward than guitar, that's what keeps confusing me: ultimately it's not about intellectually understanding the chords, it's about having fast, accurate muscle memory that allows you to play them quickly. I "know" most of the chords I'll ever need already, but my fingers don't yet have a reflexive, instinctual ability to play them at speed without mistakes or requiring conscious thought.

So for example, while the second inversion of a D major triad might be no more or less mysterious than root position, it is physically different, and thus from my "hand's perspective", requires just as much individual attention and practice as root and 1st inversion. As far as my hand is concerned, it's three entirely unrelated chords, or so it seems thus far.

So even if you take a logical, structured approach to understanding chords, you still ultimately have to practice all of the hundreds of various chord shapes that a songwriter like myself would like to have at his disposal, correct? The only alternative, to me, would be to drill new chords and voicings as I decide I want to use them, which seems less daunting, but also feels like a kind of, I dunno, superficial way to go about it.

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#2127087 - 08/02/13 07:02 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Rickster Online   content


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8494
Loc: Georgia, USA
I too have some background with the guitar, but I was not all that good of a player. What little I could play on the guitar has helped me a great deal learning to play the piano. As you mentioned, learning the chords and chord patterns on the piano are very important. In fact, all kinds of music, classical included, are structured around chords and chord patterns.

One big difference in the guitar and piano, for me, anyway, was playing in E major and A major… those are probably the two most popular chords on the guitar, but I struggle playing in those chords on the piano. My favorite chords on the piano, as apposed to the guitar, are F major and C major. F is my favorite singing key, and fits my voice well. I’m learning to play in the flats and sharps… I like Eb and Db; Ab is a nice key too, as well as F#/Gb.

C major and G major are my favorite boogie-woogie and blues keys. smile

Welcome to the Piano World forums, by-the-way.

Rick
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#2127126 - 08/02/13 08:10 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Sand Tiger Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/25/12
Posts: 1024
Loc: Southern California
Originally Posted By: dragnet99
I'm an indie rock/pop guitarist who wants to learn piano as a way to augment my songwriting, not to be a dedicated keyboardist. The approach taken to teaching these instruments is so vastly different, however, that I'm having trouble getting a practice routine and curriculum set up.
...

Thanks!


I don't play guitar. However, I know more than a few guitarists, and more than a few songwriters. I am a beginner at piano, but have written a lot of songs. To me, it seems you are making it a lot more complicated than it needs to be. Plenty of great popular songs have three or four chords. Plenty more have six or less.

If a person starts with the basic triad chords in the most popular keys, and learns the first and second inversions, that person will have more than enough to do a lot of songwriting for songs with lyrics. As a person does more, they might throw in some twists and tricks, a Sus here or there, a 7th, a 9th, or a 13th, perhaps a change of key.

Good songwriting (songs with lyrics) starts with a good basic foundation. How strong is the opening line? The hook? How about the melody? Are the lyrics accessible without crossing over too much to cliche?

Fancy and clever, often sounds like that, fancy and clever, without much impact, without much chance of connecting with an audience. In small doses I can stomach clever, in large doses, I tend to tune out.

So I suggest starting with some basic triad chords in the most popular keys. Learn the first and second inversions, and maybe the 7ths. That much will give a songwriter plenty to work with. A person can learn the less popular keys, the less popular chords on an as needed basis. No need to clutter the mind with all that extra information at the beginning.
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#2127131 - 08/02/13 08:21 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Andy Platt Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/28/10
Posts: 2381
Loc: Virginia, USA
Step 1: Give up Guitar.
Step 2: Take up Piano.

Ah, well you got some great advice already so I thought the joke needed to be said!
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  • Scarlatti - Sonata in D minor, K. 213

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#2127144 - 08/02/13 08:56 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Bob Newbie Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/02/06
Posts: 1549
Dragnet: I feel your pain..I haven't found an easy way, there aren't that many hand positions, the problem is the inversions, when you shift your hand up, say for the "C"
chord to E-C-G it can start to throw you off..I still haven't nailed it down..
I know 540 chords, but there all the root positions of C-B, maj min 7th aug dim 9ths etc
the problem is the minute I jump to inversions its like starting at the beginning again
by the time I'm done it'll be over two thousand chords..

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#2127167 - 08/02/13 09:47 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: Andy Platt]
Mr. Square Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/25/13
Posts: 62
Loc: Kalifornia
Originally Posted By: Andy Platt
Step 1: Give up Guitar.
Step 2: Take up Piano.

Ah, well you got some great advice already so I thought the joke needed to be said!



Coming from guitar myself I think there may be some truth to this. I find it best to stop thinking guitar and start thinking piano. If I don't my brain quickly begins to over-think things. As the great philosopher Bruce Lee once said, " empty your cup so that it may be filled".
_________________________
Working on:

Open Arms
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**********************************

Adult beginner since April Fool's Day 2013. Seems quite apropos at times...

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#2127204 - 08/02/13 11:01 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: Mr. Square]
Whizbang Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/27/12
Posts: 759
Originally Posted By: Mr. Square
Originally Posted By: Andy Platt
Step 1: Give up Guitar.
Step 2: Take up Piano.

Ah, well you got some great advice already so I thought the joke needed to be said!



Coming from guitar myself I think there may be some truth to this. I find it best to stop thinking guitar and start thinking piano. If I don't my brain quickly begins to over-think things. As the great philosopher Bruce Lee once said, " empty your cup so that it may be filled".
Originally Posted By: Mr. Square
Originally Posted By: Andy Platt
Step 1: Give up Guitar.
Step 2: Take up Piano.

Ah, well you got some great advice already so I thought the joke needed to be said!



Coming from guitar myself I think there may be some truth to this. I find it best to stop thinking guitar and start thinking piano. If I don't my brain quickly begins to over-think things. As the great philosopher Bruce Lee once said, " empty your cup so that it may be filled".


Why, yes, I will have another beer, thank you!
_________________________
Whizbang
amateur ragtime pianist

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#2127269 - 08/03/13 12:59 AM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
earlofmar Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/21/13
Posts: 1537
Loc: Australia
After playing guitar (not to any high standard) for 40 years and then starting piano last year I can relate to your finding the piano a trite complex compared to a guitar. With guitar it might seem that you have a small amount of fundamental shapes. With a little skill you can take these shapes, bar the chord and be playing in any key you like......sounds simple so why don't I sound like Steve Hackett (who is he I hear you all ask - just google).

With piano there are also some fundamental shapes being used so on both instruments you are seeing and playing familiar patterns. These patterns become recognizable with a good grounding in theory, especially intervals and of course scales.

I would recommend doing some piano scales or other technical exercises. You need to build up those fingers which despite years of guitar playing feel like lead on a piano. If you restrict yourself to one or two keys and build up your knowledge and playing ability of chords in that key you will find moving into other keys less daunting. As with guitar there are easy and hard shapes which achieve almost the same sound, get a chord book if you don't have one already. Lastly when you see someone at the piano they seem to be playing a new chord for every note of the melody, whereas your average rhythm guitarist can sit on a chord for eons in comparison, so you have to simplify your ambition for a while. Less notes don't make for a less interesting song.

It need not take years to learn but there are few shortcuts (unless you want to sound like Paul McCartney......oops that was a tad harsh). All you guitar ability did not happen overnight so with piano it is daily diligent practice that is required. I do think that understanding the name of the chord and how it is formed is half the battle and you already know that.

When Carlos Santana was interviewed years ago he was asked how he became such a great guitarist, he said while the other kids were out playing football (soccer) he was inside playing scales all day. So first step is to give up football I know I have.


Edited by earlofmar (08/03/13 01:03 AM)
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#2127285 - 08/03/13 02:23 AM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1247
Loc: uk south
I worked with a lot of song-writers over the years, most of them played what I would call ‘song-writer’s piano’ (there’s inspiration for you!) seeming to have a vague harmonic idea of where they were trying to get to and generally groping around, trial and error, to get the right chord. This always struck me as ideal for pop-song writers. The minority with classical training or better-than-basic knowledge were always on the lookout for something clever to dress up their songs - not usually a good idea for pop.

Quote:
…if I started by leraning say, maj/min/dim/7/m7/dom7/sus2/sus4 in root position only

You could familiarise yourself with those – if you’re learning I certainly wouldn’t bother to go beyond those, 9ths 13ths and jazzy tensions will get you progressively further away from popular music. Also, I wouldn’t see the need to get too stuck into inversions. At the risk of generalising, root position chords are overwhelmingly more represented than inversions though you get a certain type of song which leans more on the latter (Whiter Shade of Pale is a classic example) and I bet a lot of writers are groping for them rather than first learning them as a store to pick from.

Far more important than building up a library of disconnected chords, I’d recommend trying to develop your ear. You should be able to play (trial and error at the outset) the basic chords of songs that are familiar to you without the need for sheet music. When writing, that will enable you to jump from the vague idea in your head to the chord on the piano.

If it's to be purely a writing tool, you don't need to learn to play the piano in any formal way.

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#2127439 - 08/03/13 12:20 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Kymber Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/25/08
Posts: 1348
Loc: MA
Yes it can be very intimidating thinking about it all at once.
I think you will find that in time it gets easier.
In piano it helps to know the inversions because it might be more efficient and more comfortable to got from one chord to a chord in first or second inversions.

Anyway what I found made things much less daunting is instead of thinking of all the chords as different chords just think of how the chord you already know is altered to made the other chord-
For example: if you know the major chords then all you really need to know is if you lower the middle note by 1/2 step that makes it a minor - now you just doubled your knowledge of chords -so simple. It's the same for all the other chords. You just need to know how much you need to raise or lower x note. In time knowing the chords will become automatic.
Some people might not agree with this approach but this has helped me tremendously ( I even started to make a chart). I find some books etc too rambling and unnecessarily confusing. I have learning disabilities and need things to be starlight forward/no nonsense)
Btw, How are your knowledge of intervals?
_________________________
“The doubters said, "Man cannot fly," The doers said, "Maybe, but we'll try,"
And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
― Bruce Lee

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#2127441 - 08/03/13 12:23 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Kymber Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/25/08
Posts: 1348
Loc: MA
Oh also if you practice a chord in all the positions as an exercises blocked and broken. I think it will sink on very quickly. Just do one after the other up then back down. I think the fingering is the same so if you just aim for the top note the rest of the hand will fall into place.
_________________________
“The doubters said, "Man cannot fly," The doers said, "Maybe, but we'll try,"
And finally soared in the morning glow while non-believers watched from below.”
― Bruce Lee

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#2127464 - 08/03/13 01:09 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Edtek Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/26/10
Posts: 245
Loc: El Paso
To start off, for accompaniment purposes, it's enough to just learn the chords in the inversions that fit between F and F# around middle C. Add a root bass in your left hand and you've got a reasonable accompaniment.

Just learn the chords you need to play a given song. Add other chords as they are required for other songs. That way it's not such a monumental undertaking at the beginning.

Good Luck!
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Yamaha T118, Yamaha PSR-S710

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#2127557 - 08/03/13 05:25 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 961
Originally Posted By: dragnet99
So for example, while the second inversion of a D major triad might be no more or less mysterious than root position, it is physically different, and thus from my "hand's perspective", requires just as much individual attention and practice as root and 1st inversion. As far as my hand is concerned, it's three entirely unrelated chords, or so it seems thus far.
Yes, good point. There still is the physical element to it. Another thing I like to point out to students is learning the shape of the chord. For example, once you know a D chord in all its inversions, you also really know E and A, since they are the same shape as a D chord. Physically, they will feel the same. That's why most basic chord lessons do C, F and G. All white keys, all the same shape. Couple that with knowing where the bigger gap is in your inversions (1st inversion gap is at the top, 2nd it's at the bottom) and you'll start to really SEE the inversions faster.
_________________________
-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
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My Music

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#2127602 - 08/03/13 06:44 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Brian K. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/21/07
Posts: 102
Hey man what's up! I'm a guitarist myself of about 20 years. I just seriously began playing piano about 8 months ago. I had a very little bit of experience messing around on the piano prior to that, but I just really started getting into the piano seriously after I bought myself a nice 88-key, weighted key, digital piano. I'm extremely happy with my progress within this time, and I can definitely attribute much of my relatively quick progress to the fact that I already knew a lot of theory from my 20 years of guitar playing.

I'm currently at the point where songs such as "The Way It Is" by Bruce Hornsby and "Warmness on the Soul" by Avenged Sevenfold are relatively easy to play. I also play in keys with many sharps and/or flats often as well, and it's not much more difficult then the "mostly white key" keys such as C or G. A personal favorite of mine is "Moonshield" by In Flames, which is a metal song that I watched YouTube videos of with people playing it on the piano. That song is in F minor. Anyway, that's where I'm currently at.

Initially I was concerned with the same thing that you are, however after 8 months, I no longer even see this whole "There's so many chords and inversions to learn, how am I ever going to memorize all of them and get it into my muscle memory?!?" as an issue. There are a few reasons why I don't think like that anymore, and in a minute I'll give you a few pointers that helped me, but mainly it all came from the fact that I no longer try and relate the piano to the guitar and "transfer" my guitar abilities to the piano. Rather, I simply just view the piano as a brand new instrument that I am learning, and getting better day by day. That, in my opinion, is step one. "Empty your cup so that it may be filled" someone said above, and that is exactly my point. Look at the piano as a brand new instrument that you are going to learn, which is completely new to you, just as you did for guitar when you first started. With time and plenty of practice an playing you will no doubt "get it" just like you did with the guitar. The guitar knowledge will simply just help your progress because you already know a lot of the theory which can be applied to any instrument.

So some tips on how to get this whole chord/inversion thing down:

1.) Don't think of the chords as "inversions" just think of them as "chords" no matter which inversion you happen to be playing. If you are playing a progression that goes Em-C-G-D for example, do not think "okay this is Em 1st inversion, C in root position, G 2nd inversion, etc...". Simply just think "okay I play an Em here, then I move to the C, then the G, then the D". All inversions are created equal! Over time you will begin to recognize common shapes just like on the guitar....but a great starting point is to eliminate the thinking that a D in root position is a different chord then a D in first inversion. They are both simply just a "D chord"....at least that's the way you ultimately want your brain to work.

2.) Learn a few songs where you simply just play the bass notes an octave apart with the left hand, and play the basic chords to the song with the right hand. Use whichever inversions are the closest to each other and/or sound the best. You will immediately realize that just playing each chord in root position is not only way too much hand movement, but also it just doesn't sound good at all. It actually sounds very amateurish almost like a children's song or something. The first song I did this with was "breathing under water" by Metric. I just figured out which chords were closest to each other, and I played those. I'm sure you already know how to figure out inversions on your own by rearranging notes, so you can easily apply this exercise to any song. I do this all the time to many songs, and I'm now at the point where I have lots of chords in my muscle memory such that I "see" the nearest inversion almost immediately. So if a Bb is the chord I'm supposed to hit next, my fingers just go to that chord immediately, despite which inversion I am playing. I also "see" the other notes of the chord too in case I want to add in a fourth finger to the top of the chord. This "seeing" of the chords and the notes within the chord comes from simply just learning a bunch of songs in the actual key and applying it to the piano via the "best/closest inversion" method.

3.) In moving beyond the major and minor chords, it is extremely helpful to always be aware of where the root note of the chord is. For instance, if you are playing a C minor chord, 2nd inversion, at least be aware of where the "C" is located. By doing this, it makes learning 7 and maj7 chords very easy to "see". You simply just change the finger that is playing the root to the adjacent key for the maj7 or a whole step down for the 7 chord. The root will often be taken care of in the bass, so you can omit it with your right hand. You could also just play the 4 finger version of the 7th chords as well, and by being aware of where the root note is, which is the same visually for all octaves (unlike guitar), it's very easy to use your pinky to add the 7 or maj7 in there. This same thing applies to being aware of where the 3rd is for the sus2 and sus4 chords. Likewise, for the augmented and diminished chords, just be aware of where the 5th is. In a relatively short amount of time, assuming you play on a consistent basis, you will find your brain working in a new way which will allow you to simply "see" the nearest available inversion of the basic major or minor chord, and also simply be able to just "change" the chord into the modified chord you are looking to play on a whim, because really all chords are simply just modifications of a major chord.

4.) You're ear will guide you a lot as well. If I am playing something, and I feel like a 7 chord or a sus chord would sound good, I simply just move my finger from the major or minor chord that I'm playing, and I hit the note that was "missing". My ear guides me to just be able to play the right manipulation of the chord.

5.) Recognize patterns in chord combining, and realize that one chord plus another chord makes an extended chord. For instance a C major plus an E minor equals a Cmaj7 chord (C-E-G plus E-G-B equals C-E-G-B). Now knowing that any major chord, in any inversion plus a minor chord, in any inversion a major 3rd above the first chord's root note, will always yield a maj7 chord, will allow you to easily play maj7 chords by simply "stacking" two chords with each other. So take a D major and an F# minor, and play them together, and what do you get? You get a Dmaj7 chord, since you just did the exact same thing that you did for the C plus the Em (one chord plus a minor chord built from the 3rd). Another cool one is taking a minor chord and using its' relative major note in the bass (for instance play an E minor with a G in the bass), and you get a m7 chord. So an E minor with a G in the bass, yields an Em7....Obviously any minor chord with its relative major note in the bass will yeild a m7 chord. Try this exercise with other chord combinations, take a major chord plus another major chord built from the 5th degree and see what the result is. Take a major chord plus a minor chord built from the fifth, and see what you get. Do this for any chord combinations that you want. You can have lots of fun with this, especially when you also allow your ear to help guide you.

6.) Just play as often as possible! In no time, you will no longer be concerned with trying to "memorize" all these chords. Rather, you will just be focused on sounding better and better, finding the chords and the closest inversion will just become like 2nd nature to you.

Hope all this helps! Have fun!


Edited by Brian K. (08/03/13 06:52 PM)
_________________________
My personal blog/website dedicated to giving answers on the age old question - how to escape the "rat race" and make a living from your passions. I now play guitar for a living at night and learn piano during the day!

http://www.musicianlifestyle.com

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#2127642 - 08/03/13 08:02 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Tubbie0075 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/17/10
Posts: 544
I applaud you for being a guitarist. I tried guitar a while back and the notes confused the heck out of me. This is despite knowing how to play the piano already. I can also play the violin, which makes it more mysterious to me why i couldn't click with guitar!

So you see, learning to play the piano as a guitarist could be an advantage than going the other way around! At least that's the case for me.

Don't be intimidated by the piano. It has 12 notes in an octave. Then the rest is repeat of the same pattern as laid out in the keyboard.

Good luck!

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#2127833 - 08/04/13 07:10 AM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
de cajon Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/10/13
Posts: 181
Loc: London, UK
Or ... (loads of excellent advice already) for the inversions "problem" learn your initial, chosen chords (E, A for relating to the standard-tuned guitar / C, F, G for easier piano start) as arpeggios over, say, two octaves. And as you're playing them, "see" the inversions in there. And then start playing arpeggios from different root positions. Just a thought.

I started on piano as a kid, moved to guitars for most of my middle years and found the piano theory helped a lot, and then I got back into piano and found my guitar chord knowledge very helpful for picturing and understanding what I was playing on the piano.
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#2128247 - 08/04/13 11:53 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: Edtek]
Newman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/27/11
Posts: 700
Loc: Australia
.


Edited by Newman (08/04/13 11:54 PM)
Edit Reason: Deleted
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Guitar since 1966. Piano (Kawai DP80) since 2011.

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#2128509 - 08/05/13 01:42 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: dragnet99]
Adam Malone Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/19/07
Posts: 33
Loc: Minnesota
Originally Posted By: dragnet99

So even if you take a logical, structured approach to understanding chords, you still ultimately have to practice all of the hundreds of various chord shapes that a songwriter like myself would like to have at his disposal, correct? The only alternative, to me, would be to drill new chords and voicings as I decide I want to use them, which seems less daunting, but also feels like a kind of, I dunno, superficial way to go about it.


One big difference between guitar and piano is that the piano does not have the transpositional symmetry that the guitar does. If you learn a chord shape on guitar, you can move by half-steps towards or away from the bridge and get the same sound, transposed to a new key. Technically, this is the same on piano, but the chord looks completely different, due to the asymmetrical placement of the black/white notes. When I play a root position C#7 chord (C#, F, G#, B), to me it looks nothing like a root position C7 chords (C, E, G, A#). After years of "rote" practice, however, it has started to "feel" the same.

Here is what I would suggest to feel more comfortable with piano chords and inversions:

Pick a simple chord progression like "Rhythm Changes", which in the key of C is:
Cmaj7 (C, E, G, B)
A-7 (A, C, E, G)
D-7 (D, F, A, C)
G7 (G, B, D, F)

1) play the progression with root position voicings (notes as written above, low pitch to high pitch)
2) play the progression, with each chord in 1st inversion - (the Cmaj7 would be played as E, G, B, C from low pitch to high pitch)
3) play the progression in 2nd inversion (G on bottom)
4) play the progression in 3rd inversion (B on bottom)
5) play the progression, starting with the Cmaj7 in root position, and for the rest of the chords, play whichever inversion is horizontally closest (eg: the A-7 should use the inversion with C in the bass)
6) repeat (5), but starting with Cmaj7 in 1st inversion
7) repeat (5), starting with 2nd inversion
8) repeat (5), starting with 3rd inversion
ok now the hard part:
9) do 1-8 IN ALL 12 KEYS!

Now, it would be quite the boring practice session to do all of this, in every key at first. I would suggest choosing a new key each time you practice. If you stick with it, you will be able to switch inversions at will, AND you will know this chord progression like the back of your hand.

Learning using this "drill" approach can be frustrating, and not particularly musical, however I think the goal should be to have these sorts of things fully ingrained in your muscle memory, so that when the time comes to be musical, you DO NOT need to consciously think about how to play some inversion of a G#-7b9 chord. You'll just be able to do it, thanks to all the hours you've put in practicing it. You will then be free to spend your conscious attention on all the other aspects of playing nice sounding piano smile

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#2128527 - 08/05/13 02:16 PM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: Adam Malone]
Brian K. Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/21/07
Posts: 102
Originally Posted By: Adam Malone
Originally Posted By: dragnet99

So even if you take a logical, structured approach to understanding chords, you still ultimately have to practice all of the hundreds of various chord shapes that a songwriter like myself would like to have at his disposal, correct? The only alternative, to me, would be to drill new chords and voicings as I decide I want to use them, which seems less daunting, but also feels like a kind of, I dunno, superficial way to go about it.


One big difference between guitar and piano is that the piano does not have the transpositional symmetry that the guitar does. If you learn a chord shape on guitar, you can move by half-steps towards or away from the bridge and get the same sound, transposed to a new key. Technically, this is the same on piano, but the chord looks completely different, due to the asymmetrical placement of the black/white notes. When I play a root position C#7 chord (C#, F, G#, B), to me it looks nothing like a root position C7 chords (C, E, G, A#). After years of "rote" practice, however, it has started to "feel" the same.

Here is what I would suggest to feel more comfortable with piano chords and inversions:

Pick a simple chord progression like "Rhythm Changes", which in the key of C is:
Cmaj7 (C, E, G, B)
A-7 (A, C, E, G)
D-7 (D, F, A, C)
G7 (G, B, D, F)

1) play the progression with root position voicings (notes as written above, low pitch to high pitch)
2) play the progression, with each chord in 1st inversion - (the Cmaj7 would be played as E, G, B, C from low pitch to high pitch)
3) play the progression in 2nd inversion (G on bottom)
4) play the progression in 3rd inversion (B on bottom)
5) play the progression, starting with the Cmaj7 in root position, and for the rest of the chords, play whichever inversion is horizontally closest (eg: the A-7 should use the inversion with C in the bass)
6) repeat (5), but starting with Cmaj7 in 1st inversion
7) repeat (5), starting with 2nd inversion
8) repeat (5), starting with 3rd inversion
ok now the hard part:
9) do 1-8 IN ALL 12 KEYS!

Now, it would be quite the boring practice session to do all of this, in every key at first. I would suggest choosing a new key each time you practice. If you stick with it, you will be able to switch inversions at will, AND you will know this chord progression like the back of your hand.

Learning using this "drill" approach can be frustrating, and not particularly musical, however I think the goal should be to have these sorts of things fully ingrained in your muscle memory, so that when the time comes to be musical, you DO NOT need to consciously think about how to play some inversion of a G#-7b9 chord. You'll just be able to do it, thanks to all the hours you've put in practicing it. You will then be free to spend your conscious attention on all the other aspects of playing nice sounding piano smile


Yup! In addition to what I previously wrote in this thread, I also do a very similar exercise to what Adam is describing here. I do it with "Let it Be" by the Beatles, which is just a simple I-V-vi-IV progression using only major and minor chords (no 7ths, unless you want to add them to jazz it up a bit).

I run through the progression running around the circle of fifths playing the chords with my right hand, and playing the root note as the bass in octaves with the left on the beats 2 and 4. I try to run the full I-V-vi-IV progression through twice, then switch keys without missing a beat. While doing this I experiment with different inversions. This also helps me memorize which chords are in which key and what their harmonic function is as well (which is not something you really think about in the same was as a guitarist. As a guitarist, are you always aware when you are playing a "iii" chord for instance? I know that I never paid much attention to that sort of thing until I started playing piano).
_________________________
My personal blog/website dedicated to giving answers on the age old question - how to escape the "rat race" and make a living from your passions. I now play guitar for a living at night and learn piano during the day!

http://www.musicianlifestyle.com

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#2130693 - 08/10/13 09:23 AM Re: How to approach piano as a secondary instrument to guitar [Re: Brian K.]
Rerun Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/28/07
Posts: 603
Loc: Louisiana
Hey D99,

Quote:
Far more important than building up a library of disconnected chords, I’d recommend trying to develop your ear.


THIS!

I would think that in writing music, getting rhythm down on a sheet like you hear it sounding in your head is a real challenge too. There are a ton of bass line rhythm patterns (blues, Latin, boogie, rock, New Orleans style, etc.) in addition to harmony that your ears recognize/know on a guitar that you'll find transferable by ear to a keyboard ... getting it over to others by sheet seems daunting to me : ).

Bottom line: At least keep it simpler ... write in your favorite key.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OY8Gj3c_gl8


Looking forward to listening to what you come up with!


Edited by Rerun (08/10/13 09:45 AM)
_________________________
Rerun

"Seat of the pants piano player" DMD







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