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How To Play 'Someone Like You' By Adele

Jordan Leibel - Nov 17, 2017

Hey Everyone, Jordan here.


It’s time to learn another epic power-ballad of a song, Adele’s ‘Someone Like You.’ This song is about two things: sweeping heartfelt emotion and a flashy piano technique known as the arpeggio. In this lesson we’ll take a look at the four sections that comprise the song, as well as the right hand piano pattern that runs through the whole thing.


The Verse


First, let’s take a look at the verse. This verse is a four chord loop consisting of the chords:


A - C#m - F#m - D


A fairly simple, common progression. To get acquainted with each chord in this progression, it’s a great idea to practice the chords in all of their inversions. Once you’ve familiarized yourself with each chord, you can move onto the patterns and forms of each chord as they’re played in the song.


So what is that piano pattern that’s played throughout the entirety of the song? If you’ve been practicing your broken triads, you’ll be right at home playing the right hand part of this tune (Need to brush up on those exercises? Check out the members- only Foundations series at Pianote!)


So here’s the pattern-mentality to lock into your right hand. Take that first A major chord and rather than play it solid, play it in a broken pattern starting from the bottom note up, then back down to the bottom. That means you’ll play A - C# - E - C# - A, or bottom - middle - top - middle - bottom.


You can apply this pattern to every chord in this song. Each chord played consists of three separate notes, but this broken chord-arpeggio pattern is what gives the song is driving, consistent rhythm.


The left hand is luckily quite simple, with tied whole-notes creating a slow moving bass part with each note lasting two bars. Those bass notes are:


A - G# - F# - D


 Let Adele's piercing gaze guide your hands and eyes as you learn this song.


The Prechorus


The prechorus continues this right hand pattern, but with some interesting new chords.  Those new chords are:


Eadd9 - F#m7 - D


The first two chords of this progression are a little more elaborate, so let’s break them down note by note. The Eadd9 chord consists of an E in the bass, and the notes F#, G#, E on top in the right hand, again played with that broken style chord progression.


The F#m7 chord is a little simpler, with the bass note moving up to play F# and the right hand changing its middle note from a G# to an A. The progression then ends on a simple D chord, played for two measures.


The Chorus


The chorus is actually quite similar to the verse progression, with a few simple exceptions. In the verse, the chords typically don’t move any higher than the fifth as their top note, but in the chorus they move all the way up to the octave. There’s also a bit of a different progression going on the in left hand as well, so here’s the new chords you have to work with:


A - E - F# - D


Again, very similar but note the E as the second chord. This actually makes the chorus easier than the verse because the left hand directly reflects the root note of the chords!


The Bridge


The bridge is arguably the most complex part at the song, but it’s actually quite simple if you learn how to process each hand’s part. Here’s the chord in the right hand for the bridge:


E - F#m - D - Bm - A - D - E


So these chords in the right hand are quite simple to follow along with this pattern we’ve been looking at throughout the song. The bass pattern is where things get confusing, so just bear in mind these notes as you’re practicing:


B - C# - D - B - C# - D


There’s a bit of work to do in order to sync your hands up solidly here, but that’s what practicing slow is for.


Summing It Up


‘Someone Like You’ is a song that’s really about those right hand broken patterns, so make sure that you’re nice and polished with those hand motions. Take is slow, and listen out for those cool new chords in the prechorus. Have fun practicing!

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How To Play 'Clocks' By Coldplay

Jordan Leibel - Nov 11, 2017

Have you been practicing your solid, broken and inverted triads for days/weeks/months on end? Are you starting to wonder ‘what are these things good for?’  Well, ‘Clocks’ by Coldplay is a perfect example of how piano theory and exercises can be translated into something very musical, provided you know how to combine just a few easy chords. So let’s dive into what makes ‘Clocks’ tick…


The Key Signature


Clocks is written in the key of Eb major. Well, at least that’s how I think of it, seeing as the main tonal center of the song is based around Eb major. The one consideration you’ve got to keep in mind is that there is one accidental note that you’ll find in this song. An ‘accidental’ is just a fancy music-theory way of saying a note that doesn’t naturally appear within the key of the song. In the case of Clocks, that accidental is going to be Db. So keep in mind that the four black keys needed for this song are Bb, Eb, Ab, and Db.


Chris Martin - a colourful piano player on a colourful piano


The Main Progression


The main progression of this song consists of three chords:  Eb, Bb minor, and F minor. You can familiarize yourself with just the solid version of each triad in the inversions they can be found at. Those inversions are Eb in first inversion (G - Bb - Eb) Bb minor in second inversion (F - Bb - Db) and F minor in root position (F - Ab - C).


The Riff


The main element that makes this song such a classic is that riff that kicks off the song and punctuates each chorus. And once you get the hang of it, that riff is super easy to play! Take those three chords in the inversions mentioned above and play them instead in a broken triad pattern in this order:


top - middle - bottom - top - middle - bottom - top - middle.  


Each of the chords will follow this movement, but it’s all about the rhythm of how each note is played so make sure to keep that metronome going as you practice this!



The Verse Melody


If you want to create an instrumental arrangement of this song, you’ll have to take a look at what the vocal melody is doing in the verses. Luckily, this is quite simple, using many of the same notes as the riff. Again, when you’re practicing this section of the song, bear in mind that there’s still that accidental note (Db) so keep that in mind as you practice this scale-motion feel of the vocal melody on the piano.  


The Bridge


The bridge is the first and only part of the song that uses different chords, switching to Gb, Db, and Ab. In this section of the song, you have the most creative license due to the guitar-driven nature of the bridge. But this bridge also gives you an opportunity to use a cool and effective technique to drive momentum on the piano. It’s so surprising that it might shock you how effective it is. All you have to do is repetitively pedal that Db note in an 8th note rhythm, swapping out for a C to reflect the Ab chord change, mimicking that guitar part. It’s amazing how effective this is to create an awesome bridge part.


The Reprised Riff


The song closes off with a revised version of that riff that works with that same right hand pattern as written above, but with slightly different notes. This time instead of directly playing the triad notes, you’ll play two consistent ‘anchor-notes’ (Ab - G) with your bottom note reflecting the chord change. So when you’re playing Eb in the left hand, the three notes you’ll be playing are Ab, G, Eb. When you switch to the Bb minor, the only note you change will be the bottom note, swapping Eb, for Db. The F minor chord will be reflected in the right hand by swapping Db for C.  


Practicing This Song


This song is a total blast to play along to the track with.  It’s also a ton of fun to create your own adaptation of it instrumentally.  So have fun playing the song as I’ve demonstrated, and once you feel comfortable with the groundwork of the song, shift your mindset over into creating your own unique arrangement of it!  

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How To Play Cissy Strut By The Meters

Jordan Leibel - Nov 3, 2017

Have you ever heard a song that you really liked and wished you could just sit down and jam along to the recording? ‘Cissy Strut’, by The Meters is one such song. There’s a reason that this simple funk/soul tune written in the 60s is still being covered and reinterpreted by countless bands to this day. Let’s take a look at what makes this song so great.


First thing’s first, taking a look at the key the song is in. This song uses the C pentatonic scales for pretty much EVERYTHING. That means you can pretty much play it using only 5 notes. That’s a lotta bang for your buck.  


Breaking Down Each Section


The tune is comprised of two main sections, plus a tasty little solo for good measure. Section ‘A’ employs that pentatonic scale to create a catchy riff. That riff is comprised of the notes C, Bb, G, Eb, and C an octave below. After that phrase, there’s a little tag to end the sequence where you pop down below the bottom C to play G, Bb, C, Bb, C.


This melodic sequence is followed by two chords, a Bb chord and an F chord. Since this song is such a good tune to build on your improvisation flexibility, don’t just limit yourself to one variation of these chords. Experiment with different inversions to see what sounds and feels best to you!


The ‘B’ section of the song is even simpler than the ‘A’ section, containing only three notes: C, Bb, and G. Since this section uses such simple ingredients, it’s a great opportunity to work on your feel. Cissy Strut is renown for being a song that uses these simple scales and chords, allowing musicians to really maximize their use of space and critical listening to keep the song fresh.  


The final section of this song is an organ solo section. To accompany the solo, the instruments are keeping it nice and simple, playing off a C7 chord and leaving plenty of room for the soloist to do his thing. As you’re practicing along, listen to what the other instruments are doing and try to iron out a little part of your own. Pay close attention to what that rhythm guitar is doing!  It’s a great guideline to follow along with.  


Art Neville - Keyboardist for The Meters


So You’ve Learned The Parts To The Song, What Now?  


Cissy strut is one of those songs that’s quick to learn, yet there are endless ways to re-approach and re-interpret it. That’s why it’s become such a staple in jam bands. So with that in mind, there’s a few approaches you can take. You can try to learn each instrument’s part, note for note. This is a great way to build on your ear training, plus it’s always fun to play the piano like it’s a guitar.  


Another approach you can take is to build off of some of these chords and make new chords, changing the tone and feel of the track. You can try harmonizing off the main riff, or adding chords underneath it, giving the ‘A’ section a whole new feel. Since the main riff uses that pentatonic scale with the Eb, you can try playing a C minor 7th chord underneath the riff to give it a whole new texture.  


For the ‘B’ section, why not try harmonizing on those three notes? Since they’re repeated so many times, you can make this part build by playing each part of this riff up a third.  Just remember that the pentatonic scale contains that very important minor third, so when you’re playing over top of the C, remember to play an Eb to keep your embellishments working with the rest of the song.  


For that solo section, there’s a few mentalities that you can use to work with it. As mentioned above, you can imagine yourself as another member of the backing band, giving that organ solo the bedrock it needs to play its lines without getting in the way of anything. Or you can use the spaciousness of that solo to your creative advantage, and make your own melodies lines that entwine with the organ. All you need to create a solo over this part of the song are those same five notes that make up the riff. As with anything so simple, it’s easy to dive in but difficult to really master. But I promise you’ll have an absolute blast getting there!


One of the great masters of the Hammond Organ


Cissy Strut:  The Musical Gift That Keeps On Giving


Cissy Strut is one of my favourite songs to jam along to thanks to its simplicity and catchiness. It’s also an example of how learning a track doesn’t just have to mean playing every single note as played on the record. Instead, you can think of each component of the song as an opportunity to break off and explore each section as a creative exercise. If it’s just you playing along, you can expand upon the suggestions above. If you know a few musical friends, even better!  Introduce this song to them and get together for a wicked jam sesh.   

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