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Playing With Minor And Major Seventh Chords

Jordan Leibel - Apr 20, 2018

Hey everyone, it’s Jordan here. I’m gonna give you a quick and easy tip that will make playing minor and major seventh chords so much easier.  

 

These chords are the bee's knees: they’re super versatile, expressive, and it’s easy to come up with a lot of unique ideas using them. It’s crazy how adding one note to your triads will boost their musicality as much as they do, but hey... Music is a mysterious thing.

 

Ever feel like each hand has a mind of its own? Maybe that can be a good thing...

 

Anatomy Of A Minor Seventh

 

First, let’s look at the minor seventh chord. What a unique chord this is, and I’ll tell you why. Let’s take a look at the A minor 7th chord as an example. This chord consists of 4 notes:  A-C-E-G.

 

If you look at the bottom 3 notes of the chord, you’ll see and hear where we’re getting that minor sound. After all, that’s the minor triad right there.

 

But have a look at the top 3 notes: C-E-G. That right there is the C major triad.  If you’re into music theory, you’ll notice that the C major triad and the A minor triad are actually related, and that’s what makes the minor seventh chord so cool. It’s a blend of both the major and the minor.

 

If you think of this chord as this blended sound, you’ll find there’s a lot of ideas you can come up with. You can try playing in ‘A minor mode’ in your left hand and ‘C major mode’ in your right to make some cool sounding melodies and exercises.  It’s pretty crazy the kinds of ideas you’ll come up with in this mentality. Give it a try!

 

You can play your left hand with one mindset and your right with the other. This results in some awesome licks and ideas!

 

What About The Major Seventh?

 

The major seventh chord is another blend of major and minor triad sounds, but the ordering of notes is a little bit different. Let’s take a look at the C Major 7th chord this time. Just like the minor 7th chord, this chord consists of 4 notes: C-E-G-B. The bottom three notes are (surprise surprise) a C major triad, consisting of the notes C-E-G. The top three notes form an E minor triad:  E-G-B.

 

Remember, the root or bottom note of any chord is always the most important for determining that chords mood. So even though there’s a minor chord up top that colors the chord, it is always going to have that unmistakable major sound due to that triad in the bottom. Nevertheless, you can take this sound and build on it with that E minor chord on top, just like with your minor 7th chords.

 

Learning to dissect larger chords like this will help you out a ton for improvising and songwriting ideas and give you a deeper awareness of the possibilities of each chord.

 

So that’s how I see my minor and major 7th chords! It’s a simple perspective switch with a ton of awesome potential. I hope you find some new ideas for these awesome chords! Let me know what you come up with.  Send me an email at [email protected].

 

Cheers,

 

Jordan

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What Is An Arpeggio & How To Play It

Lisa Witt - Apr 13, 2018

Like scales, arpeggios are a very important skill for piano players to master. I always had them in my mind as another technical skill, not entirely useful for the types of music I wanted to play, just another item on the list of technique to be practiced each day.

 

But arpeggios are SO useful!!! First of all, they will help you to master those chords- because they are basically chords that have gone for a jog! They will also help you to develop dexterity, hand independence, and get really comfortable with moving up and down the keys.



I am getting a little bit ahead of myself here. Let’s back up for a second and break down what an arpeggio actually is.

 

Be sure to practice your arpeggios in all of your keys!

 

 

An arpeggio uses 3 core notes. The root, 3rd and 5th of a chord, in broken form with the root note on top as the icing on the cake. For a 1 octave arpeggio you play (using G an an example) G-B-D-G using your 1-2-3-5 fingers in your RH or your 5-3-2-1 fingers in your LH.

 

The really cool thing is that you can extend these arpeggios and play them across the whole piano by using clever fingering. In the RH you can play 1-2-3 then tuck that thumb under and reset your hand to keep going! When you want to end your arpeggio pattern, just play the root note with your 5 to cap it off and head back down the way you went up! You can do this with you LH by using your 5-3-2-1 with a cross over to 3-2-1 to reset your hand.

 

Arpeggios are great for creating a sense of movement across the piano.

 

So where do we use arpeggio’s beyond our technical practices? Well, they show up in many classical and contemporary pieces of music and are a great tool for when we want to create rhythm and movement in our chording and ear playing as well!  Try using an arpeggio as a substitution in your left hand for where you would normally just play a 5th or an octave. Or, try a arpeggio in your right hand to create a sense of movement or intensity!




Enjoy!




Lisa



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Incorporating Improv Into Your Piano Practice

Jordan Leibel - Mar 30, 2018

Alright, alright… I’ve got a confession to make. I LOVE improvisation. I think it’s one of the best ways to discover your voice as a musician. As players, we’ve all got to dedicate time to practicing technique and grinding away at those chords, scales, and other exercises to learn to ‘walk’ and move around at the keyboard. But, we should never lose sight of the truth that music is about expression and exploration.  

 

With that in mind, we should ask ourselves "How do you incorporate improvisation into a practice session?"

 

Luckily, it’s as easy as embracing that childlike creativity we all have within ourselves. And you don’t have to be a pro player to do it!

 

Jazz master Keith Jarrett is a titan of improvisation.

 

One of the biggest challenges new players face with all those scales and chords we’ve got to practice is in finding ways to make those exercises inspiring and musical. And the best way to do that is to practice within the context of a chord progression. 

 

If you keep your practice within one key, things are going to start sounding pretty stale, no matter how good a player you are! Instead of playing your major scales and triads in just the key of C, try playing your exercises in C, F and G all in one pass.  

 

This will get you acquainted with that most useful chord progression, the I - IV - V progression, which is used in countless songs.

 

Brad Mehldau - another legend of modern improv.

 

Once you get practicing your exercises in each key, listen to how it starts to sound like music, not just homework. Experiment with how it sounds to jump from your C chord to your F chord, or how that G chord adds something new entirely because it’s made up of all new notes. Improvising is as simple as being curious about the music you’re making, and the instrument you’re using to make that music.

 

Improvisation isn't just for jazz players - many of neoclassical pianist Nils Frahm's songs contain improv elements.

 

Never forget that we call it playing an instrument for a reason!

 

When you start to get a feel for how these chords work together, try making little melodies in the right hand based on the tones those chords are made up of.  You’ll be shocked how quickly you start to find your creative voice this way!

 

I hope these tips help you discover some new ways to think about your practice and your creativity. Share your success stories with me! Just leave a comment below, or email me directly at [email protected]

 

Cheers,

 

Jordan   

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