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The Secrets of E-Flat Minor

Jordan Leibel - Mar 19, 2017

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Have you ever wanted to learn to improvise but didn’t really know where to start? Well, here’s a great starter key to play bluesy improvs in that might surprise you: E-flat minor.  

It seems like a weird key to suggest to a beginner, but it really works. To get a better sense of why it works so well, take a look at the formula for the pentatonic scale. That formula is 1-m3-4-5-m7. If you apply that formula with Eb as your ‘1’, you’ll find out that you can play the entire pentatonic scale using only the black keys. So you can totally forget about the white ones!

Eb minor is the ONE key at the piano that allows you to do this, so take advantage of this unique situation. Because you’re only playing the black keys, it’ll feel weird to play so keep those fingers rounded as you play.  

Once you get acquainted with the E-flat pentatonic scale, you can try adding some other notes into your playing. Try adding in the 2nd, the bluenote (b5) and the major 6th. If you look at what notes those are on the keyboard, you’ll find that they are the notes of the F major triad, F-A-C.  


Seeing as the pentatonic scales work very well for the blues, it’s a good idea to think of some chords to use in the left hand. The surest bet is to make some 7th chords. Start by making an Eb minor 7th in the left hand, consisting of the notes Eb-Gb-Bb-Db.  


Consider these notes as less of a scale and more of a colour palette to use as you play. Remember, there are no set rules for improvisation.  The only opportunity for personal creativity and expression!  So try using these chords and scales as a launch-point for discovering your own creativity. And share your success stories with your improv experiments in the comments below 



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Hi, I'm Jordan Leibel

I've worked as a composer for film, commercial, and theatre projects as well as a session musician and producer for recording projects. And now, I'm super excited to teach you a thing or two through Pianote!