You love playing the piano but are increasingly frustrated with only being able to reproduce what is in front of you. No sheet music, no play. Oh you only have it in the key of Eb? Well sorry I cannot play that. Does this sound like you?
Several years ago I could only play exactly from the piano sheet music in front of me. If I looked up from the music for a fraction of time I lost my place. I was only comfortable in the keys of C, F, and G. Sometimes D and Bb. But I longed to play and smile at the congregation in my church. Or check the worship leader to see if he was going to add another stanza. Then I started to learn Pachelbel Canon in D. Ever heard it? A study on the D scale. It opened my eyes to improvising or embellishing on a song at the piano.
Here are five key things to remember to help you do the same.
1. Learn and practice your scales in all keys. Nobody likes this. It’s not fun but it can greatly increase your playing proficiency if you are diligent.
2. Learn and practice chords. Especially the odd ones such as diminished, augmented, 6ths etc. These can quickly give color and style to your songs.
3. Fake it. Use a fake book to play. This will greatly encourage you to add to the harmony and melody because you only have a chord symbol and one melody line in front of you. It will sound very dry so you will be motivated.
4. Use the whole piano. Play those same notes just an octave higher. Now try one more octave
5. Don’t get discourage by your first results: You may not like your first results but don’t give up.
Visit the Struggling Church Musician Piano page for more resources to playing the piano by ear and chord piano.