Left Hand Piano Accompaniment For Ballads

Piano Left Hand AccompanimentSo What Do I Do With That Left Hand?

In one form or another, a common question I’ve been asked by many pianists who aspire to become comfortable with playing from lead sheets has been, “What do I do with that left hand?”

Many of these people know how to play the chords that are asked for in the music but feel limited with their capacity to make them sound like anything to talk about. In other words, they might be able to comfortably play a chord like Gmaj7 in its basic form as shown here:

Gmaj7 in Root position

but when it comes to actually incorporating that chord into a ballad, they feel at a loss for ideas. Does that sound familiar?

The Mistake Most Piano Beginners Make

Okay, let me say it straight:

Most people who find themselves in this situation are overthinking about what they should be doing.

You see, it’s really easy to be dazzled by the many chords and jazz piano voicings that the pros play when performing these standard songs. It’s quite another to feel overwhelmed by thinking that you need to know them all in order to sound “pro.”

I’m all for expanding your chord voicing repertoire. actually, I created a 25-lesson program devoted to that. After all, the more colors an artist has on his or her palette, the more choices there are with painting a picture. However, on that same note (!), I will say that a truly creative artist would be able to paint a beautiful masterpiece with just three basic colors like red, blue, and green.

The Real Key To Sounding “Pro”

It’s not WHAT colors you use but HOW you use them. This applies equally to the harmonic colors of music. Please don’t forget this. It is so crucial to the development of your musical artistry.

It’s not uncommon for an individual to approach me for lessons in my studio who has a handle on playing those basic chords and is eager to expand on his/her chord voicing and improvisation skills. However, that person has not displayed any competency with using the tools they know in an artistic manner. The most important point I strive to help this person understand is that the ability to play artistically starts right from the beginning.

You don’t have to wait until you know a massive vocabulary in order to sound articulate, do you? Of course not. Well, the same is true when it comes to performing music. You don’t have to wait until you know a massive chord or voicing vocabulary in order to sound artistic.

Remember: “artistic” does not necessarily mean “fancy.”

You can take that to the bank. If you want to sound “pro,” then practice sounding “pro” with what you already know. I have so much to say about this to my private students. I don’t think a day goes by in the studio when this matter isn’t brought to someone’s attention. I’ll very likely be talking more about it in upcoming writings here, too.

For now, remember, it’s not WHAT you say but HOW you say it.

Consider the other aspects of performing besides fancy chords that come into play when putting a song across: dynamics (volume contrasts), piano keyboard range used, and more.

A Simple “Pro” Left Hand Technique You’ll Want To Own

In this video below, which is just the first few minutes of a one-hour session I created called Sneak Peeks 2, four basic chords are being used: Gmaj7, G#dim7, Amin7, and D7. Since this is the very beginning of the video lesson, you may want to skip right to 1:30 on the counter when we actually start this demonstration:

You’ll notice that the left hand is alternating between playing the “shell,” which is the 1 and 7 of the chord, and playing the full chord. You see, this might be equated to an artist lightly stroking the brush on the canvas with a blue and then stroking a little more heavily with brush for different textural effects.

For your reference, here is the lead sheet excerpt Ted Koehler’s and Harold Arlen’s Stormy Weather being used for this demonstration:

Chords for Stormy Weather

Use It To The Point Of Mastery

This simple technique can be applied to virtually any ballad that you know or will learn. Remember to keep the melody in the spotlight and allow those left- hand bass notes and chords (and shells) to just be there without much emphasis. If you remain sensitive to this concept in your playing, you can perform any ballad in a way that really displays to the listener that you are an artist at those keys… because you are!


Play Piano For The First Time

Piano Lesson For Absolute Beginners!Attention: Beginners!

So many people who arrive at this site have some curiosity about playing piano yet have absolutely no experience whatsoever. If that’s you, let me tell you that you are here for a reason! If you’ve never played piano before or your experience has been somewhat limited to tickling a few notes, then stay with me.

Things are about to change for you beginning today. I put together a video lesson for you that will have you playing the piano and creating some pretty fantastic sounds immediately.

Are you with me?

This is going to be easy. Most people who sit down with a piano teacher for the first time don’t get exposed to this kind of a lesson right away (if ever). You see, when it comes to keeping your motivation up for learning, you’ve got to experience some results. Does this make sense? I mean, really, you want some kind of return for your investment of time and money.

Just A Buck!

Okay, as far as your monetary investment, the price of this lesson has been reduced significantly. Your cost… how does $1 sound? That’s all you’ll invest in this video session. It comes to you as an .mp4 file so that you can either watch it online or download it to your device like an iPad or anything you like.

Now, as far as your investment in time is concerned, this won’t take much. Just have some curiosity, a desire to have some fun, maintain a sense of humor, and this will be fun for you. You’ll do this on your own time at your own pace. The thing to understand here is this: with what you learn in these 20 minutes, you’ll have enough to start having fun and sounding good!

This Works

You see, this has to work for you. Why? Because, you’ll be sounding good quickly… plain and simple. The reason is that you’ll be applying all the elements of music to that piano or keyboard of yours instantly. You don’t need to be playing familiar songs on the piano to sound great. As a matter of fact, the strategy you’ll be learning here will equip you to create some improvisations of your own that let others in the room know that you can play! Before the twenty-minute session is over, you’ll be employing melodic sounds using harmony and rhythm. When you combine those three elements in a way that makes sense, it’s a guaranteed win.

You Don’t Need To Know How To Read Music

You won’t know how to read a note of music for this. You don’t even have to know the names of the keys on the piano (we’ll mention one). Are you starting to see that this just might be the start you need? Believe me… you have what it takes.

A Super Start For You

It’s my hope that your experience with this video session will supply you with enough “spark” to want to continue your journey. Also, if this is your very first piano lesson, you’ll be playing chords on the piano from the start. Did you know that many experienced players often don’t even get this kind of training? It’s true. I’ve had classically trained pianists come to my studio with an excess of 10 years of lessons who wished they had previously learned about chords and how to use them. It’s all in who you connect with. They got some excellent lessons but not the creative kind that provided them with the confidence to express themselves freely.

Here’s the beginning few moments of the video:

Let’s Begin!

Okay, this is about YOU. So, let’s begin, shall we? Just visit here so we can get started on our journey. Follow along at your own pace, pausing the video as you please. Watch… watch again… you’re about to see how easy this really is. Grab a favorite beverage, relax, and get ready to be playing piano in way less than twenty minutes. Enjoy!

Piano Technique: Bulldoze Your Way Through Obstacles

A Piano Practicing Technique That Works 100% Of The Time

Handling Piano Fingering ProblemsThis piano technique really will get those fingers to “think twice” before giving you a hard time again!

You know when those times arise – even though you know what fingerings you’re using for that little music segment you happen to be working on are the right ones – what seems to happen is that they just don’t happen to find their right place in a timely manner.

In other words, it just doesn’t “flow.” That fourth finger…or that thumb…etc. just isn’t getting to that key quickly enough.

Why? In many cases, if you slowly observe what’s going on with those finger movements of yours, you’ll find that the finger (or thumb) is not prepared early enough.

So, how do you find out for sure? So many people overlook this. This is such a valuable concept that I want you to have an automatic tool that’s there for you whenever you need it! Once you have this tool, you need to get it to work for you by regular use of it.

Deal? Okay, let’s take a look…

“Slow-frame it!”

Have you ever seen a movie in slow motion or in “slow frame” mode? Perhaps you’ve done this while watching a movie on DVD or via a service like Hulu or Netflix. Once you stop the movie, you can advance it one frame at a time.  The point here is that you are able to see the scene you are watching one frame at a time. In addition, you are able to “freeze” each frame for as long as you like. You even have the luxury of leaving that scene frozen on the screen long enough to go to the kitchen, get yourself a snack, and come back.

Observe Your Playing One Frame At A Time!Well, if you have ever done this, you may have noticed that the particular scene that is held on the screen was viewed by you from a different perspective. For example, every element of that particular scene is observable. You are able to view it in much more detail than you would if the movie simply continued at regular speed. If the scene included someone walking from one room of their home to another, you were able to see the colors of the walls… or the molding in the doorway… or the expression on the character’s face… or what the character was wearing… you get the point.

That is the perspective I would like you to take when these piano fingering challenges present themselves. You will gain so much insight from applying this piano technique during your practice sessions, it’s almost uncanny…

If you had the luxury of recording your practice routine with a camcorder or the video feature on your phone, you would be able to play that back and take a look at each tiny segment of movement of your hands and fingers in the same way.

If recording yourself practicing isn’t very convenient, you can still “slow-frame” Piano Technique - Play Slowlyyour act of practicing. How? Play the segment that you are working on as slowwwwwwwwly as possible and watch each and every finger and hand movement.

Play the musical passage as usual, except… slow things down to the point where you can see – really see – where that finger is directly prior to when it should be played. Often, you may find that it’s about two or three keys further away than it has to be (or more)!

This is truly eye-opening!

Somewhere within your effort in playing your example, you’ll usually find that there is some earlier movement or adjustment that you could be utilizing. Sometimes, it’s the hand helping the fingers cross. Other times, it could just be that your fingers need to extend a bit more to be closer to the target note, etc. In other instances, you might that a slight movement or the arm left or right would make a certain finger “stretch” possible.

Let’s Play Detective

In addition, pay attention to where your eyes are focused on during this “fingering stumble.” Notice what you are paying attention to.

The only way you can really fully understand the value of this is to experience it. This technique will become more and more valuable to you as you master its application. Please make it a part of your practice approach and you will discover for yourself that your entire piano playing experience has taken a turn for the better.

What else will happen? You will find that you actually look forward to these Be a detective on those piano keys!challenges. Why? Because every single time one presents itself, you will be in charge of it. Rather than looking it as an obstacle, you will know that it is a “key” waiting for you to grasp which, upon using it, will unlock technical secrets that you otherwise would have missed! You will learn to love being a “detective” as you proceed since you know for a fact that new discoveries are just around the corner!

The effectiveness of this kind of self-observation is so reliably powerful that I focus on this concept intensely in my 88 Keys To Learning program. Actually, when it comes to mastering a particular segment of a song (or an exercise) it’s a way of reducing 3 weeks of practice toa couple of hours. Each and every student who earnestly devotes his or her efforts in this way realizes results that are nothing short of fantastic.

This works for any musical segment you are wanting to improve technically. It’s mighty effective for segments of musical pieces, scales, patterns, and more.

When I am conducting my private lessons, I don’t think there is a piano teaching day that goes by without my encouraging a student to utilize this powerful eye-opening practice approach.

Guaranteed Rewards

If this approach to practicing is new to you, I urge you to have an open mind as you apply it to your own practice sessions. What you will discover is that your alertness to what is really going on with those fingers and hands becomes enhanced the more you make this a habit. Practicing just won’t be the same again!


Never Played Piano Chords Before?

Having Fun With Creativity From Day One

Playing chords on the pianoTo the beginner with little or no experience or even the classical player whose experience is limited to reading and interpreting the written page, I offer the same suggestions when it comes to being able to play piano creatively.

If you have subscribed to the mindset that playing creatively is reserved for the advanced player, I would like to encourage you to have an open mind about this. I promote creativity right from the start. It’s fun, boosts confidence, and serves as incentive to want to take future steps on your musical journey.

A Most Chordial Visit

Upon entering my piano studio for the first time, a beginner usually learns enough to be able to explore creativity on those keys, at least to a point. I believe – more accurately – I know that a person has the ability to speak music before completely understanding the language.

To help clarify this, let me ask you: At what age did you start expressing Learning to speak musicyourself verbally? Did you utter your first words after you learned how to read or write the letters of the alphabet?

On the contrary. You were speaking long before you were able to spell those words and phrases that came from your mouth. Before you could read or write, you spoke the language.

To take that a bit further, you had no concern about how to read or write what you were saying. You spoke with confidence. When you were thirsty, you asked for a drink. When you were hungry, you asked to eat. When an adult handed you a phone, you said hello.

In other to do this, you had acquired the ability to use phonetics by hearing them from others and repeating them. By the way, there are people who can play music by ear quite well in this fashion without even knowing how to read or write music. How? The same way we just mentioned. They heard and repeated.

It’s true that knowing how to read a language, whether it’s English, French, Italian, or Music will expand your musical experience. You are encouraged to want to do that. Right now, I’m saying that you can take the first steps of speaking some music before that just like you were speaking your language prior to reading or writing it.

You can think of the “phonetics” that you need to know as the keys on your piano keyboard. Press a key and hear the sound. Go ahead and do that now.

See? You can speak.

Perhaps that was equivalent to “goo-goo” or “gaa-gaa” as a baby but, hey, you have to start somewhere, right?

Once we know that you can press a key, we take things a step further. We ask you to play two keys at the same time… then three.

Now, the good news. You only need to play three keys to play a chord.

See all those white keys on the keyboard? Pick any three that are not exactly each to other, but separated by one key, like this:

This is a chord!

You don’t have to be concerned with which particular keys you are playing. Just play three keys… you’re just making sure you’re playing “every other key.”

What fingers do you use? We’ll eventually get to that but simply play them. What you are playing is a chord! You might be playing one of these keys with your left hand and the other two with your right (or vice versa). It’s a chord no matter how you play it.

This can be the beginning of playing music for you if you are a beginner. If you are an experienced player, you likely know this is a chord but we’ll get more creative with chords in subsequent posts.

If you play any two of those notes, you are playing harmony. A chord is harmony that consists of three or more notes.

The next step is to start being comfortable playing these three keys with the fingers of just one hand. It may take some time for this to feel natural but that’s normal. The fingers you would use for either hand would be your thumb, middle, and pinkie.

To make the most of this session of ours, have some fun playing chords on the piano with your left hand and your right hand (not necessarily at the same time), using the fingers mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Remember, you can play any three keys as long as they are separated by a key in between so your chord looks a bit like our image above. Again, you don’t have to be concerned where on the piano you play these. That said, you will notice for yourself that they tend to sound a bit better when you don’t go too far to the left of the keyboard. However, don’t be afraid to play them there, too. It’s all an adventure!

Play a chord… listen…. move your hand and play another chord… listen… repeat… repeat… repeat.

Okay… ready to make more sense of this? Would you like to be playing chords with more confidence within a matter of minutes? Great! Click on the Free Chord Lesson in the menu above to download a free video. You’ll be learning how to play major chords on the piano. As a matter of fact, by the time you finish following the suggestions in that video, you’ll be able to play ALL 12 major triads on the piano with both hands… now that’s AWESOME!

[Sidebar] I realize that each person’s experience is different from another. I’ll ask that you simply bear with me through any of these sessions by understanding that my intention is to assume that the reader may have no experience at all. If you would like clarification of anything you’ve been exposed to hear, why not send me an email? I’ll be happy to try to help.


Life Is Like A Piano

Piano lessons have a lot to offerIt’s Not All Black & White

“Life is like a piano. What you get out of it depends on how you play it.”

It also depends on how you go about learning it. Taking that a little further, it depends on how you choose to perceive your learning experience.

The point I’m wanting to make here is that a student of the piano has a whole lot more to learn than playing music. The learning journey itself has a lot to offer in many respects. In short, the process of learning to play piano, including the many different phases of it, can serve as a vehicle for improving many aspects of your life.

A Basic Fact

With all my experience in conducting piano lessons to people of all ages and levels, I can honestly say that no two people are exactly alike. It’s what keeps what I do so interesting and rewarding. Along with that, I can also say with confidence that they all have something in common as well:

How a person goes about learning something new says a lot about that individual’s perception of himself or herself.

A number of years ago, while attending a seminar, the speaker shared some words that never left me. He said:

“How you do one thing is how you do everything.”

Upon seeing or hearing those words for the first time, once could easily argue, “Well, an attorney who is tops in his or her field with no experience playing piano obviously doesn’t play the instrument like (s)he performs in a courtroom.”

The meaning of that quote goes much deeper than that, of course, as do most profound statements.

I have enjoyed the pleasure and privilege of providing piano lessons to attornies, nurses, doctors, full-time moms, and more. In each of their chosen fields, I wouldn’t be able to hold a candle to any of them. It’s true that, as a beginning piano student, each of these individuals does what they do with authority and integrity in their own right.

That said, their approach to learning something new, whether it’s learning to associate the names of the keys on the keyboard with the grand staff or learning how to play a piano version of McCartney’s Let It Be, reveals this:

We are all subject to approaching challenges from the unique perspective that we have of ourselves. Each of us maintains a certain self-image along with own unique brand of self-esteem and confidence. We bring that to the table in all that we do. In short, the person you internally see yourself as is the one who “shows up for the lesson.”

It’s that person who “shows up” for everything.

Increase your self confidenceA Super Way To Expand Your Self Awareness

I know that a certain number of clients of mine who show up for weekly lessons are in touch with this truth.

Let’s consider the retired attorney who took himself through a successful career while being tops in his game shows up because he is aware that the challenge of reaching a specific pianistic goal allows him to enhance his perspective of himself. He knows that learning a new “boogie-woogie” left-hand pattern will allow him to prove to himself that what once was considered impossible is now possible. He sees the breakthrough as worth every iota of effort. He has the ability to make his way through obstacles. He uses the piano as a tool to prove that.

Then there’s the semi-retired educator who shows up each and every week for the simple reason that she realizes that she is worth that commitment to herself. Upon entering the studio, she humorously confesses, “I didn’t even touch the piano this week” while knowing that she’s still going to learn something during that session and is aware that I’m totally accepting of her situation as I remind her, “You’re doing this to enhance your lifestyle – not overtake it.” She smiles, knowing that I understand where she’s coming from. She knows why she shows up. The person she sees herself as is one who doesn’t retreat in the face of trials. She shows up to nurture that fact.

Across the ocean, in Australia, there is the man who writes to me while sitting on the train on his way to work. After investing in my latest online cocktail piano video lesson, he shares his appreciation and feedback, shares how it has helped him. He also offers what he would like to see in an upcoming video tutorial.

I enjoy the privilege of servicing these people and others like them, each with his or her own background and goals, of course. Most of them are not interested in performing publicly. Rather, they’ve set their own stage for personal growth and are enjoying the benefits. You know who you are, I take off my hat and bow to you.

Piano as a tool for self reflectionThe Journey Means More Than The Destiny

You may have ascertained by now that I view each and every one-on-one session that I participate in as more than a piano lesson. You see, when a person enters my studio, for the first time or the fiftieth, I’m interested in the person behind the student. It’s you that matters – not what I have to teach you.

This takes us back to the truth behind that quote. Certain clients of mine know the reason they are involved with piano lessons because they enjoy overcoming obstacles and want to improve how they approach them. They know this applies to much more than getting through the first eight bars of a Bach Minuet. They see it as more personal than that.

What it takes to progress through certain pianistic challenges involves a lot, including visualizing, memorizing, coordinating, muscle memory, and more. The fantastic side to this is that all the benefits received by pursuing these challenges manifest in a natural way while simply having some fun with it all.


The rewards are many!

I often remind my clients that a person who plays piano for a certain amount of time develops levels of cognitive and physical skills that most other people don’t. I’m convinced that, if most people genuinely knew this to be true, almost everyone would want to take piano lessons!

You Matter: Where Do You Stand?

This takes me to you, dear reader. Specifically, YOU. What brings you here? It’s possible that you arrived here searching for some information that might help you to complement your own experience on the piano. You may have even arrived here with intending to. The fact is you’re here and I’m glad! Having read this far, how can I help you?

Where are you along your journey? I’m interested in learning more about you and your musical involvement, whether you’ve never touched a piano before or you’re simply looking to elevate your improvisational skills. The fact that you have taken some of your valuable time to arrive here and stay awhile is totally appreciated by me. Is there a way I can make it worth it for you? Share your experience with me. I would certainly appreciate that.

What You Can Expect

As this blog is in its initial stages of development, I would like to let you know that it’s my intention to provide valuable information that you can use in a very practical way. Whether you are a beginner or a more experienced player, you’ll find helpful tips, techniques, and strategies that you can utilize to enhance your own playing and appreciation of yourself as a creator. I’m pretty certain that the information you find in this blog will enhance your experience with any learning tools that you may have purchased in our store. From my perspective, it would be fantastic if they work well in conjunction with each other to enhance your experience. I’ll keep this in mind as I continue adding to this blog.

The initial posts will be specifically designed to help the beginning piano enthusiast. One of my strongest aspirations is to turn non-believers into doers. If you have ever had any reservation about your ability to make music at the piano, I would ask that you put those thoughts on hold for a little while. Allow what you find here to serve you in a positive way. The truth is this: you have what it takes to make music and to experience all the peripheral benefits that go along with it!

As this blog matures, the various posts will be categorized so that you can easily see which posts may apply more specifically to you and your situation.

Please correspond with me to let me know how the material here is helpful to you or how it could more specifically be of help to you. Truly, I honor your perspective and am certain to read every email I receive.