Playing Chords On The Piano: Your Approach

Having Fun With Chords On The Piano In A Simple Way

Playing Chords On The PianoWhen it comes to playing chords on the piano in a manner that keeps the interest of your listeners, it will serve you well to make it a point to “mix it up” a bit when it comes to how you actually play them. When you do this, it quickly becomes evident that you don’t need to know a huge inventory of fancy piano chord voicings to express yourself in a professional manner. You see, when you grasp the fact that it’s how you present those chords that is more important than the actual chords themselves, you’re on your way to the development of a nice piano style for yourself.

At the same time, let’s remember that something doesn’t have to be “jazzy” or “complex” to sound good. A simple ballad can be presented in a very simple way and still be something to be appreciated by a listener. Sure, in ProProach, we focus on a good number of chord voicings and it really is nice to have those at your fingertips. Even then, however, we want to incorporate those voicings into our songs in a tasteful fashion. I think any person who becomes involved with that program will get a good feel for this.

A Few Chords On The Piano Are Enough When Played Tastefully

The brief excerpt below is actually not from ProProach. Rather, it is from a separate video session that I created which focused on easy cocktail piano styling techniques. The material was demonstrated within the context of the first 8 measures of Meredith Wilson’s Till There Was You (made popular by The Beatles, of course). As you play this short clip, notice how simple alterations of how the chords are being played. We are looking at simple triads and 7th chords. At certain times, a chord is being played fully with a quarter-note feel. Other times, I am playing the chords as arpeggios (playing them one note at a time). You’ll also observe an eighth-note feel as these arpeggios are being played:

Alternating how you play chords on the piano in the context of a tune is conducive to keeping your listener’s attention. They may not even know what you are specifically doing; however, their ears are definitely picking it up. It quickly becomes apparent that your performance is one worth listening to.

A key point here is to really put yourself into the song. Be musical. Use contrast in your playing. Be colorful with your dynamics. You see, when you are fully engaged and truly enjoying yourself at those keys, others who are listening cannot help but be positively influenced by that. Your enthusiasm is contagious!

Go back to some of those songs that you play regularly and see if there is something that you can do to slightly modify how you are playing those chords. It doesn’t have to be a drastic change at all. Very small alterations can really turn an otherwise “blah” performance into something that really shines.