Best Resources for De-Mystifying a Piano Keyboard?
September 28, 2018 12:46 PM   Subscribe

Finally learning to play piano and am taking weekly lessons now. I have a full 88 Roland FP-30 keyboard to practice on, and my question is: Music theory and improvisation tips on knowing which notes/keys/combinations I can improvise with starting from low bass 5th chords? I love playing bass 5th chords but I need to know how to look at the keyboard and instantly ID which keys/chords I can create a melody with that harmonizes nicely. Suggestions?

Looking for great, quick hacks or rec's on music theory applied to improvisation with bass clef 5th chords and accompanying treble left hand melodies.
posted by Lipstick Thespian to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
I took lessons years ago, and my teacher was very experienced with jazz and improv. She showed me the 'shape' of certain chords/progressions, so I could look at a shape on the keyboard, and no where to go next - this is especially useful in blues progressions. So - find a teacher with a jass/blues background.
posted by dbmcd at 1:16 PM on September 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

How to play the piano despite years of lessons is supposed to be good for this, I think. Must admit I bought it ages ago after seeing it recommended here but haven't actually got around to working through it, so can't offer a personal judgement!
posted by penguin pie at 2:06 PM on September 28, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My improvisation is self-taught and basic but I can have a lot of fun by taking a chord that is a fancier super set of the fifth, like one of the 7th chords, (or 9th, 11th, etc) and then using my right hand to noodle up and down it using some pattern of steps, repeats, and skips.

Get a four bar progression going and mess with rhythm and pretty quick you have a nice jam going.

It also helps me a lot to play with some basic drums from garage band or even just a metronome.

Another fun ‘rule’ of improvisation is: repetition makes it right. So if you hit a funny note, just roll with it and play it more, and will start to sound right :)
posted by SaltySalticid at 2:18 PM on September 28, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Some other thoughts after playing a bit today:

Your left hand fifth is usually thought of as a dyad with the root at the bottom, but you can also think of it as an inverted fourth. So if you are playing C and G, you can mess with melodies rooted in G chords just as well as C.

Two progressions that are very flexible and fairly easy for me as a novice:
The “50s progression” of I-vi-IV-V (eg C Amin F G), and the related “sensitive punk” of vi-IV-I-V (Amin F C G, used by Tori Amos and The Offspring, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lady Gaga etc)

It’s not for everyone, but playing ‘splits’ on the keyboard where the left and right hand play different timbres often helps inspire me to try different play styles and moods. So e.g. piano on bass and strings up high, or string bass on base and piano above it, etc. I’m not sure but I suspect your Roland can do that.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:53 PM on September 28, 2018 [3 favorites]

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