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Piano Esperanto

Our Piano Thoughts

  • Writer's pictureMoshik Kovarsky

The Magic of Piano Chords (2)

If you have read the part 1 of this series and have managed to experiment with playing, you are ready for the next taste. We will talk a bit about chords and rhythm. If you haven’t read the first part yet, be sure to do that before you continue, as some necessary concepts are explained there.

Let’s start again by listening. If you press on this link (listen here) you can hear a piano version of Le Cygne (The Swan in French) which is a part of The Carnival of the Animals by Camille Saint-Saëns. It is a beautiful and melodic piece.

In our previous story about chords we demonstrated how to play each chord using the three fingers of the left hand in succession: Pinky, pointing finger and thumb.

The rhythm of this piece is defined as ¾, which roughly means that it is played in groups of 3’s, like a waltz. This rhythm is the natural one for our chords, as we only use 3 fingers. Not all songs are built this way, and the next story will talk about what to do about it.

We will use the same notation in order to define the keys. This time, our song spans two octaves and we use the minus sign (-) to denote the lower octave:

To play the melody of the beginning of this piece simply play this sequence:

Note that all the keys are played with the same rhythm except the A- which is longer. It takes some practice but you can master it. Listen to the beginning of the audio clip again to improve.

Now, as we did in our previous story, we will add some chords to make it fuller and prettier.

To remind you, chords are the basic method that is used by guitar players. On the piano, they are usually taught by using a combination of 3 keys played together. We will take a totally different approach, which is simple and works really well with almost any song or musical piece.

The beginning of the piece uses only two chords: The G chord and the A chord, and we will play them with only 3 fingers of the left hand: The pinky, the index (pointing) finger and the thumb. The diagram below explains where to place your fingers and in what order.

And as we did before, we will now put the melody and the chords together. Take a look at the melody line from above. This time it is coupled with the chords which are added in the right place:

The top line is the melody, exactly as you practiced it before. The bottom line is the background, played simultaneously with chords. As explained in the previous story, the duration markings, or ┴┤, identify how to match the chords with the melody. 

 On the first two occurrences of the G chord, we play the keys of the chord together with the melody keys above them.   On the 3rd chord (A), we play the second key of the chord between the melody keys (in the longer space).   On the last chord (A), we just match the first key of the chord with the melody key © and then play the other 2 keys of the chord.

Listen to the song a couple of times, using the link (here it is again), and try to compare it with the printed sequence above. Then try to repeat it on the piano.

After some practice you may find that the chords do more than just provide a nice background harmony — they actually function as a metronome (rhythm generator) for the piece!

If you find this method simpler than sheet music, you may want to learn more about it. It is a new, innovative language called PENTA and it is explained here. By using PENTA, you can play almost any song or classical piece. Anyone who invests, in earnest, a couple of hours a week studying this method, should be able to play easy pieces with both hands within 6 months, and even reach prima-vista (play on first sight) within less than a year! All the learning materials are free, so Come on and join the fun!

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