Professional Chord Changes : LUSENET : Everything About Teaching and Learning the Piano : One Thread


Can any of the great teachers who answer questions tell me of a good method book to teach professional chord changes to students who want to play by ear. Chords over and above the I IV V chords. Can someone give me good advice on chords beside the Dom 7th to include. The How to: I can read music very well and teach it. But when I play by ear, I'm not sure of what other chords can be included. Is there a black and white rule? Thank you for any help you can offer me. Polly

-- Everetta J. Boehme (, March 13, 2005


Everetta, good question. I am always looking for more material myself, but here's what I do now.

I don't use any one method. Simplified, I break it down this way... For students who want to play by ear I convince them to increase their knowledge of notes and basic rudiments of counting while continuing to expand their ear playing. This is so they will eventually be able to understand simple chord charts consisting of one note melodies with chord symbols, a technique they can use for writing down their own musical ideas. I suggest "How to Play Jazz and Improvise" by Jamey Aebersold. It has scales and concepts spelled out in letters as well some staff music. It also has some encouragement for ear players and is easily adapted to other types of music besides jazz. A student showed me a copy of "Scott the piano guy" book and was not impressed because he discounted the need to learn to count among other important things.

As for professional sounding chords that comes from the ability to create open voicings among other things. Knowing all of your chord tones allows you to creatively re-arrange them over small or large spans on the keyboard. My best resource is Alan Swain's Four Part Keyboard Harmony from Jasmine Press if it's still in print, which I believe it is.

I hope this helps. KJ

-- Kyle Johnson (, March 13, 2005.

Everetta I re-read your question, here's a bit more: Advice on other chords besides a Dominant 7th? Within any key major or minor there are 7 chords based on degrees of the scale, one of which is a dominant 7th. It is based on the fifth note of the scale. For learning more about music theory regarding the relationship of scales and chord types with a certain key I suggest any of the graded theory workbooks by Alfred or Bastien, they cover the basics. They usually go along with a method because, of course, if you can't read the music in these books, they are useless. This is all good reason to leverage your student to work on the memorization of staff music concepts.

Is there a black and white rule? Yes and no, music is not a formula, it is a language. So there are exceptions to every rule. You already know this, but to go further...If you know what chords correspond to certain keys you can use chords that reflect the melody note while still sounding right in the context of the key that a peice is being played. As the melody note changes the chords follow to one that has the new melody note as one of the chord tones, especially on beats one and three in a measure. This is loosely speaking a good place to start the discussion with a student. KJ

-- Kyle Johnson (, March 13, 2005.

I'm not a piano teacher, but you may want to check out the Jazz Piano Book by Mark Levine. It has several chapters on 'Professional Chords', or voicings, like block chords, flat ninths, alt chords,and other information on improvisational styles. It costs about $34. It's not a quick fix though, it's a very intensive book! There are also other books like this available.

-- Chris (, March 15, 2005.


What's funny is that Scott Houston doesn't seem to use his own book for his live workshops--he uses someone else's (read the paragraph description next to the book picture), go figure:

-- GT (, March 15, 2005.

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