Saturday, March 16, 2013

Some Useful Tips To Move up to the Next Level

Alright, so, every serious gospel pianist always has the desire to improve his/her skills. Some actually know how to go about it but unfortunately, some don't. I've been there before.

A time there was, I wanted to improve but I didn't really know what to do but then, one thing that worked for me; which is a big contribution to my present skill is that I never stopped scoring gospel songs.
This really helped me to train my ears for music so that it's now very easy for me to pick up a song and I would understand the keyboard part in a short period of time.

Many beginner pianists often ask me: "what can I do to improve?" My number one answer for them has always been "score! score !! score!!!"

I guess you have found this post because you want to be improve and get better so below are some points that should be of help to you.

Pattern Recognition

There are patterns you hear regularly such as the 2-5-1, 6-2-5-1 passing tones, opening and closing progressions. You need to understand these patterns and how to apply them. So on the average, you might be able to come up with an intelligent progression for a song even if you're not very familiar with its original progressions.

Certain patterns are used to begin songs, some to end songs, so, if you understand these simple patterns, you would be a better piano player.

As a professional, I can now make a mental forecast of the progressions of a song and many of the times I am right because once you hear a song is going in a particular way and you are good with recognizing patterns, it is much easier to guess what's coming up.
Like for example, you're listening to a song for the first time and it gets to a point that you just know that a '7-3-6' progression should come up or a 5-1 turn around or a 6-7-1.

To recognise patterns, you need to listen to music more and don't just enjoy the music. Feel it! Memorize the chords you hear. Know what the chords sound like. When you know what the chords sound like then you can know how to find the chord and ultimately, the progression

Number System

Thinking in terms of numbers is really powerful. As an instrumentalist you need to start working on that if you've not been doing it. Take for example, a bassist who does not know the correct progression of a song can play with you if you can communicate the chord numbers to him.

So just in case you did not understand what I meant by 2-5-1 progression and the likes, I was talking about the number system. So, if I say play CMajor11, I'm telling you what chord to play in a particular situation. But when I say play chord 1 on key C, I'm talking universally.

So, because every key has a 1 chord or 3 chord, I could easily spell out progressions for you by just mentioning numbers. So start learning how to talk in numbers


Musically transposition is moving a song to a different key. Now as a keyboardist, I'm sure what transpose means on the keyboard. You probably use it all the time. Some are so good at using it that the way they use it is really seamless and accurate.

Unfortunately it is one of your worst enemies as a keyboardist because it kinds of limits you. Imagine a pro keyboardist being put on a grand piano or Hammond organ and he can't really do much again because the only key he is fluent on is key C.

I've actually been there before; using transpose all the time but now I've come to realize that I don't need to use it again. So if you have not been playing all keys, start learning how to do that today.

Ear Training

There are levels where ear training is concerned. For example, say we both listen to a Marvin Sapp song together, I might be able to immediately play the song after listening to it about 3 times while you might just start understanding it after you have listened to it quite more than 3 times.

As a musician you need to train your ear to recognize melodic and harmonic intervals

Intervals you need to master include:

  • Major/Minor second chords
  • Major/Minor third chords
  • Perfect Fourth chords
  • Diminished and Augmented chords or their fifths
  • Major/Minor seventh chords

Above all, don't get discouraged, continue to practice and score songs. Enjoy :)