How to Add Harmonic Spice to Your Music – Advanced Piano Lessons

 

This topic comes from a viewer question. Connie asks, “How do I get beyond the I, IV, and V chords when improvising Christmas music.” I thought this would make a great topic to cover all sorts of music and improvisation.

 

Before we begin, you might be wondering what the I, IV, and V chords are. Well if you are in C major, a I chord is built on C (C -E -G). The fourth note in C major scale is F, so the IV chord is built on F (F – A – C.) And the V chord is built on G (G – B – D). These are referred to as primary chords, they are major triads and you can harmonize almost anything with the I, IV, and V chords!

 

In the video accompanying this article I show an example of harmonizing using this technique with the song “On Top of Old Smokey” in A major. I use the I, IV, and V chords to create a simple harmony to accompany the melody. In A major that is the A major chord (A – C-sharp – E) the D major chord (D – F-sharp – A) and the E major chord (E – G-sharp – B). But what other chords could you add beyond the I, IV, and V ?

 

You can start by using the secondary chords. Secondary chords are pretty much the rest of the chords beyond I, IV, and V. So they would be II, III, and VI – VII not so much because it’s diminished. The II, III and VI are minor chords. So in A major, the II chord is B minor (B – D – F-sharp), the III chord is C# minor (C-sharp – E – G-sharp), and the VI chord will be a F# minor (F-sharp – A – C-sharp). But where can you use these in the harmony?

 

The best thing to do is experiment. Try different combinations and see what sounds good. You can try substituting a II chord for the IV chord; you could even keep the same D in the bass inverting the chord. This creates a seamless change in harmony with new flavor!

 

The beauty of improvisation is that there are no absolutes of right and wrong. While some combinations won’t sound as good as others, you can experiment and find out what sounds good to you. Keep working at it and eventually creating new and interesting sounds will become second nature.

 

Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  This topic comes from a viewer question. Connie asks, “How do I get beyond the I, IV, and V chords when improvising Christmas music.” I thought this would make a great topic to cover all sorts of music and improvisation.   Before we begin, you might be wondering what the I, IV, and V chords are. Well if you … Continue reading How to Add Harmonic Spice to Your Music – Advanced Piano Lessons

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Email Question: When pianos are moved do you remove the lid?

 

QUESTION:

 

I recently watched a video of yours on the LivingPianosVideos YouTube Chanel about moving a piano. In the video, precautions are taken as wrapping the piano with shrink wrap, could you tell me if that method is enough to substitute the procedure of removing the lid in a move? Because it was stated to me before that one of the first procedures in moving a piano would be removing the lid to prevent damages.

 

I thank you in advance for a response and thank you again for making those videos, which are so informative!

 

 

ANSWER:

 

When grand pianos and baby grand pianos are moved, the lids are usually kept on. The exception is when moving pianos up or down flights of stairs. The lids are removed to make the piano lighter in this case.

 

So, you should be in good shape!

 

For more information about piano moves check out our blog post on How to Move a Piano

  QUESTION:   I recently watched a video of yours on the LivingPianosVideos YouTube Chanel about moving a piano. In the video, precautions are taken as wrapping the piano with shrink wrap, could you tell me if that method is enough to substitute the procedure of removing the lid in a move? Because it was stated to me before that … Continue reading Email Question: When pianos are moved do you remove the lid?

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Email Question: What’s the best piano for me if price is not an issue?

  QUESTION:   I really want to get a piano, but of course their expensive, take up space, and are loud. The expense is not what I’m worried about. What kind of piano should look for?   ANSWER: You should try to get the best piano you can afford. All students eventually outgrow even the finest upright pianos. Here is … Continue reading Email Question: What’s the best piano for me if price is not an issue?

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What is a Chromatic Scale?

  You’ve all heard it and you’ve probably all played them, but in this lesson I’m going to describe everything you need to know about Chromatic Scales.   As we talked about in our other series on scales, they are really just a series of half steps and whole steps.   Half Steps are two keys together with no keys … Continue reading What is a Chromatic Scale?

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How to Set Up a Home Music Studio

 

The ability to record professional-level music has really grown substantially in the past decade. What you can achieve today with just a simple computer in your home exceeds what you could achieve in a top of the line recording studio just a few decades ago.

 

As a child I grew up around studio equipment – tape recorders and other seemingly archaic recording technology were all around my home and in my father’s studio. As a young adult I owned my own commercial recording studio and it was both a formidable investment and came with great compromises. Today, this is no longer an issue – anyone can set up a home studio with a few hundred dollars and a bit of knowledge.

 

Now before you go out and set up your studio, it’s a good idea to get a grasp on exactly what you will be using it for. Is it just audio recording? Maybe you want to incorporate video – what if you are a composer and you want to print out music you compose? These are all things you should be aware of before making your initial purchases. Planning and budgeting will lead to much better results when everything is in place.

 

You should also be aware of what operating system and software you intend on using. If you’re going with a Mac you can use Apple Logic or Mark of the Unicorn’s Digital Performer; on PC you have programs like Sonar/Cakewalk, Cubase, Reason and many others. When it comes down to picking the platform and the software, you should investigate what specialty the programs might offer. Most of them do nearly everything, but some of the programs specialize in certain areas better than others. It’s a very good idea to research the available programs thoroughly before making a purchase since some programs can be expensive and the learning curve can be steep.

 

Music recording in the home has become so advanced that you can literally plug in a MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) enabled keyboard, play something, and have your program instantly record and transcribe the notes of what you just played! It might not be perfectly accurate transcription – it will assuredly need a little human editing – but it’s a great leap in the ability to transcribe music.

 

The one aspect of recording that hasn’t changed as much over the years is the recording hardware itself. Microphones, amplifiers, speakers, and room acoustics haven’t changed as much and still remain an important – and potentially expensive area of recording music. Surprisingly, some of the best equipment out there today is older technology. Tube amplifiers, ribbon microphones, and other older technology can still produce amazing – and in a lot of cases better results than newer digital equipment.

 

The bottom line is, you will need the following equipment to get even a minimal setup going:

  • microphone(s):
    • Look for quality here; it makes a huge difference.
  • Speakers:
    • You don’t necessarily need anything top-of-the-line here. But since this is your reference they should be relatively neutral rather than flatter any particular frequencies.
  • Computer:
    • You can get away with a mid-level PC or Mac.
  • Recording Interface:
    • You can use anything you can connect a microphone (or several mics) to a computer with. Make sure it’s compatible with your operating system and computer hardware and that it fits your needs.
  • Recording Software:
    • It is very important to research this thoroughly since you will be spending a lot of time familiarizing yourself with this.
  • MIDI enabled keyboard and printer
    • Choose a keyboard that suits your playing style. You only need a printer if you want to have score printing capabilities.

This is a very extensive topic and could be covered in-depth for hours upon hours – in fact, they have entire college courses dedicated to this subject. The good news is that anyone looking to set up a studio to record music in their home is able to achieve it with minimal investment in both time and money. You can forgo the audio interface and use the onboard capabilities of your computer if you want. Even Apple’s Garage Band on the iPad has substantial capabilities!

 

We are living in a wonderful age of technological advancements that enable everyday people to achieve tremendous results with only a minimal amount of investment.

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin, Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729

  The ability to record professional-level music has really grown substantially in the past decade. What you can achieve today with just a simple computer in your home exceeds what you could achieve in a top of the line recording studio just a few decades ago.   As a child I grew up around studio equipment – tape recorders and … Continue reading How to Set Up a Home Music Studio

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Yamaha Pianos Vs. Kawai Pianos – Which is Better?

 

Two of the most popular piano companies in the world, Yamaha and Kawai, have competed with each other for decades. Many people wonder which piano is better. Despite this being a controversial topic, we are going to answer this in an honest way.

 

Both of these companies are based in Japan and have been around for around 100 years. They are also the two largest piano manufacturers in the world. Both the longevity and output of pianos is simply stunning and both companies are well respected within the piano community.

 

Yamaha and Kawai both have factories in different countries and each one outputs different models and types of pianos. When it comes to judging these companies side-by-side you really have to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

 

There is no point in comparing a promotional level Yamaha piano to a hand-made Shigeru-Kawai, just as comparing a top of the line Yamaha S series to an Indonesian-made Kawai has no value. Each company has different tiers of pianos – from the most affordable basic models to ultra-high-end performance models.

 

So if you’re comparing similar styles and models of pianos between the two companies, which is better? Honestly it comes down more to personal taste than anything else. However, there are some guidelines for you to follow to see which brand is right for you.

 

Many people are drawn to the clarity of tone of Yamaha pianos – sometimes perceived as a bright sound. That’s why it’s a very popular choice for pop and rock musicians (such as Elton John). The sound of Yamahas are able to cut through a mix better than other pianos which can be of real benefit for some styles of music. The actions on the pianos are also first class.

 

Kawai pianos are also known for their actions – including their Blak series which contain composite materials. Many people are drawn to Kawai pianos which tend to have a warmer tone than Yamaha pianos.

 

Whether a piano is bright or warm can also have a lot to do with the voicing of the instrument (the hardness of the felt on the hammers). However, there are general tendencies of sound that are evident. The characteristics of Kawai pianos being warm and Yamaha pianos being bright are not universal. Each piano has to be assessed for what it is. The size, model, voicing and unique sound of each instrument comes into play.

 

There is a lot more to determine when selecting between Kawai and Yamaha pianos, but it really comes down to personal taste and the exact pianos you are comparing. Both Yamaha and Kawai make pianos on all levels from entry level to concert instruments. When you find a piano you love, it’s the right piano whatever the brand name.

 

Thanks again for joining us here at Living Pianos. If you have any questions about this topic or any others, please contact us at: Info@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-372

  Two of the most popular piano companies in the world, Yamaha and Kawai, have competed with each other for decades. Many people wonder which piano is better. Despite this being a controversial topic, we are going to answer this in an honest way.   Both of these companies are based in Japan and have been around for around 100 … Continue reading Yamaha Pianos Vs. Kawai Pianos – Which is Better?

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