Category Archives: piano songs

SONGWRITING: Left-hand piano patterns

Something that everyone who plays piano should work on improving is their left hand, especially when it comes to songwriting and pop accompaniment.

This page has a handful of great exercises to help people with pattern improvisation. Well worth a look, whether you read sheet music or not… if you don’t, just listen to the audio examples…. but it’s really helpful if you read music, though.

I’ve been so busy, so I apologize for not updating this blog as much as I used to… more good stuff coming soon…

http://www.dummies.com/how-to/content/great-lefthand-accompaniment-patterns-for-the-pian.html

 

Advertisements

SONGWRITING: Learn from the greats.

Seriously. We are all bombarded by new/current/hot music. In the indie world, people are all about Half Moon Run, Daughter, Grimes, and First Aid Kit. They’re all great. But you know what you need to listen to more of?

Everly Brothers
Beach Boys / Brian Wilson
Buddy Holly
Loretta Lynn
Hank Williams
George Gershwin
any 50s balladry (Gene Vincent, Flamingos, anything doo-wop)
Chuck Berry
Ritchie Valens
Eddie Cochran
Leonard Cohen
Bob Dylan
Joan Baez
Joni Mitchell
Carole King
James Taylor
Billy Joel
Elton John

Ya know? Man, is that music good. I’ve been listening to a lot of it this past weekend. At the end of February, it’s 61 outside in the Philly suburbs. Holy shit, man. This music’s perfect for it.

Listen to this absolute mastery… vocal harmonies… the writing…


And listen to a modern girl (Lauren O’Connell, half of My Terrible Friend, with Nataly Dawn of Pomplamoose)… and her perfect spin on it:

So much to learn from all of this classic music. Man….. ya know? And I LOVE new shit… believe me… I’m always on the up and up when it comes to discovering new bands and introducing people to new, great shit… but please do not forget about where all the great songwriting started (in the 50s and 60s).

Listen to THIS, with headphones…. and FEEL this:

 

And feel THIS, too:

SONGWRITING: the “six four one five” revisited

So I just did a lesson with a younger student who was absolutely dying to learn how to play “Let It Go”, from the Disney movie Frozen. Sung (and I guess played) by Idina Menzel (“Maureen” from RENT, and also the main girl in Wicked)…. immediately, I noticed the 6-4-1-5 progression in the key of Ab (F minor)….. but, with a slight twist in the very beginning…

The progression is 6-4-5…. with a II chord that feels/sounds like a Bsus4 to Bbm in bar 4.

Without getting too technical… my god, is this song catchy. It’s because of that insane 6-4-1-5 progression (in the chorus… as I – V – vi – IV), that has driven hit songs for over 50 years. Use it if you haven’t. I’ve found that this progression helps one come up with vocal melodies/lyrics almost instantly… it’s the magic of this progression, or ANY order you play it in:

 

vi – IV – I – V (Apologize by OneRepublic, this song’s chorus, and at least 947 other top 100 songs from the last ten years)

I – V – vi – IV (Let It Be by the Beatles, and every song The Axis of Awesome plays in the “Four Chord Song” YouTube video)

 

It’s overplayed, but it still rules the world.

 

 

 

SONGWRITING: John Lennon’s “Imagine” – deep analysis

Stumbled upon this while teaching one of my piano students this wonderful song– definitely worth a read.

 

http://hubpages.com/hub/Imagine_John_Lennon

 

 

SONGWRITING: The Gambler (fun.) Case Study

This is probably my favorite piano-pop/drumless song of all-time. I did a substitute bass lesson for a 10-year old three years ago and he introduced me to the song (two years before anyone gave a damn about the band, who are now pop superstars). He’s like “Show me the bassline of the Gambler by Fun!” I was like “who?”

So let’s point out the things that immediately stand out:

1. There are no drums or percussion at all.

2. The song is either in 12/8 time, or (more likely) 6/8 time.

3. It begins with basic triad arpeggios (most in root position, some as inversions).

4. There are places in the song which leave “space” (verse 2), where there’s no piano arpeggio… just strings added to held piano chords (strings which remain through the rest of the song, and become the busiest when the piano chills out.

5. The song is extremely well-written, lyrically. It tells the story (at least from my understanding) of a lifelong love/marriage/family… and a man’s wife who is either very sick, or terminally ill. It moves along at the absolute perfect pace…

6. The melody phrases (vocal) are consistent throughout each verse, but with just enough “lift” to keep the song from becoming stagnant. Nate R. of fun. sure knows how to write melodies. I mean, this guy is seriously fucking top-notch. Every male singer should strive for vocal melodies this interesting. But I honestly think they just come to him…. in the same way very interesting vocal melodies often come to pop/indie female singer/songwriters (some that come to mind including A Fine Frenzy, Gregory and the Hawk, Ingrid Michaelson, etc). The melody is ALWAYS the thing that makes someone love a song FIRST (and forever). Always remember that.

7. In the 2nd verse, we hear a quarter-note triplet on the “collective hearts” line.

8. The lyrics have a lot of internal rhyme– rhymes in the MIDDLE of lines, not just at the end.

lyrics:

Slow down, we’ve got time left to be lazy
All the kids have bloomed from babies into flowers in our eyes
We’ve got fifty good years left to spend out in the garden
I don’t care to beg your pardon, we should live until we die

We were barely eighteen when we crossed collective hearts
It was cold, but it got warm when you barely crossed my eye
And then you turned, put out your hand, and you asked me to dance
I knew nothing of romance, but it was love at second sight

I swear when I grow up I won’t just buy you a rose
I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely
For even if the sun stops waking up over the fields
I will not leave, I will not leave ’til it’s our time
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side

It was the winter of ’86, all the fields had frozen over
So we moved to Arizona to save our only son
And now he’s turned into a man, though he thinks just like his mother
He believes we’re all just lovers, he sees hope in everyone

And even though she moved away, we always get calls from our daughter
She has eyes just like her father’s, they are blue when skies are gray
And just like him she never stops, never takes the day for granted
Works for everything that’s handed to her, never once complains

You think that I nearly lost you when the doctors tried to take you away
Like the night you took my hand beside the fire thirty years ago to this day,
You swore you’d be here ’til we decide that it’s our time
But it’s not time, you never quit in all your life
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side
You’re the love of my life, you know that I will never leave your side

You come home from work, and you kiss me on the eye
You curse the dog, you say that I should never feed them what is ours
So we move out to the garden, look at everything we’ve grown
And the kids are coming home so I’ll set the table…. you can make the fire.

This is how timeless songs are written, ladies and gentlemen. Play this song for your loved one on Christmas Day, or whatever holiday you may celebrate (and of course, play it for them on their birthday).

Happy holidays!

P.S. I dedicate this lovely song to Hanna from Hungary (even though she never reads this blog as she is an incredible artist, but not a musician, she means the world to me, and makes me think of this song).