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Piano Lesson: Learn To Play Chords From A Fake Book

Feb 3, 2008
How can you use a fake book to become a better pianist? A fake book includes a lot of melodies due to the concise format. Let us use a fake book to make you a better chord player!

There are many things you can do with just one song in a fake book. In this piano lesson we will focus on the chords of a song and how we can use them in a piano practice session.

You can learn to play piano chords in many different ways. Here are just a few examples:

1. You can focus on just one chord memorizing it in twelve keys and then learning another chord the same way. This way of learning chords can be effective if you concentrate long enough on the chords committing them to your long term memory. Some people find this way of learning to mechanical and boring.

2. You can work on learning chord progressions by heart an then applying them in all twelve keys. You can find such chord voicings in piano method books or you can "invent" you own progressions and voicings. Maybe this approach is a little bit more interesting than the before mentioned method.

3. You can learn chords in a more creative way by just deciding to work on finding out variations of a chord as you sit down playing. For example, figure out as many nice sounding variations of the chord Cmaj7 as you can.

4. You can learn progressions and voicings in a more creative way too. For example, play the chord sequence C, A7, Dm7, G7 over and over again trying to create smooth chord changes in an improvised manner.

5. Compose your own chord progressions and write them down with sheet music notation. In the process of writing them down you will probably trigger your creative mind to come up with interesting piano chord voicings that you never have thought of before and that you also can share with others that can read sheet music.

6. Focus on a melody you like and use is as a basis for your piano chord practicing sessions. One melody can be the source of many chord exercises and at the same time you will have a melody at your disposal to play to others.

In this piano lesson we will focus on the sixth suggestion on piano chord practicing. Now we will delve a bit into the art of playing from a fake book.

Actually, what is a fake book?

It is a book with songs and melodies written with sheet music notation. It is produced in a concise format with only melody, lyrics and chord names. The songs have the lyrics beneath the notes and above the notes you will find the names of the appropriate chords to play. In other words, the notes of the chords are not written out. This way of notating gives you the choice to interpret the performance your own way.

Let us take a look at the previous suggestions on how to practice piano chord playing by using a fake book. Here are some ways you can play the chord suggestions above the melody:

1. The first step is to play the melody with your right hand and the chord voicings with your left hand. Practice to play the chords in different ways and practice to move smoothly between chords as you practice playing the chord changes.

2. The next step is to play the bass notes with your left hand and the melody and chords in your right hand. This means that some of the melody notes will be embellished with notes from the chord suggestions. You do not have to include the left hand bass note.

3. The third level is to use both your left and right hand to play chord notes. This can give the song a professional touch if handled with elegance. There are so many ways to play a song this way that it has to be covered in a separate article. You can listen to solo piano recordings to find inspiration. You can also play written out arrangements in sheet music notation of melodies to build up your ability and taste in this area.
About the Author
Peter Edvinsson is a pianist, composer and music teacher. He invites you to download your free piano sheet music at http://www.capotastomusic.com
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