Piano arranging is the
process by which you take a written piece of music and rework it with
chords, adding new bass accompaniment, fills, or even slightly altering
the song's structure. And while it's a process that takes years to truly
master, anyone with a basic education in piano and a working knowledge
of a few key techniques can create an inventive, satisfying arrangement.
It all boils down to one thing: chord recognition. And anyone who plays
a little piano can learn piano chords to add excitement to their piano
Most people learn to play the piano by playing just the
written music. Playing by written music is exactly what the phrase says
it is -- playing the exact notation on a piece of sheet music. But
playing by chord symbol is a little different. Instead of following the
harmony note by note, you follow the chord symbols (i.e. C7 or F)
written above the harmonies, filling in the gaps with...well, whatever
you want as long as it sticks to those chords. Of course, you'll still
read the melody (it is, after all, often what makes the song
recognizable) but even that is completely open to interpretation.
Playing by chord symbol allows you a freedom that playing by written
music simply doesn't. The freedom to create. The freedom to invent. The
freedom to arrange chord patterns in the way you want.
Does that mean playing by written music is less important
than playing by chord symbol? Absolutely not! The ability to play by
written music is an extremely valuable skill, one that even some of the
most famous musicians don't possess. And while you don't necessarily
need to know the skill backwards and forwards to create great
arrangements, it's a tremendous help.
Think about it this way. Some of the most revered modern
artists create paintings that look very simple, very rudimentary. But
the majority of those artists went to art school for years before they
began creating that sort of work. They learned the fundamentals of
drawing and painting, of color composition and light; they learned to
draw or paint something exactly as it actually looks. Only after they
mastered those skills did they move on to create the simple, yet often
innovative, work that hangs in galleries and museums -- work that still
abides by several basic principles. They learned the craft before
bringing their imagination into it; after all, you have to understand
the rules in order to break them.
So after you have learned the basics of reading piano
sheet music, consider learning chords and chord symbols (such as G7, Fm,
etc.) and chord progressions. There are many places online where you can
learn all about chords – just type in “chords” or “chord piano” into
your search browser, and you will find several to choose from. When you
can both read the written sheet music and then add chords and chord
progressions to your piano playing, you have the very best of all
Duane Shinn is the author of over 500 music books and
products such as DVD's, CD's, musical games for kids, chord charts,
musical software, and piano lesson instructional courses for adults. He
holds advanced degrees from Southern Oregon University and was the
founder of Piano University in Southern Oregon. He can be reached at
http://www.chordpiano.com. He is the author of the popular free 101-week
e-mail newsletter titled "Amazing Secrets Of Exciting Piano Chords &
Sizzling Piano Chord Progressions" with over 56,650 current subscribers.
Those interested may obtain a free subscription by going to http://www.playpiano.com.