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More on 'Speaking Piano'

'Speaking Piano' cements chords and scales and opens up students ears to all kinds of music. Students will memorize more easily because they can ‘speak music’!

How can we teach this?

Start each lesson with a 5 min improv warmup. Play improvisations with I - IV - V to get them into your student’s musical souls. We all learn best when we PLaY :-)

Introduce a concept and immediately use it in an improv. Don’t know an F major scale? Try the F major chord to start. Then build up to the F penta scale next week and the full scale the third week.

Here’s a lesson plan example...

Lesson Warmup for 5 minutes:

Teacher or student picks any key from the Circle of Fifths and creates a I-IV-V pattern. If this progression isn’t in your fingers start with the Practice With Me Blogs from Fall 2018. They are easy to do.

Using I-IV-V create a 4-bar pattern starting and ending with a I chord. Choose a Key, a Pattern and a Voicing.


  • Key = F

  • Pattern: I - IV - V - I ( F - Bb - C - F )

  • Voicing: start with the I chord in root position and work out nice voicings for the other chords. For eg. F - A - C to F - Bb - D to E - G -C to F - A - C. I’m purposely not writing this out in musical notation for better ear is development.

  • Play a duet. Teacher plays bass chords while student noodles on top then switch places. If you are terrified of improvising with your student (I used to be :-)) practice on your own by recording a groove and noodling.

  • Start simply by playing one chord per bar in the bass and noodling on top by outlining the chord. No reading, just listening and absorbing the sound and the feel of the chord. Play the chord from top to bottom, bottom to top and inside out.

  • As you feel more comfortable expand the chord pattern in the bass to a Rock, Swing or Latin rhythm and expand the noodling to penta-scales, major scales, mixolydian scales and blues scales. If you have a keyboard with styles or drum patterns use them as background. They make the best metronomes and are inspiring.

This is an inspiring way to start off a lesson. You are making music that no one has written! While you are playing duets with your student they will be learning to listen, cement basic musical skills and play by ear!

OK, ok, I'll give in and write out some grooves to get you started. PLEASE only look at them for suggestions. DO NOT read them at the piano. This exercise is to enhance note-readers skills by adding ear and improv skills. Download this printable free until February 15, 2019 with coupon GROOVE

Start by playing the bass only for 4-8 bars to get the feel of the groove before adding the improv. Each groove has repeat signs and are meant to be repeated 6-20 times with a slightly different improv each time.

Remember this is NOT a reading exercise. Look away from the music, listen and play. Try one or two grooves each lesson. Sometimes you may want to spend the entire 5 mins repeating just one of the grooves.

Make mistakes, make BaD music, laugh lot's and don't be afraid.

Let your ear gently guide you to some nice sounds.

Pick a new key each week and send me a recording :-)

Printable I-IV-V Groove - Download printable free until February 15, 2019 with coupon GROOVE

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