Concept Based Piano Lessons

Concepts are lifelong.  When you understand a concept, you are able to recall or use that concept at any given time, whether it be today or 5 years from now. For example, I understand the underlying concept behind addition. If I stopped adding today I could add numbers 5 years from now.

So why is it that so many former piano students ( typically adults who studied in their childhood ) can’t play the piano.  I believe it is because they were not taught concepts.

Take for instance Major Scales.  I often wondered why the G major scale had an ” F# ” in it.  Well, if you know the concept of how major scales are constructed , then you know that you must ” sharp the F key” in order to maintain the ” whole – whole – half –  whole –  whole whole – half- step ” pattern by which all  major scales are constructed. As a ” Traditional piano student” from age 6 to 16, I was never taught this concept. It was always ” just play your scales”.  As a jazz piano student at age 20 I  began to understand the ” why’s ” behind the language of music.

Why is a major chord called major ?  Why is the minor chord called minor ?  Why is the augmented chord called augmented?  There are reasons why chords are named certain ways.  The major chord is called major because all the notes are generated from the major scale. So if we want to build a C major chord, we start on the C Key and play every other note of the C major Scale.  The C major scale is all white notes so the C major chord is C, E, G.  Similarly, if you know the Db major scale and you want to find a Db major chord, start on Db and play every other note of the Db major scale. By the way the ” concept” for building chords is :  Chords are built tertially, in other words every other letter of the starting notes respective scale.  So if you are building a Dmaj7 chord, you start on D and go every other note of the D major scale thus generating the notes  D, F#, A and C#.  As you can see the major scale is a very important set of notes to know. In fact the major scale is the basis for naming intervals, building chords, improvising, playing melodies and last ( and I believe least importantly) to build finger dexterity.

What are the notes of an Augmented chord?  Well the word augmented means to ” increase ” . So to build an augmented chord you ” increase” the distance from the root of the chord to the fifth of the chord by raising the 5th up a half step.  In the case of C Augmented ( written C+ ) the notes are C, E, and G#.  So we have ” augmented or increased the distance from the C to the G by half step.

What are the notes of a diminished chord. Well, this is the opposite of an Augmented chord.  Instead of ” raising or increasing ” the distance from the Root to the 5th… we will be ” decreasing or diminishing “the distance from the root to the 5th.  So in  a diminished chord we lower the 5th of the chord by half step . (By the way the diminished chord is based on the minor triad ) .  A C diminished chord, written Cdim or Co consists of C, Eb, and Gb.

My basic point is that there is a logical reason why chords are named the way they are named.  And once you understand the concept you can build any chord.

So, even if you learned one concept a week, you should expect to be playing all your 3-note chords in a month. So why does it take years to play 3 or 4 notes simultaneously in traditional lessons.  Because most teachers don’t teach concepts.

There is a great book titled  ” How To Play The Piano Despite Years of lessons”..and in it the author questions why there are so many pianos in America and why so few people know how to play them!  I think the answer is because ” Traditional ” piano lessons teach by rote, not by concepts or ideas.

I guarantee that with my unique concept-based piano lessons, you will be playing songs in days not years and you will acquire  the concepts needed to enjoy a lifetime of creative , emphasis on the word CREATIVE , music making!