Striking a Chord with You

This needs more views...
I push major scale mastery enough.  I push technical exercises enough.  I put internal piano mastery enough.  I realised recently that a lot of people have been asking for chord content so I've done quite a lot of videos involving chords (easy and more complex).  I then looked at my Chord Type and Progression Content playlist and was both surprised and disappointed.  First, because I have put over 110 videos in this dedicated playlist so far and secondly, because not even 2,000 people have seen it!

I am therefore writing this article, for your benefit, to promote it by sharing some of my favourite videos from it and why you would do well to at least start with them.  I trust you will then go through the playlist in your own time as a priority and try out some of the ideas and then be very pleased at the rapid progress, in various ways, you will begin to experience.
Chords are not only used as a left hand accompaniment; the right hand also plays chords and often, melodies are based heavily on their notes (which makes melody memorisation a lot easier).  Although there are a ton of chord types and inversions, then being able to play all those in all 12 keys, you do not need to be put off because all you need to do is learn a few basic templates and apply them to your major scale mastery (this being why MS mastery is paramount) and the chord will magically appear!

The Water Pianist has mastered the chords in something like the order presented in the danthecomposer piano challenge, which I strongly recommend:  1 3 5 7 (Major 7), 1 3 5 b7 (dominant 7th), 1 b3 5 7 (mM7), 1 b3 5 b7 (minor 7th) - (the four primary chord types), followed by 1 3 5 6 and 1 b3 5 6... (6th and minor 6th), followed by the two diminished chord types: 1 b3 b5 6 and 1 b3 b5 b7 (whole and half-diminished respectively).  Then you can add some others if you want, like the sus4 (1 4 5), sus2 (1 2 5), augmented (1 3 #5) and if you wish, some jazz chords like 13th, 9th, #11, etc. but they're a little beyond the scope of this article.

Recommendation #1

This is the primary video which gives you all the templates to every chord type.  I also encourage you to develop an 'emotional connection' to each chord type which helps when listening to music and trying to following a chord progression.  Being sensitive to chord types even helps with composition!  I hear chords in my head and know what they are.  I don't have perfect pitch but I can hear the chord progression and types then when I'm at the piano, I find the key I heard them in and I'm away!  I recommend trying to hear a chord type, name it and play it to see if you were right or to play one on the the piano (or use an ear training app) and see how well you got it.  You can't forget emotions so a half-diminished will always sound/feel like a half-diminished (unsettled, nervous, wanting to resolve) or an augmented will always sound/feel like an augmented (also unsettled but more dominating and leading than the nervous half-diminished).  Try it.  You'll see what I mean.

Recommendation #2

I like this one because you can use whatever chord types you want and you get both a performance practice (using legato and both hands) and also a finger practice by playing only one note of the chord while the other fingers keep the other chord tones pressed.  Both exercises require a bit of brain power but there's no pressure in terms of fancy chords or high tempos; just choose a chord, even a major or minor triad and enjoy using both hands to play the notes across two octaves, even using an octave stretch to play the right hand notes.  An enjoyable, stress-free pair of exercises indeed.

Recommendation #3

This one gives you major scale mastery reinforcement, a finger work out and a bit of tempo pressure if you use a metronome.  You choose a key, choose a chord type and then using both hands, bounce from the left-most finger through that chord type but only playing the notes of the major scale you have chosen.  The video is full of demonstrations of different chord types in different keys.  This requires a good level of major scale mastery and finger endurance but is very, very beneficial if done quite often.

Recommendation #4

This may appear to be similar to #3 but it isn't.  Yes, your left hand chooses a chord type and bounces or is played chromatically but the main point is how your right and left hands are doing something different with that chord: the left hand is bouncing it while the right hand is playing it staccato over two octaves.  It sounds pretty musical, too!  This is a little less about major scale mastery than the previous one and more about precision over octaves, combined with hand independence.

So as you can see, there's quite a lot that you can do with chords and many ways you can benefit from them.  I always like the expression 'use and abuse' when it comes to technical exercises and theory because it makes you realise that what appears dry and boring can actually be made into fun, often musical-sounding games.  So don't just play major scales up and down like a machine and don't just lifelessly play chords; that doesn't motivate anybody.  Try to use and abuse them; twist and turn them into games at the piano using various fingerings and rhythms, or use your internal piano to master templates and see if you can develop emotional connections, etc.

All the music you ever want to play or may compose will be require you to have a good level of chord mastery so do give this playlist a bit more consideration and, as always, share your progress in the comments section to inspire others!