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Playing Piano? These 11 Tips Will Help To Make Your Chords More Interesting

audiosorcerer
|
August 8, 2023 
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Last Updated on August 8, 2023

When it comes to creating beautiful melodies and soothing sounds that put your heart at ease, the piano is just the right instrument you need. This fascinating instrument has the ability to produce notes so rich and resonant that it can touch the deepest parts of your soul. That’s why having a good command of this instrument is highly rewarding from a musical standpoint.

If you’re new to this instrument or trying to take your piano-playing skills to a higher level, it’s time you learn some new tricks that can help you master the chords. So, here are 11 useful tips to make your piano chords more interesting and help showcase your creativity to make the magic happen. 

1. Learn From Other Instruments

Playing piano is all about freeing yourself and opening up to creativity. If you want to embrace the chords fully, don't limit yourself to learning only from piano-centric music.

You have the freedom to take inspiration from various instruments and musical styles. Listening to guitar players, saxophonists, vocalists, and other instrumentalists will expose you to unique approaches to chords and harmonies.

For example, guitar players often use different fingerings and voicings for chords compared to pianists. If you play guitar chords on piano, you will gain a new perspective, expanding your prowess as a pianist.

2. Experiment With Inversions 

If you want to master new piano chords, one great option is to experiment with inversions. But what are inversions? Well, inversions are simply different positions of the same chord where the notes are rearranged.

This is an essential technique for pianists to add variety and fluidity to their chord progressions. When you invert a chord, you can change its color and create smooth transitions between chords in a progression. 

This allows you to create new chord voicings that can smooth out transitions between chords and add more colorful harmonies.

For instance, if you have a C major chord (C-E-G), try playing it with E as the lowest note (E-G-C) or G as the lowest note (G-C-E). If you can master the inversion technique, you’ll add a delightful twist to your progressions and make them more interesting.

3. Get Creative With Extended Chords 

Extended chords can incorporate additional tones in your piano. So, don't shy away from adding extended chords, as they can increase the richness and complexity of your music.

Common extended chords include seventh chords (e.g., Cmaj7, Dm7), ninth chords (e.g., C9, Gm9), and eleventh chords (e.g., Fmaj11, Bm11). These extended chords add depth and sophistication even to a simple tune.

If you want to make a sound that requires emotional impact and rich harmony, using extended chords is a must. You can try different voicings and inversions of your chosen extended chords to find out which combinations work well together. 

4. Apply Chord Substitutions

Chord substitutions are a secret weapon in the piano player's arsenal. It’s because they are a fantastic way to surprise your audience and add unexpected twists to your chord progressions.

For this, you can replace a chord with another that shares similar notes or functions, giving a fresh perspective on a familiar progression. 

Let's consider a common chord progression in the key of C major: C - G - Am - F. To add a substitution, you could replace the Am chord with an E7 chord. Both Am and E7 share the notes C and E, which creates a seamless transition between the two chords.

The E7 chord introduces a dominant function, leading smoothly to the F chord, and makes the progression more interesting.

5. Add Color With Suspended Chords 

Suspended chords create a sense of anticipation and resolution in your music. These "sus" chords replace the third of a triad with the second or fourth degree of the scale.

Suspended chords are best suited when you have to add drama and emotion to your chord progressions.  Instead of playing a regular C major chord (C-E-G), try using a Csus2 chord (C-D-G) or a Csus4 chord (C-F-G).

The unresolved nature of these chords creates a sense of tension. You can resolve it by transitioning to a standard C major chord or moving to another chord in the progression. You can also get online piano lessons to master the suspended chords.

6. Employ Pedals Selectively

The sustain pedal is a powerful tool that lets you extend the resonance of the piano's notes and give them a more profound and lush quality.

However, using the sustain pedal indiscriminately can muddy the sound and make it less engaging. So, we would suggest using the pedal in a more thoughtful and selective way. 

For that, you can try "half-pedaling," where you partially depress the pedal to sustain certain notes while allowing others to remain clear and distinct.

This technique works well when playing chords with complex harmonies because it maintains clarity while adding a touch of sustain.

Knowing when and how to use the sustain pedal will elevate your chord playing to a more polished and professional level.


Related Article: Top 5 Best Piano VSTs For Every Music Producer's Toolkit


7. Add Jazz Chord Voicings 

Jazz chord voicings are renowned for their sophisticated and jazzy sound. These voicings often involve using extended chords and adding alterations to standard triads. For instance, you can play a Cmaj7 chord as C-E-G-B, or add a sharp 11 (F#) to it for a Cmaj7#11 chord.

You can use jazz chord voicings in various styles of music, not just jazz. They offer a rich and complex harmonic palette that can add depth and intrigue to your chord progressions.

With these unique voicings, your music will open up a whole new world of creative possibilities.

8. Mix Major And Minor Tones 

Blending major and minor chords within the same progression can create a bittersweet and emotionally evocative atmosphere. This technique is commonly used in popular music to elicit a wide range of feelings, from happiness to melancholy.

You can start a verse with a bright and uplifting major chord progression and transition to a minor chord progression for the chorus, adding a sense of emotional intensity. The juxtaposition of major and minor tones can create a powerful and expressive musical experience for your listeners.

9. Experiment And Trust Your Ears 

The most important aspect of making your chords more interesting is to experiment freely and trust your ears.

As a pianist, you have the freedom to explore various chord progressions, voicings, and harmonies. It’s crucial to try out different chord combinations, chord progressions, and harmonic textures to find a unique tone.

Play around with chord inversions, extended chords, and substitutions. Take risks and follow your instincts. Some ideas may work exceptionally well, while others may not resonate with you as much.

Trust your ears to guide you in creating chords that evoke the emotions and feelings you want to convey in your music.

10. Try Modal Interchange 

Modal interchange is a powerful technique that involves borrowing chords from parallel scales. It means incorporating chords from the key's relative major or minor scale into your progression.

This adds an element of surprise and intrigue to your music, as it introduces unexpected chords while still maintaining the overall tonal center. It's like inviting a new guest to the party while still keeping the main vibe intact.

So, let's say you're jamming in the key of C major, and you want to spice things up a bit. Try borrowing chords from the parallel C minor scale – like Ab major or Eb major – and throw them into the mix. This way, you can add unique flavors and colors to your chord progressions which can have a positive impact on your music career.

11. Use Pedal Points 

A pedal point is like having a note that stays constant while other chords change around it. This technique can add a sense of stability and continuity to your music while allowing you to explore more adventurous chord progressions.

For instance, you can use the C note as a pedal point while playing different chords above it, like Cmaj7, Fmaj7, and G7. The C note acts as an anchor while the surrounding chords create movement and tension, resulting in a captivating and harmonically rich progression.

Conclusion  

As a pianist, you have the freedom to experiment and explore various techniques to find your unique musical voice. With these tips mentioned above, you’ll have the necessary tools at your disposal to make your piano chords stand out and captivate your audience.

Trust your instincts and let your creativity guide you on a thrilling journey of making your piano chords more interesting and expressive. So, keep practicing, keep playing, and enjoy the process of making beautiful and captivating music.

Some of the links within this article are affiliate links. These links are from various companies such as Amazon. This means if you click on any of these links and purchase the item or service, I will receive an affiliate commission. This is at no cost to you and the money gets invested back into Audio Sorcerer LLC."

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