Method: Improv and Songs

“find the main hook; build everything else around that”…..Avicii

Playing music can take several forms; from replicating song melodies, or improvisation on a song melody, to free improv without a melody. Free improv is quite easy because no memory or practice of an established note pattern is required. For playing songs, focusing on the song’s “hook” is a quick and helpful way to begin.

The “2 Sounds of Music” method is most easily applied on piano or keyboard because the complete scale of notes is linear and obvious for finding basic chords and melody notes. Another unique piano advantage is that left hand harmony chords and right hand melody notes can be played simultaneously. Also, color coding is easy on piano keys, but not so on guitar strings or other instruments.

For guitar and all other instruments, as well as vocals, the “2 Sounds of Music” theory and methods can be applied with amazing results as part of the “improvise harmony” exercise.

This method simplifies the learning process by using only the white keys on the keyboard. Hours of improv, and most songs can be played with only the white keys, although some melodies may sound slightly different, but still very identifiable and appealing.

Easy recognition of the two note groups can be defined by placing colored dots or tape on piano keys of the even numbers as seen in the photo. (put one half of a marker on the one note because it fits in both groups) During the learning process, this visual aid is very helpful for instant differentiation of note choices.

A rhythm framework for all your playing is essential. Use an eight count rhythm pattern by counting in your head or feeling it in your natural senses. Play 8 count sequences (called “measures”) linked together. (using a metronome or a keyboard built in drum beat can be very helpful)

It is recommended that while playing, you continuously hold down the piano sustain pedal, the one on the right side, or on an electronic keyboard use a sustain patch. This effect ties the sounds together adding continuity and beauty.

Playing improv The simplest way to start playing is with pure improv, no melody. All you need are basic chords, note patterns, and rhythm, which are the 3 fundamental components of music. You can improvise music in simple form just by playing and holding left hand chords in rhythm segments, while you randomly play mostly notes of that same chord with your right hand.

Try improvised playing in alternating rhythm segments between the white and blue key groups. Strike a left hand chord on the one count and hold it while you play random notes of the same color on 2 through 8 counts. The most common chord to begin playing is the 1 chord. Passing notes in either color sound good and are encouraged.

You can play the left hand chords with all three notes struck together, or as individual notes in a rhythmic pattern as part of the 8 count measure. Interweaving or alternating the playing of notes in your left hand chord with notes of your right hand improv, delivers an advanced sounding result.
See the improv video on the website, and also try playing with the Youtube backing tracks as described on the “improvise harmony” page.

Playing songs “Sounding out” the melodic phrases of a song is a “trial and error” ear and finger picking process with your right hand on the keyboard. Once you’ve found it, you can apply basic left hand chords creating the harmony to make your music complete. The one chord -1,3,5 notes (home group), and the two chord- 2,4,6 notes (away group), may be all you need to play a song; adding the three chord and sometimes the four chord will complete most any song.

A song’s hook is it’s most identifiable phrase of notes that sticks in your memory. In most songs, within the hook you can hear the crucial move between the two sound groups defined in the “2 Sounds of Music” Theory. The hook’s power or appeal is usually heard at the actual point of the shift.

An exercise to start playing uses example song hooks of favorite songs listed in the illustration; what you see are the melody note numbers. You will play left hand chords to harmonize with the notes. In each song the left hand 1 chord is played first and is held down while the right hand notes play. Hold that chord until a point of shift to the 2 chord simultaneously with playing the ENLARGED note you see in the hook. The one note in any octave is the first white key below any of the two black keys. The “away” notes are in blue. Small arrows indicate up or down the scale.

When you have grasped the playing of a song’s hook, then experiment with picking out additional melodic notes that expand on the song. Or just “noodle” improvised extra phrases that use similar notes over the basic chords. Be conscious of shifting between chords and notes of the two sound groups, and feel your rhythmic sense of 8 repeating counts. Playing passing notes on either color is fine and encouraged.

The “2 Sounds of Music” Method is illustrated in video on this website and on YouTube. Demonstration by a teacher who knows the method can be helpful.