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After some practice over the course of the past two weeks, I’ve basically had more fun trying to learn the notes of some songs I enjoy using Synthesia, see my previous post. I’ve tried to learn Coldplay songs like “In My Place”, hoping to pair up with a friend of mine who plays drums. I’ve tried to learn love songs like “Hero” by Enrique Iglesias to “woo” my partner. I could even combine this with learning Spanish while I’m at it to go all at with an app like Duolingo.

Amidst my practice of learning the keys on the keyboard… I decided to once again enlist some informal help from my friend, Paul McCorriston… and he told me: “If you want to sing when you play piano – learn chords. Don’t worry about sheet music, sheet music just helps you count rhythms… but if you already know a songs rhythm, you’re good!” Combine his assumption that I would want to sing while I played piano with reflections on my choice of songs (like those listed above) and it very bluntly addressed one of the big reasons why I wanted to learn some of these songs… to connect with others who are important to me. A connection I failed to make is the endgame and why for me to learn piano was to sing as well. I love to sing (shower, car, in class, don’t matter)… and playing piano while doing so adds a great amount of validity to singing. This led me to re-assessing my outcomes.

Cloud 1

Previous outcomes and (current status):
I can confidently play parts of several songs using both hands simultaneously on the piano. (Progressing)
I can identify what each key is on the keyboard (Complete).
I can learn and play several chords (Progressing).
I can read sheet music confidently (Progressing – less important).
I can learn parts of songs I enjoy (Progressing).

New outcome: I can sing while playing chords.

So! Crash course! I have to start learning chords and understanding the landscape of the piano better. What is a chord? A chord, on a piano, is when three or more keys are played simultaneously. And I want to know some tips to playing with both hands for chords… so I looked it up.

C chord, G chord? Middle C – what are these even? I can infer from context but let’s gather some background information. There is a vast library of chords, and now that I have mastered what the keys are called, I need to learn how to find middle c and understand how some of these chords work.

Finding Middle C
Upon scouring the internet for information I found info to aid in my goal and allow me to better get to know the piano and where certain notes are located. I learned how to find Middle C. Typically it’s located in the middle of the piano, but sometimes it’s location may vary given the size of your piano. BONUS LEARNING (yay)! My keyboard has 61 keys, as such my middle C is the third C on my piano.

Understanding Chords
So how do I understand how these chords work? Or get their names? The video below helped supplement what I learned from Paul about the Circle of Fifths. What is a fifth? If I had my hand on middle C? Basically the range of notes/keys from that C to the upcoming G to the right.

a fifth is the interval from the first to the last of five consecutive notes in a diatonic scale.

  • Don Michael Randel (2003), “Interval”, Harvard Dictionary of Music, fourth edition (Cambridge, MA:Harvard University Press): p. 413

Circle of fifths: down by five (a fifth) – sharp it, then lower the fourth. The first 2 minutes are the most applicable… the remaining work is a bit ahead of where I want to be in understanding at this point.

circle of fifths.png
Circle of Fifths from Wikipedia

Since I have what each key is on the keyboard down. A lot of chord tutorials should begin to make sense as I learn to use the circle of fifths. If I can begin to grasp it, learning chords should become much easier. Hopefully I can get a video up soon with me learning some chords.

Any tips for me? Any mistakes I maybe made that you caught and can correct? Let me know in the comments. Keep loving music!

– Logan Petlak


Coming weeks learning topics:

Sheet music notes

I want to take a brief look at sheet music just to understand it a bit better. Apparently there is a connection between fifths and sheet music.
I know there’s whole notes, half notes, quarter notes, eighth notes. What do these look like?
Addressing the phrase: “every song is in a key”

Looping on the keyboard
I’m going to try to learn if I can loop what I play on the keyboard. Ed Sheeran example with guitar below. Can I split the keyboard to play different things to make a more appealing show?

Four chord song
A comedy group addresses the ease of making music using four chords. Can I learn these four chords?