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Popular Piano Lessons: Improvisation Exercise: Amazing Grace - Part 1-5

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[MUSIC]
Welcome to basic
improvisation.
We're gonna be using a classic hymn,
Amazing Grace because it has some very
simple chord progressions that I think
would be a great starting point
to understand how to improvise.
And we're gonna be talking
a little bit about chord theory,
how the chords are constructed, and
then how you can start playing around with
them to play things like Amazing Grace.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Amazing Grace is composed of basically
three chords, at least in this version.
We have, and
if you take a look at the sheet music,
I've written as if it was a lead sheet.
So you have a melody [SOUND] with
chord symbols written on top of them.
So for example, [SOUND] you see
the letter G here [SOUND] and
then you see the letter C here [SOUND],
and
back to G [SOUND] and
then we go on [SOUND].
[SOUND] And then we see the letter D.
Tied over,
[SOUND]
G, C, G.
[SOUND] Now the implication is,
if you don't see a different letter,
that you can repeat that same chord
that was previously introduced.
So if you wanted to,
you could play another G here
even though it's not written out.
[SOUND] And here's a D chord.
[SOUND] G.
Okay, so before we move on,
I'm gonna assume that you can
at least do some basic reading to
understand what the note names are.
It's gonna be very important.
So if you're not comfortable with that,
please review the lessons that go through
the introduction of the clefts,
the note names, get familiar with this.
And I suggest that you also practice
playing the melody like I just played
a couple of times and
try to get comfortable with it.
So that we can start adding things to it..
So get it comfortable in
your right hand alone first.
And once you're ready,
let's start diving in and
interpret what those chord symbols mean.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Three
different chords.
G, C, and D.
When you see the letter
names by themselves,
they imply that you
are playing major chords.
So let's take a look at
how to build a chord.
First of all, we have to start with a G.
So here's our G, three black keys
right in the middle of the first two.
To build a chord,
you're gonna add a middle note and
then one more on top of that.
Now, let's analyze this a little more
carefully because we're gonna have to
understand how chords are built exactly.
From [SOUND] the first note,
the bottom note which is the note name,
the chord name G, to the middle note.
It's comprised of two whole steps.
What is a whole step?
A whole step is comprised
of two half steps.
From here to the very next note
which is the closest distance,
that is one-half step.
And from here to here
is another half step.
So from here this combines
into one whole step.
Okay?
So that's one whole step,
another half step, another half step.
So this from here to here is considered
two whole steps away from the bottom note.
Okay?
Now, from this to the top
note would be a whole,
whole, half and then another whole.
We call this a perfect fifth.
It's two and
a half steps away from the bottom note.
One, two, oops easy, three and
a half steps from the bottom note.
So it's comprised of A, we call this a
major third when you have two whole steps
here and a perfect fifth, three and
a half steps from the bottom here.
And if you're familiar with scales.
[MUSIC]
Another way to think of this is the third
note of the scale and
then the fifth note of the scale.
Okay?
That is a G major chord.
Now, let's take a look
at the C major chord.
Again, starting on C, look for
the two black keys here.
Here's a C over here, and
then again, let's count it out.
Whole step,
whole step to that middle note.
All right?
[SOUND] And
let's find the top note over here.
Whole, whole, another whole,
and then a half.
Did you see how we did that?
There's no black key here, so from here
to here is another half step, half step.
So from here to here is a whole step and
then from here to there is our half step.
So three and a half, one, two, three and
a half steps to the perfect fifth above.
And again, going up the scale.
Third note, fifth note.
That is our C major scale.
The last chord we're gonna
take a look at is D major.
So now let's find, this is C, here is D.
So first whole step.
Now, take a look at this, half, half.
So now, we're actually gonna
be playing a black key.
For the middle note of a D major chord.
Whole, whole, whole, half.
Three and
a half steps to go to the fifth over here.
So our D major chord is
comprised of these three notes.
And if you were to play a D major scale,
this would be the third note,
this black key, F sharp.
Okay?
[SOUND] The third and
fifth notes of a D major scale.
So that's why when you're making chords,
it's not simply skipping notes.
You actually have to measure
out how far the notes are, and
they generally coincide with making
scales out of the bottom notes.
Okay?
Good.
So we have G major, C major, and D major.
Now, with those three basic notes
comprising each of those cords,
we can simply break them
up into different patterns.
So for example, the most basic way of
course, is to play the cord all at once,
all three notes together or
you can play the three notes separately,
we would call this a melodic cord.
[MUSIC]
That would be a G major melodic
progression see,
we can play these three notes
just one at a time
[MUSIC]
C major.
We're gonna do the same thing here
[MUSIC]
D major.
[SOUND] Same idea.
Three notes here,
play them simply one at a time.
Now, great exercise is to take
each of these chords, and
play Amazing Grace with them.
So for example,
[MUSIC]
C major.
[MUSIC]
Back to G major.
[MUSIC]
Now, D major.
[MUSIC]
So I would practice that.
Give it a try.
See if how quickly you can jump between
those three chord positions and
simply play them as melodic
chords underneath the melody.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
All right,
let's continue on.
Now instead of just playing
them all one at a time,
another pattern to explore
would be a broken chord.
Where you play one note and then you can
play the rest of the notes together.
So here's an example of
a G major broken chord.
C major broken chord.
D major broken chord.
And the idea of this is to give
you some variety of rhythm.
So instead of having the left hand
play the same thing all the time.
You could mix it up between broken chords,
melodic chords or
even single block chords,
so for example
[MUSIC].
This is a broken chord example.
Now here, since you have some extra time
on this note, it's a little bit longer.
See, I could break it up like that,
a combination of melodic and
to fill up the time that we're
waiting on this note before going on.
Give that a try.
[MUSIC]
[MUSIC]
Now let's take a look at some other useful
ways of taking what you've
learned about chords and
applying them for different sounds.
Sometimes, you may want to
simply outline the chord.
Now this is gonna become very useful when
we start adding chords to your right-hand,
we're gonna take a look
at that in just a bit.
So if you just take the bottom note and
the top note of those three note chord,
you create an outline of the harmony.
So this is a G major outline,
C major outline and a D major outline.
And again,
it depends on the texture you want.
You can play them together or
play them separately like this.
[MUSIC]
Much more simple.
[MUSIC]
So again, another option to explore.
It's a little empty sounding, cuz you
don't have all the notes there, but
we'll take a look at ways
to fill this up as well.
[MUSIC]