I still teach private, in-person lessons at my studio in Bowie, Maryland! My lesson availability is very limited these days but I reserve Friday evenings for new students. The first lesson is FREE! Piano lessons will be split between music theory and instrumental technique, with an emphasis on a well-rounded appreciation for all styles and historic periods of music. For more information and to schedule a weekly slot, please send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org with subject "Piano lessons."
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Most of my lessons are on Skype and Zoom these days, feel free to contact me if you're interested in taking lessons remotely! All you need is a camera phone, tablet, or laptop with a webcam and you're all set. Just send me a quick message via Skype (or send an email) to email@example.com and we'll get you set up with a weekly 30-minute, 45-minute, or 60-minute slot.
No time for weekly scheduled lessons? No worries! I have already produced tons of video lessons on YouTube, covering topics like music theory, jazz harmony, piano technique, improvisation, music history, and songwriting so you can be free to learn at your own pace. I have been producing educational content on YouTube since 2017, and with 300+ videos it can get tough to keep everything organized by topic. So this page will contain my very best educational videos organized by topic for your viewing pleasure - and they are 100% free to watch!
If you like what you see and you want to support my video production efforts, please consider making a PATREON PLEDGE or visit my STORE PAGE to purchase my professionally released albums. Your support ensures that my future videos remain FREE and will educate and entertain new musicians for generations to come!
The Baby Level
Music Theory Introduction
Welcome to MUSIC THEORY 101! In this video, I explain what music theory IS, and what it ISN'T - in my opinion. Ever wondered what came first, the music or the theory? Believe it or not, the MUSIC actually came first, then the theory came later when academics tried to analyze what exactly made a musical composition "genius," which is basically just a code word for "good-sounding." Knowing this order of events is crucial for understanding how to learn music theory, how to understand music theory, and how to use music theory effectively!
The important aspect of music theory to realize is that it's not simply a set of rules that all musicians must follow. To the contrary, especially if you play jazz or gospel music many of the "rules" we learn in music theory are SUPPOSED to be broken! Here's the catch: You actually do have to LEARN the "rules" before you can really break them and still sound good, so that's why we music teachers teach it. In this video, I'm going quickly through each major phase of music theory instruction, including how to learn rhythm, how to learn harmony, and how to learn scales.
Rather than get bogged down with a bunch of math and pitches and minutiae, let's first zoom out to a bird's-eye view of the entirety of music theory to begin to understand the purpose of each of these 3 big puzzle pieces, as well as the context of how they fit together to help you develop a well-rounded musical education. Then, as we move forward into more focused concepts you'll have a sense of "how to use this stuff" rather than me giving you a bunch of information that you have no use for!
INVERSIONS (are basically re-arrangements of chord tones. It's called "inversion" instead of "re-arranging" because just like the regular word, the musical term refers to the bottom note being transposed up an octave to the top note, effectively turning that chord "upside-down." The more notes in your chord, the more possible inversions you can make! We use inversions as pianists and guitarists to make sure our MELODY NOTE is the TOP note of the chord, so this video is about understanding how melodies and chords interact to form chord progressions that sound good, make musical sense, and are easy to play.
"The Baby Level" is a 3-part video series explaining 3 basic concepts that most young pianists learn in their Level 1 and Level 2 lesson books. I call it the Baby Level because all of these music theory concepts, as well as the music theory challenges they contain should be easy enough for young musicians between the age of 6-10 years old. I have also included a few slightly more advanced twists and turns throughout this level for the late beginners or those of you who might be more experienced and just want a quick refresher!
INTERVALS tell you the distance in semitones between musical pitches, just like INCHES tell you the distance between two points at varying lengths. The reason we use intervals in music is the same reason we use inches to measure physical distances - it helps us maintain accuracy when discussing notes, chords and melodies. Knowing all your intervals also will greatly increase the speed at which you can read musical notation on a staff, so learn your intervals!
THE 5-1 RULE (or with Roman numerals, V-I rule) refers to a specific CHORD PROGRESSION. All western music, and even most non-western music utilizes the concept of chord progression (changing chords), even if they don't use these exact chords. The underlying important concept behind V-I is essentially tension-resolution. This video also briefly explains how chords relate to scales and keys.
The Big Boy Level
THE 12-BAR BLUES CHORD PROGRESSION, also known as the blues formula, the blues chord progression, or the 12-bar blues form. Popularized as early as the late 1800s, this song form was used with many types of songs including work songs, spirituals, and narrative ballads. I think the last 4 bars of this progression has some reminiscient qualities of American folk music and European classical music, even though the 12 bar blues is a Black American homegrown song structure with roots in West Africa.
The DEFINITION OF A "GROOVE" is in my opinion, a consistent inconsistency. Instead of every rhythmic part playing exactly perfect and robotically accurate, there is a very slight inconsistency that takes place when two humans attempt to play together. As long as this slight inconsistency is consistently present and not completely off-beat, the inconsistent "gap" between the two parts creates a POCKET. When all the musicians begin to feel that same exact space between rhythms, you have established a groove!
SCALES AND MODES give us musicians a simple set of 7 notes that all sound good together, out of the total possible 12 chromatic tones. That way, instead of randomly hitting notes that sound like dissonant garbage, we have a nice order to our music that greatly reduces the possibility of playing "wrong notes" - any note that lies OUTSIDE of the scale. There are, of course, 500,000 different types of scales and modes because music theorists love to make things way more complicated than they need to be... but I'm going to group all the scales and modes into 2 easy ones that will pretty much cover all your bases. And these 2 "super" modes are the ones I'm actually using 99% of the time anyway!
THE BLUES SCALE is a special flavor of scale that combines elements of major, minor, and chromatic scales. In this video, I show you how to play the blues scale on piano, how to learn the blues scale, and how to turn any other scale into a blues scale. There's also a SECRET concept in here that I love to use because it adds some extra jazzy, bluesy flavor to your boring old blues scale. This little secret I like to call The "SUPER BLUES" Scale, where we blend in even more chromatic tones for a super outside-of-the-box, yet still super easy-to-memorize scale.
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How to Improvise Jazz on Piano
How to Improvise Jazz: THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD! How to improvise Scientifically, Scientific improvisation, however you want to say it you know what it is. The Scientific Method of Jazz Improvisation! After hundreds of years of mystery, confusion, and vague platitudes about forgetting theory and being in the moment, the day has finally come. A real, beautifully simple SCIENTIFIC METHOD of jazz improvisation. This method will show you how to improvise on piano, how to improvise on guitar, and how to improvise on any instrument of your choice! It's about applying the ACTUAL scientific method to music and establishing a process of observation, measurement, experimentation, and gathering data. Many teachers will have told you it couldn't be done, it's "just not possible," but they can all get bent. For the first time in jazz music education, we finally have the magic bullet that will facilitate the complete evolution of any intermediate player into a masterful improviser using concepts we all learned in elementary school.
THE ENERGY ALGORITHM is all about improving your improv! Once you learn the scales, the modes, the chromatic passing tones, and chord substitutions, and all that good theory - and then forget it - you may still be left with solos that sound lifeless. That's because you've spent all your time learning with your BRAIN instead of learning with your SOUL! In the Scientific Improv class, we talked about FEELING and how you can create emotional quality by altering your dynamics, articulation, and phrasing. But the final level to improvising MINDBLOWING SOLOS is about controlling that energy, manipulating emotion carefully, leaving space on purpose, and finally, ending whatever you do with a big BANG so the audience knows the solo is about to end. Many teachers teach you about the middle of solos - well, this video is about how to BEGIN and END your solos in a way that will have your audience coming back for more concert tickets night after night.
The Master Level
CHORD SECRETS is all about what happens when you employ the Miles Davis approach: "learn your music theory, then forget it." The BIG SECRET of chords - specifically 7th chords with lots of notes and lots of added color tones - is that you don't actually need all 4, 5, 6, notes of the chord in order to play advanced chords! You can actually imply almost any chord by understanding which color tones should be emphasized, and which ones are kind of unnecessary. So start SIMPLIFYING your chords using these super cool chord secrets. Your left hand will thank you, and so will your listeners. Most normal music lovers don't want to hear chords with 5,000 notes in them, a 3-note chord with the right kind of emotional qualities and a powerful melody will do the job every time!
THE MASTER LEVEL refreshes and re-contextualizes basic music theory for the late intermediate pianist, which means these topics may seem simple at first glance. But this course isn't just about knowing the basics, it's about APPLYING Master Mindframes to discover secrets about CHORDS, SCALES, and HARMONY that took me over a decade to discover on my own. These super cool secrets will help you condense all the complexities of music theory into a simple "practice process" that you can use to improve your ability to hear, learn and play music of all genres, as well as expand your reharmonization abilities to new horizons. But most importantly, I share some easy practice drills that will help you discover your OWN musical secrets! Ever wonder how guys like Cory Henry, Herbie Hancock, and Jacob Collier have a seemingly infinite supply of advanced harmonies yet their music is still listenable and understandable? I mean, sometimes they do get a little TOO WEIRD, but this class is all about understanding that balance and how to tip the scales with swagger and musicality.
THE BIG BOY LEVEL is my intermediate online piano course for musicians looking to improve their timing, rhythm, feel, and understanding of some less "fun" areas of music theory. These include capitalizing on playing "off time," understanding ALL the scales and modes by analyzing what they all have in common, and finally a complete breakdown of Blues Music from a music theory perspective. Not that classical piano or jazz piano is unimportant, but there are some aspects of blues piano that all pianists should know if they want to be a versatile player!