By: Konner Scott
There’s an exercise I absolutely love to show my beginning piano students. It makes the creative side of piano accessible to anyone, no matter their age or skill level. I use this with students as old as 60 and students as young as three; students who are attending their first lesson ever and students who have been playing for a decade. No matter who you are or what stage you’re at in your journey, if you’re interested in creativity and innovation on the piano, this is a useful exercise.
On paper, it’s simple: make something up on the black keys.
Seriously, just play the black keys. Play groups of them at a time. Play single note melodies. Drag your hands up or down the keys all at once. Make fists and smash them against the black keys.
The five black keys make up what we call a “pentatonic scale” in the key of G flat. In musical jargon, this sounds fairly complex, but all you need to know for this exercise to be helpful is that the pentatonic scale is a series of five notes that nearly always sounds great. You can pair them together in any number of ways without the notes becoming dissonant, harsh, or overwhelming.
The way to make this truly fun is to play along with a backing track. During lessons, I will accompany my students personally, but at home, I encourage them to search YouTube for the following phrases: “F sharp jam track”, “G flat jam track”, “D sharp minor jam track”, and “E flat minor jam track”. All four essentially mean the same thing, and you’ll be able to find hundreds of tracks that fit the descriptors.
Once you’ve selected one, play it loud and jam along on the black keys on your piano! You’ll be surprised by how easy it is to create beautiful solos that match the track!