Any books/resources on playing solo piano from songbooks?

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Postby cmplays » 04-04-18 2:31 pm

So from what I understand, songbooks typically give you the notes for the melody line, plus the chords. Sometimes they give you the full piano accompaniment for two hands, plus the melody for voice. What I would like to play is both melody and harmony -- basically, what I think is called solo piano.

I have no problems playing the melody with RH, and I have no problems interpreting chords. What I have is a basic lack of knowledge of what to do with the chords, how to turn them into a good sounding arrangement for LH. I can probably deal with triads just fine, but any song I've ever looked at had far more complex chords than triads.

So, does anyone know any book or any other resource that can teach me all the common patterns for turning chord progressions into solo piano arrangements? Starting with easy stuff and then evolving to more complex and cool sounding arrangements? Hopefully even going beyond the chords, explaining how to fill in gaps in melody with various tricks... I tried googling for something like this, but either my terminology is wrong, or it simply doesn't exist, but so far I've come up with nothing. Looking for any suggestions.
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Postby jimhenry » 04-04-18 5:25 pm

One name for what you are describing is "comping". Mark Harrison's "All About Piano" includes two chapters that provide an introduction to the skills involved.
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Postby cmplays » 04-05-18 8:30 am

Thanks! This term "comping" helped find a couple of more resources that had some useful info. But still, can't find anything fundamental for purposes of simply playing popular songs. I guess this skill you're just supposed to pick up on your own somehow?
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Postby jimhenry » 04-05-18 1:06 pm

By its nature "comping" doesn't lend itself to a nice 1-2-3 explanation or teaching. But there are some fundamental ideas that can be taught to get you started. Harrison's book is probably as good as any for that purpose. Once you have some basic ideas, you'll start picking up ideas from other things not directly addressing comping and especially from listening to music more deeply. Spend time listening to music not for enjoyment but to hear what is going on. Try to listen for the piano accompaniment and tune out the rest. Learning to count through an entire piece of recorded music is one exercise to help you listen more deeply.

Here are some more ideas: https://pianowithwillie.com/how-to-comp ... the-piano/

Comping is easier when you are part of a band because you don't have to do it all. karaoke-version.com custom backing tracks are a great resource for learning what a piano is doing in many popular songs. Let's look at Ed Sheeran's Perfect as an example: http://www.karaoke-version.com/customba ... rfect.html (I literally just picked this at random from their What's Popular list)

They don't provide a lead sheet so you should try to find at least the chords to make things easier. For example: https://tabs.ultimate-guitar.com/tab/ed ... ds_1956589 This could also be helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niTr6vvWwsA

Working with the free preview section on karoke-version, listen to the whole arrangement to get started. See if the lead sheet you found lines up with the chords you are hearing. Decide if you can use the lead sheet as is, can touch it up, or need to find a different lead sheet. Now listen to the piano part by itself by clicking the [S] button at the right end of the piano track. At least in this section, the piano plays right hand only four-on-the-floor chords up fairly high. Easy-peasy, except for staying in time with the rest of the band, especially since you will barely be able to hear yourself. Now mute the piano part by clicking the [mute] button next to the [S] solo button and play the piano part.

When you buy the song from karaoke-version, you can arrange the tracks however you want and then download your custom mix. You can download as many different custom mixes of the song as you want.

If you find this too easy, try transcribing the bass part for the left hand on the piano and play the bass part too. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Eventually you might come up with an entirely different backing for this vocal than what is provided. For example, mute everything except Drum Kit, Bass, and Lead Vocal. It actually doesn't sound too bad. Now work out a piano part. If you can sing, learn to sing with your accompaniment. Add a drummer and a bass player, learn another 99 songs like this, and you can start gigging at bars, restaurants, and weddings as a trio.

Picking another song at random, Camila Cabello's Havana has an interesting piano part that doesn't seem too hard: http://www.karaoke-version.com/customba ... avana.html The piano part is more important here. You probably should just try to match the recording and call it a day. Here are some resources that might help with Havana:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-gh196jHig
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBN80hv4HS0
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ipY_gK_DSLc
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http://www.VirtualOrgan.com/
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Postby cmplays » 04-07-18 10:23 am

Thank you very much! This sounds like a really interesting exercise, I will definitely give it a try. But I suspect there is going to be a bit of an issue playing like this in the lower octaves. Unless the chord is spaced very widely, it just doesn't sound nearly as good as in the higher octaves where you'd play in a band. That's why I think piano arrangements typically arpeggiate LH chords over a wider range (because your hand can't press those keys all at once). I guess I'll have to keep looking and experimenting to learn that skill.
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Postby jimhenry » 04-07-18 1:37 pm

Comping is more of a concept than a technique. You might be playing with the right hand high up when playing with a band to stay out of the way of other instruments that play lower. But the ideas you use in the band setting can be translated lower when that space is open and needing to be filled. Think about what comping is doing. Not just how it is done.

The bass line is a pretty fundamental and almost always necessary component of comping. If you don't have a bass player, the keyboard player often takes on the responsibility for that. It is a challenge to provide a good bass line and do other things too. My theory on why bass players often looked so spaced out while they play is because it takes so much concentration to keep a seemingly simple bass line going and staying on beat. It is usually the bass player more than the drummer who is responsible for maintaining the beat. One reason I suggested working on learning to comp as part of a band setting is to relieve you of the responsibility for the bass while you are getting started. Learning to play with other musicians, even if they are just recorded tracks, will make you a better musician in ways that nothing else can. If you can play with other live musicians, that is even better.
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Author of the Miditzer, a free virtual theatre pipe organ
http://www.VirtualOrgan.com/
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Postby cmplays » 04-10-18 12:44 am

Hmm, now that I think of it, most songs in the Synthesia store are accompaniment rather than solo, maybe I could use them as well. They come with all the tracks in the midi.
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Postby Dweller77 » 05-10-18 5:38 am

As the title of the book says "Piano Solos for All Occasions", it does have pieces for a variety of occasions. The 2 pieces I've practiced so far are the popular "fur Elise" and "Canon in D". Both of those pieces are for intermediate level.

The challenging level varies from intermediate level to advanced level. So if you want to challenge yourself, you are right at home.

It has a few jazz musics, such as "Ain't Misbehavin'" and some other show tunes musics that have some jazz on them.
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