Hear It, Sing It, PLAY IT! The Secret To Learning Piano

Play what you hear, not what you luck into. Understand how to improvise for real, not by rote.
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  • Lectures 33
  • Length 2 hours
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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    Available on iOS and Android
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About This Course

Published 8/2014 English

Course Description

This course is an introduction to learning how to REALLY play piano. It uses jazz as an example, but can apply to any style of music you want to learn. Music can help you in your daily life. No, it can't solve everything, but it can connect you with something bigger than yourself, and offer refuge and connection in yourself, and for others when you ultimately play for and with them. Yes, it takes some discipline, but even a minute a day is a start. This course presents information in a clear and simple way. It doesn't teach you "pieces" that you learn like typing. It teaches you how to connect your ear to the piano, and ultimately, play whatever you feel and hear inside. And the piano is so fun, like a giant box of color paints that never runs out, so you are learning a skill that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life.

We will look at such things as keyboard geography (the keyboard is like a city you visit, and learn to walk around!), the importance of good time and how to keep it (it's learning a rhythmic dance!) by tapping your foot, how songs are made of two melodies, how a good song teaches you its own harmony (no paper no nothing needed!) how to play what you hear, not hear what you play. We look at how to connect your singing voice to what you play on the piano (I don't care WHAT your 3rd grade teacher said about your musical ability, all humans are musical!!), with the ultimate goal of having fun, expressing your own musical soul and playing for yourself and if you want, for and with other people.

It's also really cool to note that a recent study based out of Harvard Medical School shows that "Music has the unique ability to go through alternative channels and connect different sections of the brain." Musicians have an "enhanced ability to integrate sensory information from hearing, touch, and sight." and "the ability to improvise improved brain connectivity resulting in less dependence on working memory." In other words, Music wires you up to better see the world. It's like having a magical ability. And, it's never to late to learn.

What are the requirements?

  • A piano/keyboard, one working ear, two working fingers, and a willingness to explore.

What am I going to get from this course?

  • You'll learn and understand the basic skill set that the best players use to learn to play Piano.
  • You'll grasp how to connect your ear to the piano, in order to play what YOU hear, not just learn by rote.
  • You'll gain a concrete set of terms, and insight into how to understand the keyboard in a geographical sense, like a city you can explore, by feel.
  • You'll learn about the incredible importance of keeping good time, and how to do just that!
  • You will understand that there are TWO melodies to every song, and between them they make a whole tune. This will also SHOW you the harmony, rather that having to read it off a jazz "chart.".
  • You'll learn a simple song as a model for how you learn all songs, at their simplest core level, so you can actually hear and play and improvise with them, rather than learning a static, higher sounding level by rote. Static meaning you can only play it the same way every time.
  • You'll master simple, clear shortcuts to improvisation, which, by the way, are the way you really improvise.
  • You will have fun and be able to show off at parties and get dates :)
  • You'll start to master the ability to express who you are through the medium of Jazz Piano.

Who is the target audience?

  • This course is geared towards humans, and will benefit students of all levels.
  • People looking for connection, and refuge, and joy.
  • Students who have never played piano
  • Students who perhaps played as children but stopped.
  • Classical players who want to add jazz and improvisation to their repertoire.
  • People who have a desire to learn piano from the ground up.
  • More advanced players who feel stuck in their craft.
  • Anyone who wants to connect what they hear, and their voice, to what they actually play on the piano.

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.


Section 1: Introduction To This Course

Most Jazz is taught in what I consider a disconnected fashion. You get lots of info on reading notes or charts, playing scales, what mode works over a chord, the mathematics of harmony, etc., but they never really talk about learning a song and improvising with it at its most simple, fundamental level.

It is interesting to note the Art Tatum, long considered to be the greatest Jazz Piano player who ever lived, couldn't see. Errol Garner, another amazing jazz pianist, who composed "Misty,” couldn’t read music. So what's going on here? This course will tell you. It will teach you to learn piano like the greatest players always have, from the ground up, by ear, using your fingers to feel your way, governed by the rhythmic dance of time you teach to your body. Accept no shortcuts.


Here we begin to discuss the why's behind learning to play what you hear, at a very simple level, to begin mastering jazz piano.


Some people would argue that jazz is a specific repertoire of songs. In this lecture, I give my particular take on this subject.


A brief slide to let you know the best way to utilize this course. Essentially, you want to do as much of this course as possible with a piano right in front of you.

Section 2: Gear

This lesson is about what tools you need or might want, in terms of pianos/keyboards/digital recorders/players to help you learn. Discussed in this video are (I like them but am not endorsing them):
Casio Privia Keyboards:


Sony PCM-M10 Digital Recorder:


Section 3: The Way To Really Play Jazz Piano

Here is our first brief introduction to the concept of keeping a steady beat by tapping our foot. This "externalizes" the beat which will prove very useful over time.


In this lesson, we learn a common language for finding our way around the keyboard, and describing the locations we find.


Here we learn how to find a note, using our voice and a keyboard pattern trying to match the note you sing to the right one on the piano. Then we mark/remember its location using our keyboard language from Lecture 9.


This lesson is about learning about the way to put music on the piano through the use of your voice and ears, rather than just learning disconnected "typing" or rote playing on the keyboard. Eventually, connecting your ear and voice will lead to being able to improvise.


In order to play a song on the piano, you have to really know a true, in tune, version of it. This acts as a "roadmap" which guides the path you travel on the keyboard. This lecture introduces the idea of having a true copy of a song in your head and ear in order to be able to start to play it on the piano.


This lecture is about learning to play right hand or "main" melody, which is what we usually think of when we hear a song. In reality, it is one of two melodies that make up a song, so we call in the "melody melody."


This lecture is about learning to play left hand melody, which is the melody that most people don't know about which actually completes a song. It also gives a lot of information, combined with the melody melody about the harmonic structure of a song. We term it the "bass melody."


One day, after a rehearsal that hadn’t pleased violinist Mischa Elman, he and his wife were leaving Carnegie Hall by the backstage entrance when they were approached by two tourists looking for the hall’s entrance. Seeing his violin case, they asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” Without looking up and continuing on his way, Elman simply replied, “Practice.” This lesson is about taking what we have learned in the previous lectures about melody, and getting comfortable playing it in a rhythmic framework.


This lecture puts it all together, showing how melody melody and bass melody fit together to yield a complete song.


In previous lessons, we used one finger to learn a melody so we can't just luck into it, without REALLY knowing where it is. Here we start to explore how to use the hand more efficiently. You can figure this out and find what works best for YOUR hand, for any particular section of music you want to play.


This lesson is a brief demonstration of playing the song Bye Bye Blackbird, using the same principles by which we are learning Happy Birthday. The intention is to show you that Happy Birthday really IS just a model for learning how to play any song. This video takes Bye Bye Blackbird, combines bass melody, melody melody, a bit of rhythmic and melodic improvisation, uses just two fingers for the most part. It also shows how to play what you sing.

6 questions

A little brain tease to remind you of the fine points.

Section 4: Canned Treat - Because All Work And No Play...

This lecture gives you a treat to learn, so you can finish your songs in a fun way.

Section 5: Watching And Playing Versions

Here we go about learning the melody of Happy Birthday by eyes and finger positions, with the eventual goal of singing along with what we play (normally we play what we sing) in order to start to link our ear up to the piano. You will be best served by going through "Section 3: How To Really Learn To Play Jazz Piano" prior to trying this lesson.


Here we go about learning the bass melody of Happy Birthday by eyes and finger positions, with the eventual goal of singing along with what we play (normally we play what we sing) in order to start to link our ear up to the piano. You will be best served by going through "Section 3: How To Really Learn To Play Jazz Piano" prior to trying this lesson.

Section 6: Rhythm/Time

In Jazz, we play two instruments, really: First and foremost, the beat. Then the piano. This lecture introduces you to the importance of "groove" playing.


Here we go right to the heart/foot of the matter and take a look at the best way to begin to learn rhythm.

Section 7: Improvisation

Here we modify our old friend, Happy Birthday, from the 3/4 waltz time it was originally written in, to a 4/4 swing time signature. Four beats per measure, and a quarter note gets one beat. 4/4. This in itself is improvisation and will make the techniques that follow easier. I suggest you sing along with this first to get a good '"road map" of it in your ear, while tapping your foot.


Once you've learned the Happy Birthday in 4/4 so it doesn't tax your brain/hands to play, we begin to learn to drum on the melody, exactly in the order it was written, as a form of improvisation. This technique of "hits" can be applied, down the line, to any song.


Another kind of improvisation can be described by "echoing" sections of the melody after they are first played. This lesson shows you how it's done.


This lesson builds on the last two, by demonstrating what you can get by combining both the "hits" and "echo" improvisation techniques.


This lesson introduces the idea of singing bits of improvisation and learning to put them onto the piano.


Here is an example of learning to play another persons solo, solely by ear, using the groove, your ear, and civil engineering of the fingering. This is a valuable, albeit somewhat advanced technique that can guide you to playing good solos of your own. It's equivalent to learning vocabulary in order to ultimately speak more elegantly.

Section 8: Yes You Get Another Song

This is a very simple version of the melody melody (right hand) to Bye Bye Blackbird, for when you get tired of Happy Birthday.


This is a very simple version of the bass melody (left hand) to Bye Bye Blackbird, for when you get tired of Happy Birthday.


This lesson shows how to combine the melody melody and bass melody in the previous two lectures to play Bye Bye Blackbird.

Section 9: Finishing Touches

This lesson directs you towards finding the tunes you really want to play, and applying the techniques we've already learned.


An "Outro" in jazz is the opposite of an "intro" or introduction. It's where you "take the tune on out," that is, finish a particular song. Here we do an outro of the course, with a few words of advice and thanks.

Section 10: Extras Just Because

Sometimes, you just have to boldly go where no one has gone before. Hope you enjoy learning this lick, I have turned heads with this, I tellya true.

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Instructor Biography

Writer @ SciShow Space (hosted by Hank Green):

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I began playing piano at the age of 6. As a teenager, I became completely enthralled with boogie woogie, jazz, Scott Joplin, Bach, and Gershwin. In 1989, after college coursework and practicum in music and music theory at Grinnell College and the University Of Washington, Marc Seales, my professor and a noted jazz pianist in his own right recommended I study with his teacher, Jerry Gray, a world renowned player and teacher. Jerry's ability and focus were on connecting my ear to what I played, not what I learned by rote or “lucked in to." This teaching fundamentally changed my understanding of music, and I have been learning and teaching this way ever since.

I had the honor of a lesson on soloing from famed one of the most famous jazz guitarists of all time, Joe Pass, during a visit to Seattle in the mid 1990s.  

I have written as a Jazz Critic for Seattle's Earshot Magazine, have completed Centrum's Jazz Port Townsend as an Educator and Vocalist, studying under the likes of such world class luminaries as Rene Marie and Cyrille Aimee. I continue enjoy teaching and performance, while pursuing song writing which I love.

Aerospace Engineering:

As an Aerospace Engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration, I was the sole propulsion specialist charged with maintaining safety of the Boeing 737NG fleet consisting of 3300 aircraft, equaling a total passenger load of approximately 495000 people. If you've ever flown on a 737, I did my best to regulate Boeing and the airlines, in order to keep your plane as safe as possible.

Additionally, I designed and built liquid fuel rocket engines and test stands for the Aerospace Industry to explore the idea of building low cost rocket engines to facilitate civilian access to space. I was offered employment as an astronaut training engineer at NASA, but turned it down to pursue working at more self-directed pursuits.


I compose original songs, words and lyrics, on an ongoing basis. Mostly jazz, and have at present written over a dozen original tunes, debuted by world renown jazz singer Rene Marie, on her recent European tour.


I design and build the most powerful water guns in the world, because I am at heart, still a boy.

I am a highly accomplished machinist and can build whatever I can think up.

My other areas of invention include medical design, burner design for glass working and metal melting, toys and games.


I went on my first family vacation to the Dunes Hotel And Casino in Las Vegas at the age of 6. The staff spent a week chasing me out of the casino, which fascinated me. This recurred over the years, always to the Dunes, as my folks were connected with the casino and everything was comped (free) for us. They often made a profit on our vacations. Before I'd go to school in the morning, my mother would pull out a deck of cards, and say "Once through the deck, Blackjack!" I learned my craft from Mike Goodman, a pit boss at the Dunes, who got tired of seeing people get completely taken by the casinos, and taught me the right way to play each game to have the very best shot for my money. I owe Mike a debt of gratitude, as these principals apply not only to casino games, but to all areas of life.


I am an accomplished designer and engraver and create my own coins from scratch. This involves cutting dies to stamp them and pressing a blank, usually of pure silver, copper or gold, under tons of pressure to produce an “art" coin.


I hold a Bachelor Of Science, in Mechanical Engineering and Bachelor Of Arts, Magna Cum Laude, in English, from the University of Washington, Seattle. I have studied piano, music theory and jazz for over 45 years. I have also attended Grinnell College, Northwestern University and the School Of The Art Institute, Chicago.

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