Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Isolating the Chords

Last time I revealed how playing the melodica helps me learn melodies better. By the same reasoning, learning chord progressions on a guitar forces me to separate chords from melodies and isolate the chord progressions.

When I play chords apart from the melodies, I can focus on them better. I tend to recognize patterns better that way. And once I recognize a certain pattern, it forms or reinforces a neurological pathway in my brain (I think that's what's going on up there.)

When I return to the piano I now have both the left hand and right hand learned separately, which makes it easier to put them together as opposed to just starting from scratch on the piano.

Notice I'm not saying that learning in this fashion helps me coordinate the two hands together better. It just has the effect of better preparation with each of the two hands individually. And with guitar, I tend to see the logic of the chord progressions a little better. Or at least a little differently.

I notice this effect is especially true with difficult songs and/or difficult keys. For example, I've tried many times over the years to play standards like "Body and Soul" and Monk's "Round Midnight." I could never get the songs to "stick" in my head when trying to learn them at the piano. But learning them indepently on melodica and guitar? It smashed all those barriers to learning for me. Why not give it a try?

Oh. And what if you don't play the guitar? Let's talk about that next time.


  1. I play guitar and piano and cannot find the pattern between them. There must be a trick becasue I hear you speak of it. I cannot for the life of me play something on the piano that I can pick out on the guitar although I can chord it on both?
    Thanks for any hints

  2. Welcome to the club. I play guitar too. Been playing guitar longer than piano. After almost 50 years of guitar, it's still a complete mystery to me. I can't relate notes on a keyboard to spaces between frets. After all this time, I still have to look up guitar chords in a book.

    Piano was my salvation. So much easier. For me. But I acknowledge that we're all different in the way we learn. I'm glad there are guitar players out there who do it well.