September 23, 2014

R&B Piano Chords Tutorial- How To Decorate Your Chord Progressions

Do you want some want to learn some new ways to make your R&B piano chords and chord progressions more stylish? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

In this R&B piano tutorial we’re going to learn some ways to chromatically decorate plain old R&B chord progressions and make them much more interesting.

You’ll hear some of these chromatic chord movements in the music of Jill Scott, Michael Jackson, Musiq SoulChild, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo, and many other great R&B and neo soul artists.

Let’s get started learning now!

R&B Piano Chords Tutorial

Why not take 3 minutes and watch the video below. It will introduce you to some new chord voicings and ways to decorate your chord progressions. (Notation and extra tips for this lesson below.)

Notated Chord Charts

The chords I play in the video above are from a i iv v chord progression in the key of E minor. First, I’ll show you the chord progression written out without any chromatic passing chords.

R&B piano chords

Now, check out the chord chart with the chromatic passing chords written in.

(Make sure you also check out all the extra tips and practice strategies on the bottom of the page.)

R&B Piano Chords

7 Concepts To Help You Master This Lesson

1. R&B Piano Chords Are Often Times Just Jazz Chords

The chords in this lessons are all minor chords. Most of the time I’m playing the root of the chord in my left hand and the 3rd, 5th, 7th and 9th of the chord in my right hand. These chord voicings can be used in both R and B, neo soul, jazz, and hip hop too. They’re very versatile.

If you want to learn more about these chords you can check out this lesson on minor jazz piano chords.

2. It’s All About The Half Step

The secret to getting that jazzy chromatic sound in your R&B piano chords is to play the same chord voicing either a half step up or a half step below your resolution chord. So, if you resolution chord is an Amin7 you would play either a Abmin7 (half step below) or a Bbm7 (half step above) right before the Amin7.

3. Syncopation Makes It Groove

Groove is everything in RnB music. So, in order to be most effective with this chromatic chord technique make sure you listen to the rhythms i used in the video.

In the video I play the main chords Em7, Bm7, and Am7 mostly on the downbeats (beat 1 of the measure especially).

I play Bbm7 on the upbeats (either on the ‘and’ of the measure or the ‘e’ of the measure (second sixteenth note of the the measure)

4. Space: The Final Frontier

The notes you don’t play are just as important as the notes you do play. Notice how I don’t fill up every beat of the measure with a rhythmic attack.

On a rhythmic level funk works because of the back and forth of syncopated rhythmic attacks with sustained notes. (Sorry for the Star Trek reference by the way. I couldn’t resist!):)

5. Blues Scale And Fills

As you can hear in the video I use little melodic fills here and there. These little soulful fills are mostly made of the blues scale.

The blues scale is an easy scale to play. It’s just a 5 note scale. First, start with a major scale and build your scale using the formula below:

  • Blues Scale Construction: 1, b3, 4, b5, 5, b7, 1

So, in the key of E the major scale notes are E, F#, G#, A, B, C#, D# E. You would flat the 3rd note (G# turns into G), the 5th note (B turns into Bb), and the 7th note (D# turns into D).

6 Tips To Help You Practice This Piano Lesson

1. Learn these piano chords in all 12 keys.

2. Practice grabbing a chord and then play the same chord a half step higher.

3. Practice grabbing a chord and then play the same chord a half step lower.

4. Once you are comfortable with moving quickly between the chords chromatically add a metronome to your practice and start playing them in time. You can start rhythmically simple. Don’t worry about syncopating. Just get it in time.

5. Add the rhythmic device (syncopation) on to each passing chord. If you’re unsure how to do it take a listen to how I do it in the video above.

6. If you want to learn how to decorate your piano chords in more of a rock or pop style you can check out this pop piano chords lesson.

 

I hope you’ve enjoyed this piano lesson. Have fun practicing these r&b piano chords and the chromatic movements as well. Be creative with them and have lots of fun!

 

———

Do you like the sound of this chord? Where can you use it in your music? Please leave a comment below and share with the community!

If you’re new to pianolessonsonline.com be sure to also subscribe to the email list to receive great free piano lessons right in your inbox. 

You can subscribe on the top right of this site.