Looking for an Ylang Ylang piano tutorial?
You’ve come to the right place.
In this lesson, you’ll learn how to figure out this piano hit by FKJ.
Let’s get started.
How To Play Chords In This Ylang Ylang Piano Tutorial
First off, FKJ plays Ylang Ylang alternating between the IV and I chord in the key of Db.
Here are your first 2 chords:
Gbmaj7(9) – Gbmaj7(13) – | Gbmaj7(9) – Gbmaj7(13) – |
Dbmaj7(9) – Dbmaj7(13) or Db6/9 – | Dbmaj7(9) – Dbmaj7(13) or Db6/9 – |
Here’s a transcription of the chord progression and melody:
By playing the chord progression in this way, you can already play the main melody.
To be a bit more specific, let’s start learning a more melodic way of doing this.
Ylang Ylang Piano Tutorial Right & Left Hand Hacks
For this next segment, it’s time for you to learn the melody of Ylang Ylang.
To start, just use single notes for the right hand like this:
For the left hand chords, you can do a kind of Erik Satie style comping.
It’s similar to Gymnopedie No. 1. Here’s one way to comp the chords:
Play a single bass note on beats 1 & 3 and then a rootless chord on beats 2 & 4.
Now that you have the first 2 chords, you can start learning how to improvise in this Ylang Ylang piano tutorial.
How To Start Improvising Over Ylang Ylang
When you listen to FKJ play Ylang Ylang, you can see that it relies on a predictable pattern.
I would like to clarify that the tune’s predictability seems intentional for its purpose.
It allows you to improvise with great freedom and ease.
Let’s walk through some of the ways to do this in this Ylang Ylang piano tutorial.
Why The Lydian Scale Is A Good Place To Start Improv
For this particular tune, the Lydian scale just feels so right over these lush chords.
The raised 4th adds that layer of wonder that sounds really good.
Here are the Lydian scales you can use over Gbmaj7 and Dbmaj7:
Now that we have a handle over the first part, let’s move on to the next section of the song.
How FJK Develops Contrast in Ylang Ylang
The next portion of Ylang Ylang appears to be a change in key.
You’ll see that it starts with this chord progression for the next 4 bars:
| Fm7(9) | Fm7(9) | Bb7(b9) | Cm7 – C7(b9) |
This impression of a change from Db earlier to Cm is very interesting. First, the first 2 chords appear as a ii-V chord progression leading to Eb. Instead, it transitions as a backdoor chord progression leading to Cm7.
The Cm7 transitions to a C9(b9) chord which allows to modulate to the key of F:
|Fmaj7(9) – Fma7(13) – | Fmaj7(9) – Fmaj7(13) – | Bb7(9) |
Take note of the run you play over the Bb7(13). It’s just a plain Gm arpeggio.
While you can expect Bb7(13) to resolve to Ebmaj7, we find instead a substitute in Gm7.
The last portion of the song is a turnaround that has these chords:
Gm7 C7(9) Dbmaj7(9) – |
The last lick that FKJ plays at the end looks like this:
Now that you have learned the basics on this Ylang Ylang piano tutorial, let’s spice things up a bit more.
How To Improvise Over Ylang Ylang Chord Changes
Earlier on, you already discovered the Lydian scale as a way to improvise over Ylang Ylang.
Here are some other moves you can use:
- For the Gbmaj7 chord, you can use a Bb minor pentatonic scale, especially this shape:
- For the Dbmaj7 chord, use an F minor pentatonic scale.
- Focus on the chord tones to make your improv over Ylang Ylang sound more melodic.
- Create variations of the melody through various processes such as altering the rhythm, adding some passing notes, ornaments, embellishments, etc. Most of the time FKJ uses this particular technique as well.
You can Check out this 12-step jazz improvisation guide to find out more and go deeper into improvisation.
Why This Ylang Ylang Piano Tutorial Is Your Gateway To Jazz
The way that Ylang Ylang is structured is in a similar tradition to jazz.
This is where you have this skeletal framework of a melody and chord progressions that you can play around with.
By learning how to play Ylang Ylang, you also learn about jazz harmony.
The composition itself is so designed to be improvised over.
This means that not one performance of the tune will ever be the same.
I hope that you enjoyed this Ylang Ylang piano tutorial. Looking for a great new piano to buy, check out our guide here.
If you have comments, questions, and/or suggestions for the next lesson, feel free to leave a comment.