Cool Piano Teacher LLC Blog
How to Arrange Piano Music
The following article was written by team Cool Piano Teacher LLC.
Here are a few tips to help you get started.
A familiar melody is the best starting point for arranging jazz piano music for beginners.
To begin, the student will need to learn simple tunes.
Acquiring the ability to play melodies by ear, rather than by sheet music is essential.
Jazz begins with 7th chords so the pianist/arranger should already have a solid grasp of all major and minor scales.
Also know the 5 most common 7th chord families Maj7, min7, Dominant 7, Half diminished and full diminished 7th chords.
Once comfortable with these then a good place for new piano arrangers to start is with shell voicings.
Think of piano arranging as building a house.
Your foundation is the root, the support beams/walls are the 3rds & 7ths and the roof is the melody.
Once these are in place you have a solidly built house and adding the 5th provides even more stability.
Musical decorations such as extensions runs etc. can be added to personalize the arrangement. Think of these as your paintings, rugs and so on.
This alone will provide you better sounding and far more rewarding arrangements than 99.9% of the crappy bland and amateur-sounding sheet music you'll find at music stores.
Store bought music is generally only intended to be good enough to sell books which is not the sound you want as a pianist arranger.
The result is a more complex professional-sounding arrangement which is actually easier to memorize and play than what stores sell.
Once shell voicing arranging techniques have been mastered then it is time to introduce more advanced concepts.
These include block chords, Drop 2 voicings, Piano Phraseology, Counterpoint, Chromaticism, re-harmonizing, stride, walking bass lines, upper structure triads, upper structure 7ths, Scriabin harmony, Negative harmony, magical sliding chord system, movable harmony, improvisation, Licks, and the list goes on.
To make the most of this approach, it is best to practice the voicings to achieve a level of comfort by using piano practice meditation.
Next learn how to apply them to tunes by heart.
Students can alter the rhythm simply by embellishing the notes in the melody. Rhythms can be changed to half time, double time or simply more syncopated.
The hall mark of a great piano arranger is one who understands the core concept of tension/release in both melody and underlying harmony as this generates a more interesting piece.
Arrangers also are very familiar with the use of dynamics, articulation, and phrasing to connect with the listener on an emotional level.
Arranging for piano is a great way to learn the basics of jazz piano.