Create Happiness at the Piano (4 Techniques)

Instructor
Jonny May
Quick Tip
Level 2
Level 3
10:44

Learning Focus
  • Accompanying
  • Basslines
  • Chords
  • Groove
  • Improvisation
  • Riffs
Music Style
  • Pop

Are you ever in a happy mood and just want to express yourself at the piano? In today’s piano lesson, you are going to learn how to create happiness at the piano. You’ll learn:

  • The happiest chord progression of all time
  • 2 left hand accompaniment options
  • Scale for right hand improvisation and soloing
  • 4 improv techniques
  • How to create licks and riffs
  • How to combine techniques

Whether you are new to the piano or you have experience playing, this lesson is for you.  Let’s dive in.

Step 1: Happy Monday Chord Progression

The first step to create happiness at the piano is to learn a happy chord progression. Now, there are many happy chord progressions, but I think the happiest chord progression of all time is the Happy Monday Chord Progression.  Check it out!

Happy monday pop chord progression on piano
Happy monday pop chord progression on piano

What is the Happy Monday Progression?

The Happy Monday chord progression is a chord progression that only uses 4 chords: F, F/A, Bb, and C.  If you don’t know what the slash means on the second chord, this is an inverted chord, where the right hand plays an F major and the left hand plays a bass note A.

Now, why does this progression sound so good? First, the chord progression uses all major chords, which are happy-sounding chords. Second, the chord progression has a bass line that walks up F A Bb C. This up-motion creates a “lifting” or “positivity” feeling, whereas a bass line that descends creates a “declining” or “negative” feeling.

If you don’t know all of your major piano chords, you can learn in our Level 1 Learning Track.

Now that you understand the Happy Monday chord progression, let’s talk about the best left hand accompaniment to improvise over.

Step 2: Left Hand Accompaniment

If you want to create happiness at the piano, it is essential that you have a solid left hand accompaniment so that you can express yourself freely with your right hand.  There are many different pop left hand accompaniments, but there is one groove in particular that I think is the happiest of them all, and it goes like this:

Happy monday left hand accompaniment rhythm on piano
Happy monday left hand accompaniment rhythm on piano

Now, we want to apply this rhythm to the chords of this progression. How do we do this? By arpeggiating the notes of the chord.  Here is how we could apply this rhythmic pattern to the chord progression:

Happy monday left hand intermediate accompaniment on piano
Happy monday left hand intermediate accompaniment on piano

As you can see, we are using octaves at the beginning of each chord, and then we will with one of the chord tones.  I highly recommend that you practice this pattern and get it up to speed. Now if this bass line is too hard for you, there is an easier version that just uses octaves. Check it out!

Happy monday left hand beginner accompaniment on piano
Happy monday left hand beginner accompaniment on piano

For more left hand pop accompaniment grooves, checkout the Pop Accompaniment Course.

Once you have it to tempo, trying playing with the backing track. You download the backing track at the bottom of this page after logging into your membership.

Now that you’ve learned the left hand accompaniment, it’s time to start improvising.

Step 3: Major Blues Scale (Gospel Scale)

If you want to improvise happy piano, it is essential that you use a happy scale. Now, there are many happy-sounding scales, but I think the happiest scale of all time is the Major Blues Scale.

What is the F major blues scale?

The F major blues scale contains the notes F G G# A C and D. You could think of this scale as an F Pentatonic Scale (F G A C D) with the addition of the b3 (Ab). Here is the sheet music for the F Major Blues scale, or Gospel Scale:

F major blues scale - F gospel scale to create happiness at the piano
F major blues scale – F gospel scale to create happiness at the piano

For a deep dive of the Major Blues Scale, or Gospel Scale, checkout the Extended Turnaround Course.

Now that you know the scale, it’s time to talk about improvisation techniques.

Step 4: 4 Improvisation Techniques

Technique 1: Lower Position Harmonized Lines

After you have your right hand scale, the next step to create happiness at the piano is to create sweet sounding lines with this scale. How do you do this? Well, you could play 8th notes and triplets on the scale (for more on these techniques, click here). But I want to jump right into the really cool sounding stuff.  First on the agenda… Harmonized Lines!

What is a harmonized line using the Major Blues Scale? This is where you harmonize the notes of the Major Blues Scale with the C on the top.  For example, here are all of the ways you could harmonize the lower position with the F Major blues scale:

Lower position harmonized line technique using the major blues scale for piano improv
Lower position harmonized line technique using the major blues scale for piano improv

Sounds pretty cool, right?

Now, the goal will be to improvise lines using this concept.  How do you do this? Well, you can play any of the above harmonies using quarter notes, 8th notes, and triplets.  The key is to leave little gaps in your lines.  Here is a quick example of a nice sounding phrase using the harmonized 8th concept:

Lower position harmonized line example - how to create happiness at the piano using the major blues scale
Lower position harmonized line example – how to create happiness at the piano using the major blues scale

Once you have this concept down, I would highly encourage you to try practicing this lick in all 12 keys. You can do this with the click of one button with our smart sheet music. You can also download the lesson sheet music PDF at the bottom of this page after logging in to your membership.

Next, you’ll learn how to improvise happy piano with the harmonized slide concept.

Technique 2: Lower Position Harmonized Slides

With harmonized slides, you get a very happy sound at the piano! How do harmonized slides work?  Basically, you take the same “lower position” that you already learned, but this time you slide the A and the G underneath the C.

Here is the A slide underneath C:

Lower position A harmonized up-slide for piano improv
Lower position A harmonized up-slide for piano improv

Here is the G slide underneath C:

Lower position G harmonized down-slide for piano improv
Lower position G harmonized down-slide for piano improv

Now, once you have this down, you can start to create lines with it.  Here is an example of a phrase that uses the harmonized slides:

Lower position harmonized slide example - how to create happiness at the piano using the major blues scale
Lower position harmonized slide example – how to create happiness at the piano using the major blues scale

Next, it’s time to learn 2 additional improv techniques that use the upper position.

Technique 3: Upper Position Harmonized Lines

You can improvise lines using the exact same techniques that you’ve already learned, except now you will put the F on the top.  With this idea, you can harmonize any of the notes below (Ab A C and D).  Here are the 4 options of the upper position:

Upper position harmonized line technique using the major blues scale for piano improv
Upper position harmonized line technique using the major blues scale for piano improv

Now, once you can comfortably play these notes, try improvising lines.  Remember to leave little gaps in between your lines. Here is an example of a very happy line that uses this technique:

Upper position harmonized line example - how to create happiness at the piano using the major blues scale
Upper position harmonized line example – how to create happiness at the piano using the major blues scale

It’s time to learn the final technique: Upper Position Harmonized Slides.

Technique 4: Upper Position Harmonized Slides

If you want to create happiness at the piano, one of the coolest sounds is the upper-position harmonized slide. It really sparkles! For this technique, you will keep the F on the top and slide the D, like this:

Upper position D harmonized up-slide for piano improv
Upper position D harmonized up-slide for piano improv

Once you’ve practiced this technique, it’s time to use it in your improvisation. Here is an example of a very cool sounding line:

Upper position harmonized slide example - how to create happiness at the piano using the major blues scale
Upper position harmonized slide example – how to create happiness at the piano using the major blues scale

Remember, the key to a great improvisation is variety.  If you find yourself playing the same lines, really challenge yourself to try something different. You can learn how to create variety in your lines in our 3 Line Building Principles.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

The final step to improvse happiness at the piano is to put all of the above techniques together.  The key is to make sure you are using all of the techniques above, not just one or two.  Make sure you are using the full range of the keyboard, and make sure you exploring interesting rhythms as you improvise.

Now, if you are enjoying this lesson and want to do a deep dive on all the techniques you can use to improvise and solo on the Happy Monday progression, checkout the Happy Monday course. You’ll learn more left hand grooves, chords, how to harmonize every note of the scale, and 13 essential riffs and licks.

If you want to learn more about piano soloing, I’ve put together some of our top courses below:

And if you want to learn more about pop and contemporary styles, including accompaniment, chords, and improv, checkout these courses:

Thanks for learning, and happy practicing!

Jonny May

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