Jonny May
Quick Tip

Learning Focus
  • Chords
  • Improvisation
Music Style
  • Contemporary
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Are you captivated by the beauty of solo inspirational piano music? In today’s lesson, we’ll show you how you can start making beautiful piano music with only 2 chords. If you have always wanted to play beautiful piano music made popular by artists like Jim Brickman, Yiruma, David Lanz and Jon Schmidt of The Piano Guys, this lesson is especially for you. You’ll learn:

    • 2 chords
    • 1 Setup
    • 1 Accompaniment Pattern
    • 3 Improv Palettes

You might not believe this, but getting started is really the hardest part about improvising in this style! It’s true—anyone can learn to release a sonic world of beauty with the simple techniques in today’s lesson. What are you waiting for?

Beauty With Only Two Chords

Today’s lesson follows a simple progression in C Major that gently drifts from the 4 chord to the 1 chord in first inversion. However, instead of using a regular F Major triad (F-A-C), we are going to play an F(sus2) chord which gives the chord a slightly different coloration that is common in inspirational piano music. The sus2 suffix (short for “suspended”) indicates that the 3rd of the chord (A) is being replaced by the 2nd of the chord (G). A close relative to this chord would be an F(add2) in which the 2nd is added with the 3rd rather than a replacement for the 3rd. However, some players use these suffixes interchangeably. Try playing these two chords.

Beautiful Piano with Only 2 Chords Fsus2 C/E
Play beautiful piano with only these two chords!

Great job! The next step is to spread these notes further apart to create a fuller sound. The diagram below demonstrates how to play these chords using a more open voicing.

Fsus2 Voicing to Play Beautiful Piano

C_E Voicing to Play Beautiful Piano

Great job! Did you notice only one note moves as you change between these chords? In the following steps, we’ll apply two different rhythm patterns over this chord progression to help you play beautiful piano improvisations.

Step 1: The Setup

Generally speaking, you will want to start your piano improvisation with an introduction that sets up the mood. You can try various types of arpeggios using the chord voicings shown above. The example below uses a syncopated rhythm that creates an effect of weightlessness when played with the sustain pedal. (Be sure to clear the pedal as the chord changes…for more info on pedaling, check out our Piano Pedal Essentials course.)

Play Beautiful Piano Step 1 - The Setup Introduction Pop Contemporary Inspirational

It’s that beautiful? The next step is to play this setup along with one of the three backing tracks provided with this lesson. The backing tracks and lessons sheet are downloadable from the bottom of this page after signing in with your membership. You can also transpose this lesson with a single click using our Smart Sheet Music.

Now that you have your setup down, let’s create a simple left hand texture that you can solo over.

Step 2: The Accompaniment

In order to improvise freely with your right hand, you’ll want establish a left hand accompaniment pattern that is relatively effortless to play. Try playing the accompaniment pattern below with your left hand.

Step 2 - The Accompaniment Pop Contemporary Inspirational Worship

Nice job! If you like the sound of this accompaniment pattern, you will enjoy our Pop & Contemporary Piano: The One Chord Wonder course which features additional accompaniment patterns perfectly suited for pop and contemporary worship.

Next, you are ready to play a beautiful improvised piano solo!

Step 3: Improv Palette

In this section, we’ll brake down three different improv palettes that you can choose from to solo over this progression based on your current level of experience. Restricting your note choices to a small set is one of the best ways to start improvising successfully.

Beginner Improv Palette

The first palette for beginners uses only three notes, but these notes sound so sweet! You can actually make a lot of beautiful music with just these three notes. To get started, select the lower position shown below and explore starting and ending phrases from each note option. Try to exhaust all possibilities, but be sure to also leave some space. Next, try the same experiment using the upper position.

Beginner Improv Palette Notation

Beautiful Piano Beginner Improv Palette-Lower & Upper Positions

Great job! You are ready to explore navigating between both hand positions within the same octave and also in several octaves!

Late Beginner Improv Palette

If you have a little more experience, try this improv pallet which adds the note D to the beginner pallet. Follow the same process described above.

Late Beginner Improv Palette Notation

Late Beginner Improv Palette-Lower & Upper Positions

One area in which students often short change themselves involves the inadequate exploration of repetition. They mistakenly assume that they must always follow one note with a different note, or one idea with a different idea. If you played a three-or-four note gesture that sounded great, why not play it again? You could play it exactly the same, or vary some element of the gesture. For example, you can simulate an echo effect by playing it softer or in another octave. Another option is to try beginning the gesture on a different beat. There are actually dozens of ways to repeat material with only slight variation. The use of repetition in this way creates interesting melodic lines that tend to have more continuity and control. For even more improvisation ideas, check out our full-length courses on Contemporary Progressions and Improv (Beg/Int, Int/Adv).

Intermediate Improv Palette

If you are more of an intermediate pianist, try this intermediate improv pallet which adds the note E to the late beginner palette. Just like the earlier improve pallets, the intermediate palette can be played from a lower position or an upper position.

Intermediate Improv Palette Notation

Intermediate Improv Palette-Lower & Upper Positions

As an intermediate player, you will also want to explore adding ornamentation to your improv lines. Ornamentation involves the use of melodic devices that create a decorative effect such as slides, turns, and rolls. Another intermediate improvisation technique is the use of harmonized lines using 3rds and 6ths. You can explore 3rds, 6ths and full range of intermediate solo piano techniques and effects in The Love Progression contemporary piano course.

Congratulations! You have taken the first steps to playing beautiful inspirational piano music using. Thanks for learning with us today. We’ll see you next time.


Blog written by Michael LaDisa / Quick Tip by Jonny May

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