Can these 7 simple tricks make you sound good on the piano?

At the risk of outraging the purists, we have to say that we’re big fans of music-making ‘hacks’ - simple tricks that can make you sound better without a great deal of effort. Clearly, YouTuber David Bennett is of a similar mind, as he’s just put together a video that offers seven tricks that he believes will make you sound good on the piano.

None of these is particularly difficult to implement, even if you’re a relatively inexperienced player, but used judiciously, and in combination, they could help to create the illusion that you’re far more proficient on the keys than you actually are, or even help to kickstart some interesting songwriting ideas.

First on Bennett’s checklist is the black note glissando, which involves sliding across the black notes on the keyboard. As luck would have it, these notes create a pleasing-on-the-ear pentatonic scale - either in Eb minor or F# major, depending on what you view as your root note. You can hear this trick in action at the start of The Boomtown Rats’ I Don’t Like Mondays.

Bennett says he prefers to slide down the keys with the black note glissando, but in the case of the white note glissando, his second trick, his fingers flow up the keyboard, always resolving on the same note to create a sense of intention rather than randomness.

Next, he suggests using grace notes - adding ‘notes between notes’ when you’re playing a melody. This is a trick that vocalists often use, and can be replicated on the piano by sliding off the black note next to the upcoming note rather than going straight to it to create the impression that you’re riffing on the main melody. In music theory terms, this is known as acciaccatura, and can be very effective.

Bennett’s fourth suggestion is that you embellish your playing with arpeggiated chords, played successively up the keyboard. This requires a bit more technical skill, but as you’re just repeating the same notes this relates more to hand dexterity than anything else.

You could say the same about chromatic scales, which involve you playing every note you come to in succession. These will be familiar to anyone who’s done their classical piano exams, and can work well if you end on a tone that’s part of the chord you’re currently playing.

The pedal point trick is another useful one to know about - try staying on a single root note in the left hand while playing other chords over the top with the right. Resolve with the tonic chord at the end to make it sound like you know what you’re doing.

Finally, Bennett talks about semitone chord progressions. Here, you play an arpeggiated chord and then repeatedly move just one note in the chord up or down a semitone. Doing this can take you to some interesting harmonic places, and you may even stumble upon chords that you’ve never used before.

Check out the full video above, and subscribe to the David Bennett Piano channel if you want more of his content.

Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it. 

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