Adapting your Favorite Songs into Simple Piano Pieces

Glenn Sutton teaches guitar, electric bass, keyboard, theory and improvisation for over 30 years, he specializes in rock, blues, jazz, Latin, Brazilian, classical, country, and folk.

Making Complex Music Simple

If you listen to much of today’s music, it can seem very hard to adapt to an easy-to-play piano piece, but this is not something to fear. In fact, most popular music can be reduced to simple musical pieces that can be learned quickly if you have had some basic piano training. This article will guide you through the process of simplifying music. This article is intended for the intermediate level and above.

Points to Remember

By reducing the complexity of a musical piece, you are going to, out of necessity, lose some ingredients that may have originally made the piece interesting to you. This may include harmonies and more complex chord structures. Reducing an entire band’s song to simply a piano piece is going to alter its tone and feeling. This should not discourage you. A well-written song will stand out on its own, even at its most basic level.

The trick to this is to re-imagine the work. Remember that most songs in the Top 40 started as a simple progression of piano or guitar chords and basic melodies. Lyrics are usually added next, although some pieces start with the lyrics first, with the basic melody surrounding the poetry. Most of what followed was adding extra elements of instrumentation and production to the already-existing song. Picturing that basic song sketch will help you to simplify.

One of the beauties of simplifying is that, as your skill improves, you will be able to add back in some of the elements you took out, possibly even adding some flourishes of your own to personalize your favorite songs.

Chord and Rhythmic Structure

Let’s start with the chords. If you have been playing piano for a little while, you should be able to recognize most of the chords in many songs. They will, of course, follow in a logical progression that will be pleasing to the ear. Write them down and then practice playing only the chords while listening to the song. Singing along may help. This can be a bit time-consuming depending on your skill level, but with time, effort, and patience, you will get the hang of it. You may want to consider doing this step alone for a while.

Take note of the tempo and time signature of the song. Try to replicate it, but also keep in mind that slower can be better when performing a piano piece. In other words, don’t pressure yourself to match the tempo of the original song.

Adding Notes

Now we come to taking down the actual melody. How quickly and how well you can do this will depend on how much you have learned already and what you have memorized in terms of notation. Your music instructor can help you if you get stuck with this. With practice, you won’t be stuck for long.

The Beauty of Simplicity

This approach to music has immense advantages that may not be obvious at first. By deconstructing and re-constructing songs, you can become much more knowledgeable in the art of song composition. You may very well find yourself inspired to create your own works.

 

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