Music Information

Just 3 Chords? No Way!

A student wrote me an email about the lesson "Ocean Dreams." Here it is:

"Dear Edward, I can't believe that you're using just 3 chords for this piece. It sounds like it uses much more material. Please tell me how you did it!"

Here's my answer - Dear B. First, thanks for listening to my free lesson. To answer your question, the secret to getting the full sound you hear in this piece is not in how many chords are used. It's in how the chord is voiced! Notice in the lesson that your left hand is very much open and covers a full octave of the keyboard.

This is what creates the full sound you hear! My right hand is playing melody notes pretty close to the left. Also, I use the principles of repetition and contrast to maintain interest. For example, you'll notice that there is a beginning section where the melody repeats. Then another section is added (still only using the same 3 chords) with a contrasting melody. Then back to the first theme so the whole piece can be broken down into what's commonly know as ABA form (even though this piece was improvised).

Using repetition and contrast, we create music that has a definable form or shape. ABA form is very, very common and is used in almost all genres of music, especially New Age. This is why I always say that you don't need a lot of material to create with. If you understand and use time tested principles, you can use just 3 chords and create an entire piece of music. I hope this answers your question. Regards, Edward Weiss.

Edward Weiss is a pianist/composer and webmaster of Quiescence Music's online piano lessons. He has been helping students learn how to play piano in the New Age style for over 14 years and works with students in private, in groups, and now over the internet. Stop by now at for a FREE piano lesson!

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