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The Question

Are there any standard exercises where you play a chord progression with one hand while playing a scale with the other hand?

I'm adding the usual I–IV–I–V–I at the end of each scale (forcing myself to identify the actual chord name as I play it), but that doesn't give me any practice with the other chords (let alone any important 7th chords, where I'm very weak). Nor does it exercise the practice of chords on one hand with melody on the other hand.

I could come up with my own chord progression, but it would be nice to have something with pedagogical value rather my meager attempts at cobbling together some chords that just rotate through the possibilities in a vaguely meaningful way. I would imagine someone has put together something using common cadences or turn-arounds that are commonly encountered, etc.

Context

After 15 years, I've finally dusted off my old piano book and am re-learning to play the piano (and my prior experience is just a single semester undergraduate course!) I was quickly able to get back up to speed with the simple five-finger position exercises/songs from my old piano book. To force myself to move beyond these simple/comfortable pieces, I started playing some familiar christmas carols and hymns. I then got distracted for a few months learning about chord progressions, chord inversions, roman numeral notation, etc. and I had some fun transcribing several carols and hymns (which are written for 4 part vocal harmony - currently rather difficult for me to play) into the more simple right-hand melody + left-hand chord progression (great way to force myself to learn LilyPond).

It's clear that the only way to improve my technique is to put some serious time and effort into scales. I've spent the past few weeks working on scales and I'm making great progress. However, I would like to use my time practicing scales to also practice the important chord shapes and progressions in each key as well as to learn the chord progressions in terms of the actual chord names (I've been relying on roman numerals to just play chord shapes, ignoring what the chords actually are).

  • For the technique you want to enhance could you be more specific? Scales and chords are great but do you have a reason for playing them? Is it theory related, technique (speed, agility), or something else? – Gandalfous Mar 16 '16 at 16:25
  • My motivation is largely one of skill practice: for many songs, you play chord progressions with the left hand and the melody in the right hand. So, instead of the usual two-handed scales practiced in every key, I would like to practice chord progressions with one hand along with scales on the other hand for each key. I guess this isn't commonly done based on the lack of answers, but I thought it would make for good skill practice. – S. Burt Apr 16 '16 at 1:26
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As technical exercises, you normally do scales, arpeggios and chord progressions. If you want to do a richer combination of those, like doing different things in different hands, etc... you normally don't do exercises, but play Studies.

Czerny has hundreds of them, for different levels, and some of them might be useful for what you want. Problem is that they are many, so you have to spend some time to find the ones that are suitable to what you want to practise, and adapted to your level.

You can check your closest music shop, of check in the Petrucci Music Library, where you can download many music scores for free (and legally).

  • The closest things I've found to the "chord progression technical exercise" are the cadences I had to practice for Royal Conservatory of Music piano exams. I-IV-V-I was particularly emphasized. – Dekkadeci Nov 3 '17 at 12:17
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I don't know of any standard exercises other than scales, arpeggios. What I tend to do is play regular patterns of chords on the left hand but keeping in the scale while the other hand extemporises scale wise. Then change hands. Makes you learn the scales and the related chords and also which notes and runs work with each chord. Patterns to try while playing sequence of three or four notes on other hand (either melody or walking bass): Chord of each note.ie C dm em F etc Every other note ie thirds C em G bdim dm F etc A pattern of inversions where just 1 or two fingers move either up or down. ie C F (move two fingers up) C G (move two fingers down). repeated on each note of the scale. Start off playing as chords, then arpeggios or any other regular order such as 1 5 3 5. Its amazing when playing from music how some compositions are just made up of these sequences.

These exercises teach your ear the chords that are strongly related to each other and are really useful for composing.

Try in each key then try moving from 1 key to another by using chords occurring in both keys.

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A great deal of jazz utilizes the ii-V-I progression. And you can throw in a tritone substitution for color; my favorite is presently iimin11-biidom7-Imaj7. Enjoy exploring!

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