man playing piano keys

Improvising Using Just Black Notes

In my ongoing effort to convince everyone that they have what it takes to sit down at a piano and have some fun, and even improvise a little bit, I want to give you a little exercise that will help you to be able to do just that to create some really nice sounding music on the piano. More than anything though, I want to prove that the prevalent thinking that you either have the “gift” or you don’t—isn’t true regarding your ability to improvise or play for that matter. Today’s tip covers improvising using just black notes.

Here are two chords you will need to play with your left hand

F#, A# and C# (F# chord)

F#, B and D# (B chord, which is inverted)

Spend about one minute jumping between those two chords.

Now, here is the nice thing: By using those 2 chords and nothing else in your left hand, you can play anything with your right hand if you stick only to the black notes. Anything you play will melodically sound just fine, so you can play without any stress of worrying about hitting a “clam” or a wrong note.

As unbelievable as that sounds there actually is some theory behind it, as it is based on what is called the Pentatonic Scale (but you don’t need to know any of that just to have some fun and to sound good too).

The move you improvise, the easier it will be to make something up rhythmically that sounds pretty good. To prove my point, (Scott plays the piano). Right, no matter what you play, it will sound OK. Now, I’m playing on a digital piano, so I’m going to take advantage of the fact that there is a rhythm section on this thing. I’m going to start a drum beat behind it. I’ll noodle around a bit to show you what I mean. Here we go. (Scott demonstrates improvising by playing all black notes with his right hand while playing the 2 chords in his left hand.) I can do that on and on …

By doing that I hope that you will start to feel that you are the “creator” instead of the re-creator of the music that you play. This is a good first step to use to get started into the world of improvisation in a stress free and pain free environment. I hope this will be a liberating experience for you without having to worry about what chords you are on or which notes you are playing …

What I really hope is that you continue to have fun playing piano.

  • Leretha
    Posted at 21:08h, 01 September

    Thanks for the tips. This is a great eye opener. I know some theory but I can’t play yet. With your help I know I will be able to play soon.

    • Scott Houston
      Posted at 08:22h, 04 September

      That you will 🙂 Have fun!

  • franny trimble
    Posted at 15:57h, 27 August

    I was really amazed at this tip. It really works and is quite pleasant

  • Julie Rowell
    Posted at 10:16h, 22 March

    I will def give this a try. I love to make new sounds. Thanks for the tip!

  • eduardo decena
    Posted at 15:59h, 29 June

    Awesome! Thank you.

  • Jane Coyle-Hart
    Posted at 10:14h, 23 October

    I’m so rusty that I play less these days—Given this advice I will try to play more now, using these instructions! Thank You Scott! Enjoy playing🎼
    Will you be offering another online music lesson session?

    • Hannah Derleth
      Posted at 14:34h, 13 November

      Hi Jane!

      Make sure you’re following our social media channels— we may be sharing more helpful music tips there soon!

      Right now, we only have the six Piano in a Flash courses; however, that doesn’t mean we won’t potentially make more music instruction programs in the future!

  • Elaine Hunter
    Posted at 10:34h, 04 November

    Very fun, I would like more. I m about ready to sell my piano because as a youth and years of lessons it is just hard and not fun!

  • Ray Garafano
    Posted at 10:55h, 04 June

    Ur a good man Scott, been doing ‘Take it to the limit’ by the Eagles, u know, Don Henley, Glen Frey who
    passed away a few yrs ago but a gr8 musician whose son carried on the profession of music. Anyways I’m having a great time and working more on reading music just the upper clef and going over the chords and still practice Hanon’s finger excercizes, yup music is great, I still plan on getting into classical when I’m really good at reading in the upper clef.

    Posted at 09:56h, 27 July


  • Lamont Holliday
    Posted at 14:04h, 19 January

    I’ve been playing piano for years and with Scott’s tips and being retired now, I’m learning new songs and really enjoying beautiful music. It’s a great stress reducer, fun and joyful.