Common Questions for Scott Houston: Chord Jumping

Thousands of people are having fun learning how to play their favorite songs on the piano with Scott Houston’s Piano in a Flash online method. One question Scott gets frequently involves chord movements or jumps. Here’s the question and Scott’s answer to help everyone along as we learn.

Student: How do I decide to move up or down from the current chord I am playing when I get to the next chord symbol?

Scott Houston: “For fear of sounding like a cop-out answer, there is no “right” or “wrong” decision there. It’s just what you think sounds the best, or maybe is the easiest for you to play (or maybe the closest to each other just to make the jumps not so jarring maybe?) In the tunes we are working on here near the beginning of the whole method, we usually just kind of jump back and forth, so it is probably about the same difficulty in either direction. However, as we progress into tunes with more complicated chord progressions, a lot of the time it will be logical to decide to go up or down to a chord based on the following chord after that being close to one or another. Just make your movements as smooth as possible for your own sake. No need to be jumping all over the place unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I also think a big part of it is just noticing the difference in sound when you play a chord in one octave or another. Chords tend to sound the best right around the middle of a piano, say from the C one octave below middle C to the F, four notes above middle C. When you start getting a lot higher, or a lot lower than that from a placement standpoint, you’ll start hearing the chords sounding a little “muddy” down low, or just a little “toy piano-like” when you get into the higher octaves.

My advice is to stay near one another when jumping from chord to chord and that will probably be a good guide. Past that—use your ears. What you think sounds the best is probably correct!”

And there you have it. Learning to play the piano is fun—and easier than you probably think. 6x Emmy winner Scott “The Piano Guy” Houston is here to help you. The kids are grown, career is done and it’s YOUR time now. It’s YOUR turn to play!  

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