One of the major payoffs is being able to play with other people and also being able to write and compose your own music. For the beginning improviser, the question of what key to solo in comes up a lot. This was something I had to figure that I didn’t find in any improvisation book I read when learning how to play by ear on my own. This article should demystify this commonly asked question.

When learning <a href=””>piano improvisation</a> for soloing, it is important to figure out the keys that should be used when it comes to coming up with the melody of the music that is being written. Since each of the keys has natural notes, this makes it easier. A good example would be to take a keen look on the C major scale. Its major notes include C, D, E, F, G, A and B. They can also be termed as I, II, III, IV, V, VI and VII. Major triads can be built from A, C, E, D, G or F notes. Minor triads can be built as well.

The lower case notes make the minor keys while the capital case notes make the major keys. When building from a triad composing C, F and G, one will get a major chord. Normally, a C triad will comprise of C, E and G notes. While the F triad consists of the F, A and C notes, the G triad consists of the G, B and D. In order to build all these chords, natural notes are used. D, E and A are minor triads. Having knowledge of this particular subject is important because it helps in deciding on whether to change keys while soling through the cord changes.

Having a deep understanding of how each key has naturally occurring chords helps you to avoid changing keys all the time. This is because you can work with a solo of the dominant key which is the first chord to appear in a chord pattern. Looking at an example of G, F, A and C which is a chord pattern, a solo of the C scale can be used despite the fact that they are different chords. The catch is to ensure that you use natural chords only. These are C, D, F, E, G and A. You can also work with a solo in C.

However if you play a chord that is not found naturally in the key of C i.e., D major (F# is not a note found in the C scale naturally) then you would have to change keys when soloing for the duration of time you are using that foreign chord.

With practice you will be able to develop a better ear for this and you will hear the difference and recognize that something doesn’t sound right when you are soloing out of key, but for now, use this as a guide. Keep practicing the <a href=”″>piano</a>!

The author is a well reputed piano instructor from Southern California. His music school in Tustin offers <a href=”″>Orange County piano lessons</a> and education for other instruments as well. You can also find his blogs on his <a href=””>Twitter</a> page.

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