How songwriting can help you understand piano better

If you really want to play piano better, try writing some music. Any kind of music. The idea here is that by writing songs, you’ll be forced to think about the basic elements of music such as melody, harmony and rhythm.

I know this can seem a little daunting if you’ve never tried it before, but take all that pressure off yourself. It doesn’t matter if the music comes out “good” or “bad.” What matters is that you’ll be thinking about chords, key signatures, melodic lines, repetition, variation, and rhythm in a new way.

If you’re just beginning to read musical notation, writing down your melodies will help you learn the notes better than simply reading pieces ever will.

If you know some chords but don’t understand chord progressions, creating your own sequences of chords will lead you in new directions and show you common patterns in your favorite songs. You’ll also get to know each key much better.

If you think your piano improvisations need more variety, focusing on this in your composing will filter back into your improvs too.

You could start out by composing simple 4 or 8-measure piano pieces for children. Or you could use my songwriting template from yesterday’s blog post. Or you could write a new melody to your favorite jazz chord progression. Charlie Parker did this and you can too. And if you really get into it, you can decide to compose a children’s musical theater show like my friend Laura did. (Hi Laura!)

Whatever you do, the main thing is to give it a try and see where it leads you. Composing music puts us right in front of our musical understanding (or lack thereof). You may surprise yourself by writing the best song you’ve ever heard. Or you may find that you need to learn more chords. One thing’s for sure, though: you’ll learn a lot either way. It’s a win-win situation for your piano playing!

Take your left hand playing to a new level with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
You’ll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration

Leave a Comment

Sign up for Blog Updates