My name is Al Gurr and I have been a session musician for 30 years. I have always been fascinated by great harmony and I have written "Read This If You Want To Play Great Piano Chords" to help advanced harmony become more accessible to different levels of musicians who work at the keyboard.
Back when I was a student, (yes before the internet) information was harder to get hold of so I listened, experimented and read what books I could get hold of. I quickly concluded that in order to know what to play, you didn't necessarily need to go through the normal method of learning harmony.
To recap, the normal method of learning general harmony is to
- study the technicalities
- apply them to the keyboard and then
- develop the muscle memory.
However, the one weakness of traditional notation is that it makes certain 'black' key signatures more complicated than others and this is exacerbated with advanced harmony where music doesn't sit in the boundaries of a single key signature. Ironically, at a fundamental level there is no difference between a black or white note on the piano; you put your finger on it and you press it! But because notation looks and reads more complicated in certain keys, the learning progress can be hindered.
So for me, I needed to convert the traditional approach into a more mentally ergonomic method in order to use and develop this harmony efficiently.
I spotted that there is a hand shape relationship that is consistent in all the keys that can be learned and developed. In summary, this method uses
- muscle memory and hand shape as a starting point that
- consistently works in every key, and
- removes the fear of certain keys being more difficult than others!!
Muscle memory and hand shape is the basis of this method which is used at the start of the learning process; not at the end.
Here is an example of how you already use muscle memory.
Without consciously thinking, quickly play a basic C major triad on the piano and think about how you did it.
RESULT: You locked on to the note C and put your hands on the keys and just played it. You didn’t think about the individual notes or relationship between individual notes. You subconsciously used muscle memory because you have probably played it so frequently.
But muscle memory is not just what notes are played. It’s also about how the shape of the hand sits naturally on the keys. (see picture below)