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Piano improvisation using soulful chord progressions

Updated on November 18, 2015

Improvising the E flat Major Scale

If you listen to Neo Soul artists like D'angelo, Jill Scott, Erykah Badu, Dwele, etc. Most of their music contains a lot of complex, deep tension filled chords patterns. If may be difficult to work out a lot of their chords alone, however improvising on a scale such as Eb will help us get a similar sound. The scale Eb, Bb or F tend to be popular scales to use in the Neo Soul and even Jazz genre. Scales such of E, A and D are more used for pop music. They have more of a "catchy" feel for the larger audience.

The keys I like to improvise on are the following:

D#, F, G, G#, A#, C, C#

You'll notice that it's not a normal D# scale, it's more like a C minor scale since I prefer to use a C# instead of a D as it has more of a soulful sound to it. If you play it you'll know just with your ears. I am not a pro player but this scale is very easy on the fingers and you can trick people into believing you are a pro if you practice the scales smoothly. Notes such as B and one or two other keys not in the scale can be used as "passing" notes if you want to spice things up, however a melody phrase should never end on any of these passing notes.

The Chords

As with Jazzy Neo soul, the best chords to use are 7th's and 9th's. E.g. Try the Fm9 / Dm9 / Cmaj9 - Sounds nice doesn't it.

Using the correct chords for the scales we have:

1. D#min9 (The minor sounds more soulfull here)

2. Fmin9 or 7

3. Gmaj9

4. G#min9 or G# dom

5. A#min9

6. Cmin9 or 7

7. C#Maj9 or 7

The above do not follow the chords theory exactly but following the typical theory can often leave you with a bland unoriginal piece of music. I have adjusted the chords to create a lot of tension for deep soul music.

Try to play the piano combining the above chords with the scale I mentioned earlier and can sound very impressive once you get the fingering speed.

9th chords are probably impossible for most people to play with one hand so invert the 9th and bring it down one octave so that its to the root key. This actually gives more of a deeper gospel type sound than playing the 9th which both hands.

Using the above chords you should be able to play along with a lot of Neo soul artists. Especially Jill Scott - Layzel in Eb.


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