Improve on playing chords with your left hand and melody with your right hand
It is generally not that difficult to pick out the melody for a song.

If you can find the melody to a tune, then how do you find the chords to accompany that melody?
In the mean time, here's a quick summary of how to harmonize melodies:
  1. Find out what key the melody is in.
  2. Learn the I, IV and V7 chords of that key. In the key of C these would be C, F and G7.
  3. Press the 1 chord and play the first notes of the melody.
  4. When the melody and the chord no longer seem to fit together, switch to one of the other two chords. This usually happens at the beginning of a new measure.
  5. Repeat until you reach the end of the song. Usually the song will end on the I chord.

This is a very basic way to get started but it actually works.

Practice Tips

Here are some practice tips that I believe helps.
It helps to have short and long range goals.
What is your long range goal?
Where do you want to end up in terms of your music?

Your long range goal will be accomplished by accomplishing several short term goals.
So we need to always have short term goals that we are reaching for.
Try this:
Take a few minutes and honestly evaluate where you are in your playing.
Take a little time to identify your strengths and weaknesses.
Now the question is what can I do to improve upon my weaknesses?
You need to attack your weakness and use a fair amount of your practice time just on whatever the weakness is.
Over the years I've learned that you have to practice smart. Practice in a way that will really benefit you and cause the needed growth that you desire.
Write it down, get a practice log and keep track of your practicing and goals.

Let me give you an example:

Oluwajoba Practice Schedule
Date: February 12, 2011
Available Time (60 minutes)

(Short Term Goal)

Area of desired improvement: Become more flexible with my left hand

10 minutes = Scales and finger exercises

15 minutes = Sight Reading

20 minutes = Left Hand Exercises (place of desired growth)

15 minutes = Learn new song


This is just an example of how to set up a practice schedule. Of course you know how much time you have and what you want to practice on.
If you consistently practice like this you will see results. This is an organized way to make sure you are practicing in an effective manner.
You will see gradual and steady growth. This is the best kind of growth.

Playing All Keys

Technically speaking there is no such thing as a HARD key to play in. There are just keys that we are not comfortable with or keys we don't spend much time playing in.
Technically anything that you can do in on key you should be able to do in ANY key.
Now you do run into issues of fingering and things like that when changing keys, but you should be able to do it.
I believe there are 3 main reasons for not being able to play in every key which are.
  1. Believing that some keys are harder than others and avoiding them at all cost.
  2. Not practicing in the most beneficial way.
  3. Not understanding that music is actually mathematical.

Let's first deal with number 1.
As I mentioned earlier there is no such thing as a hard key. There are just keys that you are not comfortable with or you just don't play in.
The way to deal with this is to make the mental adjustment that "I can play in any key if I work on it."
If you have been using it STOP USING IT! And I am referring to TRANSPOSE.

Transpose is an extremely crippling feature that most mid to pro level keyboardists have nowadays. If you are using it try to wean yourself off of it.
If you constantly avoid certain keys then how are you going to learn to play in it?

Now let's deal with the 2nd reason.
If you are learning a new lick or run or something like that you should practice it in all 12 keys. When you practice on certain things you should work on them in all 12 keys.

One way to do this is to practice things by the circle of 4th.
I like to practice like this. The circle of fourths is simply moving from key to key in fourths.
For example the C major scale is C D E F G A B C
The first note is C, so you start with C. The fourth note of the scale is F, so therefore the next note after C will be F.

Now the F major scale is F G A B b C D E F and the fourth note of this major scale is Bb.
So therefore the first 3 notes would be C,F, and Bb and so one in the same manner until you play all 12 keys.
So the complete circle of Fourths starting with C is

C F Bb Eb Ab Db Gb B E A D G

So, if you practice things like this you won't skip any keys and you will be practicing in each key equally. So you will be equally strong in each key.
It's also challenging to practice with a metronome or something that keeps tempo for you while you are practicing things in the circle of fourths.

Lastly, music is mathematical. If you don't know it then you should learn the number system.
For example the C major scale again is C D E F G A B C

C =1 D=2 E=3 F=4 G=5 A=6 B=7

And it is like this for all 12 major scales. You are note thinking of notes per say but you are thinking of numbers when you play.
Instead of thinking the song starts with C major then goes to F major and ends on A minor, You think of it like the song starts on the 1 chord then it goes to the 4 chord and then to the 6 chord.

Now thinking of it in terms of numbers will eliminate the issue of not being able to play it in all 12 keys, because you are thinking of numbers and not note names.
If you know your basic chords and your scales in all 12 keys then you can play using the number system.

Strengthen Your Left Hand

Most keyboardists are right handed, so this means that the right hand is naturally stronger and they are more comfortable using the right hand than the left.
Also, many musicians have trouble playing with their left hands. Technically speaking, your left hand should be able to play anything that your right hand can.

This is a simple exercise that will help strengthen the left hand.

Take a song that you know well. Play with your left hand what you would normally play with your right hand. Don't use your right hand at all. Try to make it sound like you are playing with your right hand even though you are really playing it with your left hand.

Try to play chords, licks, runs, progressions, and songs only using the left hand. It is challenging if you have never done something like this before.

Doing this will really strengthen the left hand and train it to be more independent. You want the left hand to be able to play nice chords freely so that you can play melodies and solos with your right hand.

This exercise also gives you more control and comfort with your left hand when you are playing chords with both hands together.
Ideally when you practice, you want to practice so that both hands get equal attention. This will prevent you from having one strong hand and one weak hand.
For example if you practice on scales, practice with both hands. If you learn a run or lick, try to play it with both hands. Strive to be able to do anything you do with either hand.

Grow Musically

  1. Find a mentor. What I mean is someone who you look up to and admire musically. Someone who is more skillful and experienced than you. It helps to have a person that is an example of what you want to do and what level you want to do it on. Listen to them, study them, if you can ask them questions, do so.
  2. Put yourself in the HOT SEAT! What I mean is try to consistently play with musicians that are more skillful than you are. This will really make improve musically if you go away from the experience and learn from your mistakes if any and then really practice on what you are not strong in.
  3. Expose yourself to new and fresh things. I like to explain it like this. Say for example you want to be a News Anchor Person. In order to do this you need to have a really good speaking voice, be a fluent reader, and have great communication skills.
    So in order to grow in these skills the person needs to do a lot of reading from many different sources. (Novels, Magazines, Short Stories, Etc.) The person needs to practice reading out loud and talking with a good speaking voice. Likewise with growing as a musician. You have to expose yourself to new things and work on them.

The point is, in order to grow as a musician it really makes a huge difference to expose yourself to new and fresh things. It is like reading books on subjects that you are not familiar with. Once you get through reading the books you will be more knowledgeable in that subject.
Likewise with music you will learn new things, new approaches, new concepts, and techniques.
If you don't consistently do this you can easily get in a rut and stop growing musically.

You have to stretch yourself with new things. It is so much to learn in music we all can be learning for the rest of our lives. However, the more you learn the better you will be.

I hope that you improve more on your playing skills with these few tips of mine. Thank You and God bless You.