Singing Pianist - Combined Practice Shortcuts

Singing Pianist – Combined practice of I.VI.II.V progression

Pianogrooves just released my 5 minute master class on 1625 turn arounds (link below) It’s a video that runs through all 12 keys with the common chord progression that is not only found in Jazz, but is often the entire harmonic structure of many pop, rock, folk and country tunes. So by familiarizing yourself with these chord changes in every key, you can pick up news songs effortlessly. Even sight reading and transcribing chord charts on the spot becomes your norm.

Add in the Voice on Top

For singing pianist out there, you can add your voice in on top for the type of combined practice discussed in my post announcing the launch of the Pianogroove forum for Accompanying andSinging Pianist. Here’s a way to further your combined practice of logging in those miles as a singing pianist + take steps towards vocal improvisation (scat) + get better at transcribing to all 12 keys.

The exercise is to take the common chord progression of I, VI, II V thru all 12 keys in the order of the circle of 5th’s.

First running the scale of the new key, then going over the progression 2-8 times before moving to the next key.

To combine this common piano exercise with the voice…

  • Using a syllable, or note name, you can sing thru the scale at the start of each new key.

  • Then you can arpeggiate the chords out to their pillars (1.3.5 for triads, for 7th chords) and sing the tones over those as well.

  • Take out the metronome and do it rubato until it’s a bit easier. Then bring back in a steady tempo when you are ready, slow then upbeat.

  • Let you voice flip octaves when need be. Going thru all 12 keys, you’ll typically find places where your voice just can’t go. So let it flip down or up at that point. Matching pitch is the most important point at first. You’ll also get more information about the landscape of your voice; where and what keys are difficult, ect.

  • Also, if triads are easier for you, you can start and stay there til you are ready for more of a challenge. Then move onto 7th chords.

Vocal Improvisation Exercise

This is common practice for jazz vocalist wanting to improvise (scat) – to run scales and apreggios. So it’s a great first step for improvisation, or it can just be used as a vocal warm up. A more advanced step is to improvise over the blocked chord changes with your voice.

  • As you play each progression, you can hmmmm a little melody, or hold long notes over the changes (use syllables here). A great first note to hold would be the root of each new key or chord.

  • When you run the scale first, it will easier to flip to the new key each time.

  • Next step is to take out the scale and jump straight into each new key.

  • Next step is to try to sing the exact same little ditty in all 12 keys. Before you start, you can figure something out with your voice, then on the piano (or vice versa).

  • Keep it simple to start, and make sure it’s very clear what you are singing before you launch the exercise. Then take it for a spin through all 12.

  • If you get lost in any key, you can stop the exercise and just play thru it in that key on the piano.

You’ll be surprised how quickly you’ll memorize the key changes, so it will probably only be challenging for a time. Then you can change the order to 1/2 steps and whole steps, common key modulations!

Syllables - La and Oh to start

Now, If you are not sure about what syllables to use, start with La, or Oh.

I’ll have a post coming soon to address syllables and mouth shape in more detail.

Honestly, I utilize my voice often when trying to discipher melody/harmony on piano but more on this to come soon!

Time Well Spent

Remember - You are working on your skill of transposition in both your singing and playing, so even if very slow at first, it’s practice time well spent.

You are also laying a foundation for vocal improvisation; something that Homer proved is not as easy as it might seem:)

Any questions? Need clarification? That’s what I’m here for:)

I’d also just love to hear about experiences with these exercises.


If any of this has been a bit much, it’s laid out in far more detail, including video on This is a subscription sight that houses TONS of lessons from top pianist in the world today + an online community of pianist and singing pianist that offers support and inspirations. So it might be the right solution for you or a private lesson with me could clear things up as well. Reach out and we can discuss either option more!

Happy Practicing!

Lyndol DescantComment