Friday, November 12, 2010

Warm Up With Coldplay - Learn to Play Like Chris Martin

Coldplay has become one of the biggest rock bands in the world by writing powerful, epic songs based most often around that most powerful and epic instrument, the piano. Inspired equally by U2's rock anthems and brit-pop's mellower introspection, Coldplay's lead vocalist and pianist Chris Martin, creates vocal lines and keyboard accompaniments that are melodic, memorable, and elegant in their simplicity. Like many great rock musicians before him, Martin has learned how to create the maximum effect out of basic musical parts: many of Coldplay's songs are based around simple piano figures that are tons of fun to play. So, while Coldplay's songs may be hard to get out of your head, they're surprisingly easy to play!

The best way to start learning Coldplay's songs is just to jump right in. One way to this is with sheet music, like this "Best of Coldplay for Easy Piano" book. For a more interactive experience, though, MIDI versions of Coldplay's songs are a great place to start. Learning with MIDI files on your keyboard will give you the chance to customize each song to fit your learning and practicing needs. For example:
  • Hear what you're trying to learn. By isolating the piano and keyboard parts in the song, you can focus on training your hands to play just like a professional recording.
  • Play with a full band backing track. You can easily mute the piano part and play along with the song's full accompaniment, which helps you learn by adding context to your playing.
  • Learn at your own speed. Slow down the track to make it easier to play, or speed it up for a bigger challenge.
  • Let the song follow you. With the guide mode, you can tell the song to follow your playing - when you play the right notes, the song will continue. This is a great way to test yourself as you're learning to play.

For the most part, Martin's piano parts show an emphasis on rhythmic accents, without being too harmonically or rhythmically complex. For more detailed observations on specific songs, we've made a few suggestions below, including designations for finding the piano channels in each song. You can also consult this guide for more tips on learning with MIDI files.

Piano on Track 4

The piano part in this song is unmistakable, and it consists almost entirely of arpeggios played in the right hand. The rhythm is the key to the riff, but you can start by just making sure your hand can play the chords themselves, before adding the descending rhythmic pattern. The version of the song in this file is in Eb major, which may be a difficult key to play in if you're new to the keyboard. Your keyboard can easily transpose it down one half step to D or up two half steps to F, which will make it easier to play.

Viva La Vida
Piano on Track 6

There's a lot going on in "Viva La Vida" besides the piano, including a full string section, but the piano part is still a vitally important part of the song. Like many of these songs it features mainly chords, this time played in eighth notes, with a syncopated pattern of accents that repeats throughout the song.

The Scientist
Piano on Track 4

One of Coldplay's signature ballads, this song combines an emotive melody with a piano part simple enough for even beginner players to pick up with a little work. The speed of the song is slow enough that you should be able to play the right hand quarter note chords without straining yourself or adjusting the tempo, and they stay consistent throughout the entire song. As the lyrics say, "nobody said it was easy", but learning this song is a great place to start if you're getting started with MIDI files.

Piano on Track 5

"Trouble", one of Coldplay's more melancholy, minor key singles, features a neat piano riff that appears in all of the bridge sections between choruses and verses and is pretty easy to learn too. The piano in the rest of the song plays out with where, again, the emphasis is all in the accents in the right hand chords.

Speed of Sound
Piano on Track 4, Synth on Track 6

Featuring both a piano part, which appears only during the intro and bridges of the song, as well as a synthesizer which takes the place of the piano on the verses and choruses, how you play this song is more open to interpretation. Follow the song's chords and you can't go wrong.

Coldplay MIDI Pack
Get "Viva La Vida", "Clocks", "Yellow", "The Scientist" and "Trouble", and save 20%!

- Doug