Tales – etudes for piano

Here you can listen to the pieces in the collection. The recorded performances are just one way to interpret the pieces. Please feel free to experiment with different tempi and dynamics.

Click titles to get tips for practising and additional improvisation exercises and ideas.

All exercises and note illustrations © Jarkko Kantala

On the move

If you want to make the B-section (bars 26-39 ) more challenging, try playing the left hand like this:

Make your own etude for thirds. With the right hand, use the three thirds you can make in a five finger position. Compose an one bar melody with the thirds and use the same idea throughout the whole chord progression. Then repeat the progression using a different idea. Remember to try the exercise in different keys.

Under control!

The rhythm of this piece is based on a typical 70’s disco style. You can use it (use the whole rhythmic pattern from. e.g. bar 13) to accompany e.g. I Will Survive. Articulate left hand like this:

Make your own piece with similar ideas. Use a pentatonic scale with only black keys. Right hand plays the four perfect fourths you can make with the scale. Left hand bass notes are notes that belong to the scale. Develop different short repeating phrases, riffs.

You get harmonic variation to the piece by using also notes outside the scale in the B-section. For example:

Winter (a memory)

Again, use the thirds you can get in a five finger position, but combine them with single notes. E.g.::

Left hand plays bass notes or broken chords like in the original piece. You can use e.g. the following chord progression:

Dm Dm/C Dm/H Dm/Bb


Arpeggiated pattern where you change the 1. and 5. finger on the same key, is a very common technique in piano music.

Make your own version of the piece using a similar arpeggiated pattern. You can expand the range to three or four octaves. Use e.g. different chords in the first inversion:


This piece has large chords with many notes. If you have difficulties to reach all the keys, consider which key you can leave out, usually it’s the lowest one. Note the fingerings where the thumb plays two keys.

Variation: play the piece as a choral, with long sustained chords.

Make your own piece in similar fashion. First choose a scale. Make large chords by using scale degree chords and adding extra notes or you can make cluster-like chords by just combining notes that belong to the scale. You get variation by changing the scale from time to time. Then play the chords with a repeating EDM-style rhytmic pattern like e.g.


This piece has a polyrhythmic idea: one bar is divided into four parts in the right hand ostinato and into six parts in the left hand melody.

Let’s try similar idea with the following example. Left hand bassline follows the 6/8 time signature. Right hand plays an ostinato, which has a different length, e.g. 4/8 or 5/8. Try with different scales, basslines and ostinati. E.g:


The many accidentals in the left hand passage in bars 21-29 may look daunting, but get much easier, when you first analyze, which scale is currently used.

Choose a scale and play it continuously with the left hand. Make the notes into groups of 3, 4 or 5 and play a suitable chord with the right hand at the start of each group. E.g.:

If you use the scales/chords in the example, put them in a suitable order and make a repating chord progression. Experiment with different ways to group the scale notes, you can also use combined groups like 3+2 or 2+2+3.


In the A-section, only the two lowest notes change in the left hand broken chord pattern.

Improvise your own right hand melody for the piece. In the A-section use natural c-minor scale (you can omit the A flat-note) and in the B-section use G-phrygian scale:


Without doubts

In this piece, the moving note in the left hand pattern is perceived as a melody. Try to emphasize the melody line.

Make your own piece using the same idea. The right hand thumb repeats the same note and the upper note moves forming a melody. In this example the dorian scale and left hand accompaniment with fifths bring a medievalesque flavour.



Play the left hand chords preferrably without arpeggio, but if your fingers can’t reach the first chord, use rapid arpeggio on all the left hand chords. In the right hand part, try to separate the cantabile melody line from the repeating notes.

You can improvise your own melody by using d-dorian scale (white keys).


In this piece the bass note and the melody note are always placed an octave plus a third apart.

Make your own piece in a similar fashion. First choose a scale (dorian and mixolydian scales work well here). Left hand plays bass notes (or triad chords like in Riser) and the right hand plays a melody an octave and a third higher. Use EDM-esque syncopated rhythms. E.g:


Like in Undecided, the goal in this improvisation is to have the hands play dynamically independently. In the A-section the left hand improvises the melody and the right hand accompanies with an ostinato. In the B-section the roles are reversed.


In this piece the even rhythm of alternating hands is broken with the 4+3 rhythm. Be careful that the last eight note is not too long in the 7/8 bars.

Within reach?

Variation: play the piece slowly, but with a short staccato articulation:


Here the two hands play three distinct layers: bass line, ostinato pattern and the melody.

Make your own piece with these three layers. Choose a scale and use notes belonging to the scale. The right hand plays an ostinato pattern in the upper register. Left hand plays both a slowly moving bass line and a melody line in the middle register. You can also play the r.h. ostinato in the middle register and cross the r.h. with left hand to play the melody in the upper register, like in Nostalgia.

Try the following bass line/chord progression (ostinato pattern uses e-minor scale notes):

Em Em/D Em/C H


The rhythmic twist in this piece is that the repeating left hand ostinato is alternating in a 12/16 and in a 3/4 rhythmic setting. Be careful to keep the rhythm and the tempo the same all the time.

Many pieces, especially in pop/jazz, have a repeating bass ostinato, a riff. Compose a left hand ostinato pattern and play chords and/or melody with the right hand. The easiest way to start is to use a drone-like harmonization, where the riff stays the same, but the chords change, e.g:

Cm Bb/C Ab/C Bb/C


In the section starting from bar 49, continue the melody by improvising with the given scale. Try to achieve a free and floating melody, rhythmically independent from the left hand broken chord. The improvised section can be as long or short as you like.


Note the specific directions marked with an asterisk.

Improvise a piece with slowly changing harmonic textures using long pedalling. Start with black keys, two in each hand. Use the same technique of rapidly alternating the hands as in the Shimmer. Change the chord one note at the time, eventually moving to white keys too. You can also build chords with more notes. Experiment with dynamics and pedalling, creating slowly building swells.


bar 4

bar 42


The harmonic idea in this piece is based on two alternating chords, which have only one changing note, e.g. Bb/F – Dm/F. Use a similar pair of chords (or pairs of chords) as a basis of your own composition.

In Kaiho, there are several ways to play the broken chord accompaniment. Consider, when you can divide it between hands or when you must play it with the left hand only.


In this improvisation the left hand part is borrowed from Fleeting. Improvise your own melody by using f- minor pentatonic scale.