Improvisation for Classically-Trained Pianists

How to Play from Chord Charts

Improvisation for Classically-Trained Pianists: How to Play from Chord Charts

This book teaches you how to play from music which has a melody line and chord symbols. It takes you through a step-by-step process, with plenty of practice examples, that will give you the freedom to play with confidence.

“I learned piano when I was young, but I never play anymore.” “I want to be able to just pick up anything and play it.” “What do I do with my left hand when the music just has melody and chord symbols?”

Sound familiar? Now you can sit down on a Sunday afternoon and just play music - good, full, rich-sounding music that suits your own level of development, and your own level of energy on any particular day.

This book will help you:

How to order this book

Songs Included

Ach du lieber Augustin • Advance Australia Fair • After the Ball • All Through the Night • Amazing Grace • Annie Laurie • Auld Lang Syne • Aura Lee • Away in a Manger • Banana Boat Song • Beautiful Dreamer • Botany Bay • Brahms’ Lullaby • Casta Diva • Click Go the Shears • Country Gardens • Daisy • Danny Boy • Dona Nobis Pacem • Down By the Old Mill Stream • Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes • Greensleeves • Handel’s Largo • Happy Birthday • I Do Like to be Beside the Seaside • I Gave My Love a Cherry • I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen • Jerusalem • Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring • Jingle Bells • Joy to the World • Let the Rest of the World Go By • Loch Lomond • My Bonnie • My Wild Irish Rose • New World Symphony • O Holy Night • O Little Town of Bethlehem • Ode to Joy • Oh No John • Pokarekare Ana • Polovstian Dances • Pomp and Circumstance • Scarborough Fair • Shenandoah • Silent Night • Silver Threads Among the Gold • Skye Boat Song • Steal Away • Sweet and Low • Swing Low Sweet Chariot • The Gift to be Simple • The Water is Wide • Veni Creator Spiritus • Waltzing Matilda • We Wish You a Merry Christmas • What a Friend We Have in Jesus • When Johnny Comes Marching Home • When the Saints Go Marching In • The Wild Colonial Boy


“I firmly believe that the way to have fun on the piano - and that means long-term fun that lasts well into adulthood - is to be able to read a chord chart. It opens up a whole new world of music that everyone can enjoy. The problem is, chord-chart reading is traditionally not something with which classical pianists are familiar. It’s regarded as a ‘pop’ or ‘jazz’ skill ... but I see it as a LIFE skill and I’ve always wished for a book that could teach one how to do this. It’s amazing when you discover a resource that exactly suits your needs!”

- Samantha Coates, The Studio

“Susan Deas takes a practical, straight-forward approach to lead sheet playing. Her book, Improvisation for Classically Trained Pianists, breaks down this skill into a truly step-by-step process.”

- Tim Topham

Listen to Susan’s interview with Tim Topham about improvisation

Need some lessons?

Sometimes you just need to ask questions! Susan can give you a lesson (or more lessons if needed) from her studio in Leichhardt, in Sydney’s Inner West, at a casual hourly rate. Regular lessons are available too, for children or adults. If you’re not in Sydney, maybe you can have a lesson via Zoom!

Cover painting by Ron Deas