Since I’m an online piano teacher, here’s a fact that might surprise you: I don’t often teach individual song tutorials. Especially not on YouTube, where piano tutorials seem to be all the rage!
Why not? Because like the proverb about teaching a person to fish goes, I’d much rather teach my students the skills they need to play songs of their choice. Teaching song-by-song makes people much more dependent on me than they need to be! Going through my Piano In 21 Days course is the best way for students to learn to play independently.
That said, there are times when using an example song can help illustrate a concept or technique. So that’s what I’m doing here with my video on how to play “Make You Feel My Love” as performed by Adele, using my 5-step song-learning process.
If I’d never played this song before, this process is exactly what I would use to learn to play it. The reason why it’s called the 5-step song-learning process is because there are… you guessed it, 5 steps! 😉 Pardon my dad joke, and let’s get started.
Important Note: I will assume that you’re here because you’re already somewhat familiar with my chord-based approach to piano. You should already know how to play major, minor, and 7th chords. You should also know at least some improvisational tools such as the techniques I teach in my Piano In 21 Days course. If you’re not quite there, bookmark this page for later and get started with my 5-day workbook here.
#1) Find the Chords
Before the days of the internet, you’d have to find a songbook or figure out chords to each new song that you wanted to play. Fortunately, these days it’s a lot simpler! By doing a quick search for the name of the song + “chords,” you can almost always find chord notation for free.
In this example, I am using the search term “make you feel my love chords,” and choosing the top search result for the Adele version. Ultimate Guitar tends to provide the best chord notation, just watch out for their ads and promotions – especially if you’re using a phone or tablet. You do not have to sign up for their membership to use the free chord notation.
Getting Comfortable and Changing Keys
Take a moment to look over the chords and the key the song is written in. This version is in the funky key of A#. That means will include chords with lots of black notes, which makes it a bit more challenging. There’s nothing wrong with challenging! But if you’d rather play in a simpler key, that’s fine, too.
If you’re playing a keyboard or digital piano, you might already know that it’s easy to use the “tranpose” feature or button. The chord notation tells us that the recommended capo, a.k.a. number of steps to transpose, is 3. (It actually says “3rd fret,” which is a guitar term, but don’t worry about that. Capo 3rd fret on guitar just means transpose by 3 semitones on piano.)
From A# to G
Like I said, playing in a simpler key is fine. In fact, I’d much rather play this song in the key of G than A#. How would I go about doing that?
Using the transpose button will raise the sound to a higher pitch without actually changing what we physically play. But in this case, we want to change what we’re playing to something simpler, so transposing our instrument is not the whole solution. Instead, we’re going to transpose the chord notation and what we’re playing. I promise, this will all make sense in a minute!
Use the transpose feature right inside ultimateguitar.com to lower the song’s key by 3 semitones (-3). Then use your keyboard or digital piano’s transpose button to raise your keys’ sound by 3 semitones (+3). This means you are actually staying in the same key as the chord notation suggests, but in a way that lets you play easier chords.
Are you still with me?
We are now playing in the key of G. This means that when you play a G chord, it will sound like an A# chord. When you play a D chord, it will sound like an F chord.
What if we had wanted to play in the key of C? In that case, you could simply transpose the chord notation down by 2 steps or semitones, and raise your keyboards’ pitch by transposing up by 2.
Again, this is all optional. But it’s nice to have options. 😉
Familiarizing Yourself with the Chord Progression
Take a moment to go through the chord progressions for the song. Can you play all the chords listed there easily? Play them one by one, just to make sure there aren’t any that will give you trouble later. Here are the chords for this song: G, D, F, C, Cm, A7, D7, B7.
Regarding 7th chords in this song: you have multiple options for how to play 7th chords, and I illustrate them in the video above. Feel free to review that if you don’t remember how to play 7ths. 🙂
#2) Listen to Adele’s Version of “Make You Feel My Love”
It’s time to pull up the song for reference wherever you usually stream music (I usually use YouTube). Play it through, but don’t just listen. Read along with the chord notation, paying close attention to each chord change. Can you hear them?
Sometimes, beginners have trouble hearing chord changes. Don’t give up: keep listening and watch for where the chord changes happen in relation to the lyrics. This will get easier with practice. And even if you never get the hang of hearing the chord changes all by yourself, you will have the chord notation for reference.
Listen through the song multiple times, until you have a good grasp of the song’s tempo and where all the chord changes are.
#3) Play the Basic Chords
Now it’s time to play along with the song. At this point we are going to keep things very basic, so refrain from doing any improvisations unless you specifically find inversions helpful at this stage.
Listen to the song and begin to play each chord as you come to it in the chord notation. Play a G when you see G, switch to D when you reach a D in that part of the song, and keep going this way through the chord progressions for the whole song.
You may have some fumbles or mistakes at this stage, which just means you need to go through the song a few more times and get these basic chord changes down. Practice this step as long as you need to, then move forward when you feel confident.
#4) Spice it Up
We’re getting to the fun part! It’s time to break out your trusty improvisation toolbag to help fill out your sound.
A quick note though: instrumentation Adele’s version of this song is mostly just piano. That means you may be comparing your playing to the original and thinking, “Am I supposed to play those same exact notes?”
Well no, not really. You can learn to do that, but you don’t have to exactly replicate someone’s song in order to get the gist of it and play it well. Playing songs note-for-note like the original requires more advanced skills, so let’s keep it a bit more simple here.
Which Tools Should You Use?
What kind of improvisation tools can you use to spice up “Make You Feel My Love?” If you’ve already gone through at least some of my Piano In 21 Days course, you should be familiar with some fun tools such as:
- The Toggle
- Playing extra notes from the scale
So start incorporating one or more of these techniques into the song as you play. You can try them all, or just use your favorites. It’s really up to you. This is how you make the song your own. 🙂
(And if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you must have missed my note at the beginning of this post. Go sign up for my 5-day workbook here to get started.)
You may need to go through this step 5-10 times or more in order to identify which improvisation tools you like best for this song, and practice applying them. That’s okay! It’s more important to get confident within each step than rush through them and feel lost in the end. So go ahead, practice as much as you need to before moving on to step five.
#5) Break Free
If you’re a singer, this is the part you’ve been waiting for. I hereby give you permission to sing along as you play! You can even get your whole family in on the act if you want. 😉
Personally I quite like the sound of many popular songs as instrumentals, so I like playing even with no accompanying singer. In my video above, I demonstrate how playing without a singer can still sound good and still evoke “Make You Feel My Love” even without Adele’s soulful voice singing the melody.
But even if, like me, you’re not a singer, this is the part where you will break free from the original song. Start playing it on your own. That’s right, turn off the music in the background and start implementing the chords and improv tools you’ve already been practicing. Follow along with the chord notation and you can’t go wrong. With a bit of practice, you’ll be able to play this classic song with ease!
Okay, but what about if you made it all the way to the end of this post even without knowing any chords or improvisation tools? Really, you’re still here? Not to worry: I have just the resource you need.
Start with my 5-day workbook. It’s completely free and it will give you the foundation you need to move on to my full 21-day piano course. This is just about the fastest and most fun way to get started with piano, so I hope you stick around. 😉