• Gisela Paterno

Piano accompaniments: Enhancing our melodies

Updated: Nov 26, 2020

Piano accompaniments: Enhancing our melodies

Piano accompaniments: Enhancing our melodies

How many times did we create a beautiful piano chord progression, but it seemed impossible to develop it?

Either we can't find the correct position on the right hand, or whatever we play on the left-hand sounds muddy and not very pleasant for the ear. The answer to all of these relies on one word: accompaniment. This is basically how we display those piano chords. In this article, I would like to show you how to create based on a very simple chord progression: C, Am, F, G. Or for the students who already have some harmonic knowledge: I - VI - IV - V (Roman numerals determine the chord function within a scale)

Before we dive in the right hand, let me give you a couple of tips regarding the best way the left hand can reinforce the harmony. As you know, the basic chord is called the "Triad" as this chord has 3 notes: the root, that gives the name to the chord; the third, that gives the mode (either major or minor); and the fifth, 5 notes away from the root and is the one who remains unchanged no matter if the chord is major or minor.

The notes which go better on the left hand are the root and the fifth. Never put the third on the lowest register, otherwise, it will sound muddy and the overall result will be having a "fuzzy chord". In the case of adding the third, always do it as the highest note the left can reach within its range (see examples from bar 28 in the images below).

Now let's see what the right hand can do. As a general rule, this hand delivers the most complex patterns and designs. We start this example with a triad played in block (as opposed as broken: see examples from bar 28 to 31). This is the most and easy way to display chords, please notice that is the Bass line played by the left hand which contributes to the movement. You should always have something stationary that works as a reference (mostly to set the beat) and something else that contrasts or opposes it, this will prevent the harmonic progression to become somehow stagnant.

We continue with suspended chords on bar 5 and the addition of seconds on bar 8 (also the sequence is played one octave higher to get a brighter sound); on bar 11 we have a variation between the last two examples.

On bar 14 we add passing notes on the Bass Line, here the left-hand start to have a melodic intervention that will be developed in the next examples.

Bars 19-22 is characterised with an arpeggio on the left hand plus a passing note from the root to the third note of the triad. Please note that all the passing notes or non-harmonic notes are coloured in blue for better and faster visual recognition. The right-hand start to develop different inversions, bringing a more interesting melodic line.

On bars 23-27 we observe simple arpeggios on the left hand while the right-hand remains stationary, very similar to the beginning of the examples.

From bar 28 we begin the broken chords on the right hand, plus the dotted rhythms on the left-hand, underlining the third of the chords in the upper note.

Bars 32-36 delivers a much elaborated right hand with a beautiful drone made of step-progression melodies out of a broken chord, this resource is made by the passing notes on the weak parts of the beat.

Finally, from bar 37 to the end of this example, we have the most embellished variation on the right hand, making this very simple progression shown at the beginning, the canvas for an appealing song.

I hope this can trigger wonderful ideas for your own material. I leave a link to my own video which shows you the progression explained in this article (includes a metronomic mark plus a countdown at the beginning) and the examples to practice below:

If you want to know more about chords and how they work, you can visit these two articles that talk about the chord categories in families: Tonic, Subdominant and Dominant:

Tonal Families: Introduction to Chord Substitution - Function 1

Tonal Families: Dominant and Subdominant Families - Functions 2 & 3

And also, how to harmonise melodies!

Lastly, if you would like to know more about the experience of being an accompanist, you will find the article below very interesting!

#wkmtarticles #pianolessonslondon #adultpianolessons #pianoteacherslondon #musiclessonslondon #pianotuitionlondon

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