An Introduction to Piano Accompaniment

intro-to-piano-accompanimentOnce you are familiar with the C major family of chords (those made when playing the C major scale with a series of root triads as follows: C major – D minor – E minor – F major – G major – A minor) it’s time to start working on accompaniment.

When playing a chord accompaniment, it is important to keep the chords in the right hand and the bass notes in the left hand. This minimises the muddy sound of clashing harmonics created by low chords. Give it a try and you’ll see what I mean.

To start with, play the root triad only in the right hand, and either a single root note or octave in the left. Here is an example using the common chord sequence C, Am, F and G.

c-am-f-g

NB: Chords written as a single letter are always major chords. If they are followed with an ‘m’ they are minor chords.

The next stage is to swap some root chords for first or second inversions. The aim is to move the right hand as little as possible – most of the movement should be confined to the left hand bass. One way to work out which chords to use is to keep ‘shared’ notes (those that occur in both chords) in the same position. Eg, C major and A minor share the notes C and E, so when moving between these chords these stay in the same place and the G changes to and A. Below are the same chords as above, starting with C in 1st inversion, setting the position for the right hand.

inversions

The next stage is to add in some rhythm. While there is a vast number of possible rhythms, it’s best to start with a simple 4/4 rhythm as shown below.

44-rhythm

The right keeps a constant minim pulse going, over a semi-breve bass note. In between, the thumb is adding colour with a dotted-minim and a crotchet: Here’s another in 3/4:

34-rhythm

When experimenting with rhythms, it can helpful to imagine you are playing a drum kit, matching the bass note with the bass drum, the right hand with the hi- hat and the thumb with the snare. Alternatively, the thumb could be bass drum and the right hand the snare. 

For your reading pleasure, here is a free PDF of this complete article:

Introduction to Piano Chord Accompaniment.pdf