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Fixed and broken chords

The easiest left-hand accompaniment is chords, whether you play them as straight chords or
arpeggios. Start with the basic chords and find inversions that work well for you without
requiring your left hand to move all over the keyboard. Also, you should experiment with
various rhythmic patterns. For example, try playing quarter-note chords instead of whole-note
chords. Or try a dotted quarter and eighth-note pattern.

Here, the left hand plays a simple chord progression with several different rhythmic patterns.
Play these a few times and decide which rhythmic pattern works, sounds, and feels best to
You can change the texture and add some variety with a constant arpeggiated pattern in the
left hand. For every chord symbol, use the root, fifth, and octave notes of the chords scale to
form an up-and-down pattern throughout the song. This pattern works for fast or slow songs.
Chord picking
Left-hand chord picking is a style well suited to country music. But even if you arent a fan
of that genre, you can apply this pattern to just about any song you like.

Most chords are made up of a root note, a third interval, and a fifth interval. You need to
know these three elements to be a successful chord-picker.

To play this pattern, break a chord into two units: the root note and two top notes. Play the
root note on beat 1 and the top two notes together on beat 2. To make it sound even more
impressive, do something a little different on beat 3: Play the fifth of the chord by itself but
one octave Lower.

Now try playing this pattern in the piece Picking and Grinning. After you get the feel of
this bouncy rhythmic pattern, you wont even need to look at your hands. Your pinky will
find the two alternating bass notes because theyre always the same distance from the root.
Octave hammering
This easy (if tiring) left-handed groove is really fun and easy if your right hand is just playing
chords. But if youre playing a melody or something more complicated than chords with your
right hand, this pattern may not be a practical choice.

To hammer out some octaves, you simply prepare your left hand in an open octave position,
with your pinky and thumb ready on the two notes, and make sure your wrist is loose enough
to bounce a bit with the appropriate rhythm.

When the chord changes, keep your hand in octave position as you move directly to the next
set of octaves. You can play the octaves using any rhythm that sounds good to you try
whole notes, half notes, even eighth notes, depending on the rhythmic character of the song.

Octaves in the Left lets you roll out some octaves.

As you become more familiar with harmony, you can add to these left-hand octave patterns
with octaves built on the notes of the chord. For example, the octaves in Jumping Octaves
move from the root note to the third interval note to the fifth interval note for each right-hand
Bouncy rock patterns
In addition to slamming octaves, a nice rock and roll-sounding bass pattern may use other
intervals drawn from scale notes.

You can create a great bass pattern using the octave, the fifth, and the sixth intervals of each
chord. Try this rockin accompaniment along with Rockin Intervals. You can modify the
pattern to fit a two- or one-measure pattern in 4/4 meter. After a few times through, your
hands will know what to do, and you can apply the pattern to any major chord.
The great Chuck Berry made the locomotive-sounding pattern demonstrated in Berry-Style
Blues very popular on the guitar. It was only a matter of time before some trail-blazing
pianist adapted this guitar pattern to the piano. All you have to do is alternate between
playing an open fifth and an open sixth on every beat.
Another melodic left-hand pattern played by every pianist from novice to pro is the boogie-
woogie bass line. It doesnt even need a melody. This bass line uses notes from a major
scale but lowers the seventh note of the scale a half step (also called a flatted seventh) to give
you that bluesy sound.

For each new chord in the boogie-woogie bass line, you play the following scale notes up the
keys and then back down: root, third, fifth, sixth, flatted seventh.