Taking Piano accompaniment to the next level:
I got so much great feedback from people about trying this saying ‘wow this is really amazing, I can finally sing and play piano to accompany myself’ and a lot of people said ‘whats next for the piano parts?’
How to Accompany Yourself On Piano With Two Notes:
Let’s play the left hand root and in the right hand on the piano. Just play one single note. Play the third of the chord. The chord is either major or minor; those are your only two alternatives for thirds. This means that you don’t really have to know a lot beyond just the basic major and minor chords.
Today I’ve chosen an old jazz standard called ‘Poor Butterfly’ because it’s got a nice chord progression. Let’s tackle the first few bars:
- The first chord is an Fm7 so my left hand is going to play an F
- My right hand is going to play the third of the chord – I’m spacing the hands out so I’m actually playing a 10th – I’m not playing the 3rd directly above it, I’m playing the 3rd and octave above it which will give a little bit more fullness to the chord.
- Play the 3rd of the chord an octave higher than where the root is; so there’s the F minor 7 then the next chord is a Bb7 chord and it’s a major chord because it has a major 3rd
- Then, go to EbM7 for 2 bars
- Next, I’m going to play the G7 at the beginning of every bar and then I go to C7
I’m going to play it to beat one of every single bar and if the chord repeats for a bar like it does in bar three and four, it’s an E flat major seven chord, you’re still going to articulate it at the first beat of every bar. We’re going to take that same phrase and count four beats for each chord.
Now we go to the C7.
Now we just have to add the melody on top. It helps to \ choose a song that you know very well to get started. You have to give yourself your first note; in this case, B-flat. You’ll notice for this song, there’s a little pickup before the piano part comes in before the chords start. To get this to line up properly, you can either count the way that we’ve been counting or you can just try to make sure that when you play the root and the third it lines up with whatever the lyric is in that first part of the bar.
In this case I’m going to play the chord while I sing “fly.”
When doing this, not only will you really get a sense of how the harmony works, you start to get a sense of what the architecture is of the harmony. You’re also going to get a feel for how the harmony and the melody work together. In a piece like this, it is really interesting because sometimes the melody really sounds like it’s inside the harmony. The first bar when you sing Butterfly and you’re singing the Ab, well, you’re also playing the Ab
But then when you get to the EbM7 chord, you’re actually playing a tension note. This is a useful tool to get you to start to hear the harmony but also this is a very beautiful way if you were to sing and accompany yourself it’s actually a pretty full way to do it.
How to accompany yourself step by step:
- Your left hand is going to start by just playing the root
- Your right hand is going to join in by playing the third of the chord an octave up okay so you’ll be a tenth away from the root
- Add your vocals on top while you do all of those things at once try to keep a steady tempo as much as you can and the metronome will be your friend at some point to turn it on to keep yourself really nice and smooth in time okay and take your time maybe learn eight bars at a time like I just did
- Slowly put the entire piece together
This is a great exercise for you to try yourself and also a really great thing for you to work on with your students if you’re a voice teacher, general music teacher or a choral conductor. This is a really great way to get people to start to work through some theory ideas and I strongly recommend that you give it a try.
Want to learn more about singing and playing piano? Check out these blog posts and videos too!
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