In this piano tutorial, I am going to teach you how to play When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge. I will teach you how to sing and play this amazing song on piano, complete with chords and an amazing sounding accompaniment strategy!
When a Man Loves a Woman is one of those classic songs that gives you all the feels whenever it comes on the radio. Percy Sledge recorded this song back in 1966 and it was so successful it made number on on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B single charts. (No small feat in the mid 1960s!)
When a Man Loves a Woman was covered by several artists, including the country singer John Wesley Ryles in 1976 and Bette Midler in 1990. Perhaps the most-heard cover is the 1991 recording by Michael Bolton, which still gets a lot of airplay today.
In this tutorial, I am going to take you through our usual song learning protocol. First, we will learn the basic chords. Next, I will show you a voice leading strategy.
Finally, I will show you the groove and a few bass line options. We will be singing along with each step and you are welcome to modify the arrangement to fit your skill level. Let’s to hits!
Song learning protocol
Step #1: Piano Chords to When a Man Loves a Woman
Learn the chords (see lyrics and chords on the next two pages). The song was recorded by Percy Sledge and Michael Bolton in the key of Db, but for ease of playing we will do it transposed down a half step to C. (You’re welcome!)
Lyrics and chords to When a Man Loves a Woman by Percy Sledge
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Step #2: When a Man Loves a Woman Piano Voicing Strategy
For this song, we will stick to inversions of chords. You’ll notice I use the second inversions of the C chord and C7/G.
When a Man Loves a Woman Piano Accompaniment Strategy
The song is in 12/8 time OR in 4/4 time with underlying triplets. As you can see, both of those time signatures sound the same. We would choose one or the other depending on what is easiest to read and what makes sense for the structure of a given song.
For When a Man Loves a Woman, I am choosing to notate it in 4/4 time with at triplet grid running throughout.
You’ll notice that I use a string of triplets in the RH while the LH plays bass notes.
In this version, you can see that I have changed the rhythm pattern in the LH. Either choice works well.
When you’re ready, add the vocals to each step and you’ll be good to go!
Other songs that use this same 12/8 or 4/4-in-triplets groove.
Blueberry Hill - Fats Domino
Never Tear Us Apart - INXS
Perfect - Ed Sheeran
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