P. 1
Playing Pop Ballads

Playing Pop Ballads

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Published by: nemein on Aug 10, 2012
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11/04/2012

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pianoboy from reddit




D‹ B¨ F C








D‹ B¨ F C 3








D‹ B¨ F C 5
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Most pop songs are based on simple chord progressions - a series of 3-5 chords that usually repeat throughout the song.
This song (see youtube link above) follows a very common 4-chord progression. In the key of D minor (or F major) it's: Dm, Bb, F, C. Once you know that, you're set!
Songs that use this chord progression: Nuvole Bianche - Einaudi, Apologize - One Republic, Building a Mystery - Sarah McLaughlin, One of us - Joan Osbourne,
and dozens of others.
We're only going to look at playing in a "new-agey" or "minimalist" piano style (as opposed to, say, a rhythmic pop style).
by pianoboy from reddit Playing pop ballads
using "break your heart" piano example at
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dCQoBwjt7vM
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Always start with single notes in left hand. Use the same note as in the name of the chord - e.g. for Dm, play a D note.
I'm not going to get into how to play triads in the right hand, playing different inversions (placing the notes in different orders), or many
other music theory concepts. I'll just be showing how to apply some simple patterns to a chord progression in order to make you sound like a pro!
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To make the above line more interesting and to add movement, we can "break up" the chords, either in the left hand or right hand, or both!...
Let's start with breaking up the left-hand. Here is the most common left-hand pattern (and easiest, once you get the hang of it):
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Notice the left hand isn't using ALL the notes in the chord -- just 2 of them, what we call the root and the 5th.
E.g. D, A, D (octave higher), A.
After a while you don't even think about it as your hand just falls into place.
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Now let's try a right-hand pattern. Notice the right-hand notes are EXACTLY the same as in the right-hand triads at the top of the page.
We're just pulling apart the individual notes that make up the triad and playing them in a certain pattern:
Top note, Bottom note, Middle note, Bottom.
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By the way, use the pedal to make it sound nicer. Pedal on every chord change (i.e. always hold the pedal and then up/down at each new chord).
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D‹ B¨ F C 7

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D‹ B¨ F C(“4) C 9

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D‹ B¨ F C(“4) C 11

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Try this: take just the top 2 notes of our original triads, and alternate them, like this:
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OR, take the top 2 notes *played together*, and alternate with the bottom note of the triad, like this:
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Adding a "suspension", just for fun!
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OOOOR, let's get really crazy and take ALL 3 notes of the triad played together, and alternate with... uh-oh, we're all out of notes to choose from.
(a triad only has 3 notes). No problem! Just use the top note of the triad an octave lower.
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Alternating Pattern Rule-of-Thumb:
- The pattern can start with as many notes as you want (on the downbeats), but should alternate with a *single* note (on the off-beats).
- For the single note, pick the next note down (in the triad) that you haven't played yet.
E.g. for Dm, don't take the top note (A) and alternate it with the bottom 2 notes grouped together (D&F). It doesn't sound as nice as playing A&F together on the top
and alternating with the single D note on the bottom.
Notice that we followed this rule in all 3 lines above.
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2











D‹ B¨ F C 13

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D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C(„ˆˆ2) 15

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D‹ B¨ F C 17

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Finally, just for fun, lets break up both hands.
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Notice the hands start far apart, come together, and move back apart. It's almost like the right hand is mirroring the left hand.
This is just one idea for a pattern.
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We don't have to stick to only the 3 notes that define the chord triad. We can make up our own melodies based on a few notes from the chord.
And we don't always have to be playing a pattern; we can take a break once in a while and hold some notes.
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Just for fun, I added a "2nd" to the Bb and C chords above. This can make chords sound prettier or "smoother".
To find the 2nd, just go up a whole-step from the root (i.e. the letter-name of the chord).
So for the Bb chord, the 2nd in that chord is the note C. For the C chord, the 2nd is the note D.
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Let's go back to our very first example and add some syncopation.
Syncopation just means playing off of the regular beat.
The simplest and most common form you'll come across in pop music is just playing the second chord in the bar an 8th note earlier than normal.
We'll do this with the "C" chord. You'll hear this being done often in the youtube link for the song.
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I'm just doing something in the left-hand to help me
not lose the beat from playing that last chord early.
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D‹ B¨ F C/E 19

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D‹7 B¨(„ˆˆ2) F(„ˆˆ2) C(“4) C 21

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D‹7 B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C(“4) C 25

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Now let's add that C chord syncopation into the more complicated example we had earlier. This is going to be tricky...
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All this time we've been doing 2 chords per measure.
But often you only have one chord change once per measure. Let's look at that...
... wasn't too bad, but it messed up my left-hand pattern I had going,
so I had to make something up that fit. Notice on the early "C" chord,
I chose to play "E" in the bass for a change. I could have still hit C,
and used the same pattern that ends the measure (C G E) or made
up a different ending pattern (e.g. E G C). Either way, it's nice to
"hang" on the syncopated chord for a second before continuing with
a pattern.
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For a more driving sound, let's use our very first left-hand pattern we learned, but now we have to stretch it out over a full measure.
Here's a nice upward-moving left-hand pattern that takes a break at the end.
I'm just playing whole note chords in the right-hand. Doesn't it sound nice?
And yes, just for fun I changed the right-hand chord notes a bit. Notice that all I really did was add a constant "C" note at the top of
every chord. It's still the same chord progression (with a nice suspension at the end again).
Why does this work so well? Well... that's a topic for another day :)
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Notice it starts out the same as the original pattern, but to stretch it out, we just keep alternating on the top 2 notes of the pattern.
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4











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D‹

B¨ F C D‹ B¨ F C 33
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D‹ B¨ F(„ˆˆ2) C D‹ B¨ F A‹7
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Okay, enough of all that. Let's play one of the melodies of the song ("break-break your, break-break your heart").
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- - - -
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Start by adding single left-hand notes where the chords need to change (see first example on page 1).
Once you've got that going, in the right-hand whenever there is a chord change, we try to add some notes below the melody to fill in the chord.
For example, the very first note is an "F", so we can add the D and A below to make up a D minor chord.
Got it? Now we have to somehow play the chord progression along with the melody. Yikes.
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Notice that I only care about adding other notes when there is a chord change.
E.g. I add the "D" and "A" in the right-hand on the first note, but then I just concentrate on playing the single-note melody line
until I get to the Bb chord, so I fill in a couple of notes there so the listener gets a sense of that chord, and then continue just playing the melody until the F chord.
Now we'll take the above and add our very first driving left-hand pattern we learned.
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Doesn`t this sound amazing now?! And I didn't need any sheet music. I just needed to know the 4 chords, learn a simple melody, and
apply some basic patterns. Much easier than trying to read the above notation and try to play it note-for-note.
You'll notice I made a few other small changes to make it sound a little cooler -- you don't have to do this though:
- full right-hand chords on the first two notes (emphasizing the "break, break" in the lyrics)
- playing a more "open" Bb chord.
- changing the left hand bass note in the last measure from a C to an A (the right-hand doesn't change). This happens to turn it into an Am7 chord.
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5











D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C 41

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D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C 46

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50

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Let's try another melody line we can pick out in the song -- it's just 4 notes (F E D C).
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Like before, now we want to fill in the chords underneath this melody. We'll do a moving right-hand pattern this time (nothing fancy in the left-hand).
The music below may look complex, but I'm just using 2 patterns *exactly* as we learned them earlier, placing them under the melody:
1. The pattern from the top of page 2 fits in nicely under the melody, for the 1st measure.
2. For the 2nd measure, we have a long rest in the melody, so we'll fill that with the syncopated pattern we learned at the botttom of page 3 (bar 18).
We'll play the bass line (single notes) to help us keep time and feel the sound of the chord progression.
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This may not be very easy to *play* at first, but you can see how it's fairly easy to *construct* - you have a melody line on top,
and you just fill in the chords underneath with common patterns.
Now let's reverse it -- we'll let the left-hand provide most of the movement, and just play block chords in the right-hand when the chords change.
Also this time to make it more powerful, we'll play the melody as octaves in the right hand.
D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C
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Notice how I'm adding notes inside the octaves of the melody (e.g. while we're holding a low D and high D in the right-hand,
we fill it in with an F and A when we hit beat 1 of the "Dm" measure.). For the Bb chord, notice the melody is a C note at that point,
which is actually not even a note in a Bb triad (Bb D F); C is a "2nd" as mentioned earlier. Often the melody will land on notes that aren't
even in the chord you're playing at that point -- this is fine. You still just want to try to add notes that will help define the chord. So while holding
the low C and high C for the melody, I chose to add the notes F and Bb.
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6






D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C/E 55

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D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C
D‹(„ˆˆ2)
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As a final example, I'll just put all of these ideas together in my own unique way (well, I'm trying to make it sound more like the youtube version).
This is much harder to play, but it's just a demonstration of what you can do with the ideas we've learned.
See if you can spot some of the patterns/concepts from before, and some new things I may have added.
Isn't this crazy awesome?!!! From just 4 chords (Dm, Bb, F, C) and a simple 4-note melody (F E D C), we came up with that previous complex example
which sounds incredibly cool. And it's all from just applying some basic patterns.
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7

pick the next note down (in the triad) that you haven't played yet.2 Try this: take just the top 2 notes of our original triads.The pattern can start with as many notes as you want (on the downbeats).. take the top 2 notes *played together*.g. It doesn't sound as nice as playing A&F together on the top and alternating with the single D note on the bottom. for Dm. . just for fun! OOOOR. uh-oh. and alternate with. .For the single note. E. don't take the top note (A) and alternate it with the bottom 2 notes grouped together (D&F). let's get really crazy and take ALL 3 notes of the triad played together. and alternate with the bottom note of the triad. No problem! Just use the top note of the triad an octave lower. 11 D‹ B¨ F C(“4) C Alternating Pattern Rule-of-Thumb: . and alternate them. like this: 9 D‹ B¨ F C(“4) C Adding a "suspension". like this: 7 D‹ B¨ F C OR. Notice that we followed this rule in all 3 lines above.. but should alternate with a *single* note (on the off-beats). we're all out of notes to choose from. (a triad only has 3 notes).

and move back apart. just go up a whole-step from the root (i. We'll do this with the "C" chord. lets break up both hands. The simplest and most common form you'll come across in pop music is just playing the second chord in the bar an 8th note earlier than normal.3 Finally. And we don't always have to be playing a pattern.e. To find the 2nd. We don't have to stick to only the 3 notes that define the chord triad. 15 D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C(„ˆˆ2) Just for fun. just for fun. So for the Bb chord. the letter-name of the chord). For the C chord. This is just one idea for a pattern. It's almost like the right hand is mirroring the left hand. I added a "2nd" to the Bb and C chords above. Syncopation just means playing off of the regular beat. we can take a break once in a while and hold some notes. You'll hear this being done often in the youtube link for the song. the 2nd is the note D. the 2nd in that chord is the note C. We can make up our own melodies based on a few notes from the chord. Let's go back to our very first example and add some syncopation. 17 D‹ B¨ F C I'm just doing something in the left-hand to help me not lose the beat from playing that last chord early. . 13 D‹ B¨ F C Notice the hands start far apart. This can make chords sound prettier or "smoother". come together.

that's a topic for another day :) For a more driving sound. but to stretch it out. so I had to make something up that fit. Notice on the early "C" chord.g. It's still the same chord progression (with a nice suspension at the end again). I chose to play "E" in the bass for a change.. Let's look at that. wasn't too bad. let's use our very first left-hand pattern we learned.. . This is going to be tricky. 19 D‹ B¨ F C/E . I could have still hit C. we just keep alternating on the top 2 notes of the pattern. Either way. Why does this work so well? Well.. Notice that all I really did was add a constant "C" note at the top of every chord.4 Now let's add that C chord syncopation into the more complicated example we had earlier.. I'm just playing whole note chords in the right-hand.. just for fun I changed the right-hand chord notes a bit. it's nice to "hang" on the syncopated chord for a second before continuing with a pattern. but now we have to stretch it out over a full measure. E G C). 21 D‹7 B¨(„ˆˆ2) F(„ˆˆ2) C(“4) C Here's a nice upward-moving left-hand pattern that takes a break at the end.. Doesn't it sound nice? And yes.. All this time we've been doing 2 chords per measure.. But often you only have one chord change once per measure. and used the same pattern that ends the measure (C G E) or made up a different ending pattern (e. but it messed up my left-hand pattern I had going. 25 D‹7 B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C(“4) C Notice it starts out the same as the original pattern.

and then continue just playing the melody until the F chord. so I fill in a couple of notes there so the listener gets a sense of that chord. we try to add some notes below the melody to fill in the chord. but then I just concentrate on playing the single-note melody line until I get to the Bb chord. For example. the very first note is an "F". This happens to turn it into an Am7 chord.changing the left hand bass note in the last measure from a C to an A (the right-hand doesn't change). . E. Start by adding single left-hand notes where the chords need to change (see first example on page 1). break-break your heart").you don't have to do this though: .5 Okay. . break" in the lyrics) . Much easier than trying to read the above notation and try to play it note-for-note. Once you've got that going. 29 Got it? Now we have to somehow play the chord progression along with the melody. I add the "D" and "A" in the right-hand on the first note.playing a more "open" Bb chord. Yikes. I just needed to know the 4 chords.g. in the right-hand whenever there is a chord change. Now we'll take the above and add our very first driving left-hand pattern we learned. so we can add the D and A below to make up a D minor chord. 33 D‹ B¨ F C D‹ B¨ F C Notice that I only care about adding other notes when there is a chord change. enough of all that. 37 D‹ B¨ F(„ˆˆ2) C D‹ B¨ F A‹7 You'll notice I made a few other small changes to make it sound a little cooler -. Doesn`t this sound amazing now?! And I didn't need any sheet music. learn a simple melody.full right-hand chords on the first two notes (emphasizing the "break. and apply some basic patterns. Let's play one of the melodies of the song ("break-break your.

Like before.g.this is fine.we'll let the left-hand provide most of the movement. placing them under the melody: 1. and you just fill in the chords underneath with common patterns.). but you can see how it's fairly easy to *construct* . I chose to add the notes F and Bb. for the 1st measure. We'll do a moving right-hand pattern this time (nothing fancy in the left-hand). notice the melody is a C note at that point. Also this time to make it more powerful. 46 D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C This may not be very easy to *play* at first. C is a "2nd" as mentioned earlier. we fill it in with an F and A when we hit beat 1 of the "Dm" measure. but I'm just using 2 patterns *exactly* as we learned them earlier. The pattern from the top of page 2 fits in nicely under the melody. so we'll fill that with the syncopated pattern we learned at the botttom of page 3 (bar 18). Often the melody will land on notes that aren't even in the chord you're playing at that point -. For the 2nd measure. Now let's reverse it -. now we want to fill in the chords underneath this melody. So while holding the low C and high C for the melody. . The music below may look complex. we'll play the melody as octaves in the right hand. You still just want to try to add notes that will help define the chord.you have a melody line on top. 41 D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C We'll play the bass line (single notes) to help us keep time and feel the sound of the chord progression. For the Bb chord. which is actually not even a note in a Bb triad (Bb D F). we have a long rest in the melody. 2.6 Let's try another melody line we can pick out in the song -. while we're holding a low D and high D in the right-hand.it's just 4 notes (F E D C). and just play block chords in the right-hand when the chords change. D‹ 50 B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C Notice how I'm adding notes inside the octaves of the melody (e.

but it's just a demonstration of what you can do with the ideas we've learned.7 Isn't this crazy awesome?!!! From just 4 chords (Dm. and some new things I may have added. As a final example. See if you can spot some of the patterns/concepts from before. we came up with that previous complex example which sounds incredibly cool. Bb. I'm trying to make it sound more like the youtube version). C) and a simple 4-note melody (F E D C). This is much harder to play. I'll just put all of these ideas together in my own unique way (well. 55 D‹ B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C/E D‹ 58 B¨(„ˆˆ2) F C D‹(„ˆˆ2) . F. And it's all from just applying some basic patterns.

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