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#2231166 - 02/13/14 07:43 PM Left Hand Bass Techniques
JMaestro Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 10
So, I've been self-teaching the piano for about a year now, and I've been looking for ways to spice up my chord progressions. I like to do covers to mainstream, modern pop songs (Apologize, My Immortal, Clarity, Tayor Swift, The Fray, etc.) and I normally figure out the chord progression by ear and then arpeggiate it. I either use the typical root, 5th, root (octave) pattern or root, 5th, root (octave), 3rd pattern; and for the second I sometimes toggle the octave root and 3rd if it fits in nicely.

This creates a cool rippling effect that sounds good with most of my songs, however, I'm getting a little tired of this and I'd like for some new suggestions. and variety to put into my tool kit.

I suppose what I am asking is: what else could I do to liven up my bass chords? Is there any way to make even boring, old block chords sound more alive with my music? Perhaps a new arpeggio pattern I haven't thought of?


Edited by JMaestro (02/13/14 07:46 PM)

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#2231245 - 02/14/14 12:05 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
Michael Martinez Offline
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Registered: 11/22/12
Posts: 436
Loc: California
You can start to connect roots and fifths using scale tones from the key the song is in. "step-wise" scale movement

You can approach the root or fifth with a chromatic approach tone that is one half-step above or below the target tone

You can learn some rootless left hand chord voicings for each chord
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http://www.michael--martinez.com/music/

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#2231281 - 02/14/14 02:07 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
It's hard to provide a useful general answer. For some pop the LH needs to be rudimentary with the RH doing most of the work. for dancier pop the bass might need to be a bit more elaborate but that could be rhythmic rather than melodic. The RH too varies considerably depending on whether you're accompanying your own vocal or trying to play it as a solo piano piece. Also you mention wanting to liven up your bass chords but low LH chords tend to make things muddy.
Can you give a specific example of a song you're working on or one you want to try? Even better, a clip - even a short one - of what you're playing?

(your question might be more at home in the non-classical forum..)

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#2231296 - 02/14/14 03:23 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: dire tonic]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 989
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
For some pop the LH needs to be rudimentary with the RH doing most of the work. for dancier pop the bass might need to be a bit more elaborate but that could be rhythmic rather than melodic.
I'd say that's true for all pop music, not just dance. Pop/Rock/Country/etc, the kind of songs the OP mentioned, usually only have roots in the LH, sometimes the fifth, and even the 9 an octave higher. (Ex: Low to high, C-G-D, is a nice variation to root-fifth-root). Whether you are accompanying a singer or playing solo style, usually the scale tones not in the chords are used in the RH. To play a pop style of piano, you will rely heavily on rhythmic variations with broken and inverted chords.
_________________________
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BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
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#2231298 - 02/14/14 03:27 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: Brian Lucas]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
For some pop the LH needs to be rudimentary with the RH doing most of the work. for dancier pop the bass might need to be a bit more elaborate but that could be rhythmic rather than melodic.
I'd say that's true for all pop music, not just dance.

If it's non-dancy pop (how many categories can we make here!) I'd be unlikely to be playing anything elaborate in the LH...but maybe the OP can ask for suggestions for a specific song then we could illustrate with examples...

edit: when I say "unlikely", I mean unnecessary for a novice.


Edited by dire tonic (02/14/14 03:32 AM)

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#2231299 - 02/14/14 03:35 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: dire tonic]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 989
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
If it's non-dancy pop (how many categories can we make here!) I'd be unlikely to be playing anything rhythmically elaborate in the LH...but maybe the OP can ask for suggestions for a specific song then we could illustrate with examples...
What about mid tempo semi-dancy pop? smile

For basic pop/rock, I tend to anchor the chord changes with a held low root and then stab a few roots an octave higher in to create a little more rhythmic bass motion. Sometimes use a fifth as, for example, an approach to a new chord. But you're right, the left hand is usually more subdued with most of the motion in the right.
_________________________
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BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
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My Music

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#2231300 - 02/14/14 03:39 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
peterws Online   content
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Registered: 07/21/12
Posts: 3797
Loc: Northern England.
The right and left hands do vastly different things; rh mainly concerned with melody with the lh as back up. The back up can indeed be elaborate, whilst the melody will need to be loud! Something to do with the lh and rh side of the brain. . .


Edited by peterws (02/14/14 03:41 AM)
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#2231301 - 02/14/14 03:41 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: Brian Lucas]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
If it's non-dancy pop (how many categories can we make here!) I'd be unlikely to be playing anything rhythmically elaborate in the LH...but maybe the OP can ask for suggestions for a specific song then we could illustrate with examples...
What about mid tempo semi-dancy pop? smile

For basic pop/rock, I tend to anchor the chord changes with a held low root and then stab a few roots an octave higher in to create a little more rhythmic bass motion. Sometimes use a fifth as, for example, an approach to a new chord. But you're right, the left hand is usually more subdued with most of the motion in the right.


I think I know what you mean - where the LH meets the RH in middle register then the 2 hands cooperate. Yes, that can work well. I suppose if you look at the LH without the context of the RH it can look elaborate. It's a 'technique'. That may or may not stretch the OP.

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#2231302 - 02/14/14 03:45 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: peterws
The right and left hands do vastly different things; rh mainly concerned with melody with the lh as back up. The back up can indeed be elaborate, whilst the melody will need to be loud! Something to do with the lh and rh side of the brain. . .

- this is getting interesting...c'mon JMaestro, give us a song we can get our mits into!

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#2231646 - 02/14/14 05:53 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
JMaestro Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 10
Thank you for all of your replies! I apologize for not being very interactive. Work has kept my hands tied recently, but with this 3 day weekend I have I'll be able to be more involved.

As for a particular song to examine, how about we look at Halo by Beyonce? It's written in the key of A major, I believe, and has a chord progression of A Bm F#m D for the intro/verse and, if I'm not mistaken, it continues for the majority of the song, but I haven't really listened that intensely past the chorus.

So, now that we have our song, what sort of LH patterns would you all suggest or personally play yourselves?

Thanks again!


Edited by JMaestro (02/14/14 05:54 PM)

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#2231862 - 02/15/14 03:46 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
Are you going for piano accompaniment for a vocal, or as a piano solo with some semblance of the sung melody?

(...where's the rest of the band gone?..Brian?...Peter?...)

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#2232116 - 02/15/14 03:13 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
JMaestro Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 10
In the past, I've only ever done my covers as piano solos. I think I'll stick with that for this song.

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#2232138 - 02/15/14 03:48 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
Where the mood of the song depends so much on that bass drum/clap groove it's not something I would readily adapt for piano but I'll try and run up a couple of ideas.

Any other songs that interest you (in case I hit the buffers!)

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#2232154 - 02/15/14 04:21 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
JMaestro Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 10
Sure! We could also look at Never Say Never by The Fray. It's a song that I've worked on before in the past, but all I've got for the LH bass are block chords that feel and sound kinda stale and static.

If I recall correctly, it's written in the key of Ab major and has the following chord progression:
Ab Eb F C#, and then it looks back to Ab Eb, I think.

And so for this song, my chord progression looks something like:
Ab Eb Ab -> Eb Bb Eb -> F C# F -> C# G# C#

All octaves, of course. Breaking up those chords into arpeggios creates a cool effect, but again, I feel like I do that for every song.


Edited by JMaestro (02/15/14 04:23 PM)

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#2232157 - 02/15/14 04:31 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
That's much more interesting! I'll try and run something up over the weekend.

If you like what the piano is doing in the opening verse a lot of the work is already done for you...just a matter of incorporating the melody. Have you tried to emulate that?

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#2232184 - 02/15/14 05:40 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
Originally Posted By: JMaestro
Sure! We could also look at Never Say Never by The Fray. It's a song that I've worked on before in the past, but all I've got for the LH bass are block chords that feel and sound kinda stale and static.

If I recall correctly, it's written in the key of Ab major and has the following chord progression:
Ab Eb F C#, and then it looks back to Ab Eb, I think.

And so for this song, my chord progression looks something like:
Ab Eb Ab -> Eb Bb Eb -> F C# F -> C# G# C#

All octaves, of course. Breaking up those chords into arpeggios creates a cool effect, but again, I feel like I do that for every song.


I'll only do a sample verse and chorus so I won't venture as far as the later chords. The song is in a formulaic style so without trying to do something outlandish to it octaves are bound to figure in the chorus. I'll probably end up playing more or less what you've already come up with, lol.

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#2232290 - 02/15/14 10:23 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: dire tonic]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 989
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
(...where's the rest of the band gone?..Brian?...Peter?...)
Sorry, busy week. Didn't mean to break up the band.

If you're going to play it solo piano style, I'd say mostly roots or root/fifth in the LH. RH has the melody on top, and you can fill in chord tones underneath the melody note. When there's no melody, you can embellish some rhythmic notes based on the chord you're on, as long as they are a good distance down from the melody.
_________________________
-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
My Sight Reading eBook
My Music

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#2232297 - 02/15/14 10:34 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: dire tonic]
RUSS SHETTLE Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/11
Posts: 301
Loc: Brandywine, Maryland
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
Originally Posted By: JMaestro
Sure! We could also look at Never Say Never by The Fray. It's a song that I've worked on before in the past, but all I've got for the LH bass are block chords that feel and sound kinda stale and static.

If I recall correctly, it's written in the key of Ab major and has the following chord progression:
Ab Eb F C#, and then it looks back to Ab Eb, I think.

And so for this song, my chord progression looks something like:
Ab Eb Ab -> Eb Bb Eb -> F C# F -> C# G# C#

All octaves, of course. Breaking up those chords into arpeggios creates a cool effect, but again, I feel like I do that for every song.


I'll only do a sample verse and chorus so I won't venture as far as the later chords. The song is in a formulaic style so without trying to do something outlandish to it octaves are bound to figure in the chorus. I'll probably end up playing more or less what you've already come up with, lol.


The chords for never say never are:

Ab Eb (Fm) then DbMa7 Ab Eb. (Db rather than C#)

Now the DbMaj7 puts a 9 in the melody before resolving back to Ab Eb.

Now when playing Fm and moving to DbMa7 you can remain on the Fm chord with RH while the LH moves to Db.

You could also look at the DbMaj7 as a Fm/Db. J and I worked this song up by ear not long ago. J, you remember that....

The chorus part: Ab Cm Fb Ab/Eb Db Gb Eb. Check it out.


Edited by RUSS SHETTLE (02/15/14 10:52 PM)
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Yamaha CP5
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#2232333 - 02/15/14 11:34 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
JMaestro Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 10
Originally Posted By: Brian Lucas
Sorry, busy week. Didn't mean to break up the band.

If you're going to play it solo piano style, I'd say mostly roots or root/fifth in the LH. RH has the melody on top, and you can fill in chord tones underneath the melody note. When there's no melody, you can embellish some rhythmic notes based on the chord you're on, as long as they are a good distance down from the melody.


So, just the root and fifth in the LH? Played together simultaneous? Perhaps I chose a bad song example, haha, because honestly, this is indeed a rather slow, rhythmic song. I could see how we could get by without anything too fancy with this selection.

Originally Posted By: Russ Shettle
The chords for never say never are:

Ab Eb (Fm) then DbMa7 Ab Eb. (Db rather than C#)

Now the DbMaj7 puts a 9 in the melody before resolving back to Ab Eb.

Now when playing Fm and moving to DbMa7 you can remain on the Fm chord with RH while the LH moves to Db.

You could also look at the DbMaj7 as a Fm/Db. J and I worked this song up by ear not long ago. J, you remember that....

The chorus part: Ab Cm Fb Ab/Eb Db Gb Eb. Check it out.


Hey Russ! Yeah, I chose this song intentionally because it was one of the songs we went over together that I felt I had the most grasp on. I'm now just looking for ways to liven up the LH bass a bit.


Edited by JMaestro (02/15/14 11:36 PM)

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#2232349 - 02/16/14 12:13 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
RUSS SHETTLE Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/14/11
Posts: 301
Loc: Brandywine, Maryland
Originally Posted By: J
Hey Russ! Yeah, I chose this song intentionally because it was one of the songs we went over together that I felt I had the most grasp on. I'm now just looking for ways to liven up the LH bass a bit.


Yea, that's sort of tough with this song in particular especially if you want to keep with the RH toggling out the rhythm of the chords as originally played. I guess you could try and arpeggio both hands and change it up that way. It would still sound nice and believable.

Keep trying and fooling around and see what you come up with. That's how we learn!
_________________________
Russ
Yamaha CP5
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#2232373 - 02/16/14 01:32 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
Brian Lucas Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/04/11
Posts: 989
Originally Posted By: JMaestro
So, just the root and fifth in the LH? Played together simultaneous?
No, not necessarily at the same time. For that tune, I'd say low root on 1 and then the fifth or higher root on the upbeat of the other beats. For a simple example, play 4 quarter notes in the right hand on any chord. Play the low root together with the chord on 1 and then play either the fifth or the high root on the upbeat of 2, 3 and 4. So on those beats, you will be alternating between the hands. Do this with the pedal down and you've got a smooth but rhythmic part. Then it's just a matter of adding the melody and picking your RH chords.
_________________________
-Brian
BM in Performance, Berklee College of Music, 23+ year teacher and touring musician
My Downloadable Video Piano Lessons
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My Music

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#2232403 - 02/16/14 03:48 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
Brianís approach for the LH will work well Ė in fact thereís not a lot more you can do! If this or another thread looks at other tunes I think that might become more apparent. Rhythmically you can sometimes sharpen things up a bit but so much depends on the feel of the song and this one is staunchly an 8s feel both for the verse where it sways between that root and fifth idea (or root/octv-root) and the chorus where it pounds the roots on 8s. One thing I would steer clear of is playing *chords* in the LH. For pop songs in this style that is rarely going to work.

Iíd say the main focus Ė after locking in a simple LH pattern you can play without thinking - should be on the RH melody and the way you mix that into the chord movement while trying to give it some of the vocal flow (not too piano-y!). Iíd be inclined to keep it harmonically very open, not overly defined. Although the chords are as Russ has them, thereís such a mish-mash of layers that most of them with the exception of the Eb and Eb sus can be taken as embellishments and suspensions on Ab major, in fact you can play the entire chorus just by playing Ab maj and moving the bass under it. But thereís also a lot of gentle dissonance in the background, e.g. in the chorus on the word 'let' the backing vocals are singing Db in every bar. It doesnít work so well on the piano but itís worth experimenting.

You didnít say what you thought of the piano intro on the original. Are you trying to get away from that feel?

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#2232615 - 02/16/14 02:26 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
JMaestro Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 10
@Brian Lucas
I think I understand now what you mean. Concentrating more on rhythm using single notes. I'll give it a shot.

@dire tonic
I do like the intro to the song. I've experimented with triads in root position and octaves using the 5th in between and they both fit in quite nicely for the intro.

It's when I get into the verse and chorus do I feel like I have a lot of empty, "dead" space. Too much silence after I play the fifths in the bass and after the verse has ended. It's hard to explain, and I'm not sure if I'm making much sense, but I'm just looking for some fillers I suppose to carry me into the next verse.

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#2233092 - 02/17/14 11:09 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1455
Loc: uk south
I've roughed out an idea for the intro/verse and 1 chorus

https://app.box.com/s/p15z4950wxvltcnsjdo2

LH is mostly roots-5ths until the chorus which is all octaves. All the chording is with the melody in the RH.

It was a struggle to find something for the chorus that had enough power, hence the pounding!

- hope it helps to provide some ideas...

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#2233113 - 02/17/14 11:50 AM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
riley80 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 08/03/08
Posts: 386
Loc: Florida
Turn those bass chords into tango or calypso rhythms. Anything syncopated might do the trick to alter the mood. You might also try changing your time sig e.g. a 3/4 into 4/4 or vice vers.

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#2233197 - 02/17/14 02:13 PM Re: Left Hand Bass Techniques [Re: JMaestro]
JMaestro Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 07/28/12
Posts: 10
Originally Posted By: dire tonic
I've roughed out an idea for the intro/verse and 1 chorus

https://app.box.com/s/p15z4950wxvltcnsjdo2

LH is mostly roots-5ths until the chorus which is all octaves. All the chording is with the melody in the RH.

It was a struggle to find something for the chorus that had enough power, hence the pounding!

- hope it helps to provide some ideas...


Very cool rendition, dire. Thank you for taking the time to do that. I like the more upbeat rhythm you gave it.
I'll continue to listen more closely to it when I get back home.

Would anyone have any videos (of any song) that I could check out for more ideas with LH arpeggio patterns?

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