Left-Hand Piano Rhythm Techniques

by Genevieve Van Wyden, Demand Media

    The piano is such a versatile instrument, but, if you learn how to use your left hand for more than making harmonies with your right hand, you can lead your group. Because of the size of a piano keyboard, you have the ability to introduce diversity into your music. If you play with a group, your instrument can add so much color, funk and fun, so get out there and learn some rhythm for your left hand.

    For the Blues

    Learn to use the piano to cover the bass line when you and your friends get together to jam. Arpeggios, a good bass line and left-hand improvisation, add so much to the music you play, so explore what you can do with those bass keys on your piano. An arpeggio and bass line adds to, or enhances, the music. When you listen to different bands and you hear the bass line, it is helping the rest of the band to keep its rhythm and stay in the correct key, states the Blues Jazz Piano website. If you're playing a bluesy song, add a few left-hand triad chords -- these chords are the A-C-E or C-E-G chords you learned when you were taking lessons as a child. Jazz blues chords are played on dominant 7th and minor 7th chords. These chords can also be played in soul, pop, rhythm and blues, jazz and rock tunes.

    Add a 10th Chord

    Add a 10th chord to your left-hand rhythms and melodies. As you play regular major chords, these are composed of a 1-3-5 fingering -- B-D-F or F-A-C. In a 10th chord, you invert one of the numbers, then play all three keys simultaneously or "rolling" the chord, especially if you have small hands. Look at how this is done: Normally, you would play a "F-A-C" chord. When you add a 10th, you play "F-C-A" and you stretch that left hand as much as you can so you can reach that 10th note. If you can't reach the 10th, that's not a problem -- just "roll" your fingers, playing the F and C together, then quickly adding that A note, suggests The Piano By Ear website. Learn to stretch your left hand so you can eventually reach that 10th note without having to do the roll. As you learn to play 10th chords, use them on the down beats as you jam with your friends. Keep the "roll" technique and move up the keyboard, quickly playing the chords in a 1-5-3-5-1 pattern.

    Do the Boogie Woogie

    When blues bands play chords, the main kind of chord they play is the dominant chordal notes. As they play, they add a sixth in the chord. Look at a keyboard or sheet music and visualize a C7 chord played with the left hand. Beginning with a low C, the pianist plays these notes: C, E, G, A, B-flat, A, G, E. As she plays these notes, she's going to stress only the third and seventh notes. She can also give more rhythm to triplets by playing the first note for just a little bit longer than she does the second note.

    Walk by Me

    Add a "walking bass" line to your left-handed piano accompaniment. The walking bass is just an accompaniment made up of notes of equal value -- every one of them is usually a quarter note. This technique is played in Latin, rockabilly, rhythm and blues, country, blues gospel, ska and rock. Depending on the music you're playing, give that music a funky swing or a Latin beat.

    About the Author

    Genevieve Van Wyden began writing in 2007. She has written for “Tu Revista Latina” and owns three blogs. She has worked as a CPS social worker, gaining experience in the mental-health system. Van Wyden earned her Bachelor of Arts in journalism from New Mexico State University in 2006.

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