Broken Chords Accompaniment on Piano

Updated on February 8, 2018
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JohnMello is a writer, composer, musician and the author of books for children and adults.

The piano is one of the most versatile of instruments, capable of playing the simplest melody or the most complex chord. One of its primary uses, though, is to accompany other musicians.

As well as using solid chords to accompany, it's also possible to break the chords up and put a little extra movement in the accompaniment. Just to remind you, here are the four chords we talked about in my Chords as Piano Accompaniment hub.

Broken chords can be made by separating the three main notes of any chord, the 1st, 3rd and 5th, and playing them on alternate beats. For instance, you could play the 1st note, also known as the root of the chord, on its own, followed by the 3rd and 5th played together.

There are dozens of songs that use this back and forth pattern. We'll look at it first in a song you should know well by now, "Heart and Soul."

Broken Chords in "Heart and Soul"

Now let's see how you can use broken chords to put some variety into your accompaniment.

Below you'll see one possible accompaniment for the song "Heart and Soul." You'll recall that we played the solid chord version of this accompaniment in the hub mentioned above. Now we'll try playing it a new way.

Play the 1st note or root of the chord first. Then play the remaining two notes of the chord (the 3rd and 5th) together. And that's all there is to it. Try it yourself before moving on to step 3.

Mozart's Method

There are many ways to vary this style of accompaniment, too. Let's see how Mozart did it.

Below you'll see the left hand accompaniment pattern from Mozart's famous "Turkish March." Notice that this time the left hand pattern has changed. Now the root of the chord is played once, followed by the 3rd and 5th played together three times.

But it's not as simple as that. Mozart was a genius, after all, and he believed in variety. Look at the third bar and you'll see that it reverts back to the back-and-forth pattern we talked about in Step 1.

Did you have a go at playing the left hand from Mozart's piece? I hope so, because now here's the opening of the song for both hands.

You might find it tricky to play both hands together straight away. If so, be patient and practice one hand at a time.

You can see in this excerpt how Mozart combines the broken chord pattern with a simple melody to get the piece off to a flying start.

Solid or Broken?

Were you able to play it? If not, don't give up. Practice a bit at a time and you'll soon master it.

Now you've got two different methods at your disposal to play chords as an accompaniment. You can do that to a simple melody played on your own piano, on another instrument, or sung by a singer. Once you get the hang of playing chords the possibilities are virtually endless!

If you enjoyed this hub, why not check out Chords as Piano Accompaniment? And thanks for your time.

Got questions about piano playing styles and techniques? Ask and I'll do my best to answer.


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