Triad Inversion and Various Forms of Accompaniment (Lesson 7)

Now at last we came to one of the main aspects of playing the piano. During this lesson you`ll learn, how to improvise with the left hand. It means, that after reading this lesson attentively and practicing a lot you`ll be able to play any composition, knowing only its melody an chords.

What do you need for this?

  1. The melody (I hope, you already can play it, using sheets of music);
  2. The ability to build chords (major, minor, diminished);
  3. The ability to make triad inversion.
  4. Some general knowledge of kinds of accompaniment.

Triad inversion

Up to now you`ve played so called main chords. What does it mean? If you take a C or Cm chord (C major or C minor), the lowest note is C. It is the main note of the chord. Other notes are located in the following way – after the main tone goes the third and than the fifth. Let`s have a look at the example:

In C major chord:

  • C is the main tone or the tonic;
  • E is the third;
  • G is the fifth.

C major chord

Is everything clear?

But do not necessarily need to play the chord like that. If in math case 3+5 you`ll interchange figures the sum will stay the same. The same situation is in music. It doesn`t matter, in what order you`ll put the notes in the chord, it will still be the same chord.

Triad inversion is moving the upper tone an octave down or the lower tone an octave upper. Let`s take as an example already a well-known C major chord. There are 3 possible variants of note order in it – C – E – G, E – G – C  or G – C – E.

 

 C major triad inversion

What does this information give us?

  • Inversion makes the chords sound a little bit different;
  • Inversion helps us to connect chords.

For example, to play after C chord an F chord you need to change only two notes – E and G become F and A (only one key upper). The C key doesn`t move. It is easier, than moving all notes.

F major triad in second inversion

To sum up: it is important to remember, that a chord can be built from any of its notes choosing the most suitable variant.

Try to play all chords with their inversions in those tonalities which you already know.

Major triad inversionsThe next level is combining different chords and their inversions. The main aim here is to make the transition between chords as smooth as possible.

To better understand, what I mean, try to play chord sequences:

  • In C major — C — Em — Dm — G — C — Em — Am — Dm — F — G — C
  • In D major — D — Hm — Em — A — Em — G — A — D
  • In F major — F — B (remember, this is B flat) — C — F — Dm — Gm — B — C — F
  • And in G major — G — Em — C — D — G

Remember:

  • A big letter means, that you should play a major chord from this note;
  • A big letter (A-G) with small letter “m” means a minor chord;
  • The major triad consists of one major third and one minor third.
  • In the minor triad the first one is minor third, then comes the major third.

If these chord symbols are still difficult for you to understand, then write them on the stave.

For those, why study solfège at music school, the following table might be helpful.

Piano chord table

Accompaniment

Before now you used only chord accompaniment, which consists of long chords. After you took in the chords and their inversions, you can start music arrangement.

Depending on what kind of accompaniment you`ll use, the musical composition will sound in different ways.

Chord accompaniment is not as boring as you think it to be.

  • An ostinato accompaniment (when you repeat similar short chords instead of playing one long) shows intension, expectation of some sort of conclusion, sometimes inspiration or excitement, when you play it fast.
  • And when you play it slowly, the composition sounds like a slow dance or funeral procession.
  • When you play chords both in theme (melody) and accompaniment – it makes the composition sound as a hymn or something as solemn.

Another kind of accompaniment – alternation of basses and chords. It may also be different:

  • Bass and the rest of the chord;
  • Bass and the chord wholly;
  • Bass and a number of chord repetitions (as in waltz for instance);

One of the most popular kinds of accompaniment is arpeggio. The Italian word “arpeggio” means “as on the harp”. So arpeggio is playing the notes of the chord not at the same time, but one after another.

Chords in arpeggio form

Here is an example, how an arpeggio accompaniment may look like:

 

Arpeggio accompaniment

I can continue ad infinitum, but it will be too much for you  for the time being. Actually, knowing some basic information, you can try to improvise yourself.

Here are two very simple melodies and one more complicated song with chords. Play them with various kinds of accompaniment. Remember and try to follow the order of learning a new piece of music:

  • learn the melody;
  • study the chords;
  • try to find the most convenient location of chords, using both chords and their inversions.
  • play the melody and the accompaniment together
  • try to improvise and make the accompaniment a little more complicated.

“Happy birthday” song “Jingle Bells” traditional piano sheet music Abba “Happy New Year” piano sheet music For very lazy people, who don`t want to make chords themselves here is a chord table. Notice, that there are not only triads, but also some other chords. We`ll learn them later.

Chord chart pic.

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