Accompaniment Practice Patterns

Most pieces of music have a musical background which supports the melody. This background often repeats the notes of the chords in the chord sequence in regular rhythmic patterns. The successful modern keyboard player needs to be able to devise left hand accompaniment patterns from chord symbols to provide this background in solo keyboard styles.

This material uses the chords of Johann Pachelbel’s famous Canon in D major. For maximum benefit, you should know your D major scale well. For a thorough ‘refresher’, click through to this Musicarta web page.

The CANON PROJECT

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is perhaps the most famous chord sequence of all time, and the basis of dozens of popular hits. If you can play and understand the Canon chord sequence, there isn’t much in popular music harmony you won’t be able to figure out! Its regular structure also makes it a great springboard for improvising and composition.

Canon Project cover
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Click through to the Canon Project YouTube playlist here

The MIDI files for this free Musicarta module are available here. You can play these files on MidiPiano, a free desktop ‘virtual keyboard’. With Musicarta’s free MIDI files, MidiPiano will accelerate all your keyboard learning. Click through to the Musicarta MidiPiano page to learn more.

    Naming chord tones

Accompaniment patterns are usually made from the root, the third and the fifth (the chord tones) of the chord named in the chord symbol. You find them by counting scale tones (in this case, D major scale tones) up from the root/name-note of the chord, as shown in the next illustration. The root is number one – there is no zero in this kind of counting.

APPM_01

Find the notes and play-and-say them, as in the audio file.

The chord tones keep their own names wherever they are on the keyboard. The note F sharp is always the third of a D major chord, whether it’s above or below the D in a chord, and so on.

Here are the chord tones of our five Canon chords, played and named from around the D below middle C.

APPM_02

Find and play the notes, saying the chord tone names.

However, it’s sometimes useful to give the root and the third different names, especially when there are four notes to name – see next section.

    Typical accompaniment patterns

We can make a four-note accompaniment pattern by playing another root note an octave above the first one. We call this second root note ‘the octave’ (8), to show it’s a different key on the keyboard. We say we have ‘doubled’ the root because we play the second root as well as, not instead of, the first.

APPM_03

It’s essential going forward that you can find these notes with minimal delay for all five of the chords we are using. Copy the audio performance file using two hands so you’re not distracted by looking trying to find fingers, and be sure to say the chord tone names.

    The R, 5, 8, 10 accompaniment pattern

The most attractive four-note chord tone pattern takes the third (3) of the R, 3, 5, 8 pattern up an octave. To show that the third is in a new place, we call it ‘the tenth’ (10), carrying on counting up from the octave (8). .

APPM_04

Note that:

  • The tenth (10) is the third (3), but an octave higher. (We call it the tenth to remind ourselves it’s above the octave.)

  • The octave (8) is the root (R), but an octave higher.

The CANON PROJECT

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is perhaps the most famous chord sequence of all time, and the basis of dozens of popular hits. If you can play and understand the Canon chord sequence, there isn’t much in popular music harmony you won’t be able to figure out! Its regular structure also makes it a great springboard for improvising and composition.

Canon Project cover
Get the download
for only $14.95
Buy Now

LEARN MORE!
Now available from Amazon Books
Click through to the Canon Project YouTube playlist here

    Practicing R, 5, 8, 10 accompaniment patterns

Find the root, fifth, octave and tenth, in that order, of all the five chords, playing the root (R) with the left hand, and the fifth (5), octave (8) and tenth (10) with the right hand.

Use the Canon chord sequence:

APPM_05

There is a lot of information in the illustration above. Reading from the top, you see the chord symbol (D, A, etc.), then the chord tone order R, 3, 5, 8. Then comes the actual music, with fingering, and lastly the reminder to play the notes one with the left hand and three with the right (L, R, R, R).

Finding the notes is your first priority, but you should also try to use the bass line fingering given . Here is a bass line diagram showing the fingering given in the music above:

You can use your own preferred fingering if you wish, but always start on LH1 on the top D and get down to LH5 for the bottom D and back up without running out of fingers.

    Useful practice techniques

In this accompaniment pattern, the right hand always uses fingers 1, 3, 5. If you make the octave (8) your ‘target note’ when you move to a new chord and always put your right hand third finger (RH3) over it, your right hand thumb (RH1) and little finger (RH5) will be in the right place almost automatically. Here’s an exercise to rehearse finding the target note (the octave, 8).

APPM_06

Another good way to get to know the root, fifth, octave and tenth accompaniment pattern notes thoroughly is to split them up between the hands in different ways.

Run through the chord sequence using these three different combinations.

  • Type One: Play the root with the left hand and the other three notes with the right (L, R, R, R)

  • Type Two: Play the root and the fifth with the left hand, and the octave and tenth with the right (L, L, R, R)

  • Type Three: Play three notes with the left hand and just one with the right (L, L, L, R)

    Practicing left hand R, 5, 8, 10 accompaniment patterns

The modern keyboard player needs to be able to build root, fifth, octave, tenth accompaniment patterns from chord symbols ‘on the fly’ and play them in the left hand almost automatically while the right hand plays the music the listener mostly listens to.

Playing these accompaniment patterns with the left hand alone is made possible by passing the left hand second finger over the thumb (on the ‘octave’) to play the fourth chord tone – the tenth (10).

Twelve left hand accompaniment practice patterns follow. In every case, your two fundamental tasks are:

  1. To find without hesitation the root, fifth, octave and tenth chord tones of the chord indicated by the chord symbol at the start of the pattern, and

  2. To develop a balanced hand position and the muscle memory needed to get to the notes.

Expect to find this practicing quite tiring. Rest your hand and arm periodically and shake out the tension before resuming.

The practice patterns are mostly in six-eight time. Six-eight meter (rhythm) is usually counted “One-and-a Two-and-a”, and having this count going on in your head will help you get better at ‘keeping the notes coming’.

The practice patterns are divided randomly among the five chords used in the Canon. You should transpose the patterns into all the other Canon chords using the R, 5, 8, 10 coding above the music manuscript.

You can, of course, play R, 5, 8, 10 accompaniment patterns on any chord and in any rhythm.

The CANON PROJECT

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is perhaps the most famous chord sequence of all time, and the basis of dozens of popular hits. If you can play and understand the Canon chord sequence, there isn’t much in popular music harmony you won’t be able to figure out! Its regular structure also makes it a great springboard for improvising and composition.

Canon Project cover
Get the download
for only $14.95
Buy Now

LEARN MORE!
Now available from Amazon Books
Click through to the Canon Project YouTube playlist here

    The practice patterns

APPM_PP_01

APPM_PP_02

APPM_PP_03

APPM_PP_04

APPM_PP_05

APPM_PP_06

APPM_PP_07

APPM_PP_08

APPM_PP_09

APPM_PP_10

APPM_PP_11

APPM_PP_12

    Playing by ear

Here are the twelve practice patterns randomly distributed in a table. Play them and copy them to cement your command of the R, 5, 8, 10 accompaniment pattern chord tones.

This is the end of Musicarta’s free online Accompaniment Practice Patterns module. Keep up to date with Musicarta’s ongoing module roll-out by bookmarking the Musicarta blog page and checking in regularly, or get the Musicarta RSS feed (subscribe here or use the orange RSS button below the navbar, top left) for no-hassle updates. (Not sure about RSS? Click here for a short explanation.)

The CANON PROJECT

Pachelbel’s Canon in D is perhaps the most famous chord sequence of all time, and the basis of dozens of popular hits. If you can play and understand the Canon chord sequence, there isn’t much in popular music harmony you won’t be able to figure out! Its regular structure also makes it a great springboard for improvising and composition.

Canon Project cover
Get the download
for only $14.95
Buy Now

LEARN MORE!
Now available from Amazon Books
Click through to the Canon Project YouTube playlist here

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