Practicing this pattern until you’re good at it will certainly make you a better pianist, but it won’t make you a better musician unless you examine the ‘what-and-why’ of it.
Firstly, the notes are beamed in threes. so in your mind’s eye you push those groups of three beamed notes back into line to find the inversions that are being used. Secondly, popular musicians don’t really need to be able to play broken chord patterns in the left hand, so we’ll just look at the right hand inversions.
Note also that the exercise tells you what chord you are playing (C major), so your musician’s eye will automatically register which of the three notes in each triad is the root, or name-note (arrowed), and this will help you find the triads.
You will also at this stage be using the ‘official’ inversion fingering, and you will single out from the cloud of fingering given the all-important middle note fingering, which is either 2 or 3, and this also is shown.
This is the basic broken chord pattern our exploration starts with:
You play the broken chord pattern in the right hand but just the root in the left hand. The chord (C major) is given, so your left hand will gravitate to root C automatically.
|Note that this pattern has repeat marks – the first right hand note plays only the first time. In fact, you should play all the broken chord patterns in this module over and over – repetition works wonders. You should actively look for weaknesses in your performance, and ‘iron them out’, like creases in a shirt.|
These things make the pattern quite a bit harder to play. Rather than just jumping in, stop and work out what notes come together, and when. Musicarta calls this methodical time-saving approach ‘Together, left, right’ (TLR) analysis.
Here’s the new pattern again:
The row of letters between the staves shows whether the hands play together (T), or just the left hand plays (L), or just the right hand plays (R).
You will make much faster progress mastering rhythms like this one if you
Look closely to see that Right plays every beat except for the tied note every two bars after the beginning – the stand-out ‘togethers’ (T) and ‘lefts’ (L) are bolded for emphasis. You tap the pattern with just your fingertips until you’re fairly sure of ‘the right thing happening next’ and the rhythm has crept back in, like this:
You might not need to go through this build-up process – you might be able to ‘just sit down and play it’. But you will probably find riffs in the Musicarta material where this method will avoid you a great deal of frustration IF YOU REMEMBER TO USE IT.
Before we develop the rhythm further, let’s play the pattern in A minor. A minor is an all-white-key chord (like C major), so all we have to do is move our hands two white keys to the left and play the exact same pattern.
But before you ‘dive into the dots’, use a bit of musician’s savvy…:
...we do not stress over the leger lines, or even pay much attention to the individual notes. The right thumb goes straight to note A to start building a play-one, miss-one, play-one, miss-one, play-one (PMPMP) root position triad – which then starts ‘inverting’ upwards.
Play the pattern in A minor. Here’s the audio performance file again:
Here’s a natural development of the previous rhythm:
The coordination of the hands is even more complicated. Here’s the TLR ‘beat map’ of the example, showing the order of ‘events’:
Tap that with your bunched fingertips in your desktop. Then, STILL AWAY FROM THE KEYBOARD, ‘mime’ the right hand with the correct fingering:
Now go back to the keyboard and try the exercise again:
Repeat the build-up process if you can't achieve the performance yet.
|Practicing away from the keyboard is very valuable thing and a great habit to get into. You rehearse coordination skills without the worry of getting the notes right. There are lots of tapping (rhythm) patterns in the Musicarta ‘Beat and Rhythm’ section you can carry around with you and practice at odd moments. Finger exercises (Hanon, Schmitt) are ideal candidates as well.|
We can make the right hand more interesting by changing the order of the chord tones on the way down. Look closely to see where the difference is.
Now you have to look more closely to see where the inversions are – the quaver beams no longer show you. You need to identify the inversions so that you use the official fingering and you don’t run out of fingers.
If the syncopated beat in the left hand is too difficult for you, just play one long note (as shown in the first two bars) to start with. (You always have the option to simplify this way - temporarily or permanently.)
Transposing the broken chord patterns
You can play these broken chords patterns in different keys just by starting on a different white piano key.
You don’t even need new written music to do this. You just shift your starting position left or right (down or up), look at the old music and play the same pattern of jumps with the same fingering.
Start on any white note except B.
Then you will be playing broken chord patterns in C, F or G major, or in A, D or E minor.
This broken chord pattern starts on the middle note of a root position triad. It’s in D minor.
It’s still based on the same inversion pattern as all the previous patterns in this module:
Look at the pattern again to work out where the fingering will change:
If we combine this pattern in D minor with the same pattern in C major – everything shifted one key to the left – it makes a good classical rock riff.
Don’t dive in at the deep end – simplify first! Use all your musician’s tricks to stay in command of the material (rather than the other way round).
Take time out to appreciate how much more ‘ownership’ this way of working gains you than ‘just practicing’. By methodically working your way through all these permutations, you edge closer and closer to the point where you can just play what you hear.
The D minor–C major pair of chords is made up of one minor chord (Dm) with a major chord (C) a whole tone below. A minor and G major form a similar pair, both also all-white-key chords.
Here’s a two-chord riff in A minor and G which re-uses the right hand of the second pattern in this module over the latest bass line:
Take a minute to ‘just look at it’ before you try to play it.
Do your own TRL analysis and tap it out, then mime it with the fingering as before.
The purpose of this Musicarta module has been to persuade you to practice broken chord patterns regularly and creatively. The benefits for your song-writing, arranging and playing are enormous.
This module has dealt only with the simplest patterns in white-key-only chords (the ‘Group One’ chords of the free Musicarta Chord Generator pdf download). Serious students would go on to transpose the patterns into Chord Generator ‘Group Two’ (one black key) chords – D, A and E major and C, F, G and B minors.
These are much more challenging for the hand – you will find you have to play much further up towards the back of the keys, and ‘climb over’ the black keys that are ‘in the way’. Try playing the Module two-chord riffs in E minor with D major, G minor with F major and B minor with A major.
Click through to Keyboard Chords – Broken Chord Patterns 2 for more patterns to work on and more ready-made broken chord riffs to play, or just click through and bookmark for study later.
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