Left Hand Patterns – How to Use the Chords You Make
We will use piano chords now to create “left hand patterns” that will be played as accompaniment for the melody that is played with the right hand. This is an easy way to add movement to your music. The feeling of movement occurs because left hand patterns are in constant movement while the melody may not have as much movement.
Be sure to watch the video at the end of this article!
The following abbreviations are used for short hand purposes but will also be explained.
First let’s talk about the ROOT of the chord. You have already learned that this is the key on the piano from which the chord gets it’s name. Remember that the key we selected to make a F chord was, F. This is the ROOT of the F chord. The reason for calling it the root is so we can talk about various patterns in a way that can be applied to any chord.
For our short hand we will refer to this root of the chord as R. This is the easiest one to remember.
When we were making chords, we found that counting 4 keys to the right of the root for the F major chord was the A key. A is called the 3rd of the F major chord. Don’t confuse the counting from root with the name “3rd of the chord.” Music is like this and we have to be sure we keep track of what we are doing. For example: We also count timing in our music to get the notes properly spaced so the song will sound like it is suppose to. 1 2 3, 1 2 3, 1 2 3 , and so on, in this case has nothing to do with making chords. It is just another way in which we need to count with respect to our music.
Counting from the A key, 3 keys to the right we find C. C is called the 5th of the F major chord. It is important to know what placement a key is in a chord. Playing left hand patterns can be easily altered for variety with this knowledge.
If you decide to continue with this course you will learn why they are called the 3rd and the 5th and even how to recognize them on music to speed your reading ability. For now though, we are just assigning each key of the chord a name based on it’s relationship to the root of the chord. This relationship is associated with the key center of a song rather than just counting keys on the piano. This also allows us to talk about the uses of each part of a chord in a way that relates to all chords.
For example: If I mention the key F when we are talking chords it would really get confusing because the key F can be a different part of various chords. F is the root of F major but F is found in the D minor chord or in the B diminished chord but it is not the root in either of those chords. The F in D minor is the 3rd of the chord and the F in B diminished is the 5th. As you spend more time with chords pay close attention and this will become very clear to you, even second nature as well.
R = the ROOT of the chord which is also the name of the chord.
3rd = the 3rd of the chord which is 4 keys to the right of the root.
5th = the 5th of the chord which is 3 keys to the right of the 3rd.
Please re-read this again, slowly with feeling, to be sure it is clear. This doesn’t really complicate anything it just adds a new dimension to your music.
The first left hand patterns we will talk about is R35. R35 is short hand for Root, 3rd, 5th. This can be applied to any of the 60 basic chords. Let’s start with the C major chord. The root of course would be C. Thus we would play C below middle C with the left little finger. Next we would play the 3rd. The 3rd of the C major chord is E. Thus we would play E with the left hand below middle C with the middle finger of the left hand. Next is the 5th and the 5th of the C major chord is G. Thus we would play the G with the thumb of the left hand.
Play this left hand pattern so that each key of the chord is one beat. Since there are three keys that we are using there will be three beats. Root – 3rd – 5th, or R35. Get it? Good.
Now we can begin our first song. I composed this melody specifically so you would have a very simple song to start and be able to focus on the chords Even though this is a very easy song it can be super enhanced using chords in various ways. It will make playing your favorite songs a lot more fun and more interesting for those who are listening.
To apply left hand patterns, play the first melody note with your right middle finger at the same time you play the root of the C major chord with your left little finger. Hold the melody note with your right middle finger until you have played the 3rd and the the 5th of the chord with your left hand and then release all of the keys and do the same for the next measure and so on.
You will need to be familiar with the C major chord, the F major chord, and the G major chord to play this song. These are the three primary chords in the key center of C. Any song you play that is written in the key center for C major, will usually use these three chords more often than any other.
OK. You have played the first measure of the song using this left hand pattern. Try the second measure, then the third measure and so on, until you have played the entire song. Practice it until it is easy for you to play it.
Remember this is only one style that can be used to play this song. The more styles you use in a song the more interesting it is and the more fun it is to play. As yo progress you learn many other left hand patterns, other techniques to enhance your music, and many other ways to use chords with your favorite songs. Through the use of various left hand patterns you gradually develop you own playing style.
Have fun! After all, that is what piano music is all about.
P.S. When you can play this left hand pattern with First Tune, try changing the pattern to R53. Then play a couple measures using the left hand pattern of R35, then the next two measures using R53. Play a few measures using R55. These are small and easy changes but they really make a big difference in your playing.