I am a bassist/guitarist who's recently started to play the piano. I am trying to learn songs/tunes I already know.

Generally I play the melody in the right hand and attempt to create bass line / harmony in the left hand. I am often puzzled which voicings to use for every chord, because there are many more possibilities compared to what is commonly used on guitar.

Most of the time I play roots and fifths in my left hand, while thirds, sevenths and above should be played in the right hand. However this often results in dull jumps, and does not sound good enough to me. I'd like to be able to create more smooth basslines and harmonies.

Is there any generic approach I should learn? I have a good theoretical grasp of harmony , but I'm looking for some good exercises to learn this in practice on piano. Could you please give me some advice?

  • 2
    It fairly dependent on the style of tunes you're trying to play. Whatever the tunes are, your bass lines on bass can transfer directly across to l.h. Melody note obviously goes at the highest part of r.h., leaving room for some notes from some chords under with r.h.
    – Tim
    Jan 10, 2017 at 11:33
  • 1
    You should get some sheet music for a genre you like and learn how it's put together. There's not much universal about piano music. Jan 10, 2017 at 13:11
  • If you can provide what style or styles you intend to play that will help us narrow down generic voicings. Classical is quite different from jazz, which is quite different from pop rock, etc. In classical, chords tend to not have as much "colour" as in other genres. For instance, 9th, 11th and 13th are rarely used in classical music.
    – 02fentym
    Jan 11, 2017 at 0:24
  • @02fentym I was saying the same as you as answer, but there's a downvote. Jan 11, 2017 at 4:48

1 Answer 1


It can be impractical to have the LH providing both a good bass line and chords. Would you agree with me in considering the order of priority to be:

1: Melody 2: Bass line 3: Chords?

Unless you're accompanying a singer or other melodic soloist when the bass line could take priority.

Unfortunately, piano copies for 'songs' may not be much use.

Above all, watch some good pianists. Watch, listen and learn. As so often, a prime conclusion may be 'play less' :-)

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