I've noticed a lot of music by New York composers use very interesting and varied, unpredictable accompaniment patterns (syncopation, rests, variation, counter-melodies etc) for their songs (like in Broadway songs and some Jazz etc). This doesn't seem very prevalent in the classical school of thought where often the left hand just matches the rhythm of the right-hand or else, plays a relatively repetitive structure.

Here's a specific example: You'll Be Back (piano accompaniment) This song pretty much inspired my interest in jazzy, broadway-ish music and I think it's my favourite and most interesting to my ears. The sheet music can be found on the internet

Some basic observations I've made about this song: a mixture of straight and swing eighths, and triplets, progression of simple to complex, answer-and-call things/countermelodies, chromatic passing notes but no passing chords per se, highly melodic bassline and sometimes even upper and inner-lines, constantly changing rhythm and inversions with a fair number of gaps/rests with no accompaniment at all, The last section ("da-da-da") had a kind of polyrhythm pattern (straight upbeat groove in right-hand over a swing downbeat groove in the left) which represents a peak in complexity, balance- busy, dense sections are followed up by quieter ones, unpredictability

As for specific questions I have about this song, what is the motivation or theory behind the I, I7 chord progression (G to Gdominant7)? And what is the purpose in using the note D quickly (eighth note) to often transition to the next chord?

I̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶ ̶w̶o̶n̶d̶e̶r̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶f̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶r̶e̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶a̶n̶y̶ ̶g̶o̶o̶d̶ ̶r̶e̶s̶o̶u̶r̶c̶e̶s̶ ̶o̶r̶ ̶b̶o̶o̶k̶s̶ ̶t̶h̶a̶t̶ ̶t̶e̶a̶c̶h̶ ̶w̶r̶i̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶c̶c̶o̶m̶p̶a̶n̶i̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶p̶a̶t̶t̶e̶r̶n̶s̶/̶r̶h̶y̶t̶h̶m̶s̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶a̶ ̶m̶o̶r̶e̶ ̶u̶n̶p̶r̶e̶d̶i̶c̶t̶a̶b̶l̶e̶ ̶N̶e̶w̶ ̶Y̶o̶r̶k̶i̶a̶n̶ ̶s̶t̶y̶l̶e̶?̶ ̶T̶h̶e̶ ̶b̶o̶o̶k̶s̶ ̶o̶n̶ ̶a̶c̶c̶o̶m̶p̶a̶n̶i̶m̶e̶n̶t̶ ̶w̶r̶i̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶I̶'̶v̶e̶ ̶m̶a̶n̶a̶g̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶f̶i̶n̶d̶ ̶a̶r̶e̶ ̶t̶o̶o̶ ̶s̶i̶m̶p̶l̶i̶s̶t̶i̶c̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶f̶o̶l̶l̶o̶w̶ ̶c̶l̶a̶s̶s̶i̶c̶a̶l̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶n̶k̶i̶n̶g̶.̶

Could I have any general (or specific) advice on how to train/study to be able to write accompaniments like this?

  • 3
    That really isn't a jazz style of piano in your linked example; I would call it a pop style, or a Broadway style. The best way to learn how to play like that is to listen to recordings in the style you are interested in, and transcribe the music yourself. Pay attention to what types of chord voicings are used, how bass lines are constructed, how phrases cross bar lines, etc. It's great to write it out on manuscript paper so you can look over it and think about it. Use theory to describe what you find, if you wish, but don't think that theory is motivating the music. – ex nihilo Mar 26 '18 at 6:24
  • isn't it much faster if I just look up the sheet music? I would think the more concepts my brain can absorb in a shorter time period, the larger my library of tools would be – minusatwelfth Mar 26 '18 at 6:59
  • Sheet music is great but being able to transcribe music yourself gives you a different appreciation of what exactly is going on in the music. For example, if there is a very quick melodic run which could be either fast triplets or fast semiquavers, looking up the sheet music would give you the answer immediately but trying to slow down the song and exactly work out the rhythm will give you a whole new perspective on the music and make it easier for you to pick out that particular sound in other works. – James Whiteley Mar 26 '18 at 10:34
  • This applies to working out jazz/prog/whatever rhythms too - and once you get a base understanding, you'll be able to feel what rhythms feel right in the song you're writing as you'll be much more familiar with the feel and sound of the rhythms. – James Whiteley Mar 26 '18 at 10:34
  • In terms of the I -> I7 progression (G -> G7), this is then followed by an inverted C chord. G -> C is a perfect cadence in C major, so it can be analysed as a mini modulation to C before it's clear that we are in fact in G. More likely though is that the song seems to use the G Mixolydian mode rather than the regular major scale, which G7 is a part of (G mix = C maj). The G -> G7 -> C -> D -> G progression is a variation on I -> IV -> V -> I progression, and the quick C -> D suspends the C for a beat or so longer than expected for rhythmic interest rather than having a full bar of C then D. – James Whiteley Mar 26 '18 at 10:53

It sounds to me like you're asking to be trained to be creative. You're going after something 'interesting and varied, unpredictable'. Nobody can really train you to be those things. Training is for learning the established knowledge. In order to be interesting, varied and unpredictable you have to take the established knowledge and go beyond it, extend it or add your own flair.

I'd say continue to study the basics - theory, critical listening, playing your instrument, etc. You need that base to stand on and draw from. Then take a leap and write down what you hear in your mind or better yet, what you feel in your gut. You can trust yourself. Delight yourself and you will delight your listeners, or at least some of them.

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