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After getting bored with my piano lessons a few months ago, I decided (a few days ago) that I wanted to get back into piano playing for fun. I really enjoy playing the piano but didn't enjoy the lessons that I was taking at all.

My primary reason for getting back into the piano was to be able to accompany myself (primarily using chords) when singing. I spent a few hours yesterday just finding the chords online to various songs and roughly singing along while playing them. However, the accompaniment doesn't sound very 'full', but rather just a chord played every line or so.

A few years ago, I was in a show alongside another actor, who was a very talented musician. Sometimes during breaks, he would sit down at the piano and he would accompany the cast in just singing various songs. However, despite using what looked like very similar online sources for chords as I am, his playing combined with the singer's voices to create a sound that sounded like it could be performed, unlike my basic chords.

Is there anything I can do, any exercises or techniques, that will make my chord-playing sound like a proper accompaniment? I assume it's to do with how the chord is played (in terms of alternating fingers or playing each note of the chord one after the other, etc).

Thanks for any help, Oli.

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Possibly too wide reaching a question to answer here. Various ploys can be and are used.

*Arpeggiating the chords.

*Playing a bass line with l.h. while using block chords with r.h.

*Chords with l.h., melody with r.h.

*Chords with l.h., harmonising with melody with r.h.

*Chords with both hands.

*Chords and melody r.h., with l.h. bass line.

*Chords with passing notes (r.h.).

*Using different inversions of chords - open and closed positions.

While trying out ideas, don't concentrate on the singing aspect - you've enough to do. Maybe hum or whistle until a song sounds like it works.

If you're pedalling, make sure you lift the pedal between each chord change; and often at the end of each bar where the chord is static.

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The best approach is to zoom in a bit and focus on a few well arranged piano songs and learn the arrangements note by note.

You basically need to figure out how it is being done - how to make simple chords sound good on piano by examples.

Try to select songs in varied styles so you could build idiomatic vocabulary. For example Phil Collins' piano on Against All Odds will give you an idea how to play a rock ballad and so on. But that's just an example pick something you like so that it will be fun as well.

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You're maybe not going to like this answer!

Go back to the piano lessons. Learn lots of pieces Look at the ways that various composers HAVE arranged piano music. Even the 'old' composers wrote styles that are very applicable to accompaning modern songs. If there's a difference, it might be that modern styles depend more on a strong, rhythmic bass line.

'Song copies' of modern music may not be very useful as literal instructions what to play on piano. But you say you're an actor. Today's Music Theatre, with ever-decreasing pit orchestra sizes, is very keyboard-based. Grab some show scores and see what the pianist is given to play.

  • Yeah perhaps a different teacher would help. A good teacher would ask you what your goals are and work toward getting you what you are after. If the lessons aren't fun and you aren't working on what you want then the teacher may not be a good fit. That being said sometimes you will need to work on stuff that seems boring or repetitive to get to your ultimate goal. – b3ko Mar 5 at 13:51
  • Thank you both for your help here. At the moment, going back to my lessons aren’t an option but may be something to look into in the near future. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t like what I was learning (although I’ll admit I didn’t love it), but playing the piano began to feel like a chore. However, when playing for fun yesterday, I thoroughly enjoyed it - in the same way that made me want to get lessons in the first place. – Oli Hackett Mar 5 at 14:01
  • I did consider suggesting going back to lessons. Maybe that teacher only taught in a specific way, and couldn't adapt. Maybe a different teacher would be more accommodating. As a pupil, one has some rights to dictate what the lessons comprise. – Tim Mar 5 at 14:26

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