Instructor
Jonny May
Quick Tip
Intermediate
9:59

Learning Focus
  • Accompanying
  • Chords
  • Groove
  • Improvisation
  • Reharmonization
Music Style
  • Pop
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Are you tired of playing the same thing when you play pop songs? Are you looking for a driving, exciting sound to elevate your pop piano accompaniment? With these easy piano accompaniment popstinatos, you will achieve a driving, flowing sound in 3 easy steps:

  1. Learn the one chord wonder
  2. Learn the popstinato
  3. Add left hand

Before we dig in to the popstinato, let’s look at the chord progression that this works over.

Pop Piano Chord Progression

The chord progression that the popstinato will work on is awesome because about 80% of pop songs use the same one! Some songs use variations of this chord progression, but it’s so common that you’ll be able to play virtually any pop song! You can follow along with our Smartsheet to play along as you learn. Here it is:

Pop Piano Chord Progression
Pop Piano Chord Progression

 

As you can see, this progression uses C, F, Am, and G (I, IV, vi, and V). Chords are usually referred to by Roman numerals, but for this lesson we will just use regular numbers.

A typical approach a pianist might use to play this progression is to play the chords in root position with the right hand, and playing the root and 5th in the left hand like this:

Pop Chord Progression - Typical Approach
Pop Chord Progression – Typical Approach

 

There’s nothing wrong with playing pop songs this way, but adding a driving, flowing popstinato will really elevate this approach! Next, let’s look at the one chord wonder.

Piano Accompaniment Popstinatos: One Chord Wonder

With this one chord, you will be able to create amazing accompaniment popstinatos with ease! Here it is:

One Chord Wonder
One Chord Wonder

 

As you can see, this chord is very close to C Major except we are playing D (the 2nd) instead of E (the 3rd). This makes the chord a Csus2, and it sounds great over the entire chord progression! We will be creating our popstinatos using the notes of this chord because it works over each chord. Try playing the one chord wonder over each root of the chord progression to get a sense for how it sounds.

If you want to learn more about the one chord wonder, check out our Pop & Contemporary Piano Accompaniment: The One Chord Wonder course.

Next, let’s learn the popstinato!

Popstinatos: Pattern

We can think of the one chord wonder in terms of voices. We all know what the voice is, as we each have one, but in music voices can refer to individual notes within a chord. Let’s use 1, 2, and 3 for C, D, and G within the chord.

The popstinato pattern is going to be the same for each different position of the chord. Here it is:

Piano Accompaniment Popstinatos Pattern
Popstinato Pattern
Piano Accompaniment Popstinatos - Notation
Popstinato Pattern – Notation

 

Follow the numbers to play this pattern. The rhythm is all eighth notes, which is one reason this popstinato has such a driving feel! Practice this popstinato until you can play it with some speed and comfort before moving on. Once you have it down, let’s move on to adding the left hand.

Adding Left Hand Chords

If you are more of a beginner pianist, use open 5ths with your left hand to go with the popstinato pattern:

5ths in left hand
5ths in left hand

 

Playing the popstinato as all eighth notes is only one piece to make this a driving accompaniment. The other piece is anticipating the 4 and 5 chords (F and G) by a beat. By anticipating these chords, it propels the music along and really gives your popstinato a driving, flowing feeling!

If you’re more of an intermediate or advanced pianist, you can use 10ths to add some color to your left hand:

10ths in left hand
10ths in left hand

 

Remember to anticipate F and G to maintain that driving sound!

If you want to learn more piano accompaniment popstinatos, check out our Pop & Contemporary Piano Accompaniment: Popstinatos course! Next, let’s look at a couple different positions you can play the popstinato in.

Piano Accompaniment Popstinatos: Positions

We will be looking at three total positions for this popstinato. We’ve already learned the first position above, and each position can be used depending on the inversion of the one chord wonder. If we think of the one chord wonder in root position (C, D, G), we can look at position 2 as first inversion (D, G, C):

Piano Accompaniment Popstinatos position 1
Popstinato position 1

 

Popstinato position 2
Popstinato position 2

 

You can use the same number pattern from before to create a different popstinato! Try playing in this position and compare how it sounds with position 1. Use your left hand the same way as before, whether you’re using 5ths or 10ths.

We can also play this pattern in 2nd inversion (G, C, D) to create a third version of the popstinato:

Popstinato position 3
Popstinato position 3

 

Feel free to use other inversions with your left hand as well. This will give you even more tools to create your own popstinato accompaniments. There’s one more thing to learn before we wrap up this lesson. Next, let’s learn the popstinato in open 5ths positions.

Piano Accompaniment Popstinatos: Open 5ths

Just like with the other popstinatos, you can use open 5ths to create a gorgeous, open sounding popstinato:

Piano accompaniment popstinatos open 5ths
Open 5ths

Use the same pattern as before, and experiment with each inversion of the 5ths combined with your left hand.

Final Thoughts

The popstinato pattern that you’ve learned is such a simple, beautiful way to lift your pop piano accompaniment playing! I love how easy it is to combine the different positions to create unique, interesting accompaniments.  The chord progression is the basis for thousands of pop songs, and you can use this pattern to play virtually any song with these techniques.

If you want to dig into more pop piano techniques, check out our Pop & Contemporary Piano Accompaniment Patterns 1 and Pop & Contemporary Piano Accompaniment Patters 2 courses.

Thanks for learning, and see you in the next Quick Tip!

Blog written by Austin Byrd / Quick Tip by Jonny May

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