Pop Piano Accompaniment: Popstinatos
Get free weekly lessons, practice tips, and downloadable resources to your inbox!
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:
- Learn the one chord wonder
- Learn the popstinato
- 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:
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:
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:
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!
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:
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:
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:
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):
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:
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:
Use the same pattern as before, and experiment with each inversion of the 5ths combined with your left hand.
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.
Thanks for learning, and see you in the next Quick Tip!
Blog written by Austin Byrd / Quick Tip by Jonny May
More Free Lessons
The ultimate 2-5-1 jazz scale exercise will unlock your potential as an improvisor and help overcome choppy, directionless improv lines.
This month, we’re taking a look at the famous American jazz musician, Vince Guaraldi, who is best known for his musical contributions to the Peanuts show.
Explore the dreamy sound of the whole tone scale and four piano applications. This guide covers theory, fingering, runs and historical usage.
Looking for downloads?
Subscribe to a membership plan for full access to this Quick Tip's sheet music and backing tracks!
The Piano With Jonny Membership
Guided Learning Tracks
View guided learning tracks for all music styles and skill levels
Complete lessons and courses as you track your learning progress
Download Sheet Music and Backing Tracks
Engage with other PWJ members in our member-only community forums
Become a better piano player today. Try us out with the 14-day free trial!