Pop Piano Accompaniment: The Ultimate Guide

Instructor
Jonny May
Quick Tip
Level 1
Level 2
10:12

Learning Focus
  • Accompanying
  • Chords
  • Groove
  • Improvisation
  • Reharmonization
Music Style
  • Contemporary
  • New Age
  • Pop

Are you looking for a way to easily elevate your pop piano accompaniment skills? With these three steps, I will show you a super easy way to transform your pop piano playing and give your sound an exciting, contemporary flavor!

  1. Typical approach to a common pop chord progression
  2. Learn money chords
  3. More colorful approach using money chords

You are going to be so excited to play pop piano once you learn this new approach! Let’s dig in.

Pop Piano Accompaniment – Typical Approach

First, let’s take a look at the chord progression. This progression (and its variations) are extremely common in pop and contemporary music, and I’m sure it’s something you’re already familiar with:

Pop Piano Accompaniment Chord Progression
Pop Piano Chord Progression

Feel free to follow along with our Smartsheet as you work your way through the Quick Tip! The chord progression in Roman Numerals is as follows: I – IV – vi – V – iii – IV – ii – V (chords are usually referred to by Roman numerals in music. Uppercase indicates a Major chord, and lowercase indicates a minor chord). There are so many songs based on all or part of this chord progression so it’s a great idea to try and memorize this and use it in the future. Now let’s look at a typical approach to playing this progression:

Typical approach to pop piano chord progression
Typical approach to pop piano chord progression

As you can see here, the right hand plays the triad of each chord while the left hand plays some arpeggios to help drive the song along. If you’re more of a beginner I would suggest learning this approach before you continue so that you have a better grasp on what we’re going to change.

Next, let’s learn the money chords!

Pop Piano Accompaniment – Money Chords

These two chords are so cool because they will give your pop playing a more refined and modern sound. They are variations on C Major, but we will be changing the 3rd of the chord (E). Check them out:

Money Chords
Money Chords

The first money chord is Csus2. This chord is super versatile because we’ve changed the 3rd (E) to the 2nd (D). This substitution creates a suspended 2 chord because now we’re playing the 2nd instead of the 3rd. The second chord is Csus4, and for this chord we’ve changed the 3rd to the 4th (F), creating a suspended 4 chord. The suspended quality of both money chords makes them sound good over virtually any root, and we can apply this sound to our chord progression from above.

There are so many ways to use these chords to elevate your pop accompaniment skills! Next, let’s look at a more colorful approach and talk about some of the things you can do with the money chords.

A More Colorful Approach

Before we dig into some cool details, let’s look at how to use these chords with the chord progression:

Pop piano accompaniment more colorful approach
More colorful approach

As you can see, we’ve changed a few things here! We’ve replaced the triads from the typical approach with money chords, but pay attention to when we use Csus2 and Csus4. As a general rule, if the original triad includes the 4th of the key (in this case F, which is the 4th of C) use the sus4 chord. Csus2 works well and sounds great over all the other chords!

In this approach, the left hand is arpeggiating 10ths instead of just the root and 5th. This is key because the 3rd of each chord needs to be played by the left hand since we removed it from the right hand. Moving the 3rd of each chord to the left had serves two purposes. First, it frees up the right hand to play the money chords or improvise your own accompaniment! Second, it adds more color underneath the right hand which helps to give your playing a more contemporary sound.

Feel free to improvise the rhythm of the money chords! This is a simple way to really personalize your accompaniment. Here’s an example:

Rhythmic variation with anticipations
Rhythmic variation with anticipations

Here, we are anticipating some of the chords by an eighth note. This serves to emphasize the changing harmony and give our accompaniment a more driving rhythm.

You can also use a different position (or inversion) of the money chords to open up your sound as well:

Money chords in different position
Money chords in different position

In this example, we’ve moved the lowest note of each money chord an octave higher. This changes the intervals between the three notes of the chord, and in this case has really opened up the sound with larger intervals and higher notes. You could use this position for climactic moments because by moving that bottom note higher, the chords will be louder and more dramatic!

Final Thoughts

Using the more colorful approach is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to using money chords! Experiment with different rhythms, positions, and combinations of both to come up with your own exciting, personalized accompaniments.

If you want to learn more about money chords and how to use them in songs, check out the One Chord Wonder course.

If you want to learn how to accompany with money chords in the pop style, check out our Piano Accompaniment: Popstinatos course. We also have a couple of fantastic courses where you can learn even more pop accompaniment ideas: Pop Accompaniment Patterns 1 and Pop Accompaniment Patterns 2.

That’s all for today’s piano lesson. If you enjoyed this lesson, I recommend subscribing to our weekly piano Quick Tips emails. This way, you’ll never miss a lesson.

See you in the next piano lesson.

Your teacher,

Jonny May

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