Accompanying Students 102

Previously, we explored playing a basic (boom chick) stride pattern to accompany students when no duet part is provided.  Now, we’ll consider two ways to enhance and adapt this useful “stock” accompaniment.

  1. Passing Note Bass

Add variety and momentum to the steady boom-chick of a basic stride by connecting the roots of chords with passing bass notes. Like a meandering traveler, it doesn’t matter which direction the notes move (or even whether they are all in the key) so long as they point toward and arrive at the destination chord on time. In other words, play each chord’s root squarely on the downbeat and don’t fuss too much about the notes between.  this-old-man-passing-bass

  1. Waltz

You can adapt a basic stride pattern to waltz time by playing two chords between the bass notes (boom-chick-chick).  Passing bass notes can add a greater sense of forward motion to waltzes as well.

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Tips:

  • There’s no obligation to connect every chord change. Passing bass notes can be overdone, so just throw them in now and then.
  • If the student’s left-hand part is already fairly busy or crowds your playing range, you can confine your accompaniment to just the bass notes without the chords.
  • To help students better understand the difference between time signatures, ask them to play a well known common time tune as a waltz instead (or vice versa). Your insistent accompaniment in the new meter will help them hear how to make their part fit.

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Until next time, enjoy your creative music-making journey.

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Bradley Sowash is a composer, performer, and educator known for his best-selling jazz piano method, “That’s Jazz” published by Kjos Music and as the co-founder with Leila Viss of 88 Creative Keys improvisation camps for piano students and teachers.

(This article originally appeared in Clavier Companion magazine.)

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