Basic pop and rock accompaniment patterns

This article is for people who wish to learn how to accompany a singer, or their own singing.

When you play accompaniment, you just play the bass and the chords but not the melody of the song.

Of course, different styles have different requirements — in Jazz, you wouldn’t even play the bass, for example. The patterns I present here are suitable for pop and rock music.

The prerequisite is that you know how to do voice-leading. We’ll use voice-leading to go as smoothly as possible from one chord to the next (no big jumps).

Here are the chords for the first phrase of Let It Be by the Beatles, in the key of G:

       G              D
When I find myself in times of trouble
Em          C
Mother Mary comes to me

The most rudimentary accompaniment would look something like this:

Very simple accompaniment pattern

The right hand plays each chord twice and the left hand plays a single bass note at the start of each measure.

You quickly release the damper pedal at the start of each new measure (i.e. when the chord changes) and then press it down again.

In case you don’t know how to read sheet music, download the MIDI file for this example and follow along with vanBasco’s Karaoke player.

Here is a pattern that I play a lot that suits this song very well:

Common pop accompaniment pattern

MIDI example

It sounds more impressive if you play an octave bass in the left hand. This might take some getting used to but it’s worth learning.

With octave bass

MIDI example

You play the octave bass with your left hand pinky and thumb. Under your index finger is the 5th of the chord. You can play this instead of the repeated octave:

Fifth in bass

MIDI example

You can play all kinds of patterns using the bass octaves and the fifth. For example:

Other bass octave pattern

MIDI example

If you can play bass octaves, then these kinds of patterns should be easy: you keep your hand steady and just alternate between your pinky, your thumb and your index finger. Experiment!

For more intensity, you can play triplets in the right hand. A triplet is 3 notes played in the time it usually takes to play 2 notes.

You can play it slowly:

Slow triplets

MIDI example

Or fast like Jerry Lee Lewis:

Quick triplets

MIDI example

If you play it fast like this, it’s often best not to use the damper pedal. Use your own judgment to hear what sounds best.

There you have some very basic patterns. In a future article we’ll talk about more advanced things that you can do in the right hand, but this should get you started.

I encourage you to experiment with different rhythmic patterns between the bass and the right hand chord. Don’t think about this too much: just feel it.

For example, something like this: MIDI example

I played the same chords from the above examples and the same bass notes (octave bass + fifth) but in a different rhythmic pattern. I didn’t plan this pattern in advance, it just came out that way. Experiment!

Read more articles on Piano Clues:

Basic Theory


Chords and Harmony


The Circle of Fifths


Arrangement, Improvisation and Composition


Reading Music and Sheet Music


How to Record Piano


Software and Virtual Instruments


Scales and Exercises


Digital Pianos


Links and Other Stuff


Comments

  1. Tinesha says:

    You’re awesome :)

  2. dave says:

    lesson is great and easy to follow. hope you could show other rythmn patterns.

  3. Joan HH says:

    Great site, thank so much. Since you don’t use base in playing a jazz accompaniment for a soloist, what method would you use. The most basic.

  4. Tom says:

    Thanks a lot man!! It helps me A LOT!
    So I sing
    When I and play G find myself in D time of trouble
    Em mother Marry C comes to me.

    Is that right? Please reply
    and thank you a lot :D

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