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Left-Hand Bass Parts

Did you know that Errol Garner, the jazz pianist, was left-handed? So, I got to thinking about left-hand parts on the piano and how much time I have invested in piano practice to improve and strengthen my bass lines in music.

I’ve always been comfortable playing a melodic line with my right hand but when it comes to playing Alberti bass or Waltz bass, I seemed to need the extra practice, playing left hand notes separately until they were polished and then adding both hands together to hear a more balanced sound.

To achieve this, let’s take a look at music and see how a composer will write harmony parts in many different ways.

1. Block chords look like all of the notes are stacked together, like a snow- man, and you play them together at once. You will find many blocked chords for your left hand in rock and roll and hymns, too.

2. Broken chords are when the left-hand plays the notes of a chord but one at a time. You can approach this by playing oom-pah rhythm or some say, boom-chick, like a repeated pattern of a single note followed by a chord. You will hear this in Ragtime in Scott Joplin music.

3. Arpeggiated chords make up notes of a chord that are played one at a time, like an arpeggio. They are found in Classical piano music and Pop music.

4. Alberti bass is when the notes of each chord is played starting with the bottom note, on to the top note, middle note and then up to the top note again.

5. Waltz bass is where the first note of the chord is on the down beat, the first beat of the measure and followed by the other notes on beats 2 and 3. It is played with a strong beat in a 3/4 time signature. This ballad style allows your right hand the freedom to pull out the melody line and just let it flow.

This is the basic introduction to left-hand movement. More advanced rhythmic patterns would include off-beats, swing and slow jazz waltz, to name a few. Plus, there is Latin rhythm to learn, such as Bossa Nova, Mambo Tango, Cha Cha, Rhumba and Samba.

No matter what level you are on, with many of the left-hand parts listed above, you can incorporate them into your music for rhythm practice.

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