Create Drama & Intensity In Your Piano Chord Progressions

Lisa Witt  /  Chord Progressions  /  UPDATED Jan 10, 2023

promo banner

If you know me even a little bit, you’ll know that I LOVE playing chord progressions. Playing songs by ear is what helped me really fall in love with the piano.

One of the things I see beginner players struggle with often is how to add some drama, intensity or emotion in their playing.

It’s one thing to know how to play a popular chord progression, but it’s another to make it sound really musical and dynamic!

This video will show you how to change up your chord progressions to make them sound really interesting. It’ll make a big difference to the people listening to you, trust me.

But first, we need a chord progression

For this, I’ll be using a super common progression in the key of G major. That’s the 6-4-1-5 progression. So in G, the chords are Em-C-G-D.

For more on popular chord progressions check out this lesson.

I’ll also be using chord inversions, so if you want to learn more about those, click here.

Ok, now we have our chords and chord progression. Let’s get dramatic!

Tip # 1 – Left-Hand Octaves

This is so simple but so effective, you may already to this!

Instead of playing single notes or even 5ths in your left-hand, try playing octaves.

You can even play the octaves lower than normal to get that really intense bass sound. Used sparingly, this is incredibly effective. But if you use it too much, it can make your playing sound muddy. It’s also probably not the best if you are playing in a band with a bass player. That’s their job, after all 🙂

Tip #2 – Add Rhythm

Another basic technique, but one that makes a big difference. Instead of playing the note or chord at the start of each measure, experiment with different rhythms. This could be 8th notes or quarter notes.

A good example of this is the song “The Scientist” by Coldplay. They use pulsing rhythm to really set the mood of the song.

If you’d like to learn the song or even just hear it in action, we have a tutorial here.

The great thing about this tip is that you can combine it with the first tip, so play your left-hand octaves with different rhythms. You can play both hands at the same rhythm, or change it up.

If you REALLY want to get fancy, you can start introducing broken chords. This involves playing the top two notes of a chord together and then rocking down to the bottom note. It’s a lot of fun.

Tip #3 – Dynamic Control

This one if my favorite, and if you only take away one tip from this lesson, I hope it’s this one.

Dynamic control simply means changing the volume of your playing. Sometimes you’ll play loud, other times you’ll play soft. Using dynamics is probably the biggest thing you could do quickly change how professional you sound.

That’s why we covered it in an entire lesson, called “The Fastest Way To Go From Good To GREAT On The Piano“.

If you hear someone playing the piano, and they are only playing at one volume the entire time (usually it’s loud), then you’ll know they’re a beginner.

So those are my tips. Try them out and comment below to let me know which is your favorite!

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for more than 20 years and in that time has helped hundreds of students learn to play the songs they love. Lisa received classical piano training through the Royal Conservatory of Music, but she has since embraced popular music and playing by ear in order to accompany herself and others. Learn more about Lisa.

Headshot of woman with short platinum hair against a studio background.

The easiest way to learn beautiful piano chords.
Sign up for 5 FREE play-along lessons

By signing up you’ll also receive our ongoing free lessons and special offers. Don’t worry, we value your privacy and you can unsubscribe at any time.