Hey there. It’s me, Jordan. Why don’t you stay awhile and learn ‘Stay’ by Rihanna, one of the coolest piano ballads to be written in recent times. Sound good? Ok let’s dive in…
The Key And The Verse Chords
So, this song is written in the key of C major (or A minor if you want to look at it that way), which means you only have to worry about the white keys, and every chord in this song is a quarter note. Easy peasy!
Now, let’s look at what the verse chords are made up of. The verse is comprised of
C - Dm - Am - G - Am - G - Am - G
Each of these chords is just a basic triad, but if you want to play the verse as smoothly as possible, you’ll want to use inversions to play this progression. The way I like to play this progression is with C in second inversion (played G - C - E), moving to Dm in second inversion (A - D - F). After that I like to move down to Am in second inversion (E - A - C).
One of the perfect things about Rihanna's 'Stay' is it's so rhythmically consistent but STILL so catchy!
This leaves your hands set up to play the Am - G section of the verse. That G chord is the only part of this verse that is shaped slightly different. The left hand reflects the chord change by moving down to G, but the right hand moves to play a Gsus4 shape. So the notes you should play in the right hand are D - G - C, rather than B on top.
The pre-chorus is quite similar to the verse, but it adds in a few new chords. Here’s the progression.
F - Dm - Am - G - Am - G
F - Dm - Am - G - G
So there’s two parts to this progression. The first repetition ends on that pulsing movement, bouncing back from Am to that G chord just like in the verses. The second repetition of the the pre-chorus switches things up a bit, instead simply landing on a straight G triad for the final two bars.
Rihanna's 'Stay' is proof you don't need
crazy chords to make a great song.
The chorus of this song consists of the chords:
C - Dm - Am - F
This progression repeats twice before it hits that ‘I want you to staaaay’ part, where it returns to that chord motion found in the verse. (C - Dm - A…)
The chorus is pretty simple, but it’s got a clever way to move from its own specific progression back into the verse, so dedicate some time to practicing that movement specifically to get the transition nice and smooth!
The final piece of the Stay puzzle you’ve gotta learn is the bridge. It’s a two part bridge, so let’s just look at the first progression for now.
The bridge in this song has a suspenseful building vibe that you can really play up on the piano, so when you’re practicing this part think a lot about the dynamics of the song. Here’s the chords…
F - Am - Dm7 - Em7
Again, a pretty simple bridge, in that you’re still going to be playing just quarter notes for every chord. The progression does include a few cool minor 7th chords though, so let’s take a look at those.
To voice that Dm7 chord, all you have to do is play a D in the bass and an F major chord in the right hand. To shift that up to an Em7 chord, just shift each note up one key to the right. Your left hand is now playing E, while your right hand plays a G major chord.
The second part of the bridge returns to a similar progression found in the verses. Here’s the progression for the bridge part two.
F - Dm - Am - Am
F - Dm - G - G
Rihanna's looking upon you proudly today. You have mastered her song, 'Stay'
Tying Everything Together
If you’re still at the early stages of learning piano, this is a great song to tackle. Be sure to go along with the click track and pay attention to the different sounds these chord inversions make. Changing the chord inversions of the chord progression can really alter the sound of a pop tune like this. Have fun and happy practicing!