Using right-hand piano fills is one of the best and easiest ways to transform your playing so you will sound better at the piano.
If you’ve ever watched (or heard) someone play something really amazing you’ll know what I’m talking about. It seemed like their hands were dancing around the keys effortlessly creating sounds you just didn’t know were possible.
Well, it’s possible. And you can do it.
Those sounds come from right-hand piano fills and riffs, which are the notes piano players use to fill the space between the chords.
They sound advanced, stylish, and really cool. But they’re super-simple to learn!
I’ll show you how using the song, “Let Her Go”, by Passenger.
To make a right-hand piano fill, we first need some notes. The chords are the best place to begin when looking for notes that will sound good.
Our first fill will take the 3 notes of the chord and add an extra note to create movement and drama. That note will be the 2nd note of the chord. It’s the note between the root note and the 3rd.
We’ll “roll” through all these notes to create our first piano fill, which looks like this:
That rolling action can take a bit of practice before it sounds natural and comfortable. Invest in that skill as it will serve you well in the future.
This second fill is similar to the first one, in the sense that we will be using exactly the same notes.
But instead of rolling through those notes, we’ll start by playing the 2nd and 5th notes of the chord. This creates a type of suspended chord (sus2) which naturally wants to resolve.
And that’s exactly what we’ll do next. After landing on that shape we’ll take the bottom note for a little walk up to the 3rd and back down to the root note.
Again, this will take some practice. I’ve been playing and perfecting these fills for many years. If this is your first time trying this out don’t get discouraged.
If it was easy, everyone would do it! And by putting in the work now, you’ll be setting yourself apart from those “casual” players who don’t make that extra effort.
This fill uses chord inversions to help us expand our playing area and create some truly beautiful sounds.
Make sure you check out that lesson on inversions (linked above) if they are new to you. This fill will require you to be able to play them well and be comfortable moving between root position chords and inversions.
Start this fill by playing each chord in the progression in its root form and in its 1st inversion:
Once you can do that for each chord, it’s time to start turning those inversions into fills.
We’ll do this by choosing notes from the inversion shapes and playing them as broken chords. How do you know what notes to choose? Well, that’s up to you! This is your chance to get creative and discover what you think sounds best.
Here’s what it looks like for me:
But remember, I’ve been doing this for years. I have hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours of practice.
Be prepared for these right-hand piano fills to feel and sound awkward when you start practicing. Take it really slow when you begin and focus on playing the right notes.
As you practice, it will feel more comfortable and you can start to experiment even further.
Just because I’ve shown you 3 fills to work on here, it doesn’t mean you have to incorporate all 3 into every song. Start by picking one and working on it until you’re comfortable. Then expand and work on the others.
One final thought: don’t overdo it.
You don’t need a fill on every chord change. Sometimes less is more and it can be good to let your song “breathe”.
Good luck and have fun!
If you’d like more training and lessons to really nail these and other fills, check out Piano Riffs and Fills.
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