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A little while ago, I created a video about how to play background music on the piano. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it here.

It was pretty popular, so I wanted to do another one!

This sequel will give you another template and more options to help fill space and time at the piano. 

Why learn background music?

It’s a useful skill to have. In my years of playing the piano, I’ve had to use it many times! If you ever plan on playing in public it’s definitely worth spending some time on.

You can use it at gigs, during weddings (because brides are always late!), at church, or even just at home to create some relaxing music for yourself and your family.

And the best part is how simple it can be. The technique I’m going to show you today can be played by anyone, even beginners. If you’re more advanced, you can use this as a starting point and then explore some more on your own.

All about intervals

We’ll be in the key of G today, so the notes we’ll be using are all in the G major scale. They are G – A – B – C – D – E – F# – G.

For the left hand, we’ll ONLY be playing a G note. It’s that easy. If you’re more advanced you can definitely experiment with changing the bass notes, but this lesson is focused more on the intervals in the right hand.

There are 3 intervals we’ll be using. They are thirds, fourths, and fifths.

Let’s take a look at each one.

Thirds

We’ll be using major and minor thirds, depending on which note we start on. Don’t worry about this for now, as it’s not the focus of this lesson. The easy way to find a third is to pick a note of the G major scale, and find the note that is 3 up from it.

Here’s what that will look like:

Fourths

Similar to thirds, fourths are another very common interval. The top note is one step higher than a third (which is why it’s called a fourth!). Here’s what that looks like:

You might notice the fourth above C is an F#, which sounds a bit icky. That’s called an augmented fourth. But we want to keep that F# because

we’re in the key of G.

Fifths

One of my favorite intervals. The top note is one more step higher than it was for the fourth. Try playing each interval to decide the ones you like the best. Here they are:

Putting it all together

This is where it gets fun and beautiful. While you play a G note in the bass, start experiment with different intervals. Try using thirds to being with, then move on to fourths and fifths.

Once you’re comfortable, start mixing and matching between the intervals. I bet you can create some really stunning melody lines just by doing this.

And what’s so great about it is that while it’s really simple, there are SO many possibilities. No two songs will sound the same.

And that’s perfect for background music because it means you can play it for a long time without it sounding stale and repetitive.

And that’s the secret to background music 🙂

Have fun with this, and comment to let me know how you did!


Lisa Witt

Lisa Witt has been teaching piano for 18 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.

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