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Country Piano Chords


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I would suggest that you listen to someone who plays that type of gig. Maybe buy some Cd's that Matt Rollings is playing piano on. Matt can truly play anything and his approach to a country session is dead on. There are many great players in country music, he's just one that comes to the top of my mind.
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I posted the same question here about a year ago, and since then I've had a lot of practice. It's really a nice pretty piano style, although I'm not that good at it.


The techniques I found to be the most useful are:


Suspended chords - 2nds and 4ths. Use them in clusters or resolve them. I tend to overuse this technique when I play country, though.


Walk up or down between I - IV or IV - I or V - I.


Alternate between I and V in the left hand on a chord.


Wear a cowboy hat.

Amateur Hack
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There are two licks that I use when confronted with the chore of having to play in a country style.


One lick, we'll use a C major chord for this example, is to play a C note on top with an A under it. Play them both at the same time and then resolve the A to a G. To get that country flavor, be sure to add a generous sprinkling of grace notes under the lower notes. (It would be really great if we could show this on paper, but that's another issue for several reasons.) Then go down and play a G and and E at the same time and resolve the E to a D and then to a C. That's a standard country lick.


Another lick is to play diatonic 6ths with a grace note starting under the bottom note. I'll try to give an example using just words.


C major chord (C major scale) - D# (grace note) E, C (that's one grouping of three notes), C#, D, B .... B, C, A, ....A#, B, G ... and so on. Play this pattern real fast and you'll see (and hear) what I mean. This is also an excellent pattern to practice in all keys just to have something to do when you're bored.


I could write this on 'paper' using Sibelius, post it at my web site, but you'd have to download a free utility (Scorch) to be able to view it.

No guitarists were harmed during the making of this message.


In general, harmonic complexity is inversely proportional to the ratio between chording and non-chording instruments.


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Drifting off topic, I love that signature line, Dave. I work with a conservative, who I love to get all mad and red-faced. It's that narrow viewpoint: "It's what I've always believed, so it's right and everybody else needs to agree".

It's looking rough here. My Mother-in-law almost moved back to Panama because of who got elected last time.

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I don't think it's the chords per se, as much as it is the voicings, suspensions, and passing notes in the arrangements. Studying the work of Floyd Cramer is probably a good place to start for analyzing American Country style piano.

Tom F.

"It is what it is."

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In actual Nashville sessions one tends to hear three kinds of country piano played: Pig Robbins, who tends to keep his voicings within the lower octaves and does signature licks below middle C (single-note, pentatonic lines with grace notes), Bruce Hornsby (not actually him, but using his rolling "The Way It Is" style), and Floyd Cramer (play fourths and resolve the lower note up to a third-- C on top, play C and the fourth lower G together, resolve the G to an A. Listen to a recording of "Last Date" for the real stuff.)


You don't hear the Cramer stuff so much anymore. It's dated and sounds it. Even the Hornsby stuff is getting a little long in the tooth. Lately I've been playing more like Nashville session guy John Jarvis, who incorporates a little gospel along with his barrelhouse style. Lots of fun.


Matt Rollings is an amazing player but the local producers tend to hire Steve Nathan or Jarvis. The parts they play sit in a track better for most popular country needs. Lyle Lovett, on the other hand, needs that beautiful stride that Rollings does.


If you're playing classic country, Pig Robbins and Floyd Cramer are the way to go. If you're doing pop country, check out Steve Nathan's or John Jarvis' work on just about anything recorded in the last 7-10 years.



9 Moog things, 3 Roland things, 2 Hammond things and a computer with stuff on it



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