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Tired of Playing the Same Old Song in the Same Old Way?

by Bruce Siegel on May 8th, 2015

Then play it differently! And one of the simplest, most effective, ways to do that is to change the voice leading.

Here’s what I mean. Let’s say your right hand always begins a particular song by playing a C chord in the first inversion. Maybe an F chord comes next, which you’ve always played in root position. That creates a nice smooth connection between the two chords.

So far so good. The voice leading sounds great, and since your hand doesn’t have to move, it’s easy to play.

But here’s the problem: after countless repetitions, that same voice leading can begin to sound stale. Your ear yearns to hear something fresh, but not necessarily radically different. So what do you do?

Simple — start with the C chord in root position, which might then lead you to play the F chord in the second inversion. And that, of course, can have a domino effect, because each succeeding chord is likely to cry out for a different treatment than you were giving it before.

Alternatively, you can start with the C chord in the second inversion, which would lead naturally to an F chord in first inversion.

Get the idea? These are simple changes to make, though they do require a bit of thought, and then some practice to get you back to playing the song smoothly and easily.

Another possibility is that you might end up using both your old and your new voice leading(s) for different sections of the song. That can help to differentiate verse from chorus, for example, or one verse from another.

When you accompany a singer with a single instrument (like the piano), you don’t have the advantage of different instrumental timbres to play with, so you need to find other ways to create variety and spontaneity.

You may be surprised at how a new voice leading or two can restore the thrill of playing music that’s been in your repertoire for years. Give it a try!

Incidentally, voice leading is the subject of the latest lesson added to my DoctorKeys collection of very special tutorials.

2 Comments
  1. I find it very useful to play chords in different inversions when I practice. But after I master a piece I like to invert the right hand as well and play a similar melody shifted up to the 3rd or 5th. This is more difficult than just inverting chords but it colors the piece in fresh ways.

  2. Bruce Siegel permalink

    Thanks for commenting, Udi! I think we may be talking about the same thing, because I’m also referring to the right hand part. And you’re absolutely correct — part of the pleasure is using that top voice to create an interesting melody. “Counter-melody” might be a good word here, because we’re creating a secondary melody to support the singer’s part.

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