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Piano Fact

Week 11: Must I Play a Chord Every Measure?

Question:
I am wondering about whether to play chords when there are rests in the melody line. If I understand correctly, the answer is yes if there is a chord notation above the bar or a chord continues from the previous bar.

I don’t play chords at the very beginning of songs when there are no chord notations above them, just rests and notes for the rigfht hand — right?

Answer:
That depends. There are times when you’ll see the “N.C.” symbol which means “no chord.” This is almost always done for effect. In such a case you can either skip the chord , or — if you know what the chord should be — play it anyway.

You decide which version you prefer.

When a chord symbol is absent at the very beginning of a song, you have the same option. Play it if you know it; or skip it if you don’t (or if you prefer it that way). You just have to remember that if you play the chord at the beginning of the song, it must be played on the first beat of the measure, even though the first melody note will likely fall somewhere else in the measure.

Above all, try to keep the rhythm steady.

For information on what to do when chords change in the middle of a measure, listen to the B Side of the cassette that comes with Popular Chord Style Piano.

For insight on how to predict what chords should be used when the sheet music doesn’t include them, refer to How to Play Piano by Ear.

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