Playing Left Hand Bass Lines on Piano
Piano players usually are required to play both a rhythm line and
melody in many songs. The rhythm parts are sometimes created by playing left hand bass lines on piano.
The lines played with the left hand of the piano are often fairly similar to the type of rhythm work played on
the bass or bass guitar. These are predominately single note lines. So, how can you incorporate this into your
everyday piano lessons?
In many cases, these lines primarily use chord tones to build the lines. This is not the only method of rhythm
work, chord progressions played with the left hand are also quite common.
The term chord refers to playing three or more notes together. These are often a major part of any piano
player’s repertoire. Many left hand bass lines on piano are built off chord tones. Rather than play every note of
the chord simultaneously, notes of a chord are played individually to create the bass line.
The order of the notes does not matter, which allows a large amount of variety in their usage. However, the root
note is usually emphasized heavily in these bass lines. The goal of the bass line is to create a tonal center for
the other parts of the song to build off.
In order to accomplish this, the piano player must ensure the audience knows what the root note is. In general,
just playing the root note as the first note of the section can be all that is needed to accomplish this.
Physical dynamics can also be included in bass lines. The piano player
might play the notes of the bass line a little louder or softer than the melody notes depending on if they
want to emphasize or deemphasize the bass line.
Using physical dynamics is not a required part of left hand bass lines on
piano, but they can contribute substantially in how good the song sounds. Depending on how different in pitch the
melody is from the bass line, using louder or softer notes in the bass line can ensure it does not overpower the
The bass line in most piano parts is usually not improvised, which can help substantially in playing it. In many
cases, you only need to memorize a couple bars of notes, which allow you to focus on the melody.
Most bass lines are built around a four, eight or twelve bar pattern
that repeats through the song. In some cases, the pattern might be as little as one or two bars. Some songs might
also have different bass lines for different sections of the song. For example, the verse, chorus and bridge might
use different bass lines.
The left hand bass line on piano is a very common element that many piano players have to use at some point. It
provides a tonal and rhythmic base for the rest of the song to build off of. It is very important to avoid mistakes
when playing a bass line.
Minor rhythm fluctuations and hitting the wrong note can be more obvious errors than mistakes made in the melody
of the song. These bass lines usually do not require much in the way of technical skills, but can be awkward
initially for right handed players.