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Varying How Chords Are Played

Block & Broken

We have mostly been focused upon Block Chords (i.e.: when all Chord Tones are played simultaneously).

However, we can also play Chord Tones separately from one another. This is called a "Broken Chord" and there are many ways to do it. For example:


The Notes are played in order, either Ascending (lowest-to-highest) or Descending (highest-to-lowest). To perform it smoothly on a piano, make a rolling motion with the hand.


Hit the lowest Note, release, and then quickly hit all the upper Notes of the Chord together as a group. Keep bouncing back-and-forth between the two to make the oom-pa, oom-pa, oom-pa...

Alberti Bass (Low-High-Mid-High)

Play the lowest Note, then the highest Note, then the middle Note, and then finally the highest Note once more; one's hand usually rocks back and forth when they do this.

There are also many rhythmic variations of the above patterns because Notes can either be released or held after they are pressed, or even played multiple times before moving to the next. For example:

Arpeggio Roll

Play all of the Notes in Ascending order, then quickly Descend through the same Notes.

• Oom-pa-pa

Hit the upper Notes twice instead of once. This gives a "waltz" feel, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, 1-2-3, etc.

...and so on.

Memorization of Melodies

One of the interesting things about Broken Chords is that they can be thought of as "fragments" of Scales. Since the Chord Tones are actually Notes from a Scale, we can think of sections of Melodies as a kind of Broken Chord. If we can pick out Chords that outline as many Notes of a Melody as possible, then we can use the Chord Progression memorization technique for remembering Melodies too!