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3 minutes reading time (520 words)

Playing Indie Pop

Indie Pop is a genre of rock music that emerged in the United Kingdom in the 1980s, characterized by upbeat, melodic progressions. This article will take you through the basics of the indie pop style, beginning with simple structures familiar to all piano students. 

Here is a scale of G major: 

We can build three-note chords on each note of a G major scale, and the quality of each chord is determined by the intervals (whole steps and half steps) from the bottom note: 

We will start by using chords I, IV, and V in the key of G, voiced in the following way:

The main piece you will be playing has an eighth-note feel, but very syncopated. To prepare to play Indie Pop, you need to be able to tap quarter notes in one hand and eighth notes in the other. Like this:

And now the other way round - tap eighth notes in your left hand and quarter notes in your right hand: 

Now play the chords of G, C, and D in the rhythms written above (at quite a steady speed). Like this:

and this:

To prepare to play your piece in Indie Pop style, play only staccato off-beats on beats 2 and 4 in your right hand. The chords now change more quickly:

The left hand will now play a riff—a catchy, repeated left hand figure that can become a feature of a pop piece:

You do have to keep the eighth notes ticking away in your head to play the left hand riff accurately. If you said the rhythm of the left hand part aloud it would be:

ONE two-and three four-and (one) AND (two) three-and- four-and

The riff you've just played is played in the "introduction" of your indie pop song. When we come to the "verse," the following chords are used:

In functional harmony, these chords are: I   V   vi   IV

In terms of inversions, the right hand chords are:

Ic   G second inversion 

V   D root position 

viv   Em second inversion 

IVc   C second inversion1

Playing inversions means you're able to play everything in a "closed" position—no unnecessary leaps!

The end of the "bridge" after the verse is unusual in that the chords and bass run in parallel motion—this is not uncommon in pop playing:

Now for your piece—it will take some getting used to rhythmically, but you have practiced most of the rhythms and it should be a familiar style now:

1The lower-case letters following the Roman numerals indicate root position or a chord inversion. No letter assumes "a," or root position; "b" or "c" indicate first inversion or second inversion, respectively.

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Piano Magazine is the leading resource for pianists, piano teachers, and piano enthusiasts. We bring you informative, interesting, and inspiring ideas on all aspects of piano teaching, learning, and performing. The official name of Clavier Companion magazine was changed to Piano Magazine in 2019.

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