Music Theory – 0021


There’s that I – vi – IV – V chord progression in C Major we’ve been covering. How about we change up on the bass clef this time and introduce a new way to express the chords we’re working with. We have so far been doing a simple up and down arpeggio that would look like the following if we were going to do it this time:


This should look pretty familiar by now. Four beats to the measure with the notes of the chord going up and then coming back down. I even included pedaling so it would sound smoother and the notes ring longer than what is actually written. Standard stuff by now. Put that away in your composer’s bag of tricks as it has been in mine all along. For an example of me using that in a “real” song, listen to Serenade in D Minor over in the right hand column (enter “Serenade” into the search box to see my article on that particular piece).

Now I want to introduce you to another bass figure, the Alberti Bass. What is happening with this bass line is that you have a three-note chord and you play the bottom note, then the top note, the middle note, and then the top note again. I will demonstrate by rewriting the above in this different style:


I did not write in the chord names this time. Same notes, different pattern and different range. This is much easier for a pianist to play. Notice that I broke the pattern in the last measure and also added a seventh to make the last half of the measure a dominant seventh chord: G – B – D – F.

I’m being nice today. I gave you the gift of the Alberti Bass and the completed progression using that bass line. You could extend that another four measures using copy and paste and make it as long as you like. Next time I’ll add in some half notes to guide writing a melody if indeed you need that. Wasn’t that easy? Just copy the bass line, add pedaling if you like, and then experiment with a melody to lay on top of that in the treble clef.

To see a sample of my usage of the Alberti Bass, listen to “Pasta” over in the right hand column. This bass line doesn’t have to make something that . . . zesty.

I will provide a simple melodic frame next time for those who need guidance.

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