Less Simple Contra Dance Piano

May 22nd, 2019
contra, music, simple contra dance piano
Several years ago I wrote a series of posts about simple contra dance piano playing: 1, 2, 3. Since then I've played a lot more piano for dancing, and rereading those posts the main thing that jumps out at me is that the style I'm showing there is based around playing left hand bass notes on the downbeat and right hand chords on the upbeat ("boom-chuck"). This is a style that many people teach to people who are completely new to playing dances, but I no longer think is a good starting point. Instead if I were writing those posts now I would start with rocking octaves on the left hand.

The idea is, you play a bass note with your left pinky on the downbeat, and the bass note an octave up from there on the upbeat: example.

You can wander around with this pattern, to make it more interesting: wandering.

The left hand is effectively doing what both of your hands do in the "boom chuck" style, freeing your right hand up to do whatever you want: adding the right hand.

You can also play the rocking slower: slower. Or you can play in 6/8, for jigs: jig time.

Then there's the right hand. The main thing I do now is arpeggiated and synchopated stuff: example, or smoother example.

Other times I'll do simple chords and hold them over a rocking bass: example.

Of course I'll also do a lot of other things, but if I were writing something now I would start with ideas like this.

(And a lot of my playing is also now built around being able to pull back a little on the piano and have foot drums carry the rhythm, but that's another post.)

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