August 3

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Piano tutorial for Billy Joel’s JUST THE WAY YOU ARE

By Thomas Gunther

August 3, 2018


What You Will Learn

  • How to create/play a piano accompaniment behind a singer or instrumentalist of Just The Way You Are by Billy Joel
  • About the chord symbols and their function (music theory) used in the song
  • Piano technique related tips
  • How to apply techniques discussed here to other songs

Why this song?

Just The Way You Are is a famous pop ballad by Billy Joel that features a beautiful chord progression that is worth exploring. The quality and function of the chords are very jazzy and unusually sophisticated for a pop song.
Bottom line – there is a lot we can learn from, especially those keyboard players that like to play more colorful and harmonically sophisticated pop styles.

About the first video

I created the first video below a long time ago for my secondary piano students at Columbia College Chicago. It shows how to play a relatively simple accompaniment over those beautiful chord changes.
I only gave them the chord symbols, because I didn’t want them to just brainlessly memorize a written out transcribtion .
Although the quality of the video is laughable (as I said, it was one of my first attempts), I believe it is still worth your while watching it.
It is especially useful for singers who want to accompany themselves playing this kind of music, but are not “real” pianists, if you know what I mean.
By the way, you can use the same techniques to accompany other pop ballads too.

Here now the video.  I suggest you watch it first before you read on.

Easy Piano Accompaniment for Just The Way You Are (A section Only) by Billy Joel

Let’s start with discussing some guidelines that will help you create a smooth and professionally sounding accompaniment

Accompaniment Guidelines

  • Make sure your chord voicings and note choices don’t clash with the melody
  • Follow the rule of minimal motion, which means that we want to connect the chords smoothly
  • Resolve dissonances stepwise into the next chord
  • Place the chords in the middle register most of the time
  • Always be respectful to the vocalist/instrumentalist by not overpowering them

Coming soon

I am in the process of creating the second video to explain in detail how you can learn to play this kind of piano accompaniment. So please check back soon.

Thomas Gunther

About the author

Thomas Gunther (known in Germany as Thommy Günther) is an internationally active jazz pianist, keyboardist and music creator. Born in Germany, Thomas moved to Chicago after receiving his masters in teaching and performing popular music and jazz piano from State University of Arts & Music Stuttgart/Germany to become the pianist with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, and an instructor for music theory, arranging and contemporary keyboard styles at Columbia College Chicago. Thomas is the creator of several educational websites such as popjazzkeys.com, pianoforlittlefingers.com, and musictrainingonline.

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