August 3


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 (Thommy Günther) is a versatile internationally active jazz pianist and keyboardist, music producer, and music educator. Born in Germany, Thomas moved to Chicago after receiving his masters in teaching and performing popular music and jazz piano (from the State University of Arts & Music Stuttgart/Germany) to become the principle pianist with the Chicago Jazz Ensemble. Soon he formed his own bands playing piano and keyboards all over town and touring Europe regularly. Today, Thomas is a well respected member of the Chicago music scene. For many years he has also worked as an instructor at Columbia College Chicago where he still designs and teaches courses for its Contemporary Urban Music Program (CUP) such as Pop-Jazz Keyboards & Theory, Applied Music Production with Logic Pro, Contemporary Arranging and Orchestration, Harmony & Rhythm, etc.. Thomas is also the creator and owner of several educational websites such as and MusicTrainingOnline.
Visit for more info.

  • Hallo Thomas

    Your cords to "Just the way your are" are stunning and the instructions as well. Would like a sheet with all the cords. Is it possible ? I could of course make screenprints when the screen changes, but it would be lovely to get them in one sheet.

    Anyway nice work and have a nice day over there.

    Would like to hear from you anyway.

    Grüsse von Kopenhagen

    • Hallo Carsten!
      Sorry for the delayed responds. Thank you so much for your kind words all the way from the beautiful city of Kopenhagen. Yes, I think this is a great suggestion. Give me a few days and I will make the pdf available to you under this post.I will email you when it’s there. Best wishes from Chicago!

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