Composition & Improvisation: Commonly-Used Chord Patterns: C Major Triad

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Successful Composition and Improvisation is not just about melodic invention. An enormous range of music can be created by playing chords in a variety of simple patterns. Here, for your consideration are some commonly-used voicings and rhythms for a C Major Triad

Note: Studying-practicing such patterns the right way (as integrated theoretical, visio-spatial, aural, and kinesthetic ideas) in all keys greatly expands your musical comprehension and fluency and develops your ears.

Oom-Pah, Oom-Pah

This simple two-fisted pattern establishes both a solid rhythm and major harmony…



Notice how a simple change in rhythm creates a whole new kind of music, something with a kind of lilt…


Arpeggios, Two-Hands, Triplets




Alberti Bass

A standard accompaniment in classical music…


Four Part Choir

Here are the notes arranged as if for the four voices (Soprano, Alto, Tenor, Bass) in choir. This is considered an “open” voicing, meaning that the notes are spread out.


Fifties Rock & Roll


Ballad Accompaniment Variation 1

Outlining the major harmony in 3/4 time…


Fingering Suggestion: I prefer to use my middle finger on the G, but some people might prefer to use their index finger. In my experience, this makes the span from G up to E very awkward and tense, but feel free to try both fingerings and see which one you prefer.


Ballad Accompaniment Variation 2

Outlining the major harmony in 6/8 time…


Fingering Suggestion:



One of those instantly recognizable rhythms…

piano-ology-composition-and-improvisation-commonly-used-chord-patterns-c-major-triad-tango(Play one octave lower than written)


New Orleans Rock & Roll



Stride Bass

As used in ragtime and jazz…


Is that it?

Of course not! Countless other chord patterns are possible, but you get the idea. An incredible amount of music can be made by the creative combination of chord voicings and rhythms. Can you think of or invent some other patterns?



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