• Beginners Hymn Breakdown: Amazing Grace

    in Beginners,Hymns,Piano,Playing By Ear,Playing songs

    If you’re interested in learning how to play Amazing Grace on the piano, then you arrived at the right page.

    We’ll be breaking down the above-mentioned hymn in the key of Db major:

    Db is the first tone

    Eb is the second tone

    F is the third tone

    Gb is the fourth tone

    Ab is the fifth tone

    Bb is the sixth tone

    C is the seventh tone

    Db is the eighth tone

    In addition to learning how to play the hymn, you’ll be learning two important approaches to hymn playing – the use of the alberti bass and the use of counterpoint. I’m doubly sure that the mastery and application of the techniques you’re about to learn will guarantee your next level.

    A Short Note On Hymns

    Believe it or not, hymns are an integral part of christian worship because there are hymns for every season (Christmas, Easter, and so on), time of the day (morning, noon, night, and so on), message (repentance, forgiveness, and so on).

    Hymn songs have a way of creating a worship atmosphere when they are sung and given the proper interpretation and this is because of the liturgical nature of its form, melody, harmony, and rhythm.

    An Overview Of The Hymn

    Here’s the lyrics to the hymn:

    1. Amazing grace, How sweet the sound
      That saved a wretch like me.
      I once was lost, but now I am found,
      Was blind, but now I see.
    2. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
      And grace my fears relieved.
      How precious did that grace appear
      The hour I first believed.
    3.  Through many dangers, toils and snares
      I have already come,
      ‘Tis grace has brought me safe thus far
      And grace will lead me home.
    4. The Lord has promised good to me
      His word my hope secures;
      He will my shield and portion be,
      As long as life endures.
    5. Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
      And mortal life shall cease
      I shall possess within the veil,
      A life of joy and peace.
    6. When we’ve been there ten thousand years
      Bright shining as the sun,
      We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
      Than when we’ve first begun.

    A Simple Analysis Of The Melody

    The melody of the song in the key of Db major:

    …starts on the fifth tone of the scale (which is Ab):

    …and ends on the first tone of the scale (which is Db):

    It is also important to note that it encompasses an octave from Ab (which is the lowest pitch in the melody):

    …to Ab (which is the highest pitch in the melody):

    A Basic Breakdown Of The Hymn

    Just before we get into the breakdown, let’s take a look at the melody of the hymn:

    The Basic Accompaniment

    Now that we’ve covered the melody, it’s important for us to take a look at the accompaniment that can be used to support the melody of the hymn Amazing Grace when it is sung or played.

    Attention: Pay attention to the root progression and the chords used in the accompaniment.

    Check out the intro:

    Having presented you with the melody and accompaniment, let’s go a step further by considering two hymn techniques – the use of counterpoint and the use of the alberti bass.

    The Hymn Techniques

    Let’s quickly go on with the interpretation of the hymn Amazing Grace using the alberti bass and counterpoint in the key of Db major:

    “Check It Out…”

    The Alberti Bass

    The alberti bass is a left hand piano accompaniment technique that is derived by arpeggating the notes of a chord in the following order:





    …to create a rhythmic pattern.

    Check out an interpretation of the hymn Amazing Grace in the key of Db using the alberti bass left hand accompaniment:

    Due to the technical demands of the coordination of both hands – melody on the right and alberti bass on the left, it is recommended that you practice both hands separately.

    Left hand (alberti bass):

    Right hand (melody):

    The coordination of both hands may be difficult initially, however, with consistency in practice, anyone can approach the hymn Amazing Grace and any other hymn using the alberti bass left hand accompaniment technique.

    The Use Of Counterpoint

    Counterpoint is a scholarly term that music scholars use to describe the relationship between two or more independent melodies that are harmonically related.

    In the use of counterpoint, we’re basically playing an independent melody that is harmonically related with the melody.

    “Check Out The Melody…”

    “…And The Counterpoint On The Left Hand…”

    “Altogether, Here’s The Counterpoint Between Both Melodies…”

    Final Words

    It’s been an exciting lesson so far and I’m doubly sure that you’ve learned a couple of things from all that we’ve covered in today’s lesson.

    Before we meet again in the next hymn breakdown, I want to recommend that you transpose the concept learned to other keys on the keyboard.

    See you in the next lesson!

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    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

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