Following our popular Christmas carol piano tutorials we’re now taking a look at some other classic pieces of music that will sound great on the piano or keyboard, regardless of your skill level.
So, dive in and learn how to play Amazing Grace.
Amazing Grace: Introduction
Amazing Grace is an iconic hymn that nearly everyone knows. It’s not particularly difficult to play, and the wonderful thing is that it’s open to a lot of interpretation and creativity once you get the basic chord structure right.
We’ll look at:
- the main melody line
- a version with a very simple bass line
- the basic chord structure (and a variation)
- a few styles to whet your appetite at the creative possibilities
Amazing Grace: Main Melody
All of our examples are played in the key of F major [find out about major and minor chords]. This means one flat — B flat — to watch out for.
You might not feel as comfortable playing in F major as you do in, say, G major or C major. However, I’ve chosen this key as it makes the pitch for singing quite reasonable.
If you end up playing with other musicians, you could be asked to play in another key. If so, it’s definitely worth learning not just the actual chords and notes in this piece, but how they relate to one another. That way, it’s not such a wrench if having to transpose up and down a key or two.
(You may find our article How To Play Piano Using Chord Symbols useful if presented with a lead sheet (just the chords))
Here’s the melody written out in the treble clef in standard musical notation:
Click the image for the full size version, or download a printable PDF version
Here’s how it sounds. (Your browser should play these MP3 files directly, or possibly software such as iTunes or Windows Media Player may handle it instead.)
Amazing Grace: Simple Bass Line
To add very basic harmony without making the piece much more complicated, we add a single bass note — one per bar — to be played with the left hand.
Here’s how it looks:
Here’s how it sounds: Amazing-Grace-single-bass.mp3
Amazing Grace: Right Hand Chords
Playing chords instead of melody (or possibly with other fill-in notes) is useful if you are singing or accompanying the melody, because it is less common to play a melody line that one or more vocalists are singing.
I’ve used fairly simple chords, and also ones that don’t require a great deal of movement in the right hand. It’s worth noting that this version includes a G major chord in first inversion (bar 7). This means a B natural note.
Here’s what it sounds like: Amazing-Grace-right-hand-chords.mp3
Amazing Grace: Alternative Chords
Well, in fact just one alternative chord that gives a slightly different feel thanks to a new harmony. It’s that chord in bar 11. It’s changed from a repeated F major chord to an A diminished chord.
Amazing Grace: Style Alternatives
OK, here’s where we have some fun. That chord structure and the simple melody is ripe for improvisation and playing around.
Here are three examples that I’ve put together. They’re not technically wonderful, and I’m sure you can do better, but they give you an idea of some things you can do.
Amazing Grace Variation 1
Amazing Grace Variation 2
Amazing Grace Variation 3
There you go. A very basic introduction to playing Amazing Grace. Play it, learn it by heart, transpose it, play it the way you want to.
Most importantly, enjoy it.
If you find yourself needing to play Amazing Grace — or any other piece of music — as an accompaniment to a singer, you may find our article How to accompany a singer on piano: 15 tips useful.