By Hal Leonard Corp., Adam Perlmutter

Even pop musicians need pianists. Arguably, every song on the radio is a popular song because few radio stations play songs that listeners don’t like. Country, rock, rap, Latin, and many other styles of music are popular with one audience or another.

But most people know the term pop to be the category for Top 40 songs and superstar ballads by such artists as Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake, Prince, and a multitude of others.

Pop music can be rhythmic, romantic, nostalgic, funky, sad, and about 1,000 other adjectives. Here, you concentrate on the one style of pop music perfectly suited to the piano: the slow and smooth-sounding pop ballad.

Popular picks

To play a pop ballad, you need a small arsenal of musical ornamentations, including the following:

  • Right-hand intervals

  • Chord arpeggios

  • Damper pedal

  • Dimmer switch (essential for setting the right mood)

Topping the charts

To add a little pop romance to any song, take a simple melody and add the ever-so-sweet sixth below each right-hand melodic note. The new melodic line should look like this. For some reason unknown to many a trusted and frustrated musicologist, the sixth adds an element of romance to a melody.

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This trick of adding the sixth may look difficult, but it’s not. All you do is find the sixth below the first melody note and freeze your hand in that position. Your pinkie always plays the top note and your thumb always plays the bottom interval note. As you play up and down the melody, your hand lands on the correct interval every time.

Watch this demonstration of a nifty pop strategy played on the piano.