The 2nd/9th as a filler in arpeggios and runs

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As you have seen in previous lessons, the 2nd/9th is really a very versatile color note. Remember that the 2nd and 9th are the same note–you call it a 9th only if there is a seventh in the chord.  Today, I want to discuss its versatility as an added note in ornamental runs and arpeggios.

There are two reasons why adding a color note in ornamentation is important. First of all, it obviously adds depth to the sound.  Secondly, adding a fourth note makes it more natural to play 16th notes.  While there is certainly nothing wrong with playing triplets, playing root, third, and fifth in triplets gets boring in a big hurry.

I do not mean to imply that the 2nd/9th is the only color note you can use because other notes including the 7th work well too.  There are numerous combinations of notes that you can use in ornamentation.   However, today, I am going to give examples that use only the root, third, fifth, and 2nd/9th.

Here is an example (“It is Well with my Soul”) where the left hand is playing arpeggios. The 2nd (D) fills out the sound nicely.  Note that the intervals are much wider as you get lower in the bass to avoid sounding muddy. Of course, you can do a similar pattern in the right hand.

The 2nd/9th is also heavily used in the flashing runs and arpeggios you often hear played in the right hand.  For example, here is the effective (though overused) upward arpeggio used as a filler. Of course, the 2nd is the Eb.

If you are intimidated by this kind of ornamentation, don’t be.  Simply sit down one day and start practicing one run over and over; start as slow as you need to and gradually work up your speed.  Also, figure out the right note to start on.  In the example above, I start on the third (F) only because it makes the fingering easier.  With time, you will know how to finger these instinctively.

Here is a little tip for you.  As I mentioned before, the upward arpeggio is overused by today’s church pianists.  Learn to play them down the keyboard instead, and you will sound like an innovator!

Playing arpeggios up and down while keeping the melody in the left hand is a technique often used by flashy pianists.  It is not particularly hard to do, so don’t be afraid to give it a shot.  The best advice I can give you is to play publicly only what you can play very well.  Don’t make your church agonize through tedious arpeggios with you.

Just for fun, here is flashy ending that incorporates the 2nd.  It has to be played fast and big.

The above example is not something I would play very often (just a preference). However, the example below is one of my favorite endings and I use it often.  Again, it incorporates the 2nd.

This is not a comprehensive discussion of arpeggios, and I will cover them in much more detail later.  At the moment, I am just working through a discussion of the use of the 2nd/9th.  However, you can take what you learned in this lesson and add very effective arpeggios to your playing.

Practice Strategy:
There are numerous hymns where can start practicing what you have learned in this lesson.  If you are struggling to find one, work on “And Can It Be”.  Use left hand arpeggios with an added 2nd/9th in the verse and look for places to use fast right hand arpeggios in the chorus.   Keep in mind that they work best in places where chords are not changing quickly.