Learn Just The Way You Are by Bruno Mars
Found in: Reviews
They like to make jokes about pop songs getting away with having only three chords, but that didn’t stop Bruno Mars from winning a Grammy with this one. In fact, this song is even simpler than that as an accompaniment, because, if you know a little bit about chords, you’ll discover that you can see the right hand as just a single chord through the entire song while the left hand cycles through three notes.
You can play an accompaniment for this song using these chords: an F, an F with a D in the left hand, an F with Bb (top of the three black keys) in the left, and then back to the F. So really we just have an F chord in the RH, and F, D, Bb and F in the left. The ratio is 1:2 played twice.
So that’s the accompaniment dealt with in a flash. You could take that on after having done a little of the Simply Music Accompaniment program. But there’s more we can do with the song. There’s a catchy piano theme that’s repeated right through the song, and although it may not be written exactly the same way on the page, we can learn a simple pattern and have it sound pretty authentic. Working this out using note-reading would normally not be possible until you were pretty experienced, but if you follow the steps below carefully, you can learn it even if you’re a relative beginner.
The key is a pattern we’ll learn in the right hand, to which we can add a very simple left hand, which we can develop a little further later.
Right Hand Position
As always, we’ll handle one thought process at a time, starting with the notes of the right hand, leaving the rhythm aside. Put RH fingers 1, 3 & 5 on (from the bottom up) the notes A, C and F. Hold them all down like a chord, so you can see them clearly, and start to feel comfortable with that little stretch between fingers 3 & 5. Stretch finger 2 out to reach Bb – the black key. These are all the notes you need, so keep the hand in place with the fingers over their notes the whole time and you won’t have to think about finding notes.
Right Hand Pattern
Play the top finger twice, next finger twice, then fingers 2, 1, 2 & 3. Play along with a recording to start to get the rhythm. Whenever you play with a recording, make sure it’s nice and loud so you can hear it over your own playing.
The left hand plays F, D, Bb and back to F. For those with some experience of the Accompaniment program, you’ll see they are the notes of a Bb Major chord. Remember that the sequence both begins and ends on F.
When you’re confident with the RH, just play the first LH note and hold it down through the RH pattern, then repeat with the next LH note, and so on.
Developing the LH
In the original, the left hand is a bit busier. Even then, it’s not hard, but putting the two hands together is a significant leap in difficulty. If you think you’re ready to try this next level, there’s a particular way we can tackle it.
We’ll use a diagram which, if you follow carefully and very slowly, should allow the rhythm of both hands to emerge naturally. Because this involves a new thought process, we will set notes and fingers aside and just tap out the rhythm with our hands, away from the keyboard. We don’t want to be distracted by notes and fingers just now.
The numbers down the middle of the diagram are for you to count. If you’ve learned songs like Alma Mater Blues, you’ll know that at this stage the count is not about being even and rhythmical, it’s just a guide to help us understand how the hands fit together. The dots down the left hand side show where the left hand plays, and the dots on the other side show the right hand.
LH New Rhythm
The LH dots show the new, more developed LH rhythm. Spend a little time just tapping this hand while counting aloud. Tap as you say the first “1”, then again when you say “+”, then on the “3” and so on. Don’t rush the process by trying to go too fast. We always want our ear to tell us that it’s correct, but trying to get to that point too soon will actually slow us down. Also, you don’t have to be perfect at this exercise. Just repeat the process, slowly getting a little faster until you start to get a sense of the feel.
Once you’ve been tapping this for a while, you can play it on the keyboard. This should be pretty straightforward.
Tapping out BH
We now need to start co-ordinating the hands, incorporating the new LH rhythm. As we did with the LH in the last step, we will tap both hands, following the diagram, away from the keyboard. Two things are vital here: we must speak the count ALOUD; and we must CONTROL THE EVENTS. Controlling the events simply means going through step by step, making sure we’re clear about each step, super-slowly, stopping whenever we need to. The evenness of our rhythm is not our concern here – we simply need to fit the hands correctly with the count. Again, in your own time, you can slowly build up the speed until you start to get the sense of how it goes. You might eventually dispense with the count.
As you start to feel comfortable, slowly increasing the speed, a good trick is to tap the hands on different surfaces, such as LH on lap and RH on the body of your piano. The object is to start to hear the hands separately while still tapping both. My favorite is to tap the RH on my head, where it can resonate through my body. As my head is pretty empty, it resonates well!
Once we’ve spent some time tapping out the rhythm in both hands, we can begin to actually play hands together. Check that your hands are spread over their positions and fingers are in place. Again, since we’re layering more thought processes, we’ll go back to Controlling the Events. Make sure you’ve switched off your rhythm and are not concerned with hearing that it ‘sounds right’. Follow the diagram at the keyboard, super-slowly, stopping whenever you need to and making 100% sure you know what you’re doing. It’ll feel like a backward step, but trust the process!
The most common stumbling block is losing track of which note you’re up to in the RH. For example, we can forget that the first two fingers are each played twice.
If you get lost or tangled, that’s simply telling you that you’re going too fast! Just be patient, go back to controlling the events, and let it take as long as it takes. Your natural rhythmicality will allow the song to emerge.
If you feel like you’re not getting something, no problem – put it aside and pick it up again later. Your Simply Music teacher might help, too.
To make the most of the song, you wouldn’t just play the theme or the accompaniment right through. You might begin with the theme, go to the accompaniment during the verses, then back to the theme for the chorus. Or for the chorus, you can play the theme in the RH and the chords F, Dm, Bb and F in the LH. They are just a simple variation on the original chords which are easy to play and fill out the sound.
And as always, sing out loud in your most Grammy-winning style!
The lyrics and sung melody are on the sheet music are available here.