Accompanying Blog Post For Video: “How to play ‘THAT’S WHAT I LIKE’ by Bruno Mars on the piano”
Bruno Mars is back at it again! I always love when he’s got a hit song out, because he’s so popular that everyone wants to learn how to play it, yet unlike some other kinds of pop music, his is usually very musical. So I’m happy to oblige when students ask me to teach them one of his songs.
Today I’m writing about “That’s What I Like” off his newest album 24K Magic. There were a few things that drew me to this song and got me excited to teach it for Playground Sessions:
1. “Rap” Style Verse, But Still Very Melodic
There are a ton of rap songs out there that have a great piano part in the beat, but don’t have melodies in the vocal parts (think: “Still Dre” by Dr. Dre for example). This makes it challenging as an arranger to present a teachable version of the song on the piano for students. What do you play to imitate the rap verse?
So that’s one thing about “That’s What I Like” that got me pumped to arrange it: the verse is delivered like a rap song, but Bruno commits strongly to a melody while he’s doing it. This means I don’t have to fudge notes or assign an arbitrary melody to the verse vocals, because he’s clearly outlining a Bb minor triad or a Db major triad throughout all of the verses! (Note: in our Intermediate and Rookie arrangements, I’ve transposed from the key of Eb minor to E minor, so his verses there outline B minor and D major triads respectively).
2. Space & Syncopated Chord Stabs
There is a ton of space in the accompaniment for this one, which is great because the melody is very rhythmic and busy. You can tell just by looking at the sheet music that the left hand is much more sparse than the right. So as an arranger, this song presented a great opportunity to teach about rests, counting the silence, and keeping time. And, in the Advanced arrangement (which I chose to teach on YouTube as opposed to the Intermediate or Rookie), the right hand pulls double duty by playing the melody and reaching down to play the syncopated chord stabs along with the left hand simultaneously. It’s super fun to play!
3. Beautiful Bridge!
Wow. When that bridge finally hits, it’s such a satisfying feeling! When I first heard it I had to sit down and figure it out so I could play it myself. We owe this beauty for the most part to the chord progression:
We’ve been in Eb minor for so long in the verses and choruses, so when we first arrive at the bridge Bruno gives us a strong Gb major chord. Ahhhh! What a relief, to move to the relative major of the minor key we’ve been sitting in up until this point. Then, a few measures into the bridge, he hits us with a classic 2-5-1 progression that is often found in jazz music: Abm7 – Db7 – Gbmaj7. Again, reinforcing the key’s relative major, but this time with an even stronger setup: the 2-5-1 (2 refering to Gb’s minor 2 chord, the Abm; 5 referring to its 5 chord, the Db7, and 1 meaning 1 chord, Gb major). Then we climax with a huge F dominant 7 chord, helping us arrive at the Bb minor triad strongly. And notice how Bruno delays the resolution to the full Bb minor chord by lingering on the C natural (from the F7) before resolving up to the Db (the 3rd of the Bb minor chord). Great stuff B!
If you love using your favorite songs to learn the piano, check out ‘THAT’S WHAT I LIKE’ at the Playground Sessions YouTube channel. If you like what you see you can download the app to learn the rest with our interactive sheet music.
For more blog posts by Playground Teacher Phil Anderson, click here.
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