Accompanying Blog Post For Video: “How to play ‘RIVER FLOWS IN YOU’ by Yiruma on the piano”
I remember teaching about 25 students per week around the time “River Flows In You” hit the internet… At least 80% of my students — regardless of age and skill level — wanted to learn it! And still to this day, it’s one of the most beautiful contemporary classical pieces out there. It was my pleasure to teach the main theme for Playground Sessions.
Beyond its beautiful chord progression and melody, there are a number of reasons I felt this song would make for a great lesson:
1. Difficult Syncopations in the Right Hand
There are many 16th notes and even some 32nd notes in this melody. So even though the tempo is fairly slow (74 bpm), the right hand’s part poses a significant challenge to even an experienced player.
2. Left Hand Stretches Keep Us Guessing
The left hand part is fairly simple melodically and rhythmically, but the range is quite wide! Sometime we play an octave (an 8-note range), sometimes adding the 5th scale degree of the chord in between. Other times we play a 10th (an octave plus a major third), also with the fifth in the middle, which outlines a major triad in a wide position (root, fifth, third on top). Sometimes we even outline a 9th (root, 5th, 2nd scale degree on top). This variation keeps our left hand guessing and makes for some great practice!
3. Accessible Example of ‘Theme and Variations’
This song is a great study in taking a basic theme (a musical phrase that is repeated throughout a song) and tweaking/adding to it as the song progresses. There are many song examples that also use this compositional technique, of course, but what I love about “River Flows In You” is that its composer doesn’t go too far off the deep end with it, making it still easy to follow and (relatively) easy to learn. It’s a great introduction to “theme and variations!”
If you love using your favorite songs to learn the piano, come check out “River Flows In You” 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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