Creating Bass Lines for Solo Piano: Go Down Moses Tutorial

A pianist often wonders what to do with the left hand when playing solo without a bassist. Using the spiritual Go Down Moses as an example, I’ll share some of my favorite tips for creating solid bass lines, including ways to have fun exploring reharmonization in minor keys. The video link below explains it all – if you enjoy it I hope you’ll subscribe to my YouTube channel  and share it around! 3 rough charts are posted below for a visual guide:

Here is my first working chart taken from a church hymnal, written in SATB form.  I made a copy of the tune and used white out to remove all but the essential 3 chords above the parts.  (As you can see this congregation titled the tune, When Israel Was in Egypt’s Land. It’s not uncommon for churches to use their own titles, lyrics, harmonizations to hymns).

Originally I instructed my students to just read the soprano or top line and chord symbols, but many were still distracted by all the written notes. In order to avoid confusion I rewrote a simple lead sheet:

The follow pages are my more advanced reharmonizations, as demonstrated in the above video, jotted above the hymn version. Try to read just the soprano melody as the top note on your RH, and notice the chord symbols, in particular the bass line movement to be played as the bottom notes in your LH:

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