The Way It Is Chords Tutorial

the way it is chordsWould you like to learn how to play The Way It Is chords? How about one of the most famous riffs from this iconic 80’s classic?

 If so, you’ve come to the right place!

In today’s tutorial you’re going to learn how to play the chords to the middle section of Bruce Hornsby’s The Way It Is.  

You’ll also be learning a very cool ‘broken chord’ pattern.

This middle section of The Way It Is is one of the most famous piano riffs out there. It’s a fantastic riff to add into your collection of licks.

Let’s jump in and start learning!

The Way It Is Chords: Video Tutorial

Get started by watching this 3 minute video! I walk you through how to break down these chords and the arpeggiation moves as well.

Important note! After you’ve finished watching this tutorial make sure that continue reading. If you scroll down there a useful tips to help you master this riff.

Everything You’ll Need To Play The Way It Is Chords!

the way it is chordsTip #1: Why The 9th Is Your Best Friend.

All the chords you’re going to be playing in this middle riff are extended chords.

They are all implied chords as well because you’re never playing the full chord voicings.

They are all extended chords because you’re adding in the 9th.

Let’s break these down together.

Chord #1: (G9 chord) – Left Hand (G D G) Right Hand (A B G)

Chord #2: (Fmaj7(9) chord) – Left Hand (F C F) Right Hand (G A E)

Chord #3: (C9 chord) – Left Hand (C G C) Right Hand (D E G)

Just like in the first section of this riff your left hand is always playing a (root, 5th, root) voicing.

What Are Power Chords?

In the rock world these are called power chords. So, when starting to practice these chord arrangements remember that your left hand is always playing a power chord.

All the heavy lifting in this lick is done with your right hand.

Also, notice that all of the added 9ths to these chords are the bottom notes in your right hand.

A is the 9th of your G chord.

G is your 9th of the FMaj7 chord.

And, D is the 9th to your C chord.

Being able to recognize that the bottom note of these extended chords in the 9th will help you learn your next tip…

the way it is chordsTip #2: Here’s How To Arpeggiate In This Riff.

Arpeggiate, is just a fancy word that means to break up the chord.

This is exactly what you’re doing with the extended chords in your right hand.

The arpeggiation pattern featured in this lick is bottom, middle, top.

When you play each chord in this riff you’re breaking up the notes. Play the bottom note, then the middle note, and then the top note of the extended chords.

This arpeggiation pattern and others like it give the melody its shape.

Also, this melody technique gives you a great feel for how the rhythm should sound in this lick.

This leads you nicely into your next helpful tip…

Tip #3: How You’re Going To Approach This Rhythm.

For starters count out your beats. The Way It Is, is in a 4 / 4 time signature.

Pay attention to the syncopation that is happening between each downbeat. During the off beats is when you’re playing your extended chords arpeggiated out.

the way it is chordsThe only exception to this is on beat 4.

Now, your left hand power chords are coming in right on a downbeat.

At the same time that you’re coming in with your power chords your right hand starts it’s bottom, middle, top arpeggiation pattern.

On beats 1 and 3 you’re coming in with your chords.

Beat 1 – (G9 chord)

Beat 2 – Breath between chords

Beat 3 – (Fmaj7(9) chord)

Beat 4 – (D E G arpeggiation…)

Beat 1 – (C9 chord)

Be sure to check back to the video tutorial for a clear demonstration of these rhythm cues.

The more you count out loud as you play the better your timing will be. Once you nail the rhythm you won’t have to count out loud but until then count your beats as you play!

All of these tips provide you with an excellent foundation to start your practice on! It’s time for you to pull it all together.

But wait! Your learning doesn’t stop here…

This Is What’s Next In Store For You!

the way it is chordsMy passion is to help you grow into an amazing pianist!

This, The Way It Is chords tutorial has been a blast to teach you. I hope you’ve enjoyed learning this iconic piano riff.

Nonetheless, this is just scratching the surface of all that this site has to offer you…

If you’d like to learn how to play the opening riff for this song then check out my first The Way It Is Piano Lesson. It’s part 1 of this tutorial series.

You can also check out this Take On Me Piano Lesson, this Chariot Piano Tutorial, this Amazing Grace piano lesson, or this Let It Be tutorial.

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Make sure that you reserve a spot on our free piano lessons email list. Get plugged into an amazing piano community!

As well as signing up on our email list make sure that you check back to the site regularly. We are always posting fresh and exciting tutorials for you to learn from!

For now, enjoy your practice. If you have any comments or questions about this The Way It Is chords lesson or the video tutorial above, please leave your comments in the comments section below.


  1. Paulo Torres on February 10, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Enjoyed tutorial for Bruce Hornsby. Congrats

  2. Worship Chords - Shout To The Lord Chords on April 4, 2019 at 11:02 am

    Great Tutorial about chords. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Cliff Roberson on June 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    Steve, have you written out the sheet music somewhere for the entire song ‘The Way It Is’?

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