The Way It Is Piano Lesson

the way it is pianoWelcome to this The Way It Is Piano tutorial!

In today’s lesson you’re going to learn how to play the famous intro from The Way It Is.

But that’s not all! You’ll also learn how to break down all the melody notes from this lick. Plus, we’ll also dive deep into grace notes and a lot more.

This dazzling riff full of really interesting harmonies. Learn this lick and you’ll be able to pull out some of these cool harmonies and use them in your tunes.

Sounds like fun right? Let’s get started learning!

The Way It Is Piano: Video Tutorial

Getting started is as easy as taking 5 minutes and watching this video. Inside I take you step by step through the chords and melody notes.

Don’t miss out! Be sure to scroll down after you’ve finished watching this tutorial. Below are some beneficial tips so you can master this lick!

Here’s How To Master The Way It Is Piano Lesson In 4 Steps!

Look Out For These Chord Inversions

the way it is pianoThe Way It Is piano chords feature a lot of 1st and 2nd inversions.

Ex. 1 – Take the first Am chord.

  • Your left hand is playing these note (root, 5th, root) – (A E A).
  • Your right hand is playing a 2nd inversion Am chord (E A C) – (5th, root, 3rd).
  • It’s the same notes as your standard Am chord but you’re moving the 5th to the bottom of the chord.

Ex. 2 – Look at the first G chord in this lick.

  • Your left hand is playing these notes (root, 5th, root) – (G D G).
  • Now your right hand is playing a 1st inversion G chord (B D G) – (3rd, root, 5th).
  • Again, same notes as your standard G triad just moving the 3rd to the bottom of the chord.

Make Your Chords Sound More Like Hornsby

This riff also features several chord extensions.

These chord extension techniques are 1 one of the secret ingredients that Bruce Hornsby uses in many of his songs. It’s 1 of the ways how he gets that unique “Hornsby sound” out of his chords.

Let’s take a closer look at a few of these extended chords.

Ex. 1 – Look at the (C2 chord) or in other words the (Cadd9 chord) in this riff.

  • Your left hand again is playing the (root, 5th, root) voicings of the chord (C G C)
  • You’re going to be adding in your 9th to your right hand voices.
  • Your right hand will be playing (C D G) – (root, 9th, 5th).

the way it is pianoSimple as that!

Important shortcut! Remember, adding your 9th is same thing as adding your 2nd chord tone of the scale.

C major scale (C D E F G A B C | D…) – (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 | 9)

Here’s another extended chord used in this riff. Pay close attention to this one.

Ex. 2 – The last chord of this riff is an implied (CMaj7 chord).

  • Just like with the C(add9) chord your left hand is playing (C G C) – (root, 5th, root).
  • Now, your right hand is playing (D G B C) – (9th, 5th, Maj7, root)
  • You’ll notice when you play this chord arrangement that it has that “Hornsby” flavor to it!

How To Add The Coolest Notes Into Your Chords

The best way to learn and practice chord extension techniques like the ones used in this arrangement is to start throwing some of these into your own licks and tunes.

Adding in those 9, 11, and 13’s into your chord arrangements will really bring some interesting color and texture to your standard chords.

To break down chord extensions more in depth check out this piano chords tutorial.

Also, once you start playing around more with chord extensions try taking the 3rd out and just playing the 9th in your chord as a substitution (like Bruce does in this tune)

You will instantly hear and feel differences in the emotion of the chord when you start implying them rather than playing the full chord.

Let’s keep learning!

How To Voice Your Chords Between Your Hands

the way it is pianoSomething important to note about the intro phrase of this riff is the workload for each hand…

If you break down all the chords you’ll see that your left hand is always playing a (root, 5th, root) chord voicing.

This (root, 5th, root) chord arrangement is what’s known in the rock world as a power chord.

You left hand is always playing a power chord in this lick.

Now, the real workload for this riff is all in your right hand.

Your right hand will be playing all of your chord inversions and extended chords.

Also, your right hand is in charge of the melody notes and fills between each chord.

As you dive deeper into your practice of this riff using the proper fingering and hand separation techniques will make or break your routine.

Be sure that you’re not forcing fingers to play notes they shouldn’t be.

You’ll easily be able to figure out if you’re doing this when you play with a metronome. Often times if you’re rushing notes and getting off the rhythm than you’re using inefficient fingering.

How You Can Grace Like A Pro

the way it is piano

Another fun technique that is featured in this riff is something called gracing.

What is gracing? And how should I approach gracing notes?

Well, think of gracing as a quick legato slide from 1 note into the next. The note we’re sliding from is usually a half step or a whole step below the resolution note.

You’re just trying to emphasize the note or chord that you’re sliding into. It’s more about the note you’re resolving into than the grace note itself…

Try your hand at some of the gracing techniques I show you in the video and also try to throw in some grace notes to some licks you already have down.

It’s a great skill to build and really fun to play around with.

All of these tips are a great foundation for you to start practicing this riff with!

Let’s see what’s next in line for you to discover…

the way it is pianoPiano Discoveries That Are Waiting For You!

My ultimate passion is to help you develop into the best piano player you can be!

This, The Way It Is piano lesson is just a small piece of all that this site has to offer you.

Since you’ve made it this far you have to finish learning the middle section of this beautiful riff.

We’ve released part 2 of our “The Way It Is Piano Tutorial” right here. We’ll be covering the middle riff and all kinds of other cool Bruce Hornsby playing tips. Enjoy!

Also, if you enjoyed today’s lesson I know you’ll enjoy learning this Margaritaville Piano Lesson. This is another really fun intro riff for you to explore!

Or, treat yourself to learning this Chariot Piano tutorial or this Imagine Piano lesson.

You also have to look into grabbing a spot in our free piano lessons email list. It’s 100 percent free to sign up and you get our most recent piano tutorials sent right to your inbox!

Make sure to check back into the site on a regular basis. We frequently post new and useful lessons for you to explore and learn from.

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


  1. George Hetherington on June 8, 2016 at 6:33 am

    Although I have been playing all my life and am now nearly 85, I am a great believer in “you’re never too old to keep learning” and I am finding your online lessons very useful.
    George Hetherington
    Durham City, England

    • Steve Nixon on June 9, 2016 at 1:38 am

      I completely agree George and perfectly said on your part. Learning is what makes life exciting.Thanks for your comment and welcome to the site!!

  2. Gerald on August 25, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    I really appreciate these online courses.Thank you very much.

    • Steve Nixon on August 26, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      It’s my pleasure Gerald

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