Rahul Dev Burman’s orchestra was one of a kind. It was an amalgam of various instruments coming together and creating a magical sound. In the years 1965-1975 RD threw everything to the kitchen sink as far as his orchestration was concerned, and where his experimentation and creativity reached an all-time high. 

An interesting feature about his music in this time frame was his use of the piano as an "accompaniment" instrument, or as I like to call  it, the ‘RD piano accompaniment’. This is different from his actual piano-based compositions. Sometimes the "piano accompaniment" would also act as a lead (with other instruments) in the song, without the song being an actual piano-based composition such as "Pyar diwana hota hai" (Kati Patang), "Meri nazar mein sirf tum ho" (Pyar Ka Mausam) and so forth.  

RDB used the 'piano accompaniment’ in many ways, some of which include: 

a) alongside the main and side rhythm instruments 
b) after the main rhythm 
c) as backup to other instruments depending on the nature of the  composition 
d) lending a flourishing touch to a song 
e) in various parts of the interlude music (i.e. beginning, middle,  end) 
f) acting as a lead cue for singers to proceed to the next part of a  song 
g) at the start of every antara in a particular song 
h) in the middle or end of a particular antara of a song 
i) slight touches throughout the song, from the mukhda to the antara 
j) as a lead along with other instruments 

The piano playing would involve a series of small notes, or slightly  longer notes which would add just the right “punch” to his  compositions. The notes would either be single notes in order such as  B C D E or C B A G depending on what order he preferred for that song.  Sometimes it would be a combination of keys, a sharp G with an A or D with a sharp C. All in all, RD used a series of permutations and  combinations of various keys, to play at specific moments in the song,  to add the perfect touch to the song. There were various styles of piano playing incorporated, such as the spiraling technique to short  crisp flashes, and so forth. 

The piano accompaniment lent a certain sophistication to RD’s  compositions. When listening to these songs, one can see that RD must  have been particular about each and every detail that went into his  music. The piano probably had its own microphone, and was toned in  such a way, that it added a chloral and exotic feeling to his songs.  The sound of his piano was shaped in such a way that it brought its  own flavor to a particular composition. Every instrument in RDB's  orchestra was heard clearly, and the piano was no exception. Today, we  see many pop, R&B, and jazz songs containing the piano. In these  cases, the piano is also used as an accompanying or lead instrument.  What is remarkable is that many decades ago, RD used a similar method  with the piano to great effect. The piano accompaniment therefore  became a part of the RD “sound”, a part of his music one could  identify right away. 

Flashes of the ‘RD piano accompaniment’ can be found in his early days  as a composer (1965-1969) as well as when he was an assistant to his  father SDB. Then, as the seventies emerged, RD started playing around  with, and employing the piano accompaniment more often. The years  1970-1974 in particular, for me, marked the watershed years for RD’s piano accompaniment. It was during these years that the piano  accompaniment would be an integral part of many of his songs. It is in  this period, where RD left imprints of his fantastic use of the piano  accompaniment. RD did not just restrict the piano accompaniment to  certain songs, he employed them in a variety of genres. 

If by 1970 RD started hitting the gas pedal when it came to his piano accompaniment, in the years 1971, 1972, 1973 and 1974, it was in full  flow. Moreover, sometimes the piano would be more pronounced during a  certain portion of the song compared to other portions within the same  song. Sometimes the piano would be playing throughout the song and  you’d have to catch it because it wasn’t that pronounced. These  situations and more were a result of RDB's creative mind at work and  his choice of when the piano should stand out. The beauty was that  each composition had a unique piano accompaniment. 

I would like to point out twenty examples (there are ofcourse much  more) to show RD’s excellent use of the piano accompaniment, and  instances within the song. RD did not just think of the piano as a  single instrument only to be used in piano-based compositions. He  thought of it as an instrument that could add class to his  compositions if used in a creative manner. 


Tumne mujhe dekha (Teesri Manzil): in this particular song, RD used  the piano to great effect at the end of each mukhda. Not to mention  the piano in the beautiful first interlude setting up a romantic and  peaceful feeling. 

Raat akeli hai (Jewel Thief): RD employed a mix of the piano and pacy  rhythm as well as minor piano touches in the mukhda. The piano along  with the guitar acts as a cue for the antara's. Pronounced piano  playing can be heard in the antara's accompanying the main rhythm. 

Baagon mein bahar hai (Aradhana): this song showcases RD’s piano  accompaniment at its best, and a prelude of things to come in the  first half of the next decade. The first interlude has slight piano  touches combined with the electric guitar and flute. When Lata and  Rafi take turns repeating their lines in the first half of the antara,  the piano is there joining them in the background. “Tumne kaha tha  main sau dukh sahungi” [piano touches]. 

Kis liye maine pyar kiya (The Train): listen closely to this gem and  you will notice the piano playing in the background right throughout  the song lending great support. 

Na koi umang hai (Kati Patang): the prelude has a tabla/piano combo at  the beginning followed by the hitting of a single piano key after  every beat in the mukhda. If the mukhda had a single key hit, the  antara has a double hit of keys after every beat. This is repeated  throughout the song, wonderful creativity by RDB. 

Pyaasa mera dil (Ehsaan): this gem is like a jugalbandi between the piano and Lata. The piano makes its presence felt throughout the song amidst the other lead instruments. 

Tu pyar tu preet (Paraya Dhan): There are five piano keys played from  high to low towards the end of the antara lines by Lata and Kishore  respectively. “Baat aaj ki koi nahin” [piano touches]. 

Jogi o jogi pyar mein (Lakhon Mein Ek): the piano acts as a lead  instrument here (along with other instruments such as the guitar) as  well as great support to the rhythm. Fantastic piano playing in the  first interlude as well as throughout the song. 

Kitna pyaara waada (Caravan): The piano plays along with the main  rhythm. Towards the end of the antara's, the piano shows up played in  an ascending series of keys before Lata and Rafi end the antara's  respectively. “Hai tere naina mere naina phir kya kehna hai” [piano  touches]. 

Koi ladki koi ladka (Seeta Aur Geeta): there are piano flourishes  throughout this composition. “Koi ladki mujhe kal raat sapne mein  [piano starts] mile” [piano plays a set of keys]. The piano acts as a  cue to the start of each antara, the proceeds to show up with  flourishes in the antara's. 

Sanson mein kabhi (Parchhaiyan): faint piano touches throughout the  mukhda. In the antara's they are more pronounced. “Jaane pyar  nibhana” [piano touches]. 

Kaali palak teri gori (Do Chor): the piano plays along with the main  rhythm with faint flourishes at certain points in the song. 

Kajra laga ke (Apna Desh): the main rhythm combines with the faint piano in the background. The faint piano plays throughout the song  with the main rhythm. 

Tum jaison ko payal (Garam Masala): the piano plays in various parts  throughout the song from the prelude [piano touches] to the mukhda and  the antara. RD displays the spiraling piano technique splendidly in  this song which can be heard in the mukhda and antara. The piano is  used as part of the rhythm as well acting as a support. There is a  short piano piece at the start of the second interlude which is like a  crossover of a few keys, nice creativity. 

Aa mere saathi aa (Chhalia): There are faint piano touches throughout  the song, but where it really is pronounced is before Lata hits the  high notes in the antara, acting like a lead for Lata. "Idhar bhi zara  bekhabar dekh le, jo dhoonde tujhe woh nazar dekh le, [piano touches],  "pukaroon main kabse tujhe". 

Churaliya hai tumne (Yaadon Ki Baaraat): faint piano touches  throughout the mukhda. A pronounced sound is heard before the last  part of the antara’s. [piano touches] “Hai wafa kya is jahan ko”. 

Tere sau diwane (Shareef Badmash): piano touches accompany the main  rhythm throughout the composition. Apart from that there are minor  flourishes at some parts. 

Mere dil se yeh nain (Zehreela Insaan): the piano is part of the  rhythm and can be heard in the antara’s as well. 

Aa raat jaati hai (Benaam): a pronounced piano in the antara along  with the rhythm, and touches present in the mukhda as well. 

Hum tum gumsum raat (Humshakal): the piano is part of the rhythm  (mostly in the mukhda), with faint touches. In the antara it takes a  break before returning when the antara is ending and returning back to  the mukhda. 

By 1975, the ‘RD piano accompaniment’ started making their last  appearances in RD’s compositions before gradually fading out in later  years with the exception of choice occasions. One wonders what made RD  change his mind on using the piano accompaniment as part of his songs. 

The ‘RD piano accompaniment’ left its impression on the minds of  listeners and gave us many cherished moments and happy memories.