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Blues Piano Is Easy

Jordan Leibel - May 25, 2017

After you’ve learned about what chords and scales to use if you want to sound bluesy (see these videos: 1, 2, 3), you can combine everything together into a simple tune consisting of a chord progression and a simple riff-based melody.  




The Chords




First things first, you’re going to want to learn the chords that you’re working with.  The I chord is the most important one to learn first, and it’s going to be a Cm7 chord.  That means it consists of the C minor triad plus a b7 note on top.  If you want to spell out the notes individually, you’ll have C - Eb - G - Bb.  




The next chord to learn is the IV chord, which in this case is going to be an F7 chord.  This chord is built up of a major triad plus a b7 note on top.  If you spell out each note, you have    F - A - C - and Eb.  




The final chord of this little tune is going to be a G7 chord.  The G7 chord is built up of notes G - B - D - F.  Naturally, this final chord in the blues chord progression is the V chord.  As you play through each of these chords, take time to listen to how they sound together.  Ask yourself what does it sound like to move from the I chord to the IV chord?  What about the V chord resolving back to the I?      



The Riff


Now that you know the chords that will structure this song, it’s time to look at what the right hand is doing.  The main riff for the song consists primarily of the notes within the pentatonic scale, with the blue note (aka the flat-5) added in for good measure.  The nice thing about this riff is that it falls quite naturally under the hands in resting position.  So keep your thumb on C and your pinky on G as your neutral position while you practice this riff!  



Making It Your Own


Above all else, your blues playing should be a personal expression of yourself.  Because these blues chords and riffs are so simple, try to personalize them a little bit by adding/exchanging a few notes here and there, or play around with the rhythms in the left hand.  See the sheet music as the guideline, not the rule!                

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Blues Piano


Funkify Your Piano Basslines

Jordan Leibel - May 17, 2017

Let’s talk about bass lines.  If you want to accompany yourself as a solo blues player, having some good bass-lines are essential.  Luckily, you can use the pentatonic scale in your left hand to create some great sounding basslines that are easy and versatile to play.  Once you figured out this bass-line, you’ll have something really great to improvise with and build hand independence!  


The only notes that make up this bassline are the root, the dominant 7th, and the octave.  This makes it super easy to transpose into another key or to work with a different set of chords.  To play this over a basic blues progression, all you have to do is take this pattern and move it up to start on the 4th, or the 5th.  You can then use 7th chords or pentatonic scales or what have you to great whatever you like over this chord progression. 

You can use such a simple bassline to strengthen a number of key skills.  You can learn it verbatim in conjunction with your right hand to build hand independence or you can you is as a launch point to start improvising with your LEFT HAND.  Developing bass-line improv instincts will make you a much more dynamic player.  You already know the notes that make up the pentatonic scale, so use them to experiment in your left hand as well as your right.  

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Pentatonic Scale



Bass Line


A Simple Blues Riff To Elevate Your Playing

Blues riffing ain't so hard. Here's a simple way to learn any riff!

Jordan Leibel - May 11, 2017

Take your playing to the next level:


The scales and shapes that make up the blues are just rife with riffing possibilities!  So if you’ve ever wanted to create some awesome riffs and licks, look no further than the pentatonic scale!  It’ll make a great basis for riff creation and development.  The riff that you’ll be looking at here is written entirely within that pentatonic framework.  ...Well, almost entirely.  You see, each version of this riff starts on the flat-5 interval of the key, also known as the blue note.



Here’s the interval relationship you can find within the riff: bV, V, IV, iii, I.  When you think of this riff in terms of interval jumps rather that individual notes, you can apply it to any key.  In the key of C, that riff will look like this:  Gb, G, F, Eb, C.  


While you’re practicing any riff like this, take time to listen intently to it.  Listen to how the intervals sound in relation to each other, and how they shift ever so slightly when you transpose the riff into a different key.  This will benefit you in a number of ways.  Try to listen for the root, the third and the fifth of any key.  Those are great ‘anchorpoints’ to keep in mind as you play.    


Having a well developed ear is a HUGE asset for anyone who’s interested in improvising or songwriting.  The goal of a simple riff like this is to see it more as a guideline rather than something that should be learned verbatim.  So learn it with the objective of dissecting it and making it your own.  Practice it enough so that you can ingrain it into your muscle memory, but then put it in your back pocket as a tool for you to use next time you want to just sit down and explore at the piano!  



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