Play Old School Rock ‘n’ Roll

Sam Vesely  /  Musical Genres / Oct 20

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Rock ’n’ Roll piano burst into the music scene in the 1950s and ‘60s changing the landscape of music– and piano playing– forever.

The first time I remember hearing this kind of music, I was listening to a man called Jerry Lee Lewis— also known by his nickname: The Killer. He has been described as “Rock ‘n’ Roll’s first great wild man”, and is absolutely one of the most influential pianists of the twentieth century.

As part of his act, he would pound the keys with his heel, kick the piano bench aside, sit on the keyboard, and even stand on top of the instrument. He was an incredible showman and musician– one of the first true pioneers of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

As you can see in the video– Rock ‘n’ Roll piano might be a bit crazy to play, but it’s a great way to test your endurance on the keys, and have a lot of fun doing it!

Let’s dig our heels in.

The Progression:

Keeping things simple, we’ll use the1-4-5 progression in the key of C (all the white keys).

That makes for:
C Major (1st Inv), F Major, and G Major

Download the sheet music here

Right-Hand Technique:

For each measure, play your chords repeatedly in 8th notes.

C Major: 2 measures
F Major: 2 measures
G Major: 1 measure
F Major: 1 measure
C Major: 1 measure
G Major: 1 measure

Start slow and work your way up to get to familiar with the progression. When you finish, try to end on the 1st C for a sense of resolution.

Left-Hand Rhythms:

The left hand is a little less consistent, but still follows a pattern, and the same chord progression. We’ll stick to triad shapes, all in the root pattern.

We’ll play these triads in broken form, from bottom to top on each measure, using this rhythm:

1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &
1 & 2 & 3 & 4 &

Make sure to follow along in the video if you need to get a better sense of the timing. Head to 4:10 to check it out.

Tips ‘n’ Tricks for Rock ‘n’ Roll:

Make sure to stay relaxed when you’re playing! The repetition of playing those quick chords with your right hand is going to get tiring– so start slowly and work your speed up, faster and faster every time you try, and when you feel ready… start going really fast.

What about one of Rock ‘n’ Roll Piano’s greatest moves? The Slide (also known as a glissando) is a fast run up or down several keys on the keyboard. It’s an interesting and engaging effect to play on the piano, but above all it’s just plain fun and really adds to that Rock mentality.

Make sure you’re using the flat part of your finger and not the edge, otherwise it might hurt!

Check it out in the video— and happy practicing!

Sam Vesely is a graduate from MacEwan University's Bachelors of Jazz and Contemporary Pop Music degree with a major in Composition. His extensive knowledge of music styles and music theory is something that Sam is very proud of and he’s excited to share everything that he has learned with all of the students of Pianote.

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