“The Blues Piano Crash Course” Lesson #3: “Five must-know Riffing Devices”

The Blues Piano tradition is full of tried-and-true “stock” licks, as well as many devices for creating endless original solos. In this lecture, you will learn to use five such “must-know” riffing devices.


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“The Blues Piano Crash Course” Lesson #1 – The Blues Scale

In this first of eleven Blues Piano lessons, discover how a simple six-note scale — the famous “Blues Scale” — is a musician’s gold mine for creating original blues sounds. Immediately after this lecture, you can sit down at your piano and start creating bluesy licks and melodies that are all your own.

You may find it interesting to learn that a piano player who knows how to make nice licks, using only this C Blues Scale (the one introduced here), could technically sit in on a blues  jam session in the key of C.

Here’s the video lesson:

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Soloing Tips: Using the Pitch-Bend Wheel on Electronic Keyboards (part one)

Dear Members,

This lesson is for keyboard players who want to “properly” use the pitch-bend wheel on their electronic synths or other keyboard.  By “properly” I mean that you can’t just randomly roll that pitch wheel around and expect your keyboard licks to make any sense (outside of cartoonish sound effects).

If you want the professional sound of a killer solo when using a pitch-bend wheel, it’s a great idea to emulate the kind of pitch-bends that are used by experienced lead guitarists, sax players, and the like.  That’s the secret, and there’s some detailed explanation of certain ways to do that included in the video below.

IMPORTANT TIP: I highly recommend you master a least a couple of prepared licks before you “go live” with any kind of pitch-bending.  Otherwise, you may end up in Cartoon Sound Effect Land, and you will probably UN-impress your audience. They may not even know why, but they will definitely be thinking “amateur.” Ouch!  Just take some time to get a few of these things down beforehand,  instead of going right out and “tone-randomizing” your audience with non-skilled pitch bends. If there was a Geneva Convention about audience torture, you can be sure they would ban that.

In the video, I discuss the most important aspects of exactly how the use of pitch wheels works, and I cover a few useful riffing concepts using “whole-step” bends (explained in the video) . Continue reading “Soloing Tips: Using the Pitch-Bend Wheel on Electronic Keyboards (part one)”

Blues Piano Licks #1 and #2 from “A Study in Blues Piano — Focusing on 12 Licks”

Students of blues, pop, jazz, rock, et al:

This is the first lesson in my course,  A Study in Blues Piano: Focusing on 12 Licks.

BLUES LICK #1:  Energy

Lick #2, plus all the others, are available 24×7 to members of Piano With Kent (All-Access).

BLUES LICK #2:  Da-boo-da, Boo-dee-ooo

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How to improvise in modal jazz: Understanding “So What” by Miles Davis

Hi Jazz Fans!

I wanted to give you a brief introduction to the idea of “modal jazz.”  We’re going to look at probably the most famous example of modal jazz, a tune called “So What,” by Miles Davis and Bill Evans.

We’re looking at this piece because (1) it was part of a ground-breaking approach to jazz improvisation and composition when it came out, and it’s still definitive of the modal jazz genre (maybe the definitive  recording?) (2) because “So What” is the best-known track on one of top-selling jazz albums of all time, “Kind of Blue.”

It seems to me that contemporary modal improv, which had its jazz  birth in the late 1950’s, was a huge influence on the increasingly improvisational rock of the 1960’s, (even when players might not have consciously realized it!), and has never stopped being at the heart of so many great pop/rock/jazz solos until this very day.

My goal here is to show you enough about modal improvisation for you to start jamming along with these guys, as they improvise on this classic tune.  The way to “jam along” here is to play your own improvised lines along with each soloist in the recording.  In that sense, you and the soloists will be improvising simultaneously. This kind of interwoven “conversation” is not unheard of in jazz, so don’t feel like you’re interrupting the masters LOL.

There are three links below to YouTube videos of “Kinda Blue,” as taken from the original recording.

In a nutshell, modal jazz is more concerned with exploring scales and modes than with creating melodies based on chord progressions.  I’ve included a link to an excellent Wikipedia article on modal jazz, in case you want to know more.  For now, this article is sufficient in terms of experiencing and practicing the modal approach.

(1) “So What” explores improvised melodies using the “Dorian” mode.  (The terms “scale” and “mode” are sometimes used interchangeably, and the distinction is somewhat academic, depending on the context ).

(2)  If you start on “D” and play every white key on the piano, going up or down one white key at a time (as in D, E, F, G, A, B, C, D.), you have just played a Dorian scale.

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Video: Ray Charles “What I’d Say” — Practice your blues licks with this one!


What’s up, Blues Cats and 12-bar Chicks?

If you want to get better at your blues piano playing, who better to learn from than Ray Charles? Try playing this video while throwing in your own blues licks on top.  Also try to imitate or paraphrase some of Brother Ray’s.

Here’s some insight to help you:

(1) The key is E.  You can start joining in by using the E-minor blues scale, throughout the whole jam, right hand only.  The E-minor blues scale is E, G, A, Bb, B, D, (E). Even if that’s all you practice here — which is quite valuable — it still helps to realize the following things about the chords involved . (If you’re especially ambitious,  you can try playing these chords in your left hand, while riffing with the right.)

(2) The chords are E7, A7 (added ninth, optional), and B7.

(3) The chord progression is a classic 12-bar blues, in its most basic form, outlined here:

E7 — 4 measures (bars)

A9 (or just A7) —  2 measures (bars)

E7 — 2 measures (bars) 

B7 — 1 measure (bar)

A9 (or A7) — 1 measure (bar)


E7 — 1 measure (bar)

B7 — 1 measure (bar) 

Now go back to the top.

(4) Repeat the above progression over and over, as you would in any 12-bar blues.  EXCEPTION: You may notice that the B7 in the turn-around does not happen in the 12-bar introduction, where Ray is playing the left-hand bass line and nothing else.  Here, E7 is implied throughout the last two bars.

(5) In the sections where the band stops, but the singing or soloing continues (called a break, or “stop-time”), the prevailing harmony is four bars of E7, as usual. Each time this break happens, we are sitting at the top of the 12-bar cycle. Therefore, each break leads us right into the A7 at measure 5.

So here’s the video, and have fun!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTIP_FOdq24&w=854&h=480]

Easy 3-finger Technique for Impressive Pentatonic Runs on Piano (that’s right, only 3 fingers!)

Hello improvisors and jammers: Here’s a powerful way to play impressive pentatonic piano/keyboard licks when soloing in rock, blues, or jazz settings, using only three fingers in your right hand.  This video uses the famous “minor pentatonic” scale (“pentatonic” refers to a five-note scale). With a little work you will be amazed how fast you can fly across the keyboard using this simple trick of the trade!

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A Simple Way to Create Movement within a Chord

Dear Members,

Here’s a straightforward way to use three-note chords superimposed over a single static chord, to create a sense of movement “within the chord.”


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Learn about the Major pentatonic scale, and its cousin, the “Relative Minor” pentatonic (video lesson)

Dear Members:

Learn about the Major pentatonic scale, and its cousin, the “Relative Minor” pentatonic scale (a video lesson). The relationship between any major scale (or key) and its relative minor scale or key is explained here as well, in terms of traditional music theory.


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