That course is video-based, and teaches from a chord-based improvisation point of view.
I sometimes resist providing notation for improvisation-focused courses, because it can almost promote blind imitation, rather than creative playing.
That said, I’ve had a couple of convincing requests lately from students who wanted to have sheet music to supplement this class. As a result, I’ve decided to provide notation for several of the licks, plus notation for a complete blues piano solo (featuring licks from the course).
Learn the essential elements of improvising blues piano, including the (minor) Blues Scale, the 12-bar Blues pattern, left-hand grooves, coordination exercises, and plenty of raw material for your own licks.
My goal is for you to start improvising great blues solos!
Although most of this course is in the key of C, there is a detailed lesson that covers transposing the blues scale, and the 12-bar blues progression, into other keys.
Is this what you’re looking for?
Students taking this course should be interested in learning blues improvisation. Improvisation in blues usually has an underlying structure, a key center, and a chord progression that is being followed. The rhythm and the chords give us that beautiful sense of a distinct groove, and the soloists do their thing “on top of” that. In this course, you will learn the basic structural stuff, but you will also be given (taught) the popular raw materials for creating blues licks and melodies in general. It will be your job to turn those raw materials into original licks. I can give you expert guidance, hints and tips and raw material, which I do, but in the end, it’s your solo! That’s the beauty of studying improvisation. You get to own it.
Blues-inspired improvisation is at the core of, and will always have an influence on, countless musical genres. The blues scales, blues chord progressions, the “Blue Notes”…these are staples of so much great rock, hip-hop, jazz, country, gospel, and so on. That’s just to name a few of the mega-genres that have “blue blood” in their veins!
We can either forget about, or fail to recognize, the blues roots in so much contemporary music, but it’s everywhere.
So, back to the question, “Is this what you’re looking for,” I would suggest “yes,” because you read this far, still hanging in, after reading what’s what, so therefore you might like the class. That may be an odd conclusion.
Preview: To help you get an idea of how these videos might work for you, Lesson #4 (link below) is currently watchable as a full lesson preview.
Recommended knowledge or experience
You will need NO ability to read music (true for this particular course, and for most lessons on this site).
Knowing the names of the notes on your keyboard (like E, F#, G) is helpful in this class, but is not absolutely required.
We do start out hoping you already play “a bit of piano.”
Musicians who are already experienced with another instrument, including blues guitar, can benefit from this course as well. That is, you could potentially (1) pick up some keyboard skills and/or (2) learn new theory stuff and/or (3) get new ideas.
Helpful Course Documents
(Click document’s image below to download or view.)
The minor pentatonic is a five-note scale, comprised of selected pitches from the natural minor scale. An extremely popular source of melodic and harmonic material in many cultures, the minor pentatonic’s distinctive signature can be heard “all the time” in improvisational genres like rock, pop, blues and jazz.
For those of you who like to put words to music: The word “pentatonic” comes from the Greek word pente, meaning five, and tonic, meaning tone. Bring that up at your next book study group, and you will look like a raging party animal. Things will go right off the hook from there, bro, seriously.
The purpose of today’s lesson is to give you an easy pattern to memorize, and to show you how to use that pattern to construct any minor pentatonic scale. By “construct,” I mean you will visualize the correct five notes for the minor pentatonic scale, starting on any given root note.
As a result you will have “memorized” all 12 minor pentatonics on the keyboard today.
Here’s a detailed tutorial on how to interpret slash chords on piano. This lesson includes insights into several ways that slash chords are used, such as indicating an inversion, implying a descending bass line, or a simply notating a fresh chordal sound.
Composers and songwriters can use the “slash chord idea” in their creative thinking. That is, the effect of playing any given chord over bass notes that are not the actual root of the chord opens up endless possibilities. Some of the thinking behind these possibilities is discussed in this lesson.
This sample lesson (complete) is available to our visitors, and, of course, to our supporting members!
Lesson #11 (video)
Learn how to transpose the chords, scales, and concepts you learned in this crash course into other keys.
“All the same things” apply to playing blues in any key. You will simply be learning the steps needed to move your musical patterns and shapes — that is, the three main chords, the blues scale, your favorite licks, etc. — into any desired key!
Especially good keys for you to learn to jam in are:
This thing I like to call the “melody machine” is by no means a new technique for creating strong melodies. Singers, composers and improvisers have built melodies this way forever. In a nutshell, it’s a specific way of using the underlying chord progression as a “generator” of melodic material.
Sometimes this “melody generating” concept doesn’t get enough of a spotlight. By spotlight, I mean pointing it out and teaching it, in places where students can fully appreciate the power of the results.
So here’s a great place for that spotlight: the art and science of creating powerful blues licks!
In this lesson, we master a couple of specific blues piano tricks of the trade. I’m using the word specific here, because we’re going to use these devices with a goal in mind, a musical effect that is pretty specific.
The “tricks” in this video are focused on emulating those sounds of blues singers and other instruments who can “bend” their notes (slide or play between pitches). You’ll learn about “blue notes,” and also pick up a blues-boogie playing technique called the slide-off.
Rhythm is never to be neglected in the Blues, even in performances that are so slow and sultry that it feels like we’re all just breathing, no real beat, just waves…oh sorry, I spaced! Ha. Thing is, even a very slow blues is going to rely heavily on rhythm to give us another undeniable take on real life. We all know how “slow” can sometimes be more alive than “fast” anyway. It all depends right?
I’m saying that about rhythm here because this is the third lesson in a row where we’ve been practicing two-handed coordination on the piano. And I think I’d better explain myself, before you get too bored or too frustrated or both.
First, the more fun work (fun work? yep) picks up again after this third lesson on coordination. I swear. Also, you will learn how to do a walking bass line in this one.
Finally, this maybe-less-than-fun stuff is truly important, this coordination work on piano, because if your hands aren’t “of one mind” — coordinated — then the exalted Rhythm Itself will suffer. And we can’t have that in the blues, not on my watch, dig? If you want to sound great, instead of just good or worse, then quite often it’s just a matter of fixing up that rhythm. Something that can mystify us sometimes — that frustrating sense of “it just doesn’t sound right” — can often be traced back to one thing: The Lack of a Solid Groove. Rhythm is King!