“The Blues Piano Crash Course” Main Page

Course Description

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.)

Catalog of Chords and Scales
Catalog of Chords and Scales (for Blues Piano Crash Course)
Recommended Listening
Recommended Listening (Blues)

The Complete Course (video pages w/ text intros)

Lesson One – “The Blues Scale”

Supplemental (optional) from “A Study in Blues Piano” – Licks #1 and #2

Lesson Two – “A Left-hand Groove”

Lesson Three – “Five Must-know Riffing Devices”

Lesson Four – “The Classic 12-bar Blues Progression”

  • Attention visitors: Lesson #4 is available as a full lesson preview.

Lesson Five – “Put Your Hands Together”

Lesson Six – More tips and practice for the Two Fisted Jammer

Lesson Seven – A Walking Bass Line & More Coordination

Lesson Eight – Blue Notes and pitch-bending

Lesson Nine – The Melody Machine

Lesson Ten – Turn-arounds and Endings

Lesson Eleven – Playing Blues in Any Key

end of list (all core lessons)

Blues Piano Crash Course #11: How to play blues in any key (transpose)

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

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:


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Blues Piano Crash Course #10: Turn-arounds and endings

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson #10  (video)

Turn-arounds and endings for the 12-bar blues.


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Blues Piano Crash Course #9: The Melody Machine

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson #9  (video) "The Melody Machine"

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!


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Blues Piano Crash Course #8: Blue notes & pitch-bending

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson #8  (video)

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.


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Blues Piano Crash Course, #7: Walking Bass Line & more coordination

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson #7  (video)

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!


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The Blues Piano Crash Course – Lesson #6: More practice & help with two-handed coordination

From The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson Six (video) "Put Your Hands Together - Again..."

More tips and practice on two-handed coordination for piano, using notes from the blues.


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The Blues Piano Crash Course – Lesson #5 “Put Your Hands Together”

from The Blues Piano Crash Course

Lesson Five (video) "Put Your Hands Together"

Tips and practice on two-handed coordination for piano, using notes from the blues!


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“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.

PREMIUM CONTENT VIDEO LESSON:


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