How to Riff on Van Morrison’s “Moondance” – Part 1


Today we have two video lessons, either of which is a good introduction to a pretty simple notion, which I sometimes like to call the “melody machine.” With this, I’m not suggesting some big new original conception. On the contrary,  the concept I’m calling the melody machine is about as old as music itself.

If that nickname sounds a little gimmicky, it’s really not meant to be. I actually do call this device a “melody machine,” in my own thinking, part of an ongoing process of internalizing my favorite composition devices. Also, it’s fun to say, just like saying “Lollapalooza” or “Isn’t she pleasant?”

In a nutshell, this lesson shows you certain ways of using an underlying chord progression as a “thought generator” for creating melodic material.


How to Riff on Van Morrison’s Moondance – Part 1

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Blues Lick #12 “Chromatic Sixths”

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Congratulations! After finishing this lesson, you will have completed the entire course, “A Study in Blues Piano – Focusing on 12 Licks!”

You will then have learned (1) a complete intro section, (2) lots of raw soloing material (specifically, those 12 licks and their endless possibilities), for you to copy, extend, alter, etc., (3) a solid structure for your soloing (that is, the 12-bar blues structure, with a supporting bass-line). Also (4), you now have a solid “turn-around” to use, which will keep that energy moving forward, into each new chorus, and finally, (5), that same turn-around can be used as an ending (and very effectively).

So, here we go, the final lesson: Lick Number 12, “Chromatic Sixths.”  This pattern is way-cool, and also quite versatile.  It has a traditional, honky-tonk sound you will probably recognize, a real staple of the “boogie/blues/rock/jazz” piano vocabulary.

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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)”