In this lesson, we’re going to talk about rock and roll piano – well, I guess I should say rock ‘n’ roll, to be official.
This will hopefully be a very simple lesson for you, because rock and roll piano uses some very simple structures.
Before we do anything, here’s a picture of the piano keys and note names for your reference. This pattern repeats up and down the piano, so the note names remain the same – they just make higher or lower sounds.
First, let’s talk about the chord progression.
The most standard progression is based on the “12-bar blues” progression:
(4 bars of I) + (2 bars of IV) + (2 bars of I) + (1 bar of V7) + (1 bar of IV) + (2 bars of I)
If you’ll recall from some of my other lessons, the roman numerals correspond to chords based on scale tones. Capital numbers are major chords, and the number corresponds to the scale tone of the chord root.
For example, in the key of C:
I = C major = C-E-G
IV = F major = F-A-C
V7 = G7 = G-B-D-F
Now, let’s talk about each hand separately, then we’ll put them together for the finale, OK?
For the left hand, I suggest starting with one of the following two bass lines:
OK, so what does THAT mean?!
Well, those numbers represent notes in the major scale in whatever key you’re playing.
For example, in the key of C, a C major scale is:
C D E F G A B C
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
So, those two bass lines become:
C A G A (moving DOWN from C to A and A to G, then back up to C)
C E G A (moving UP the entire time)
For a song that’s “in 4” (4/4 tempo – 4 beats to a measure), simply play this pattern over and over in your left hand.
Now, for the right hand…
The easiest thing to play would be the following pattern, depending on the chord being played:
Alternate these two chords over and over for the “C major” portion of the progression:
Each chord should be played at the same time as the left hand. In other words, both hands press the piano keys at the same time:
(This is actually a nice little 2-hand practice pattern)
For the “IV” part of the progression – let’s stick with the key of C for this – play the following 2 chords:
while the left hand plays the same pattern as before, but beginning on F:
Finally, for the “V7” portion of the progression, the left hand portion is:
and the right-hand chords are:
The rhythmic pattern is the same throughout this entire progression – simply apply the appropriate chord and bass pattern to each section to build the following chord progression for each measure of 4 beats:
C – C – C – C – F – F – C – C – G7 – F – C – C
It’s kind of like putting together the pieces of a puzzle. In fact, that’s exactly how I think of it when I learn a new tune.
Hope that helps you rock a little harder, or at least easier 😉