Rock And Roll Piano Lesson – Classic, Fast, And Easy!

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.

Piano Note Names

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:

1-6-5-6

or

1-3-5-6

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)

or

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.

Got it?

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:

C-E-G
C-F-A

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:

LH RH
— —
C C-E-G
E C-F-A
G C-E-G
A C-F-A

(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:

F-A-C
F-Bb-D

while the left hand plays the same pattern as before, but beginning on F:

F-D-C-D

or

F-A-C-D

Finally, for the “V7” portion of the progression, the left hand portion is:

G-E-D-E

or

G-B-D-E

and the right-hand chords are:

G-B-D
G-C-E

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.

And if you’d like to dive in a little deeper, you might want to check out my Rock and Roll Piano… FAST online/DVD video piano course.

Hope that helps you rock a little harder, or at least easier 😉

How To Use Patterns To Improve Your Piano Playing FAST!

Patterns are an integral part of the piano – the whole keyboard is built upon a single series of 12 keys, and piano sheet music naturally involves a number of patterns – both melodic (single notes) and harmonic (multiple notes).

In this video lesson, I’ll show you how you can use some very simple patterns to improve your piano playing FAST. They may take just a little practice, but once you learn these and start creating your own, I think you’ll begin to see the power of piano patterns.

If you have any comments, suggestions, or other feedback about this lesson, please leave a comment below!

Thanks.

Famous Piano Players Who Helped Shape Piano History – Part 1

Welcome to my inaugural post on the PianoFAST blog! I’m so happy you decided to drop by and visit – REALLY, I AM!

My goal with this blog is to share power lessons, tips, and secrets to help you play piano – and sound like a pro – fast. So what do famous piano players have to do with that mission?

A lot!

Even if you’re a beginning piano player, it’s a good idea to find some well-known pianists to listen to, to find a style you like, and to pick a few tunes you’d love to learn to play yourself. Not only will this give you something to work toward, but it will help you train your ear and start hearing all the little licks, chord progressions, and harmonic structures that will help you as your playing progresses.

This post may upset a few people. Maybe it will upset you, especially if you don’t see your favorite pianist in the list below. But there’s no way I could have written this list to make everyone in the world happy, so allow me to explain…

I started trying to come up with a list of the 10 most influential piano players of all time, but I ended up with more and more. That’s why this post is “Part 1.” I picked some favorite pianists of my own, some of their mentors, and some of the most widely acknowledged “greatest pianists of all time.”

This list is certainly not complete. Who knows…we may get to Part 20 as time goes on!

If you disagree with anything on here, or have any comments or additions you’d like to make, please do so in the comments section – I’d love to hear from you!

Now, without further ado, here is my best start at famous piano players who helped shape history and are still considered some of the most influential pianists of all time.

Famous Piano Players

1. Johann Sebastian Bach

OK, so Bach was actually an organist, but he had a huge impact on many famous piano players, and his compositions continue to be used as exercises for pianists to this day. In fact, before playing a concert, Chopin used to lock himself in a room and play Bach’s music, and Bach’s use of counterpoint influenced the composing styles of Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, and Felix Mendelssohn, among others. Check out Bach’s two- and three-part inventions for some challenging little pieces that look deceivingly simple at first glance.

2. Franz Liszt

Well, now I’m feeling like this list might be a little biased, since I *might* actually be related to Franz Liszt (my Great Grandmother’s last name was List – close…maybe…?). Liszt was described by some as the most technically advanced and perhaps the greatest pianist of all time. He was an influential composer, teacher, and performer, giving financial support to the likes of Richard Wagner, Hector Berlioz, and Edvard Grieg, among others. He also invented the symphonic poem and anticipated a number of 20th century trends in his music.

3. Ludwig van Beethoven

Famous Piano PlayersBeethoven is one of the first classical composers most people think of, and his name instantly evokes specific melodies (da da da DUM!). Historically, he was a virtuoso pianist who was an important link between the Classical and Romantic musical styles of Western music, and as he slowly lost his hearing throughout his life, he focused more on composition and less on performance, especially in the last 16 years of his life. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is one of his most beautiful and well-known works for piano. The first movement is a great recital piece for intermediate pianists, and the complete Sonata is definitely for the more advanced pianist, but definitely something worth working on.

4. Sergei Rachmaninoff

Although I haven’t personally listened to a lot of Rachmaninoff’s piano performances, he is one of my all-time favorite composers. He’s one of the last of the Russian Romantic composers, and if you don’t feel anything when listening to his music, I would see a doctor if I were you! Rachmaninoff was said to have had huge hands, and the Guiness Book of World Records reports that he could play a left-hand chord of C – Eb – G – C – G! That implies that his reach was probably more than an octave and a half, if playing just two notes. If you’ve never listened to his Piano Concerto #2 in C minor or his Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini (adapted for use in the movie “Somewhere in Time”), do yourself a favor and find a copy as soon as possible. In fact, here’s a link to a fantastic performance on YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZRbko3UsnQ. It’s been said that Rachmaninoff rarely, if ever, played an incorrect note in public performance.

5. Scott Joplin

Scott Joplin was a revolutionary pianist. Although he did not invent ragtime music, he was almost solely responsible for elevating it from its reviled reputation to a more formal and widely accepted musical form. His “Maple Leaf Rag” was the first big ragtime hit, and remained so for a century. Although he was a great improviser at the piano, he believed his music should be played exactly as written, and that all improvisation and creativity should come from the composer, not the pianist. Due to his contributions to his particular style of music, he is know as the “King of Ragtime” to this day.

6. Art Tatum

Art Tatum is considered by many to be one of the greates jazz pianists of all time. Although he drank heavily before and during many performances, his playing astounded even the greatest pianists, and it’s said that his fingers moved at an unbelievable speed, with tremendous efficiency and amazing independence of hands. His technique – flat fingers and lightning-fast two-finger runs – was mostly self-taught, but continues to mystify even modern pianists. One of his greatest admirers was Oscar Peterson, also found on this list.

7. Marian McPartland

Marian McPartland is on this list, because she has made jazz piano so accessible to so many people, primarily through her more than 45 years on the radio – over 30 of those years being on NPR with “Piano Jazz.” She knows virtually every jazz standard in the book and easily plays any of them in any key. At age 90 and going strong, Marian has been an ambassador for jazz piano music nearly her entire life, and the piano world is a better place with her in it.

8. Victor Borge

I’ve included Victor Borge on this list because of the sense of joy, fun, and humor he brought to the world of classical piano. He was recognized as a piano prodigy at the age of 3 and, after several years performing as a classical concert pianist during his late teens, he began performing his comedy act that would become his trademark claim to fame. From reading sheet music upside down, to using a seatbelt at the piano bench, Borge delighted audiences around the world with his wit, his brilliant performances, and his creative uses of the English language. It takes a true genius to have such a brilliant command of the piano and be able to use it so effectively as a comedian.

Stay tuned to this blog for more great pianists, lessons, tips, and tricks. If you’re curious, a few more pianists I have in mind are Oscar Peterson, Dave Brubeck (can you tell I’m kind of a jazz guy?), Chick Corea, Billy Joel, and Elton John, to name just a few.

OK, so the list never ends…