Sunday, April 4, 2010

Piano Blues for Dummies

I have a pretty good ear for music and can generally play anything I hear, on the keyboard, right along with the performer.  I've jammed with the best of 'em; from Eric Clapton to BB King.  If I hear the blues, I can play it in the right key, every time; no exceptions.

What's the secret to being able to jam with any artist?  It's really quite simple; even dummies can do it (like me).  Now, I'll teach you; a very smart person.  I hope you have a piano or some sort of keyboard, so you can take advantage of your new found skill; if not, go out and buy one.  You can afford it; the economy's booming again?

Okay, so you're still short on cash.  Big deal; make the purchase, anyway.  A lifetime of playing the blues is worth the investment.  If you're fortunate enough to have already acquired that keyboard; when you still had money; congratulations.  You're one step closer to becoming a semi-professional musician.

For the purposes of this lesson, I'm only going to deal with the white keys on the piano; I'm not racist; I love the black keys, too; however, I don't want to throw out too much information here and confuse you.  I want to keep this simple, so even the dummies can figure it out.

As you know, there are seven white keys in every octave (and five black keys).  If you start out at middle C (the key just to the left of the two black keys), and work your way up the scale, you'll find D...E...F...G...A...B.  Then it starts all over again with C.  In case you were wondering what a DEFGAB is; I don't know, either.  I saw a comedy program on HBO a while back; something about "Def Comedy", but that has nothing to do with playing the blues.  Also, if you don't know what an octave is, ask someone to explain it to you.  Basically, it's the clump of keys on the piano that have seven white keys and five black keys!  Okay?

You may ask why I'm not starting in alphabetical order (A...B...C...D...E...F...G).  Good question.  The reason:  It's more confusing (for me) to find A on the piano.  It's over by the three black keys, to the left of C, so it's kind of hard to spot.  Okay?

Now, here's the deal.  Every blues song in the world has the same "key structure" - the same combination of notes that blend in perfectly; always.  There are five notes in every key that blend in.  That leaves seven that don't blend in.  If you hit one of those seven, you'll end up with something referred to as, "discord"; in other words, it sounds like Roseanne Arnold singing the National Anthem.  If you hit the other five notes, it sounds like you're a part of the band.  Congratulations.  When's your next gig?

Since learning seven different key structures in one blog may be difficult for someone with no musical background; relax.  I'm only going to cover the key of C today.  Can you dig it?  Who wants to play the blues in the key of C?  You do?  You're in luck.

Ideally, I'd have a diagram of the piano keys for you to refer to as I'm explaining this stuff to you; but I don't.  However, with the information I'm going to give, you'll be able to figure it out, sooner or later; especially if you get someone with a few piano lessons under their belt to help you; if need be.



Now go out and play Howlin' Wolf's "I Ain't Superstitious" (Track 2 THE LONDON HOWLIN' WOLF SESSIONS).  You'll love it.

The next lesson:  Blues piano in the key of D. 

In the meantime, practice the key of C, take two aspirin, and call me in the morning.

If you haven't already bought my book, Life Under the Corporate Microscope, here's your chance (It has nothing to do with playing the blues, but it's still highly entertaining).  Just head on over to Amazon and grab a few cases to give to friends and family.  It's a great entertainment value for the money.

I just completed another book, but it's still in the pre-publication phase; but look for it soon.  It's called St Louis Cardinals IQ:  The Ultimate Test of True Fandom (Volume 1)

From business to baseball to the blues; I do it all; sort of.