We've all heard excellent blues piano played, and we wonder how it's possible to just arrive somewhere, sit down at a piano and just play amazing blues piano, without preparation. To many musicians, even professional musicians, improvising is an absolute enigma.
I have spent a good number of years teaching my students how to play blues on the piano, how to improvise, and generally how to sound good, even if they're starting from scratch. I want to share some of that wisdom with you.
It's all in the mind.
An important thing to note is that people seem to have this idea that improvising is difficult. It is actually not that difficult if you know a few simple rules. Learn the scale you'll be using for the song, feel the music, and phrase that scale. That's the easy way to get started.
Learn the Blues Scale.
Many scales are rather boring to practice, but the blues scale by itself sounds so good, that even in practicing it alone, it sounds really good. I will write specifically on the scale in another separate article, but I'll spell the C blues scale for you.
C, D#, F, F#, G, Bb
Try playing it up the keyboard (ascending) and descending (backwards going from C to Bb etc).
This will be good practice for your blues chops. Getting the sound of these notes into your ears will really help with the next two parts.
Feel the Music.
If you just relax and feel the music, you will see that there is a groove to anything over which you want to improvise. For example, you can find any C blues backing track on YouTube and listen to the groove, the feel of the music. Just feel it.
Phrase That Scale.
Now that you know the right hand notes of the scale you can create interesting phrases. You can create melodic lines using the notes. Try playing some of the notes in a random order, or try to perhaps create some order using the notes. Try playing C, Bb, G and repeating that over and over again in an interesting rhythm. This triplet feel can give you a really quirky sound.
So, your task is, find a C blues backing track on YouTube and improvise over it, by phrasing the C blues scale.
Yes, there are other scales you can use in this style, but the Blues scale is the main staple. You can't go wrong with it, and when you see that there are a limited number of notes you can hit with this scale, you need to focus on being creative with these notes.
All of this is designed to give you, as a beginner to blues piano the start you need to improvise and feel freedom on your right hand on the keys. Hopefully if you follow these simple steps, you'll have some confidence to move onward with your playing.
Enjoy your blues piano playing and hopefully this has given you a great start.