The Ray Charles 12-Bar Blues Piano Lick – Piano Lesson
Today’s lesson is on a Ray Charles blues progression from the song What I’d Say. This song features a lot of really cool stuff, we’ve got a sweet bass line in the left hand. We got some cool kind of pulsing chord movements in the right, and then we’ve got an awesome little (blues piano music) lick that caps off the whole thing. So we’re gonna look at each part of those. So let’s start at the beginning with that bass line. The bass line’s really simple. It consists of, again it’s this 12-bar pattern. It’s in the key of E. (piano chord) So that means we have three chords to work with. We got an E chord.
(piano note) We got an A. (piano note) And we got a B. (piano note) So that the one, four, five, and the progression of notes is this. (blues piano music) So that’s the pattern, it’s gonna be the same interval jumps regardless of what note you’re on. So the interval jumps are, we have a one. Then we got two fives. (piano notes) And then we have a seven. (piano note) And then we have a octave. (piano note) So one, five, five, seven, octave. (blues piano music) So that same pattern takes its way up a fourth jump to the A. (blues piano music) Back to E. (blues piano music) Then to B. (blues piano music) Then to A. (blues piano music) And then jumps back down to E. (blues piano music) So here’s that whole progression in the left hand from top to bottom. (blues piano music) All right so that’s a super cool sounding versatile bass line.
You hear that kind of thing in a lot of piano music. It’s a great way to just anchor your rhythm in the left hand. Things get a little more complicated when we get the right hand in. It’s kind of this weird polyrhythmic pulse thing. So I’m gonna go really really slow with the left and the right to show what notes line up with what and what notes kind of push, push the other hands sort of in a slightly offset way. Here it is really really slow, this pattern. (slow piano music) So it’s kinda this little hop, skip, jump thing. But the way that I like to think about this is what chord notes are lining up with what bass line notes? So first of all the right hand is playing basically an E triad.
(piano note) This is an E triad in second inversion, so here’s your root position. (piano notes) So that’s our main kind of home base shape here. But it’s an E seven chord that we wanna be implying, so that means we also want to be (piano notes) working with this D note here. If you look back at this bass line it goes (slow piano music) so we play this (piano note) E in the bass all by itself. And then we play (piano note) the first of our B with the triad on top. (slow piano music) And then we kind of mimic in both our hands we mimic this (piano music) B jump, so watch this really slowly. (slow piano music) So notice how (slow piano music) I’m keeping in mind that both hands use (piano music) those two notes at the same time, ’cause that kind of gives your mind a break from that hand independence where you’re having to put one hand in front of the other, because after these two notes (piano notes) this E chord is gonna hit (piano chord) before the octave baseline hits.
So listen for that. (blues piano music) So notice how I’m kinda popping this (piano note) before this hits. (blues piano music) So kind of a weird sensation to get your hands under. It’s one of those things where if you take it really slow and kind of guide it the way I’m teaching it here, before long you’ll just sort of get this pulse in your hands and then you’ll all of a sudden, you won’t even really be thinking about it. I find I make the mistakes when I’m thinking too much about what the pattern is, versus just kind of feeling it out and trusting that you’ve done the practice work. So that’s the general pattern. That pattern lasts throughout the whole progression. So when you take the progression up to the four chord (piano chords) your shape in the right hand’s gonna change a little bit to reflect that. So it’s gonna go from this E seven shape (piano notes) and now it’s gonna play these notes, kind of making an A nine chord.
(piano notes) So that consists of notes B, C sharp, E, and G. (piano notes) And (piano notes) so that is how that shape is reflected in the four chord. (piano music) There it is. (piano music) And then we get this five chord that uses that sweet lick. (piano music) So I’m gonna break down what that lick is, because when I learned to play this way, totally changed my life on the piano. So (piano notes) our five chord is just a C, or pardon me, a B seven chord. (piano chord) So that consists in the right hand here I’m playing D, I’m playing D sharp and I’m playing A. (piano notes) And then that riff is based on the E pentatonic scale.
So here it is really slow. (slow piano music) So again, even slower. (slow piano music) So it all kind of hinges on these (piano notes) on the A and the B note. So it sorta starts on A, (piano note) and then we do this really awesome thing that I encourage you all to really practice and listen out for. It does this sort of grace note, which is like this slide between the A and B, using this B flat. So rather than going (piano notes) rather than kind of like jumping around from the keys, you kind of slide up.
It’s like almost a piano version of bending a note. (piano notes) So all I’m doing is I have my pointer finger and my middle finger here. I’m kind of landing on my pointer finger and then slipping my middle finger from this B flat to the B natural. (piano notes) So (piano music) So yeah I’m (piano note) doing that quick little lick there and then I’m moving up to play my D and E.
(piano notes) So that’s D, E, and then I’m using again this little slippy technique here from the B flat to the A. (piano note) G, E, D. So from the five chord here. (piano music) Then to the one. (piano music) Right, so that sounds pretty awesome. It’s a really distinctive riff. Ray Charles uses it but you can use it too. It’s just using that pentatonic scale, very very common. Again, this is just a 12 bar blues. This is a great song to use to learn how to work with chord shapes in the blues progression and work with kind of this rock feel and the bass line there. So I’m gonna play this whole progression one more time and listen out for that polyrhythmic pattern in both hands and then check out that riff.
(blues piano music) All right so have fun practicing that. It’s a little challenging. Just start off with that bass line. That bass line enough will get you going, feeling comfortable and confident. And then slowly, really slowly combine both your hands together. Maybe work on that riff as a separate thing to get that technique down too. That’s it for this lesson. If you wanna learn anything more about the piano, check us out at pianote.com. We’ll see you later. (piano music).
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