You are on page 1of 28


A Hands-on Course ir
Traditional Blues Pianc:
n David Bennett

Blues Piano
A Hands-on Course in
Traditional Blues Piano
Fentz~ringn Comprehensive
Audio Lesson on CD

Dedicated to Devin Nelson Bischoff

Cover Photo by David Burton

Audio Editor: George James
Mastered by: Ted Orr at
Nevessa Productions, Woodstock, N.Y.

ISBN 0-7935-b257-0

7777 W. B L U E M O U N D RD. P . O . B O X I3819 MILWAUKEE.

W I 53213


BOX 694
WOODSTOCK, NY 12498-0694
All Rights R e S e ~ e d

No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means

without the prior written permission of the Publisher.
Blues Piano

Table of Contents
1 Opening Blues Improv. Solo Number 1
4 2 Introduction 12 24 Solo Number 1
12 25 Variations
Blues Basics 12 26 Ending
3 Blues Explanation 27 Solo Number 1 with Ending
5 4 C Major Scale
5 5 Blues Form: I-N-V Solo Number 2
13 28 Diminished Chord Rhythms
Shuffle Rhythm - Triplets 13 29 Solo Number 2
5 6 Rhythms
5 7 Left Hand Rhythm 9th Chord Rhythm Solo
6 8 Combining Left and Right Hands 30 9th Chord Rhythm Breakdown
6 9 12 Bar Blues Form 14 31 9th Chord Rhythm Solo
7 10 Turnaround
11 12 Bar Blues with Turnaround Blues Scales
32 Blues Scale Explanation
Shuffle Rhythm - Swing 8th'~ 15 33 C Minor Blues Scale
Basic Shuffle Rhythm Pattern 15 12 Bar C Minor Blues
Basic Shuffle Rhythm 16 34 C Minor Blues Scale Solo
Back Beat Accent Explanation 35 Improvisation Ideas
Alternate Shuffle Rhythms
1st Alternate Solo Number 3
2nd Alternate 17 36 Solo Number 3
3rd Alternate 37 Solo Breakdown
4th Alternate
Syncopated Shuffle Rhythms Slow Blues
1st Alternate 17 38 Left Hand Patterns
2nd Alternate 18 39 Slow Blues Verse
3rd Alternate - T h e Quintuplet 40 Bass Pattern Breakdown
4th Alternate - Quintuplet & Triplet
Modular 12 Bar Blues

This book contains music examples and all of the instructional songs from the CD, and are labeled with track icons (*)for the ease
of locating the corresponding tracks. T h e remaining tracks listed here contain detailed explanation and instruction for these songs.
41 Turnaround Breakdown 49 Solo Ideas .
42 Minor Blues Scale Improv. 21 50 Slow Blues -
43 More Minor Blues Scale Improv. Combining the Elements
19 44 Slow Blues Chord Variations 51 Ending Explanation
45 Melodic Ideas 22 52 Tagging the Ending
19 46 Using the Full Blues Scale 53 Wrap-up
20 47 Common Blues Riff 54 Closing Blues Improv.
20 48 Improvisation Ideas 23 Biography
24 A Selected Discography

CD instruction makes it easy! Find the section of the lesson you want with the press of a
finger; play that segment over and over until you've mastered it; easily skip over parts you've
already mastered-no clumsy rewinding or fast-forwarding to find your spot; listen with the best
possible audio fidelity; follow along track-by-track with the book.
T h e goal of this book is to get you started playing blues piano. Toward this end I have begun
with two simple concepts, the shuffle rhythm and the slow blues. I have provided several sim-
ple solos and a scale for improvisation.

Blues is a form of folk music, and a s such, comes from an aural tradition, meaning that the
music is played differently each time it is played. The solos that I have included, although writ-
ten, are only meant a s a starting point. Once you learn the solos, think about changing them.
Don't be concerned so much with improvising the entire verse, but more about changing one
phrase, or even one note, at a time. Also try incorporating the various riffs, or musical phrases,
into your improvising. The idea is to try and build a large "bag of tricks" that you can dip into
whenever you play. Try to think of the "minor blues scale" a s a starting point.

Learning the music is technical. Playing it so that it sounds good is up to your taste, facility
and imagination. Play everything slowly at first. Count your measures. It's more important for
the music to sound good than to put a lot of notes in it, although sometimes a lot of notes will
sound good. The shuffle rhythm, when played correctly, is irresistibly danceable. The slow
blues can be very emotional, covering a wide range of feelings from sadness to determination.
As a result, it can be a real catharsis.

Blues is a wonderful form of music that I've always been drawn to. It somehow touches a fun-
damental need that I seem to have. I'm certainly not alone in this feeling. Blues has and always
will have its dedicated followers. Perhaps it is because blues comes from suffering that it is so
joyful and therefore attractive to so many people.

I strongly urge you to listen to a s much blues piano as you can. Some piano players that I rec-
ommend are Professor Longhair, Otis Spann, Memphis Slim, Tuts Washington, all of the
Pinetops [Smith, Perkins, etc.), Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Barry Goldberg (if you can find some
of his recordings with Michael Bloomfield or Steve Miller), Mark Naftalin (from Paul Butterfield
Blues Band), Corky Siegel. Huey "Piano" Smith. Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the list goes

As a teacher, some students come to me because they feel that they have reached a stalemate.
They just don't seem to be able to play anything new. But everyone reaches plateaus at one
time or another. No matter how much you know, there is always more to learn. It's amazing to
me the number of permutations that can be made with just a few notes.

Only a small percent of improvisational music is going to come from inspiration. Mostly you are
going to have to work at it. The more you play, the more you will learn and the more you will
discover different ways to play the same notes.

Always try to listen to what you are playing. Exercise and develop your taste. If it sounds
good, keep it. If you are playing something wrong, then unlearning it is learning something
new. It doesn't matter whether you are playing at home or a t a gig, every time you play you
are practicing.

So, I guess that the best advice I can give is to keep playing.

David Bennett Cohen

Blues Basics .
0 C Major Scale

Blues Form: I - IV - V
Chords: I

Shuffle Rhythm - Triplets

Example 1 - Shuffle Rhythm (Traditional Blues)

Example 2 - Straight Time Rhythm (Rock 'n'Roll)

count 1 and 2 and 3 and 4 and

0 Left Hand Rhythm

0 Combining Left and Right Hands

9 12 Bar Blues Form

Insert at measure 12
C G7

same as:

Shuffle (n= ~ > j

Shuffle Rhythm - Swing 8th'~

@ Basic Shuffle Rhythm Pattern
Basic Shuffle Rhythm

\I ' I I I I
I I I I " I
w d w
I '
d I
Alternate Shuffle Rhythms
@ 17Alternate @ 2nd Alternate

632 Alternate
@4;h Alternate

4th Alternate 4th Alternate


Syncopated Shuffle Rhythms

@ 1st Alternate @ 2nd Alternate

2nd Alternate (withHarmonic Variation)

@ 3rd Alternate (The Quintuplet)

@ 4th Alternate (Quintuplet & Triplet)

C r; 3

@ Modular 12 Bar Blues

(2 Verses)

Rhythm Figure 1
Left Hand:with Rhythm Figure 1
Solo Number 1
Left Hand: with Rhythm Figure 1, 1st 10 measures

@ Variations
Example 1 - Trill Example 1 - Trill
Insert at measures 2 and 4 Insert at measure 8

@ Example 3 - Ending
Insert a t measure 12
Solo Number 2
@ Diminished Chord Rhythms
Example 1

Example 2 with Trill


@ Solo Number 2

Left Hand: with Rhythm Figure I

@ 9th Chord Rhythm Solo
Left Hand: with Rhythm Figure 1.
1st 10 measures

Insert at measure 12
@ Blues Scales
C Blues Scale F Blues Scale
A *

1 2 b 3 3 4 b 5 5 6 b 7 1 2 b 3 3 4 b 5 5 6 b 7
*Cb is the same note as Bh.

G Blues Scale @ C Minor Blues Scale

12 Bar C Wnor Blues

Left Hand: with Rhythm Figure 1

C 3 3 3
@ C Minor Blues Scale Solo

Shuffle (n=jj;)
Left Hand: with Rhythm Figure 1
- 9 -

Left Hand: with Rhythm Figure 1. 1st I 1 measures

@ Solo Number 3 a

Shuffle (n= j1)

Left Hand: with Rhythm Figure 1. 1st 1 1 measures

Slow Blues
@ Left Hand Patterns
@ Slow Blues Verse
@ Slow Blues Chord V~riations
Example 1 - 7th Chords
Insert for measures 1 through 3
C7 C7

Example 2 - Triplets
Insert for measures 1 through 10

Using the Full Blues Scale

C Blues Scale
@ Common Blues Riff
Example 3
Insert for measures 1 through 5

@ Improvisation Ideas
Example 1
Insert for measure 2

Example 2
Insert for measures 5 & 6

Example 3
Insert for measures 5 & 6
Example 4
Insert for measures 6, 7 & 8

Example 5
Insert for measures 9 & 10

@ Slow Blues - Combining the Elements

Shuffle tn=jj;,
Left Hand: with Rhythm Figure 2,2 times
@ Tagging the Ending
Biography -
"Mr. Cohen isn't the average hippie gone Wall Street. He's also a certijkbly
smokin' barrel-house rhumba boogie-woogiepiano player in the James
Booker/Professor Longhair/Dr. John vein. "

D a v i d Bennett Cohen h a s been a professional musician for more than 25 years. Best known
for his innovative keyboard playing as a n original member of the '60s rock band, Country Joe
and the Fish, he is a n equally accomplished guitar player who has been involved in numerous
music scenes throughout his varied career.

David began his musical education at the age of seven, studying classical piano for seven
years. While studying the piano, he began to teach himself the guitar, beginning a t the age of
nine. When he was 14, he heard boogie-woogie piano for the first time and was hooked. Since
then he h a s explored many different styles of blues and popular music. He was fortunate
enough to have heard Otis Spann,Professor Longhair, Meade Lux Lewis and other masters of
the genre perform live.

W h a t separates Cohenfrom a lot of other players is his unassuming e a s e

behind the keys, and the ability to take that admiration p a s t rote emulation,
invoking the spirits of boogie-woogie, stride and blues piano greats without
everforcing things orjust replicating other folks' licks. "

Over the years, he h a s played and/or recorded with The Blues Project, Mick Taylor, The
Luther Tucker Blues Band. Elvin Bishop, Melvin Van Peebles, Happy and Artie Traum, Arlen
Roth, Eric Andersen, David Blue, Tim Hardin, Norton Buffalo, Jerry Miller (of Moby Grape),
Steve Miller, Jimi Hendrix, Johnnie Winter, John Cippolina, Huey Lewis, Michael Bloomfield,
Bob Weir, J o h n Kahn and others.

As a solo performer, he h a s shared the bill with County Joe McDonald, Kenny Rankin, Bonnie
Raitt, Richard Thompson, Jerry Garcia, Leo Kottke, Rufus Thomas, Meatloaf, Booker T., The
Roaches, Kingfish and many others.

David has recorded two audio teaching tape series (Blues/Rock, Piano and Ragtime Piano) and
a three-video tape series (Blues Piano) for Homespun Tapes. In addition, he h a s released two
guitar instruction albums for Kicking Mule Records.

For the past several years, David has been busy composing, writing songs, teaching piano and
guitar, performing and recording. He plays around the New York area with his own band,
Crawfish Royale, and a Tex-Mex Country band (The Plumbers). Upcoming projects include dual
piano recordings with Tom Constanten (keyboardist with The Grateful Dead from 1967 to 1970,
Relix Records) and two others with Pete Sears (fi-omJefferson Starship) and Howie Wyeth.

'Cohen radiates the 88's impeccably. "

AU quotes from C W New Music Report
A Selected Discography
CountryJoe and the Fish:
Electric Music for the Mind and Body Vanguard Records VRS-9244
I Feel Like I'm Fiuin' to Die Vanguard Records VSD-79266
Together Vanguard Records VSD-79277
Here We Are Again Vanguard Records
Greatest Hits Vanguard Records VSD-6545
Reunion Fantasy Records F-9530

Other Recordings:
Blues Project Capitol Records SMAS-11017
David Bennet Cohen - The Connection Bullseye Records B8442- 1
David Bennet Cohen at the Piano Rag Baby Records RB- 1022
Brian Kramer and the Blues Masters-Win or Lose Monsoon Records FVCC-4862

Instructional Tapes:

Blues/Rock Piano, six audio-tape series Homespun Tapes

Blues/Rock,Piano Practice Tape, one audio tape Homespun Tapes
Ragtime Piano, six audio-tape series Homespun Tapes
Blues Piano, three-video set Homespun Tapes
How to Play Folk Guitar Kicking Mule Records
Rock 'n' Roll Guitar Kicking Mule Records
Sit dawn st the piano and start ta bogie! This easy play-
d q aourse wiIl haw you roekin' and mIlin' in no time-
wen ifyou have never played blues piano before. David
h v i d Bennett *ennett me ~ r o j e c tcomblyj~
, d~
) arts you at tbe begbming, quickly p u h g pou
Fish, e t ~ m
into the elamtary theory n d e d to utzaerstand chord
and tlne 12-barblues fonm.Then it's right into
upasolidlefkhsuldrhphninthebass to -tea
M d for the right hand i m g h t i o n s to come.
David help yaw. to systematidly build
cmwdimdon b e e n left and right W.
Gfter learning a d e t y of shufHe patterns, he
gradwdy adds right hand rh-, accents
and licks until you are inm your o m soloing.
P :
&?# i p -
As he teaches, Dzvid passes on invaluable
idormation an blues scales, turna~unds,
/ I
ending licks, rhythm parts and other elements
which, when put all tagethes, comprise the
d blues sound. - ,. , h - F , ; , 7 -
-, ..
CDlessoh ;&, you'll be
-;: a

By the time this

in major and &or keys, and have a number

of rhythfnic variations in your left hand to ad
drive and pulse to your playing. Most
imprtan*, you'll have the solid basis from
whi& to m on to more comdex and I
dcmmd& techniques in thi;s - fabulous
. l+l. -L 4,.,.

4 PA
h t r i a n musical form. +
' ..

I Emd the d o n of the lesson you want with

the p m of a finger.
Ywczuddp&e you've l m e d 01
play a ~~ s p e n t over and r w c until
you've m a s t e d it;
a hlo rewinding or &st-fo to &d your
FoIlow along tm&-by-tracl with the book,
Listen with the best p l a l e audio fidelity,

I J.S. $19.95