THE MUSICARTA PENTATONICS WORKBOOK
'From the Middle' Blues

Minor pentatonic CPTs, Part Three

A twelve-bar blues version with a  two-up, two-down bass

Part Three of the 'From the Middle' module crafts a twelve-bar blues in A minor from the material, therefore A minor, D minor and E minor, the three all-white key pentatonic scales, with (always) black-key K4/H5 right in the middle of the octave.

Here's your target performance.

As you watch and listen, try to build a picture of the parts and structure of the performance.

Revise the right hand

Recall the three keyboards you'll be using. (Note that the A minor keyboard does not align with the other two.)

Use the video to revise the keyboards and drill the 'from the middle' scale fragments in the blues context.

The bass notes

The bass part uses the 'two above, two below' minor pentatonic scale tones. (This collection in fact accounts for all the pentatonic scale tones, but with the tonic in the middle, rather than at the top or bottom.)

Rehearse the bass part

Add some rhythm and get your four-note and three-note bass figures in time. Count out load and play along.

Here's the MS (= 'manuscript' - written-out music). Use it to understand the counts, even if you're not a great reader.

All bass figures start on "(3) &", but are either four-note, ending on next beat 1, or three-note, ending on "(4) &", i.e. anticipating. Use the slowed down practice segment (MS below) to get your hands used to the two different 'feels'.

Can you snap your fingers on the off-beat like this? Good practice for getting some swing into your playing.

Left and right hands together (1)

Start putting the left and right hands together.

Note: These video sections are quite short so as to encourage you to master one thing at a time. Repeat the sections and be sure you can reproduce the 'trick' reliably before going on.

A fingering 'cheat'

'Sostenuto' (sustained, held-note) touch is highly valued in piano playing. It's 'grown-up', like joined-up writing.

The sustain pedal on your keyboard can help, but sustain pedal sounds out of place in most popular music.

Watch the video for a sustain fingering cheat involving swapping fingers on a held note to prepare the hand for the next note/section, avoiding lifting it off and leaving a longer-than-desirable gap in the sound .

This technique becomes quite automatic after a time.

Note that you can do it in your right hand as well, of course.

Left and right hands together (2)

The next video covers how the two (four-note and three-note) bass figures fit in with the syncopated "1, 2, 3 A's at the top" right hand sections.

It's much more efficient to drop the rhythm and work through difficult sections like these on a piecemeal, 'what goes with what' basis.

Condensed syncopation drill

You should always look for an exercise drill that practices all the difficulties in one go.

The MS is marked up TLR for together/left/right. If you find you're 'throwing yourself at it', slow it right down and insist your hands do the TRL indicated.

If you can play this, you can essentially play the piece!

A bird's-eye view

Here's the "picture of the parts and structure of the performance" referred to at the start of the module. It's all you need to know to put your 'From the Middle Blues' performance together.

This is what the 'musician who can' knows when he/she starts to play the piece – not just the dots!

After the four-bar intro, the next twelve bars are pure 12-bar sequence.

When you really know the piece, you'll be able to hear it playing as you read through this chord sequence-description just as well as if you were playing the video performance.

Here's the performance one last time for you to check your reading.

As always, transitioning between sections is half the work - especially when the left hand bass figures are before the beat. You really have to know where you're going!


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