A One-octave Pentatonic Blues

Part Four: Harmonic and Rhythmic Variation

So far in this module you've learned

  • to count and play the all-white-key minor pentatonic scale (in three places)
  • to play the One-octave Pentatonic Minor Blues (module riff), and
  • to dress up the right hand melodic line with various 'ornaments'.

Now to get creative! We’re going to play our pentatonic blues material all over the keyboard, rearrange the bits, play it with different hands and generally ‘rough it up’.

Because here at Musicarta, we don’t just want to copy a riff and play it, we want it to be a springboard into creativity – and the pentatonic scales are just perfect for that.

We start off with playing our blues in Em rather than Am – fairly simple since it’ll still all be white-key. Then we play a true 12-bar version with an E minor pentatonic scale in it (you'll hear the difference). After that we revert to A minor for a two-handed version, and finally we go for some serious syncopation in what I call the ‘Bells’ versions.

The One-octave Blues in E minor

The hands play exactly the same pattern of keys but starting a fourth lower - in E minor.

Here's a video showing a practice-speed performance on MidiPiano in piano-roll view. The two pentatonic keyboard diagrams you need are shown in the video.

Here's the chord sequence - but remember that the right hand stays in E minor pentatonic (now! - was A minor before) for all of the last line. Only the left hand plays the Bm ('dut-de-doo').

Now here's an up-to-speed performance.

A true 12-bar version

Now we’re going to play a ‘true’ twelve bar version of the riff. The difference is in the last third, which in a straight-down-the-line twelve-bar chord sequence would have a bar of E (two bars here in fact), then in D, then back in A to finish.

You’ll hear how familiar it sounds.

Some people who’ve learned this riff with me have wanted to go up the Em pattern and down the Dm pattern feel free to experiment – and to put as much decoration in the right hand as you like.

There's a practice-speed run-through of the new last line before the performance proper.

A two-handed version

Now for the two-handed version. This was the original in fact, but it’s useful because you’ll be playing the same sounds with different hands.

This is the kind of repetition that will help you become a musician who looks at the keyboard and knows what the notes are going to sound like.

Here's the preparation.

Here's the performance video.

The 'Bells' versions

Now on to rhythmic development – a syncopated version with left hand pre-shadowing the right. Quite demanding.

The left hand learns tune too – useful because bass lines are often pentatonic, particularly in 12-bar styles.

There's a three-stage preparation here for you too catch your breath between rounds. Remember, the right hand is on the beat.

Bells Version 1 performance

The left hand 'dut-de-doos' in the bass here are not quite the same in the build-up. (That’s pentatonic riffing for you – they do rather tend to mutate every time you play them.)

There’s also an ending tacked on, for you to copy.

Bells Version 2 performance

Finally here’s another rhythmic variation in the dut-de-doos. (I didn’t like the intro here, so it’s been shaved off.)

The ending’s like Bells One, but not quite the same – more mutation! As with all these variations, don’t be surprised if an alternative presents itself to you as you’re trying – listen out for them, and go with it!

Thanks for visiting MUSICARTA! Come again soon!


The Pentatonic Scales
Practice Patterns
Melody Work and
Playing by Ear
Pentatonic Riffs
and Diaries -
Minor Pentatonic
Major Pentatonic
Chromatic Minor
Chromatic Major
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Pentatonics videos

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