THE MUSICARTA BLUES PIANO SERIES

Two-Handed Boogie Styles

A good two-handed boogie is a guaranteed foot-tapper and an indispensable building block in anybody's popular music keyboard styles repertoire. If you've worked through Musicarta's 'Moving Pair' series of blues piano lessons as far as Module Seven, you're almost there.

Here's the riff you'll build up to in this module.

    Orientation

This module follows on from Module Seven, Supplement B of Musicarta's 'Moving Pair' series of blues piano lessons. Please feel free to explore, but to get the most out of this module, you probably need to have worked through the series from the beginning. Click through here to the start of the series.

Musicarta Blues Piano modules have MIDI support. You can download MIDI files of the musical examples and play them on the free MidiPiano application. This is highly recommended and will definitely speed up your progress. Learn more at the Musicarta MidiPiano page.


    Revise the left hand foundation

Once you can play left hand solo 12-bar accompaniments, you will be keen to go two-handed by adding some right hand material. This is difficult if you've never done it before and requires persistence on your part.

We will be working initially with the 'two position only' straight eight boogie bass you learned in the Musicarta Moving Pair series Module Seven, Supplement B:

12bar_THB_M01

Make sure you can play the left hand confidently right through this chord sequence:

blues piano

Revisit the originating module to revise and revive your performance, if necessary.

    Adding right hand material

Your first step is to make sure you can lay down a steady left hand and then play, say, just one note in the right hand on the beat without the left hand stopping or faltering. The root (the name-note of the chord in the chord sequence) is always a safe bet. Make it an octave if you can, but a single note's fine.

Use the most basic version of the left hand, for now.('Back to basics' is the golden rule when it comes to building up a difficult two-handed performance.)

Practice in just the G position until you get the hand patterning right. Make sure you can hear where the right hand patterns change – watch the MIDI clip on MidiPiano, where you can slow it down for practicing as well.

Add more right hand notes as you get comfortable. Make some of them off-the-beat if you can. Don't be surprised if it all 'falls apart' the minute you try – this is quite normal!

12bar_THB_M02

This sounds a little 'thumpy', but it's still a very basic version. Developments will lighten it up soon.

    A full two-handed twelve-bar chorus

You can make a whole 12-bar out of this material. Here's an example.

12bar_THB_M03

You play right hand note(s) G for both the G and C chords, and note A for the D chord. The chord sequence is still the same:

blues piano

This is a 'short' 12-bar – the notes have doubled in time value. The chord sequence ends D D G G, not D C G G.

    Optional left hand development

You can easily lighten things up by reintroducing some left hand off-the-beat anticipation.

12bar_THB_M04

You can move on to playing a 'three positions' left hand, with or without the anticipation.

12bar_THB_M05

    Developing the right hand

Develop the right hand with a little 'introductory' figure. Run up to the main right hand beat using notes D and E. The performance file demonstrates good 'build-up practice' – it goes back to two left hand positions only, no anticipation, single right hand notes (no octaves), and builds up, chorus by chorus, from there.

Practice each chorus before going on to the next development. The 'E' run-up note creeps into the riff a second time – listen out for it and copy.

12bar_THB_M06

    Together, right, left analysis

When things get two-handed and complicated like this, it's fine to just try and try and see if you can break through and do it. But if you find that you're not succeeding and getting discouraged, you need to slow right down and pick the music apart to see exactly what you're supposed to be doing, note by note.

In Musicarta, we call this 'Together, left, right analysis' (TLR analysis). What notes come together? When does only the left hand or only the right hand play?

Here's the MidiPiano 'Piano Roll' view of the part of the module riff with both the right hand run-up and left hand anticipation.

blues piano

You might not be comfortable with this kind of 'micro-analysis', but the diagram is really only a picture of how closely you should be listening. A few minutes spent listening-and-thinking like this can save you hours of frustration, and even prevent you giving up altogether and never getting it.

This shows yet again how useful MidiPiano is as a study aid.

    Going on from here

Expand your repertoire of riffs by working through the audio challenges in the Moving Pair series Module Seven, Supplement B (if you haven't already done them all). All of these have sample two-handed 12-bar riffs you can sharpen your skills on. Every little helps – in 12-bar music especially, everything is a bit (or a lot!) like something else.

Play along with the greats. Once you can play the riffs in this module, dozens of early rock'n'roll songs are well within your reach, especially if you have been practising transposing your 12-bar riffs into other keys, as explained in the 'Playing in other keys' section of the Moving Pair riff Module Seven Supplement B.

Early rock'n'roll music is easily to find. Get a rock'n'roll compilation or 'Greatest Hits' CD and see if you can play along. Find the key of the song by playing this module's build up MIDI file (12bar_THB_M02) on MidiPiano at the same time as the CD track plays. Play around with the MidiPiano 'Key' up and down buttons (as explained in Module Seven (B) 'Playing in other keys' section) until you find the home chord – usually the first and last chord in a song. Learn some basic riffs in that key (using MidiPiano), match the rhythm of the CD track – and you're away!

Finally, stay up to date will ongoing module roll-outs of Musicarta blues and boogie piano material by bookmarking the Musicarta blog page and checking in regularly, or get the Musicarta RSS feed (subscribe here or use the orange RSS button below the navbar, top left) for no-hassle updates. (Not sure about RSS? Click here for a short explanation.)

Thanks for visiting Musicarta.com! Come again soon!



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