Jonny May
Quick Tip

Learning Focus
  • Improvisation
  • Practice Tips
Music Style
  • Rock
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There’s something electrifying about playing piano in a rock band, especially when the stage lights are up and it’s your moment to take a solo. In today’s Quick Tip, you too can improvise high-octane rock piano solos that will keep the crowd on their feet. You’ll learn:

  • 1 Classic Rock Progression
  • 2 Left Hand Accompaniments
  • 4 Right Hand Improv Techniques

After today’s lesson, beginner students will be able play a basic rock piano accompaniment and improvise with 8th notes. In addition, intermediate and advanced students will learn to improvise rock piano solos with 16th notes, slides and turns.

Let’s dig in!

Step 1: Rock Accompaniment

To begin, let’s examine the rock piano progression we’ll be using.  Specifically, there are three chords you’ll need to know.

Rock Piano Chord Progression

Did you notice this progression uses a slash chord in which the bass note differs from the root of the chord?  For example, Gm/F indicates a G minor chord with a bass note of F.

Now, let’s play a rock piano accompaniment pattern using these chords. In the example blow, the C7 chord is inverted because it creates smoother voice leading. There are two benefits of good voice leading. Firstly, it is easier to play because the notes are closer together. Secondly, smooth voice leading is more pleasing to the ear.

Beginner Accompaniment

Beginner Rock Piano Accompaniment Left Hand

Intermediate Accompaniment

Intermediate Rock Piano Accompaniment Left Hand

Excellent job! In the next section, we’ll explore how to play rock piano in the right hand. But first, let’s play the left hand along with a backing track. In fact, this lesson comes with 3 backing tracks that appear at the bottom of the page after logging in with your membership. Moreover, you can also transpose the lesson material to any key with our Smart Sheet Music.

Step 2: Right Hand Scale for Rock Piano

In this section, we’ll cover how to play the blues scale, because many classic rock piano solos lean heavily on blues vocabulary. Therefore, it is important to get this scale under your fingers in a few octaves.

G Blues Scale

G Blues Scale

You can certainly improvise awesome single-note melodies with the G Blues Scale. However, harmonized-lines (also called “double-stops”) are more commonly used in rock piano improvisation to create high-energy solos. Therefore, we’ll explore that topic in the next section.

Step 3: Improvising Rock Piano with Grips

Rock pianists will frequently use fixed hand-positions called grips to improvise harmonized-lines from the blues scale. For instance, many rock piano licks feature the root of the scale (G) as a fixed note above an improvised melody. Here are 4 two-note combinations for example:

G Blues Grips

G minor Blues Grip

Great! Now you’re ready to play some classic rock piano licks in the next section.

Step 4: Rock Piano Improv Techniques

Finally, let’s combine steps 2 and 3 to play some classic rock piano licks. The first example uses harmonized 8th notes:

8th Note Rock Piano Improv

8th Note Rock Piano Improv

That sounds great! Be sure to explore this sound further by playing this technique in multiple registers on the piano.

16th Note Rock Piano Improv

16th Note Rock Piano Improv

Awesome! Use this lick when you are ready to build your solo to a climax.

Rock Piano Improv with Slides

Rock Piano with Slides

Slides are often combined with 8th note and 16 note figures to add additional character and texture.

Rock Piano Improv with Turns

Rock Piano Improv with Turns

Turns are another great way to build excitement in your solo.

If you enjoyed this lesson, then you’ll want to check out the following courses for even more rock improv techniques:

Thanks for learning with us today, and we hope to see you again soon.


Blog written by Michael LaDisa / Quick Tip by Jonny May

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