Blues piano licks and riffs

In this article, I am going to show you two different Blues piano shuffle licks & riffs that are fun and easy to play. Make sure you click on each sound file to hear the lick played.

Do you like the sound of the Blues? So do I. That’s why I created the new Play Blues Piano Series.

Blues Piano Lick #1

Before trying to read this lick, make sure that you listen to the audio file (right below the lick) to hear how it should sound. Even though the lick and left-hand are written out as eighth notes, they are really played with a triplet feel. It is common to write swung eighth notes as “regular” eighth notes rather than triplets. Take a look at example 1.

Ex. 1

blues piano triplet feel

Do you see how much more difficult it is to read example 1 than lick #1?

It’s unnecessary most of the time to write swung eighth notes like this. Instead, just notate that the eighth notes should be swung by using a style marking.

In the case of example 2, the style marking is Medium Shuffle. Well, medium is going to be right around 120bpm and shuffle means that the rhythm is a shuffle, triplet feel. BUT, notice how much easier it is to read lick #1?

I also want you to notice the tiny F# in the beginning of the lick. This is called a grace note. It should be played quickly and usually with the same finger of the note that you are going to. So the next note is G, played with your middle finger, so use your 3rd finger on the grace note.

Lick #1

Medium Shuffle
Blues piano licks #2

Listen to the lick


Blues Piano Lick #2

Lick #2 is a C minor pentatonic scale played in triplets. However, there is something interesting about how this lick is formed (besides just being triplets). Let’s start by just taking a quick peek at lick #2 and listening to it.

Lick #2

Medium Shuffle
Blues piano licks #2

Listen to the lick

Alright, so you hear the triplets right? But did you hear how the triplets were divided into four note groupings? In example 2, I’ve separated the groupings with boxes. This is creates a very cool sound because it’s triplets, but it’s triplets accenting a note other than the first triplet. The “top” note of each four-note grouping will produce a natural accent. Notice how the accent is on the first triplet in beat one, the second triplet in beat two and the third triplet in beat three? This is an example of phrasing a rhythm.

Example #2

Blues piano licks #2

Remember, even though the left hand is written as eighth notes, they are still played with a triplet feel. This means the first eighth note will “line up” with the first triplet and the second eighth note will line up with the THIRD triplet, NOT the second triplet. See example 3.

Example #3

Blues piano licks #2


Suggested Lesson : 15 Blues Licks

author avatar
Willie President
Willie Myette is a pianist, serial entrepreneur and author of over a dozen books on piano and music education. He received a scholarship to Berklee College of Music and graduated in under 4 years. Willie is the creator and president of online piano instruction sites Jazzedge® Academy, Jazz Piano Lessons and HomeSchool Piano.

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