In this article we'll be featuring some piano licks from "Jessica" by the Allman Brothers, one of the greatest rock piano tunes - and rock piano solos - of all-time. One of the things that makes this solo so popular and copied by piano players is simply the way it sounds - it's got that classic, bluesy-rock sound and feel. Why is that? What gives this solo that particular sound? Is there something specific (a scale, a lick, a rhythmic figure, a chord structure) that Chuck Leavell (the pianist on the recording) was thinking about when he was playing? We'll answer all of those questions here and get you on your way to learning this famous solo.
First things first - check out the original recording and piano solo here.
The groove is really the first place to start because the underlying groove is not only the foundation of the whole song, but a big part of the piano solo, too. In fact, your left hand will be outlining the groove while the right hand plays the solo.
Here's the original groove which is first heard at the intro to the song:
One of the great things about rock music is that the chords are often fairly simple, so it's the rhythmic intensity of the song that creates the energy. Such is the case in "Jessica" as well. The chords during the piano solo are quite simple and there are only two - A major and D major (often played as a slash chord, D/A, with D major being played over an A in the bass).
So what was Chuck Leavell thinking about, musically, when he played this solo. Well, in a nutshell, he was thinking about the A pentatonic scale mostly, as well as a little bit of the F# minor blues scale (which in this case is sometimes referred to as the "A major blues scale").
Most of the solo is based off the 5 notes of the A major pentatonic scale:
The pentatonic scale is a must-know scale for rock soloing, so practice playing it in a bunch of other keys in order to become more familiar with it.
The F# minor blues scale can be used because, as the relative minor to A major, it shares most of the notes in common with the pentatonic scale above, with the addition of one extra "bluesy" note - the C natural. This scale is sometimes referred to as the major blues scale:
Ok, as promised let's get to a couple of these great licks from the piano solo. If you're interested in learning a bunch MORE licks from this great solo, be sure to check out our complete video lesson on this topic.
Here's the first lick:
Notice that it's almost entirely based on the notes from the A pentatonic scale (with the only exceptions being the brief use of D# and D-natural).
Here's the second, also almost entirely based on the A pentatonic scale: