In this article we'll take a look at some great rock piano exercises that you can use in your practice sessions. These days the term "rock" can encompass a large variety of musical styles - pop-rock, blues-rock, jazz-rock, hard-rock, soft-rock, etc. As rock pianists (and pianists in general) we want to be versatile and have some ways to improve our playing in these areas. The exercises presented below are just a few ways that you can target specific aspects of rock piano playing. Try sprinkling these exercises into your practice sessions. Don't feel like you have to go through these exercises in any order. Start with whichever exercise is most interesting to you. And remember to use your metronome!
Quite often in blues-rock piano playing, the pianist can double the bass player (meaning play the same bass line as the bass player). The exercise below has you play a bass line with your left hand that outlines the chord tones of the 3 basic chords of the blues form, all in eighth notes. Remember to play this exercise with a shuffle feel (as would be appropriate in a blues-rock groove). Once you've mastered the left hand, try using a simple repetitive comping rhythm in your right hand.
In rock music pianists will see a variety of chords and chord symbols. One chord that is often encountered is the "sus4" chord. This chord frequently gives students a bit of confusion so we'll show you an exercise for practicing all of your sus4 chords in a cycle of fourths. First of all, the term "sus4" refers to a "suspended 4th," which means that in a sus4 chord, the 4th takes the place of (or "suspends" the resolution to) the 3rd of the chord. In other words, the chord tones in a sus4 chord are the root, 4th, and 5th (and the 7th if it's a dominant 7 sus4 chord). The 3rd is not a chord tone in a sus4 chord. However, sus4 chords often resolve to the major triad (i.e., root, 3rd, 5th). This is an exercise that you can practice that moves through all 12 keys with the sus4 chord resolving to the major chord. It also uses constantly shifting inversions, so you'll encounter a variety of ways to play sus4 chords (as well as major triads).
While jazz music tends to be very harmonically adventurous, moving to various keys and tonal centers, rock music generally stays in a single key for most of the song. Because of this it is very important to know all of your diatonic chords and their inversions. "Diatonic chords" refers to the chords which can be built starting on each individual note of a scale. This exercise gets you to play through all of the diatonic chords in a given key. The exercise below is in the key of C, but be sure to play this exercise in a variety of keys.