Start playing Blues Piano with this Beginner’s Guide

Learning blues piano can be challenging and fun. This guide will help you start in this soulful genre, whether you’re a total beginner or have some musical knowledge. Here’s how to start playing blues piano, broken down into manageable steps to ensure you build a strong foundation.

1. Understand the Blues Structure

Blues music has a distinctive structure, often based on the 12-bar blues form. This is a repetitive chord progression that creates a framework for the songs. Understanding this structure is crucial because it serves as the basis for most blues music. It also helps you recognize when the chords change and understand how the song progresses.

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The blues form usually consists of 12 measures, but that can change! Sometimes, players might play a 14-bar, 10-bar or other length form to create their own signature style.

In the blues form above, we are using 12 measures and ending with the V7 chord in the last measure.

2. Learn Basic Blues Chords

Begin with the basic blues chords, focusing on dominant seventh chords which are fundamental in blues music. In the key of C, for example, you would primarily use C7, F7, and G7. Begin by learning basic chord shapes called chord shells, which consist of the root, third, and seventh notes. This will help you get familiar with their sound and feel.

Here are three basic chords that you need to learn for a C blues:

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3. Master the Blues Rhythm

Blues piano isn’t just about the notes you play, but also how you play them. The rhythm in blues often swings, which means instead of playing straight eighth notes, you’ll give them a triplet feel. This swung rhythm is key to getting the right blues sound and will help your playing sound more authentic.

4. Dive Into Blues Scales

Two scales that are essential for playing blues are the blues scale and the minor pentatonic scale. Musicians use these scales to create melodies and solos over the 12-bar blues progression. Start with the C blues scale (C, E♭, F, F♯, G, B♭, C) and practice it until you can play it comfortably up and down the keyboard.

Here are two scales that you should know for the blues, the C Blues Scale and the C Minor Pentatonic scale.


5. Practice Simple Accompaniments

Once you have the scales under your fingers, begin practicing simple accompaniments. This involves playing a consistent rhythmic pattern that supports the melodies or solos you or others might play. A basic accompaniment might involve playing chords on the first and third beats of each measure.

6. Explore Syncopation

As you become more comfortable, start bringing syncopation into your playing. This involves emphasizing unexpected beats and is a great way to add interest to your playing. A fundamental aspect of blues and jazz music gives it that distinctively catchy and dynamic feel.

7. Try Advanced Techniques

Once you’re ready, you can explore more advanced techniques like tritone substitutions. This involves replacing a chord with another chord that is a tritone away. This technique enhances the sound of your playing and can make a basic blues progression sound more complex.

8. Start Improvising

Finally, use the scales and chords you’ve learned to start creating your own blues piano solo. Learning to solo is important for blues piano players. It lets you show your feelings and how you see the music. Start with easy melodies and as you feel more comfortable, try adding in harder rhythms and quicker note patterns.

Combining It All

Put all these elements together to play complete pieces. Practice regularly, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes—it’s all part of the learning process. To get better at music, listen to different blues songs and play along with them. This will help improve your ear and timing.

Learning blues piano is a rewarding process that opens the door to a rich musical tradition. Keep practicing, stay patient, and over time, you’ll find yourself playing with more fluency and soul. Visit JazzEdge Academy for lessons and resources. Success comes from practicing consistently and enjoying your musical journey.

To begin playing blues piano, sit at the piano, play blues scales, and let your fingers groove. Starting your blues piano journey is easy. Enjoy the process and watch as your skills and love for blues piano grow!

Check out our mini lesson: How To Play Blues Piano (For Beginners)

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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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