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Pentatonic Rock
Are you one of those people who is spending hundreds of dollars on lesson
and yet seem to be getting nowhere. Yet you see your  musically uneducated
peers already out there with rocking with a band. Chances are your teacher
kept you reading music, while somebody showed them the minor pentatonic
scale. Pentatonic Rock is in the key of A major but the whole melody is made
up of notes from the five note A minor pentatonic scale: a, c, d, e, g. Even
though c and g are sharped in the key of A major and we do sharp them in the
back up chords, we play them natural in the melody. Notes from the  A minor
pentatonic scale can be played over every chord. As you play the chords with
your left hand, you can play the notes in many different combinations over
them. Some combinations will sound better than others but, as long as you stick
to these five notes, you can't make a bad sound. We will learn how to use
pentatonic scales in this lesson. The free midi song will play once. Click on the
player below to hear it again.
Rock And Roll
The music we call rock and roll became a major national force in the fifties. But we have
to realize that the roots of this music existed long before in the black community. It
existed first in the blues and later in rhythm and blues. Before the fifties, this type of
music would occasionally  break into the white culture as boggie woggie or blues type
arrangements. Every big band had their blues numbers. Rock and roll can have different
types of chord formulas. By the way musicians don't call them chord formulas, they call
them chord progressions and often just changes. The first one that we will look at, the
most common, follows the twelve bar blues progression. Many of the songs in this lesson
are not solo pieces. They are meant to be played by a rock band.
The Blues Progression
The first thing we notice about the blues progression is that it has a twelve bar verse not
an eight bar verse, that repeats over and over. It usually uses three chords but can have
just two. The chords are based on the first, fourth, and fifth degree of the scale like a
standard song. The big difference is that every chord can be altered from the major  to a
dominant 7th chord and the two main chords are the first and fourth instead of the first
and the fifth. In it's simplest form the V7 can be left out entirely. That is what we have with
the midi sample below of "Simple Rock". As you can hear the rhythm is fairly complex. But
the song is simple because it only uses the I and IV7 chords. "Rocking A" Changes all
chords to 7th chords and uses I7, IV7 and V7. Listen to the midi sample below. See if you
can hear the difference in the chords between these two songs. For our first discussion
of rock chords for piano go to
Piano Rock Chords.
Simple Rock
A Rock
The Blues Sound
The major feature of the blues sound is it's dissonance. Dissonance in music means a
clashing non-harmonious sound. The history of music starts out with very harmonious
music but we became bored with that and began to value dissonance as more
interesting. When we play 1-3-5 chords, with the notes a third apart, The sound is very
harmonious. Major seventh jazz chords have a 7th note that is a half step away from the
root note. The dominant seventh chords used in blues and rock have a 7th note that is a
whole step away from the root note. Both create a more dissonant sound but we will only
be concerned with the dominant 7th sound in this lesson. In blues many of the notes can
be flatted from the normal scale notes. Lets start with blues in the key of A major. If we
look at the A major key signature and the A major keyboard below, we see that the key of
A major has the c, f, and g sharped. When we make the tonic chord A 7th instead of A
major 7th, the g sharp is flatted to g natural.  When we make the IV chord D 7th instead
of D major 7th, the c sharp is flatted to c natural. The V chord belongs to the key as E
7th. Only the f stays sharped. We can also keep the c sharp as the third of the A chord
and the g sharp as the third of the E chord, even while we play them natural in the
melody. This creates a lot's of dissonance or as some would say interesting sound.
Explore dissonance and harmony for your self. On your piano or keyboard play two
notes at the same time a third  or more apart. Then play two notes at the same time a  
notes a half or whole step apart  Notice the difference in the sound.
A Major Key Signature
Rock And Blues Scales
A single blues song or a rock song that uses the blues progression uses a lot more
notes than just those seven notes that belong to it's key. As a matter of fact it can use
almost all of the twelve tones that music gives us to work with. But it uses these tones in
smaller groups. Each of these groupings gives a special rock or blues sound. The group  
that you hear in the song "Pentatonic Rock" is the pentatonic minor scale. It's a five note
scale that can be played over every chord in the blues pattern. That's why rockers like it.
Learn those five notes for any key and while some sequences will sound better than
others, you can't play a wrong notes. "Simple Rock" and "Shuffle Beat Blues" use major
pentatonic and dominant  seventh chord scales that change with the chord. "A Rock"
mixes all of these scales. "Repetition Rock" uses only three notes of each chord
changing with the chord, the root, fifth and seventh.  
The Rhythm Of Rock And Blues
Most of the rock music of today is even eight notes and sixteenth notes with a lot of
syncopation. The basic beat is even. "Rocking A", "Repetition Rock" and "Pentatonic
Rock" are even note songs. In contrast, blues, rhythm and blues and early rock had a
shuffle beat rhythm. As you know the shuffle rhythm is an eight note triplet with the first
two notes tied together. Ordinary untied triplets were also common, especially in the
melody. 'Shuffle Beat Blues" is an example of a song with the shuffle beat rhythm. A well
rounded musician can play in either style. Most of the giants of rock have both styles on
their albums. It was the British rockers that reintroduced America to their blues roots.
Click on the sound sample below to listen to "Shuffle Beat Blues". Notice the very
different rhythmic feeling compared to our other rock song examples.
Shuffle Beat Blues
Learning The Songs
As you've probably noticed the songs on this page are not meant to be played by
one instrument. They are band arrangements. So we will be studying how to play
the different parts on the different instruments. We are starting with the piano or
keyboard. You are not going to just learn how to play the parts as I've written them.
I'm going to give you the building blocks to make your own band arrangements and
even write your own songs. Go to
Piano Rock Chords  to get started with rhythm
piano. We will eventually cover every instrument in the band including the guitar,
bass and drums.
©2004 - 2005
Rock And Blues
Using The Lessons
People that come to these pages through search engines enter on different pages. I
would recommend that to get the full benefit of these music lessons, especially if you are
a beginner,  you visit every page at least once. This is a totally new approach to learning
music. The focus is on "
How Music Works". There is a lot of motivating discussion and
explanation of why you need to learn certain things, with the goal of getting you to
become a real musician as quickly as possible. There's a lot of good pieces here but you
need the whole picture for maximum success.
Learn to play songs by and in the in the style of
the popular artist of today and yesterday. I am
recommending two piano methods with different
approaches. The first has the typical beginner,
intermediate, and advanced lessons. The second
takes a very strong chord approach and is ideal
for singer song writers. Both have hundreds of
video and sound files. But since each cost about
the same or less than a  single private lessons,
you might want to get them both.
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