Back to Rock And Blues
Simple Rock Music
Rhythm Piano
We are going to learn how to back up rock and blues songs on keyboard or piano. We are
going to learn to play the chords with both the left and right hands. The piano is a percussive
instrument. If you are banging things out with either hand,  you can think of yourself to some
extent as a drummer working with a pair of drum sticks. Listen to the singer songwriters who
back themselves up on piano and you will hear how it is as much a rhythm as a melodic
instrument. In this lesson will we will be focusing on this aspect of piano playing. What I will be
giving you here are building blocks and some examples of how to use them. You have to
learn to use these building blocks to create your own music. A common feature of blues, jazz
and rock is that it shifts the emphasis from the  normally strong 1st and 2nd beat to the
weaker 3rd and 4th beat. Listen to any rock song or our examples and you will hear this. As
you go through these exercises, you will learn how to do this
Chord Inversions
In Harmony And Chords, we introduced chords and the concept of chord inversion. When we
have the note that is the name of the chord on the bottom, it is in the root position. With any
other note on the bottom, it's an inversion. As you learned, one reason we use an inversion is
to keep from jumping around the key board as we change chords. When we are using the
automatic accompaniment feature of the 61 key portable keyboard, we have another reason.
The accompaniment section is usually one octave of C plus d.e f on top. You have to have all
the notes of a chord inside this range for it to work. Inversions do work, so for different keys
you need different inversions to stay within the range. There are also other reasons to use
chord inversion that we will explore later.
Simple Rock
I wrote "Simple Rock"  to show you the simplest chord progression that you can have in a 12
bar rock song. It's going to be our first example song to learn how to play backup piano for a
group and/or singer. Using our left and right hands like a drummer uses a pair of drum sticks,
we are going to learn to bang out rock accompaniment for it on our piano or keyboard. I will
give you some examples and building blocks. But you will also want to create your own. The
lead sheet below gives you the melody lyrics and chords. If you need to look at anything as
you play the various backup patterns, this is all you should need. Below the lead sheet I have
given you two midi sound samples. The first is a full arrangement. The second is the melody as
played on the lead sheet. You should  also learn to sing the melody as you back it up with the
chords. If you don't like my lyrics make up your own. For those who want to see the music to all
the examples in this lesson go to
Simple Rock Music .  
Simple Rock lead sheet
Simple Rock
Simple Rock Lead
Backing the Song
Below are some rhythm patterns and sets of chords for backing our simple rock arrangement,
using the right and left hands.  As every three note chord can be played in three positions and
every four note chord can be played in four positions, there are many chord combinations that
we could use. I have chosen sets that allow you to change chords by just moving a few fingers
instead of having to jump around the keyboard. There is nothing wrong with changing
positions and jumping around the keyboard, but starting out it's easier to stay in one spot. I've
given you what I feel are the best fingerings for the chords but feel free to experiment. We are
going to start with a simple rhythm and build to the more complex.  I'm not using music for the
chords to show you how to play them. With the piano picture chords and the text form for the
chord progression below, you have almost all you need. Music would tell you where to play the
chords in relation to middle c, so without music, I'll just tell you. Notice that on the picture 7th
chords, a note is in parentheses. That is because for a 7th chord you can leave out the fifth.
You can even leave it out, when selecting chords in the auto accompaniment section of a
portable keyboard.
Chord Set One
Chord set one for the left hand has the I and I7 in root position. The root or letter name of the
chord is on the bottom. It has the IV7 chord is in it's 2nd position. The fifth of the chord is on
the bottom. For locating the chords on the keyboard, the c in the right hand chords is middle c
and the c in the left hand chords is an octave below that. This is not the best set of chords to
use for backup. First you will find the fingerings are a little awkward, even when you leave out
the fifth on the 7th chords. Second some of the left hand chord notes fall outside of the auto
accompaniment range of most portable keyboard, so auto chords won't be triggered.
Left Hand Chords Set One
For Simple Rock
A piano chord root position left hand
A7 piano chord root position left hand
D7 piano chord second inversion left hand
A Root
A7 Root
D7 2nd
Right Hand Chords For
Simple Rock
A piano chord root position right hand
A7 piano chord root inversion right hand
A Root
A7 Root
D7 2nd
Chord Set Two
Here is chord set two for the left hand. Notice how we are starting out with the root position of
the A chord but I've changed the fingering. Now when we change to A7, we just have to hold
down the 7th note g below the root note. This is the first Inversion of A7. Then we play the  D7
in it's the third inversion. This puts the third of the chord on the bottom. Remember we can
leave the fifth of the 7th chords out. It will sound okay and even trigger the auto chord on a
portable keyboard. All of the left hand chord notes fall within the auto chord section of most
portable keyboards. I think you will find this second set of left hand chords easier to finger,
especially if you leave out the 5th on the D7 chord. This is the one that I recommend you use.
Practice until you can change between the chords smoothly.
Left Hand Chords Set Two
For Simple Rock
A piano chord root position left hand
A7 piano chord first inversion left hand
D7 piano chord 3rd inversion left hand chord
A Root
A7 1st
D7 3rd
On the right, you have a text system for
representing the chord progression of "Simple
Rock". We are starting by playing one chord
per beat alternating left and right hands. The
numbers represent the quarter note beats.
When a new chord starts we replace the
number 1 with the letter name of that chord.
The L and R of course just show that we are
alternating left and right hands. Notice how I've
indicated 1st and 2nd endings. Practice
playing the pattern using the picture chords
above. I've given you a midi sample with lead
to hear how it sounds. Notice how the right
hand on the 2nd and 4th beat is louder than
the left hand, shifting the strong accent from 1
& 2 to 3 & 4 to give us the rock feeling
A, 2,3,4;   1,2,3,4;   1,2,3,4;   A7,2,3,4;
L  R L R    L R L R    L R L R   L   R L R

D7,2,3,4;   1,2,3,4;   A,2,3,4;   1,2,3,4;
L        R LR    L R L R   L R L R    L R L R  

D7,2,3,4;   1,2,3,4;
L       R L R    L R L R

1.------------------     2.------------------
A,2,3,4;  1,2,3,4:    A,2,3,4; 1,2,3,4!
L R L R   L R L R    L R L R  L R L R
Simple Rock with Quarters
A, 2+,3,4+;   1,2+,3,4+;   1,2+,3,4+;   A7+,2+,3+,4+;
L  R+ L R+    L R+ L R+   L R+ L R+   L+    R+ L+ R+

D7,2+,3+,4;    1,2+,3+,4;   A,2+,3,4+;   1,2+,3,4+;
L       R + L+R     L R+ L+ R   L  R+ L R+    LR+ L R+    
D7,2+,3+,4;   1,2+,3+,4;   
L       R+ L+ R    L R+ L+ R

1.-----------------------------      2.---------------------
A,2+,3,4+;  1+,2+,3+,4+:   A,2+,3,4+; 1,2,3,-!
L R+ L R+   L+ R+ L+ R+   L R+ L R+  LR R
We are going to play the same "Simple Rock" chord progression but now we are going to put
in some eight notes in the rhythm. A down beat and it's following upbeat are played with the
same hand on each beat.  A down beat is a letter or number. An up beat is the + sign. The L
and R tell you which hand to use. Notice how when there are eight notes on a beat, they are
both played with the hand assigned to that beat. Listen to the midi sample and see if you can
follow along on the text system. Then practice playing the example.
Simple Rock With Eights.
Now we are going to take a big leap into 16th notes. Lets review them. Let N be any  one of
our beat numbers. Small a represents the second 16th note. So for four 16th notes on one
beat we would have Na+a. That's two notes on the down beat and two notes on the up beat.
An 8th followed by two 16ths would be N+a. That's one notes on the down beat and two on the
up beat. Two 16ths followed by an 8th would be Na+.  That's two notes on the down beat and
one on the up beat. Ive used all these variations to back up "Simple  Rock" Remember one
hand plays every thing that goes with a particular beat. You could get a pair of drum sticks and
rap out the beat or just use your hands before you play it on the keyboard. Listen to the midi
sample for the rhythm of the chords as you try to read along on the text notation. Then try to
play it. Of course when combining quarter, eight and sixteenth notes, this is only one of many
different rhythms we could create. Try creating some of your own.
A+a, 2+,3,4;   1+,2a+,3,4;   1+a,  2+,3,4;   A7+,2a+,3+,4a+a;
L+a  R+ L R    L+ Ra+ L R    L+a  R+ L R    L+   Ra+ L+ Ra+a

D7/A+a,2+,3,4;   1+,2a+,3,4;  A+a, 2+,3,4;   1+,2a+,3,4;
L      +a R +L R    L+ Ra+ L R  L+a  R+ L R    L+ Ra+ L R        
D7/A+a,2+,3,4;   1+,2a+,3,4;  
L      +a R +L R    L+ Ra+ L R  

1.--------------------------------------  2.---------------------------        
    A+a, 2+,3,4;   1+,2a+,3+,4a+a;    A+a, 2+,3,4;  1,2,3
L+a  R+ L R    L+ Ra+ L+ Ra+a    L+a  R+ L R   L R R
Simple Rock with Sixteenths
To the left we have an extended lead midi
for Simple Rock that you can play chords
to. Singing the melody while you play
chords is also good practice. For those
would like to see music for these examples
click on "
Simple Rock Music"
Simple Rock Lead Extended
©2004 - 2005
Piano Rock Chords
Back to Rock And Blues
Right Hand Chord Set
For the right hand I am only going to give you one chord set, It's easy to finger. It stays in one
position. You could leave the fifth note out on the D7 chord but it's so easy to keep it. As the
right hand is well out of the auto accompaniment range, you don't have to worry about that.
Practice changing from chord untillyou can do it easily.
Simple Rock with Quarters
Simple Rock With Eights.
Simple Rock with Sixteenths
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