Having played and taught this style of music for many years I am often faced with this type of question. Blues music is very often associated with being improvised and ‘off the cuff’, and you never see anyone using music when they play this right?
Let’s dive into my thoughts on whether or not you need to be able to read music to play piano blues and boogie woogie…
How hard is it to play piano blues?
One of the biggest worries my students have before they start lessons is that it’s going to take years to learn how to play the blues on the piano, and when it comes to deciding whether or not to purchase my video course it can seem quite daunting. However, the great news is that learning to play the blues is not like learning to play classical, and you don’t have to spend hours and hours practising scales and exercises.
Of course, I would definitely not be so bold as to say that learning piano blues is easy – because it’s not! Practice makes perfect, and the more you put in, the more you get out. But with piano blues you’d be surprised at how quickly you can begin to enjoy and play legendary songs by Ray Charles, Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and many more.
Are there any exercises at all that I can practice?
Piano blues does have a scale that you can practice, which will also help you learn and understand the notes needed to make the ‘blues’ sound. But it isn’t like the classical scales, and won’t require as much time to practice and master as there are a lot less notes.
Along with the many videos I have on my tutorial course, I also include a video on how to play the blues scale in C – as well as other keys. You don’t have to be able to read music as I will take you slowly through each note in the video, and allow you to see exactly what to play.
Do I have to learn to read music to play piano blues?
At the end of the day you don’t have to learn to read music in order to learn how to play piano blues and boogie woogie, and many famous artists over the years have never been able to read a note!
Although being able to read music will help you as I do provide sheet music along with my tutorial videos, it isn’t necessary and you will easily be able to follow me when I show you which notes to play. Unlike many other piano tutorials on the internet which go too fast, I take things really slowly and methodically allowing you the time to see what I’m playing and which fingers I use.
I’ve come across many video tutorials over the years, and there is always a huge emphasis on the importance of reading music so you can buy and follow their own books. This just isn’t true, and piano blues is a great style to learn without reading music as it allows you to express yourself without being restricted to playing from sheet music.
Should I learn to read music so I can play piano blues?
If you are keen to learn to read music I would always giving it a go. Even if it’s only just a few notes to begin with, you’d be surprised at how easy it can be to follow after a little while. Many of my beginner tutorials at the start of the course will make it easier for you to get started if you want to learn to read sheet music.
Again, it isn’t necessary to play this style of music, but if you’ve made your mind up that you want too, then I would not stop you. My advice would be to look at my beginner tutorials at the start of the course, and whilst playing along to my video print out the sheet music and have it next to you.
When only playing a few notes at a time to begin with, it’s much easier to begin to read music. Also, grab a pencil and jot down the notes on the sheet music to make things easier. I always advise my students to do this even when playing classical, because there is no need to make things harder for yourself.
Learning to read music should always be a slow and steady process, done at your own pace. It does not have to be rushed or revised for hours and hours, and can be something you pick up as you go along.
What if I absolutely don’t want to read music?
You don’t have to! My piano blues and boogie woogie course offers tutorial videos which will allow you to see exactly what I’m playing. Even though I provide sheet music for each tutorial exercise and song, some people don’t use it and prefer to be guided by my helpful videos.
If you don’t have the time to learn how to read music, or just don’t think you’ll like the process – then don’t. Playing piano blues is all about being creative, improvising and expressing yourself through music. I love it when a student of mine comes to a lesson and has changed some or all of what we were doing the week before.
Rather than sticking to rules, piano blues is all about breaking them!