Even if you’re a complete beginner and have never played the piano in your life, I am going to show you how to play the blues. You don’t have to learn any fancy scales or play for years before you attempt this tutorial – you just need an open mind, and of course a piano or keyboard!
Playing the piano is a lot easier than most other instruments as you don’t have to learn how to make the sound. All you need to do is hit a note and hey presto, you are playing the piano. Of course, you’d always prefer to know which keys to hit, and playing the blues is not as hard as you might think – even if you’ve never touched a piano in your life!
So grab that dusty old keyboard out of the loft, or pull the cover off your old and battered piano and get started today. Here’s my awesome guide for beginners on how to play piano blues…
Let’s start with the basics
Here is an overhead view of the keys of a piano or keyboard. As you can see I have added the name of the notes on each key, and learning and remembering which note is which is a lot easier than you might think…
On a piano or keyboard, there are literally only seven notes of the alphabet that repeat over and over. Once you get to the note ‘G’ it will start back at A again and go B, C, D, and so on. So if you’ve ever wondered what the notes are on a piano, then now you know – and it isn’t as hard as you probably thought!
I have indicated that we are looking at the centre of a piano or keyboard by highlighting the ‘middle C’ note. To find this on your instrument all you need to do is find the most central C on your keys. It doesn’t matter how many keys you have, and you don’t need a full 88 note piano to do this. Just go to the very middle of your keys and find the ‘middle C’.
Knowing the first seven letters of the alphabet is the easy part, but knowing where the ‘A’ starts is not so. However, I find the best way to locate the notes on a piano is to remember just two notes rather than all seven. You will notice that there are a total of five individual black keys that sit over the top of the seven individual notes. These are called sharps and flats, but we will come back to that later.
The two notes we need to remember are the ‘C’ and the ‘F’. The reason why I choose these notes is because the ‘C’ sits to the left of the two black keys, and the ‘F’ sits to the left of the three black keys.
Why should I remember two notes instead of just one?
You could of course just remember where one of the notes is and go up or down on the seven note alphabet to find the rest, however I find it’s much quicker if you know at least two of the notes so you don’t have to navigate too far.
So now that you can quickly identify the above two notes C and F, you can easily find any of the other five. For example, to find D we just have to locate C and move up one. To find the note E we can either go up two from C or go down one from F – the choice is yours!
How to work out what the black keys are
Now that we can identify the white notes we can now begin to learn what the black notes are called. This is very simple and all we have to remember is that they are also named using the same seven notes of the alphabet, but instead also use the term ‘flat’ or ‘sharp’.
What are flats and sharps?
Let’s start with the black key which is directly above and to the right of the middle C (or any C for that matter)…
The term ‘sharp’ or to ‘sharpen a note’ means to move up by one semi-tone. A semi-tone is the distance of just one note. So if we were to move up one semi-tone from C, we would get to the above note which is C sharp, or more commonly written as C#.
One way of looking at the black keys is thinking of them as extensions to the white keys. So a black key to the right of a note is called a ‘sharp’ of the white note before it. Let’s take a look at F sharp (F#)…
You can see that this works the same as it did for C#, and we take the white note and just add the term ‘sharp’ and move to the black key – simples!
The flat keys are just the opposite of the sharp
The term ‘flat’ or to ‘flatten a note’ means the opposite, and rather than go up one semi-tone (one note interval) we drop down a semi-tone and go in the opposite direction. This means that the same black key can have two names. For example, C# can also be known as D flat (or Db).
Take a look at the alternative flat keys for both C# and F#…
Which black keys will I need to use to play the blues?
There are three black keys you’ll need to know to play my tutorial song – Eb, F# and Bb. Here are the notes to help you find them…
Familiarise yourself with these three black notes as you will be using these all the time when you play blues piano. In order to play the piano blues tutorial coming up, we need to also learn three white notes. Here they are along with the three black keys we’ve just discovered…
That gives us a total of six notes (or seven if you count the C again), which is all we need to play blues on the piano. They are – C, Eb, F, F#, G and Bb.
What notes do I play in the left hand?
So far we have covered what notes to play in our right hand, and now we are going to look at our left hand. Here is what I want you to play in the left hand…
I have indicated which fingers to use in your left hand with the numbers underneath each of the three notes. So for C you will use your 5th finger (little), the G is played with the 2nd finger (forefinger) and the Bb is played with the 1st (thumb).
These three notes are all played at the same time to form a chord which is known as C7. This is what we are going to play underneath our right hand melody which is coming up. You are one step closer to playing an amazing piano blues for the first time!
Let’s play the blues!
These are your right hand notes which you will need to practice before you decide to play both hands together. Try playing them one after the other starting from the bottom and playing to the top. Then when you are more comfortable with the notes you can practice playing them back down again, constantly playing them up and down one after the other.
What do these notes sound like? Am I playing them correctly?
If you want to know if you are playing this correctly, here’s how the right hand will sound if you play the notes up and down –
Here is how the left hand will sound when played on its own as a chord –
When playing both hands together it will sound like this –
Here’s an extra chord to try out for the left hand
As an added bonus I would also like you to try this fantastic blues left hand – the F7. Here are the notes…
You can play the exact same right hand notes over the top, and it will still sound great. Try changing between these two chords to mix things up a little. Play a few times up and down with the right hand, and then change the left hand chord and see what you think.
Here’s what it will sound like when you change the left hand chord –