Blues and Rock Keyboard Techniques

Author: Dave Limina | Course Code: OPIAN-220

A vital aspect to understanding and performing great American music like R&B, gospel, and contemporary rock and pop is to first learn the foundation of this music, which lies in the roots styles of blues and early rock. Blues and Rock Keyboard Techniques will help you to develop the fundamental skills necessary to perform stylistically accurate keyboard techniques in the blues/rock idiom, in solo and group settings. Each week you'll practice a progressive series of techniques at the keyboard designed to improve your time feel, hand strength, and vocabulary. After building up your knowledge of theory, accompaniment ability, and phrasing foundations, the course explores the licks, techniques, patterns, and improvisation styles associated with shuffles, New Orleans piano, rock and roll and modern rock piano, and solo blues piano. By the end of this course you will have a strong foundation in the theory and harmonic concepts common to blues/rock styles, and the skills to take your music in whatever path you may follow.

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • Recognize great performances and important pianists in blues/rock styles
  • Perform authentic blues/rock accompaniment at the piano in the Texas shuffle, Chicago shuffle, rock and roll, New Orleans, and modern rock styles
  • Perform authentic blues/rock licks and use them to improvise well-phrased solos
  • Perform blues/rock techniques in a solo piano performance setting and in a band setting

Lesson 1: Vocabulary Exercises

  • Blue Notes
  • Bass Lines
  • Grace Notes

Lesson 2: Mixolydian Theory

  • Mixolydian Scale Theory
  • Mixolydian Thirds
  • Texas Shuffle Bass Line

Lesson 3: Accompaniment—"Comping" 

  • Mixolydian Triads
  • Chicago Blues Comping
  • Texas Shuffle Comping

Lesson 4: Blues Technique

  • Blues Scale Exercises
  • Triplets
  • Combined Techniques

Lesson 5: Blues Phrasing and Vocabulary

  • Blues Calls
  • Blues Phrases with Rhythmic Accompaniment
  • Intros, Turnarounds, and Endings

Lesson 6: Rock and Roll Piano

  • Rock and Roll Technique
  • Straight against Swing
  • Rock and Roll with Mixolydian Triads, Walking Bass, and Boogie Bass

Lesson 7: New Orleans Piano

  • New Orleans Comping with Mixolydian Triads
  • History Techniques Relevant to Rock-and-Roll
  • Cascade Lick Exercise: Step-by-Step

Lesson 8: Modern Rock

  • History of Modern Rock
  • Gospel Triads, Blues Triads, Comping
  • Triad Comping with Blues Phrases using bVII, IV, I

Lesson 9: Solo Blues Piano

  • Left-Hand Basic Patterns
  • Solo Piano Melody
  • Solo Piano Improvisation

Lesson 10: Blues/Rock Styles Review

  • Chicago or "March" Shuffle
  • Texas Shuffle or "Flat Tire"
  • Rock-and-Roll
  • New Orleans Blues
  • Slow Blues

Lesson 11: Blues/Rock Improvisation, Phrasing Review

  • Emulating Singers
  • Phrasing/Vocabulary Building
  • Single Line Licks with Drone Notes

Lesson 12: Final Project Performance with Tracks

  • Blues/Rock Tune
  • Compose Melody
  • Accompaniment Choices Based on Technical Ability

Dave Limina

Author & Instructor

Dave Limina is an Assistant Professor in the Piano Department at Berklee College of Music, where he received the Most Valuable Contribution to the Performance Curriculum Award in 2001 for his work in developing the Hammond organ program. An experienced session keyboardist, composer, and arranger, Dave has performed with Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters, Lori McKenna, Duke Robillard, Paula Cole, Mark Murphy, Robert Lee Castleman, and the first national touring company of the Broadway musical Rent. He received Boston Music award nominations for his work with Courage Brothers, Ronnie Earl, and Mighty Sam McClain. He played keyboards on Michelle Willson's Wake Up Call, which was a Boston Music Awards winner in 2001. Dave does extensive session work in Boston and New York featuring his piano, Hammond organ, and vintage keyboard playing. He is the author of Hammond Organ Complete (Berklee Press) and the instructional video/DVD Accelerate Your Keyboard Playing. He is a monthly contributor to Keyboard magazine of Japan.


Completion of Music Theory 101 and/or Berklee Keyboard Method is recommended.

  • Students considering this course should have good basic keyboard skills
  • You should be able to read notes in bass and treble clef in eighth note rhythms
  • You should have basic knowledge of music theory, including major scales, basic seventh chords, and basic rhythmic notation
  • You should also be able to record your performances with provided play-along tracks using recording software (if you do not own recording software, you can download and use the free program, Audacity). 

Required Textbooks

None required

Software Requirements

  • A basic audio recording tool that will allow you to record yourself playing with a background track and save the recording in MP3 format. You will have a tool to use for this purpose inside the learning environment. Alternatively, you can use software like Audacity or GarageBand.

Mac Users

  • OS X 10.9 Mavericks or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Chrome (recommended), Firefox, or Safari

Windows Users

  • Windows 7 or higher (click here for system requirements)
  • Latest version of Chrome (recommended), Firefox, or Edge

Hardware Requirements

  • Keyboard (acoustic piano, synthesizer, digital piano, or MIDI computer keyboard are acceptable and an acoustic or electric piano sound is preferred)
  • A built-in microphone or an external microphone plugged directly into your computer (via built in ports or an external audio interface)
  • 2 GB RAM (4 GB recommended)
  • 500 MB hard drive space
  • Speakers or headphone
  • Webcam
  • Internet connection with at least 4 Mbps download speed ( to verify or download the Speedtest by Ookla app from your mobile app store)


Got a question? Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at We can also answer basic questions in the comments below. Please note that all comments are public.

Next Term Starts April 3

  • Level
  • Duration
    12 weeks
  • 3-Credit Tuition
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