Blues and Rock Keyboard Techniques


Authored by Dave Limina


Course Code: OPIAN-220

Next semester starts September 23

12 Weeks

Level 3

Level 3

3-Credit Tuition


Non-Credit Tuition


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.

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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
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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


Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements 

Prerequisite Courses, Knowledge, and/or Skills
Completion of Music Theory 101Berklee Keyboard Method or Keyboard for the Electronic Musician is recommended or equivalent knowledge and experience.

  • 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).


  • No textbooks required


  • Students are required to record video while playing along with a backing track for their assignments. Options for recording video include:
    • Smartphone
    • Digital camera
    • External webcam
  • Note: The camera view must be from above, recording the keys right side up. It is imperative that the videos show the student's fingerings. You may need certain accessories to accomplish this, such as a goose-neck camera holder, tripod, etc.


  • Piano or keyboard instrument with at least 61 keys and a sustain pedal
    • If using a MIDI keyboard controller, a high-quality piano software instrument is also required.
    • If using a digital piano or keyboard workstation without built in speakers, an audio interface or amplifier is also required.


  • Students are required to capture their instrumental performance, as well as monitor audio output. Options include:
    • Input (one required if not using MIDI and software instruments):
      • Keyboard connected directly to audio interface (recommended non-acoustic option; alternatively, the microphone options below can be used with amplified instruments)
      • XLR microphone and audio interface (recommended acoustic piano option)
      • USB microphone
      • Built-in computer/mobile device microphone
    • Output (one required):
      • Headphones (recommended option; required if multitracking and/or input monitoring a microphone)
      • Studio monitors and audio interface
      • Built-in or external computer speakers
  • Note: Depending on your setup, you may also need XLR/instrument cables and microphone stand(s).

Student Deals
After enrolling, be sure to check out our Student Deals page for various offers on software, hardware, and more. Please contact with any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Classes. Please make sure to also check the Prerequisites and Course-Specific Requirements section above, and ensure your computer meets or exceeds the minimum system requirements for all software needed for your course. 

Mac Users

PC Users

All Users

  • Latest version of Google Chrome
  • Zoom meeting software
  • Webcam
  • Speakers or headphones
  • External or internal microphone
  • Broadband Internet connection


Dave Limina

Author & Instructor

Dave Limina is the Chair of the Piano department at Berklee College of Music. He is also the Director of the Bachelor of Arts in Piano Performance degree program for Berklee Online. In 2001 he received the Most Valuable Contribution to the Performance Curriculum Award 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, Gloria Estefan, Mark Murphy, Scott Hamilton, the first national touring company of the Broadway musical Rent, and many others. He received Boston Music Award nominations for his work with Courage Brothers, Ronnie Earl, and Mighty Sam McClain, and has played on several Grammy-nominated recordings. He played keyboards on Michelle Willson's Wake Up Call, which won a Boston Music Award in 2001. Dave does extensive session work in Boston, New York, and LA. He is the author of Hammond Organ Complete (Berklee Press) and the instructional video/DVD Accelerate Your Keyboard Playing. His playing is featured on many TV and film soundtracks.


Contact our Academic Advisors by phone at 1-866-BERKLEE (U.S.), 1-617-747-2146 (INT'L), or by email at

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