Blues and Rock Keyboard Techniques


Authored by Dave Limina


Course Code: OPIAN-220

Next Semester Starts
June 26, 2023

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 

Completion of Music Theory 101, Berklee 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). 

Required Textbook(s)

  • None required

Students are required to record video for assignments. You can use your smartphone, digital camera, or webcam to do this. If you do not already have a preferred video software, you can use the built-in recorder tool within your assignment post. You can play the backing track through your speakers as you record and the microphone will pick up both the piano or keyboard (playing out loud through built-in speakers or amp) and the track as you play along.

Software Requirements

  • A recording tool is provided within the course that will allow students to record videos of themselves playing for assignment submission. Alternatively, students can use a digital camera, smartphone, or tablet to record assignments.

Hardware Requirements

  • Keyboard instrument with at least 61 keys (acoustic piano, synthesizer, digital piano, or MIDI computer keyboard are acceptable and an acoustic or electric piano sound is preferred)

After enrolling, please check the Getting Started section of your course for potential deals on required materials. Our Student Deals page also features several discounts you can take advantage of as a current student. Please contact for any questions.

General Course Requirements

Below are the minimum requirements to access the course environment and participate in Live Chats. 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.


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