Image via WikipediaAre you familiar with the sounds of the '50s? Have you heard the Doo-wop-Doo-wop style?
Early rock and roll piano styles are easy and fun to play. Music of th 1950s simplified the more complicated rhythms of 1940s blues and boogie-woogie, and made them more accessible.
To get you started on playing in this style, I've combined an introduction (which can be repeated as a vamp) with an 8-bar section. The chords of the intro are built on the first (I), sixth (vi), fourth (IV) and fifth (V) degrees of the C Major Scale. Many songs of the '50s such as "Silhouettes on the Shade" and "The Book of Love" use just these chords in the same I-vi-IV-V-I progression. The next section is based on an 8-bar blues and uses only three chords- I, IV, and V. "Blueberry Hill", popularized by "Fats" Domino, is an example of this type of tune.
Notice how smoothly the chords change. This is accomplished by keeping the "common tone" of C in the pinky of the right hand whenever possible. Also notice that the real "action" is in the bass line which should be brought out in your performance. In the 8-bar section, the left hand arpeggiates the chords of the right hand. After you can play it in C, work it out in other keys such as Bb, F and G major.
Bar 1: C/E G C, B/E G C, A/E A C, G/E A C (r.h. chords, C then Am)
Bar 2: F/F A C, D/F A C, E/F A C, F/F A C, G/F A C, G/F G B, A/ F G B, B/F G B (r.h. chords, F then Gsus4-7)
Bar 3: C/C E G, D/ F C, E/G C, F/ A C, E/G C, D/F C (r.h. chords C then F)
Bar 4: C C/E then play r.h. notes C then CB, CBb, GC, G#C (r.h. chords C then C7)
Bar 5: F/F A C, A/F A C, C/F A C, A/F A C, C/F A C (r.h. chord F)
Bar 6: F/F A C, A/F A C, C/F A C, A/F A C, C/F A C (r.h. chord F)
Bar 7: C/E G C, E/E G C, G/E G C, E/E G C, G/E G C (r.h. chord C)
Bar 8: C/E G C, E/E G C, G/E G C, E/E G C, G/E G C (r.h. chord C)
Bar 9: G/ F G B D, B/F G B D, D/F G B D, B/F G B D, D/F G B D (r.h. chord G7)
Bar 10: F/F A C, A/F A C, C/F A C, A/F A C, C/F A C (r.h. chord F)
Bar 11: C/E C, D/F C, E/G C, F/A C, E/G C, D/F C (r.h. chords C then F)
Bar 12: C C/E G C (r.h. chord C)
Hope you enjoy playing the doo-wop sounds of the '50s. Chord chart above played with 12/8 time signature so that you hear and feel those 12 eighth notes played in the r.h. per measure with your l.h. bass line. Feel free to add those bluesy devices to the right hand part.
All the best,
I VI II V7
/ / / / / / / /
[Key of C: C A- D- G7 ] / = One beat
Try moving this chord progression to another key. It should sound like a typical 50’s song in any key. For more common cord progressions, see:
* General Chord and Scale Study: 12 bar blues
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