Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay

Me 'n Rock 'n Roll Are Here to Stay
Me 'n Rock 'n Roll Are Here to Stay (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I've been watching The Voice on television and there's a guy who sings rock and roll quite well. He reminded me of an article I recently read by Joan Stiles called "Rock and Roll Is Here To Stay."

Many of the "hard-driving" rock and roll tunes of the 1950s, like "At the Hop" or "Johnny Be Good" are based on the 12 bar blues. Once you know a few simple ideas that work over these chords, you are well on your way to playing authentic 50s style piano.

First learn a basic left-handed pattern of steady quarter notes in which the thumb plays fifths, sixths and sevenths while the fifth finger retains the root of each chord.

Play 4 measures:

L.H.  G7 = GD, GE, GF, GE

L.H. C7 = CG, CA, CBb, CA then G7 = GD, GE, GF, GE

L.H. D7 = DA, DB, DC, DB then C7 = CG, CA, CBb, CA then G7 = GD, GE, GF, GE

When that feels comfortable, try adding the right hand:

GG, DD, DG with eighth notes in 4/4 time signature.

I've only used notes that can be repeated through the entire 12 bar from. Listen to the clash (dissonance) that occurs at different points as the chords change. That tension is an essential part of the blues.

Next, play fourths, D and G, in the same eighth-note rhythm. Try the bluesy device of "crushing" the lower note by sliding from C-sharp to D using the second finger. When that feels good, change the rhythm of the right hand part.

At first, practice these combined parts slowly. Gradually increase the tempo while maintaining a steady beat. If you really want to "Rock Around the Clock," play these patterns while singing "At the Hop" or "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay."

I also wrote an article, Rock and Roll and Beyond. Here it is:

Its origins lie in a combination of rhythm and blues, jazz, and country-western music. The earliest known song that represents rock and roll is the song by Bill Hayley and His Comets entitled "Rock Around the Clock" (1954). Soon after that song came out, a young man from Memphis, Tennessee, known as Elvis Presley hit the scene and reigned for nearly 20 years as the "king" of rock and roll.

This new style of music captivated the young audiences in America in the 1950's. It was, for them, a form of rebellion and a way to break out of the molds that their parents had set for them. In 1964 a little-known group known as 'THE BEATLES' came on an American tour. They became, in a very short period of time, the most well-known and successful rock band in history. Throughout the 1960's African-American rock music was known as "soul' music. It got its name from the emphasis that these tunes placed on gospel origins and heartfelt words.

Throughout time, rock music has come to be a term that acts as an umbrella under which an incredible variety of styles and sounds coexists. So strong has rock's influence been that composers have sought to incorporate elements of rock and roll in musicals, choir pieces, church music, and symphonies. Rock music, like jazz, country-western, and all the other styles of music, has taken the elements of music from the past and combined them in new and different ways to create an independent identity.

It is impossible to predict what will happen in the future. There are composers today who are hearkening back to the music of the past, and many composers today are desperately seeking to be the Mozarts or Schonbergs of the future. Only time will tell what music will bring to us, but rest assured that we will hear it loud and clear.
 You may be interested in:

Early Rock 'N' Roll - 18 Classics From the '50s and '60s - Music Book
 Heart of Rock and Roll (Medley) - Music Book Various Arrangers - VH1's 100 Greatest
 Songs of Rock and Roll - Easy Piano - Music Book


"The beautiful thing about learning is that no one can take it away from you." B.B.King
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