Friday, February 20, 2009

More Blues Analysis

Here's the next article concerning the Fats Domino, et
al clip that you can find at

Last installment you learned about the Twelve Bar Blues
Chord Progression. I mentioned there were 17 full
choruses of the progression played. Here's a rundown of
who played what.

The clip started with just Ray Charles and the rhythm
section. Ray played three full choruses by himself, and
then Jerry Lee came on about 56 seconds into the clip.
You heard Jerry Lee play one full chorus of piano
improv. Then he sings the next chorus. The chorus after
that, he's back to taking a piano solo. If you look
carefully, you'll see him pound the keyboard with his

Better take your Suzuki trained children out of the
room when that comes on. After the "shoe" chorus he
plays another chorus that demonstrates a redundant
style, playing the same short phrase repeatedly, not
even changing it when the chord changes. Talk about

I believe on the following chorus Ray takes over on the
solo duties. It's hard to verify that for sure since
the camera moved around a lot, and it wasn't in stereo.
Finally, Jerry Lee comes back in for another vocal
chorus, "Lord I Love to Boogie."

And that sets everything up for Fats entrance. We have
just heard nine choruses of the Blues Progression. Fats
starts on chorus 10. He will go on to play five
choruses before he starts singing. Again there is an
ambiguous sound situation, and I'm not sure I hear Fats
until his third time through. After the five
instrumental choruses, Fats starts to sing, "I ain't
gonna be your low down dog no more." Then he does
another chorus of ooooohh oooooohs, and the song ends.

So that's the general road map to the sequence. If you
are enjoying these posts, please comment, and if there
is interest, I'll continue with the analysis. It's fun
for me, and who knows, you could soon be playing along.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Analyzing the Fats Domino Video, pt. 1

All right let's talk about the Fats Domino/Jerry Lee
Lewis/Ray Charles video clip I mentioned last time.
Here is the link to it once again.

You might want to watch it again if you're interested
in learning what's going on. In fact, you might even
want to try to play along with it.

Don't laugh. It may be easier than you think. Let's
examine the first song first.

To begin, how is it that all these musicians can play
the song together? No one seems to be reading any
music. What gives? Did they memorize the sheet music?


Some of them most likely can't even READ music. And the
song may not even have a name. It seems to be 95%

What they are playing is arguably THE most common chord
progression in all of music. By far. And all musicians
on the pop music side of the fence learn this chord
progression by the time they're two years old. Or at
least by the time they've been playing music that long.

It's called the Twelve Bar Blues progression. It's easy
to learn, and like the name implies, it's only 12
measures long.

Actually, this chord progression (with all its possible
variations) can be played in any key, so there are
actually 12 of them. The musicians on the video chose
to play the first song you hear in the video in the key
of C. Damn lucky for us.

Ultimately you will hear 17 choruses of the song
played. That means they play the 12 Bar Blues
progression 17 times in a row. A quick trip to my
calculator tells me that you will hear precisely 204
measures of music played in the first example. Don't
bother counting the measures. But you might want to get
a sense of what a single 12-measure chorus sounds like.
Then you can verify that there are 17 of them.

So what are these chords?

According to the book "How to Play Blues Piano Styles,"
the world's most authoritative blues piano resource
that also happens to have been written by me, on page 5
you find the twelve measure progression to have the
following sequence of chords.

Actually the C7 could be substituted for the C, and the
F7 could be substituted for the F. This is the basic 12
Bar Blues Chord Progression. This is almost what you
hear throughout the song, but not quite. This tune uses
a common variation of the progression which substitutes
an F (or an F7) in measure 10. Everything else is
exactly the same. So it actually looks and sounds like

This variation is mentioned on page 26 of the
aforementioned book, by the way. Now try to understand
this. If you just memorized this simple chord
progression, you could play along with theys guys. Or
at least play along with the recording.

So that's the lesson for now. Memorize the Twelve Bar
Blues chord progression. If you know the chords
already, you can actually play the progression. (Works
for guitar too, by the way). Then see if you can get a
feeling for the beginning and ending of each chorus.
Try to verify that there are 17 full choruses played in
the song. Then we'll connect next time for further

Your comments are encouraged on our blog.


P.S. There is a bonus to this. If you learn the Twelve
Bar Blues Chord Progression, there are about a million
and a half other songs you can play along with too.