Got The Blues? Tips on How To Play a Slow Blues in G

It’s over 100º outside, we are all getting a bit bored with “socially distancing”, and let’s face it – today is a great day to learn to play a very slow, hot, blues.

This tutorial came together after giving several of my online piano students tips on the basic 12 bar blues, common blues endings/turnarounds, typical jazz blues substitutions – plus my “covid bubble hubby” music partner and I had just performed a live Zoom concert from our home studio to friends’ living rooms across the country in their own “covid bubbles”. I extracted a video section of us improvising over Parker’s Mood. The tune is essentially Charlie Parker’s immortalized solo created over the 12 bar blues, later made into a lyric version by King Pleasure.

Lyrics start off with: “I’m feeling low down and blue, my heart is full of sorrow!   Don’t know what I’m comin’ to, where will I be tomorrow?”…. which I think perfectly expresses my own mood of late. (On another side note, we celebrate this year 2020 as Bird’s 100th birthday, so we wanted to be sure to include a salute to the renowned alto sax player Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker in our show.)

I’ve included a harmonic analysis (notated after the fact), on the video of my solo over the G blues, sharing tips about both typical and atypical things jazz musicians might do when improvising. Certain chord ideas my partner and I talked about in advance (the major 7th chords at the ending for example), while others were reactions formed on the spot. Jazz artists listening intently may intuitively respond to each other, or at least seemingly so. Good soloists are usually aware there is a basic form or skeleton structure to a tune, perhaps feeling this on a subconcious level. This is achieved usually after musicians put in the practice hours on their own instrument, and have learned a shared vocabulary so they can improvise convincingly over the standard forms like The Blues with other musicians! Below the video are some printed ideas:

Just in case you wish to do further research, here are some RH ideas:

The G Blues Scale: G  Bb  C  Db  D  F  G

The E Blues Scale: E  G  A  Bb  B  D  E (I call this the Other Blues Scale)

Ideas about the Blues in books/audio methods by Debbie Denke:

The Aspiring Jazz Pianist: (pages 54 – 62)                                                                  Amazing Phrasing – Keyboard (ideas 7, 8, 43, 49)                                                          The Complete Church Pianist (Gospel ideas pages 35 – 36)

Here are some common turnarounds in the key of G:









Explaining the Greek Modes

Observe today’s music theory illustration pictured above. Notice the photo of these colorful Four O’clock Flowers – each bloom is unique, but they all are linked together as a family that grows from the same parent plant.

This week one of my newer adult piano students eagerly read ahead in my book Amazing Phrasing – Keyboard, and got a bit confused trying to understand the Greek modes/scales we refer to in both jazz & traditional music theory. During her first lesson this enthusiastic lady Continue reading “Explaining the Greek Modes”

Adding Chords to a Jazz Ballad: Skylark Tutorial

Ever wonder how jazz musicians come up with inspired chords when playing ballads? Reharmonization can be a fun experiment to try!  Watch my video to find 3 ways to create a compelling bass line plus some sweet chord voicings to play under the melody of Hoagy Carmichael’s classic composition Skylark:


The Old Rugged Cross: Old School Hymn Played Gospel Style with Sunday Mash-Up

Ever notice how certain old hymns have chords and candences like other familiar tunes? (Especially the ones in 3/4 time can sound like Irish or Country Waltzes, Holiday Hits, or early American Songs.) I was MONKeying around with this request for The Old Rugged Cross, getting ready for a memorial service, when I kept getting distracted by other tunes which sounded similar.

Continue reading “The Old Rugged Cross: Old School Hymn Played Gospel Style with Sunday Mash-Up”

What Do Jazz Musicians Think About When Improvising?

 What goes on in your head when you improvise? Are you thinking about something in particular, or just playing “anything” and not really thinking at all? How are you able to improvise with other musicians you’ve never played with before and sound so good together?

The orthopedic surgeon who was vacationing on a recent Jazz & Wine Riverboat Cruise sincerely wanted to know what goes on inside a jazz musician’s brain. Continue reading “What Do Jazz Musicians Think About When Improvising?”

Doxology: The New Old 100th – An Advanced Reharmonization Tutorial

The following video demonstrates how I came up with new chords using an old hymn as an example. It involves first stripping away the music to discovering the essential chords which give a tune its basic identity – I call these the skeleton chords – usually they are the I, V and perhaps IV chords of the tune. Continue reading “Doxology: The New Old 100th – An Advanced Reharmonization Tutorial”

Music for Troubled Times

Peace Prayer by Debbie Denke


It’s normally a lively Christmas Season full of parties, pageants, and performances – including outdoor concert venues for musicians, strolling carolers, and elaborately festive church services, but this December 2017 is different. Santa Barbara along with Montecito, Summerland, Carpenteria, Ojai, Santa Paula, Ventura and other nearby cities are having quite the challenge with fires, smoke, power outages, and evacuations.

We musicians wait till the last hour to hear if a gig is still happening,  we check the air quality, look at maps to see if the location has been evacuated, and no one can say for certain what will happen if the winds stir fire and ash up again. We are all truly playing this season by ear. Continue reading “Music for Troubled Times”

CA Here I Come!


The history behind the story also known as…

Bob Takes The 101:  A Road Trip Musical Story/Game

Last Spring our keyboard & bass duo was invited to play a charity fundraising event held in the lovely gardens of El Mirador Estate, Montecito (pictured above). The 2017 theme was “California Dreaming” – they requested that we play as many CA themed tunes as we could – naturally Robert Kim Collins and I included a fair share of West Coast Jazz too. 😉

Once again I turned to musical friends and posted an inquiry on Facebook asking for tune titles specifically written about places in California. I also gathered ideas from my father Frank Denke’s album made for an insurance company in the 1950’s called, Melodies of California: Continue reading “CA Here I Come!”