Kent’s Latest Course on Udemy. Get your $9.99 promotional discount now!

Due to high demand, the enrollment cost of my course “Blues/Rock Piano: Turbocharge Your Playing in 12 Lessons” has gone up.


There’s no need to get the summertime blues about that. If you missed out on the lower price, or you didn’t take advantage of my previous discount offer from March, you can still get a steep discount on lifetime enrollment, via the link below.

I created this discount coupon to temporarily override the Udemy price.

You must use this link to get the offer, and coupons are LIMITED.  Following this exclusive link will take you to the course landing page, with an option to enroll at this very steep discount.

Don’t put this off!



Do you need to read music to learn jazz or blues piano?

Wassup! Today I’m sharing my reply to a question from a student at Udemy.


Hi, Kent!

This is a two part question; first off, is there anything you recommend (videos, specific techniques, etc) to improve my sight-reading that won’t make me want to shout profanities?

I’ve Googled it obviously, but I’m curious about your opinion, as I enjoy your method of teaching.

Secondly, do you find skilled sight-reading necessary for jazz and blues? In other words, in your professional opinion, can I learn to be a proficient jazz and blues pianist without tackling my fear/hatred of sight-reading?

A little background to help explain the reasoning for my questions – Simply put, I hate sight-reading. Frankly, I’m intimidated by it. So much so, that I’ve ignored it for the 13 years since I stopped taking lessons, and basically refused to use it once I learned a new piece as a kid. I play and compose by memorization and by ear (which drove my strictly classical instructor insane) and in my rebellion and stubbornness, my sight-reading is just…hilariously slow. Everything I compose is in my head, besides recordings. I couldn’t commit my music to paper to save my life, though software helps.

I consider myself a skilled(ish) pianist, but I’m not sure if I’ll ever get over my hangups with sight-reading. I don’t aspire to play jazz and blues with other musicians, though it would be fun, but I want to finally break my dexterity from the grasp of rigid classical, and have the skills to compose what’s been sitting in my head.

Any little suggestions are appreciated at your convenience!


Thanks so much for your questions!  I would like to answer the second part first:  The history of jazz and blues is filled with amazing players and composers who could not read a single note of music, let alone sight-read.  Myself, I can read music, but I am a very crummy sight-reader.  I hope that answers the second part in a nutshell, and I hope it ignites a new passion in you, by eliminating some major doubt about what you can accomplish.

I do recommend learning to read chord charts (lead sheets).  You can be “hilariously slow” at it, but it is a great skill to have.  This involves being able to interpret chord symbols (like C7, Fm, etc). To be a good jazz or blues player, the most important thing is to learn about chords and scales.  If you visit my website,, you will find a review that I wrote about some jazz piano books by John Mehegan.  If jazz and blues is your passion, THIS is the stuff you want to focus on.

Now to the first part. Myself, I have a love-hate relationship with sight-reading.  I am painfully slow at sight-reading as well.  But I really wish I was better at it. I am always resolving to spend at least a half-hour a day reading music I have not seen before, which is, by the way, my best recommendation for improving that skill.  And yet, I do not stick with that resolution. I generally end up improvising, about ten minutes into the session!  In my classical studies I do exactly what you do:  I memorize.  My classmates in college would sometimes ask what my secret was, when it comes to memorizing.  My secret was, I had no other choice!

I hope this helps!


Your answers are beyond encouraging! Definitely not what I expected, and I’m so happy to hear someone with your skill and experience having the same curse/blessing of automatic memorization. I’ve always considered it a hindrance in improving my skills, but a great asset for composing or being able to sit at any keyboard and play something I’d memorized years ago.

I took lessons from ages 6-14, and am now 27 – I let my skills, especially sight-reading, stall after I stopped lessons (due to relocation, not by choice), and though I loved my instructor, he was curmudgeonly and strict, and I enjoyed being able to play without judgement! But without being pushed to learn, it got me stuck in a comfortable Gb rut of composition, and slowly but surely, played less and less when my hands always found their way back to the same chords and scales. Everything just sounded the same.

I wish I knew that Udemy was around years ago, and that the techniques to get the right sounds are such simple additions to what I already know. I’m excited to play again, and have even reharmonized some of my own progressions for practice. My left hand synchronization is still having a trouble staying in time, unless I’m improvising with my right! Haha. Practice, practice, practice will improve that, though.

Thank you for your recommendations, as well! I’ve been looking through your website, and there’s a lot of material there I’m excited to review. My technical knowledge of chord symbols and scales is somewhere in my head, but long forgotten – I have a lot to brush up on to really feel more comfortable. For once though, I’m not intimidated to do so! 

I greatly appreciate your honesty and all the information, Kent – thank you, so much! (and thank you for reading all my rambling thoughts). 


You are very welcome, Tierney. I’m glad you feel encouraged, and that I was able to help!  By the way, I have a course in the works which is all about demystifying chord symbols, and also describes a simple method for constructing any standard chord-type off of any root, without resorting to rote memorization of each chord.  When it goes live on Udemy, I will be sending a course announcement to all students who are enrolled in the Blues Piano Crash Course, as well as those enrolled in “A Study in Blues Piano.”

Regarding the John Megan Books, he also published a summary volume called “Improvising Jazz Piano” which consolidates the material of the original four-volume set.  I highly recommend it.

You mentioned my honesty. I believe the best teachers are the ones who have struggled, thereby finding ways to overcome, which they can share with their students.  Therefore, I am always eager to share my own shortcomings, and to let people know how I either overcame them, or just ignored them, and found another path 🙂


Video: Ray Charles “What I’d Say” — Practice your blues licks with this one!


What’s up, Blues Cats and 12-bar Chicks?

If you want to get better at your blues piano playing, who better to learn from than Ray Charles? Try playing this video while throwing in your own blues licks on top.  Also try to imitate or paraphrase some of Brother Ray’s.

Here’s some insight to help you:

(1) The key is E.  You can start joining in by using the E-minor blues scale, throughout the whole jam, right hand only.  The E-minor blues scale is E, G, A, Bb, B, D, (E). Even if that’s all you practice here — which is quite valuable — it still helps to realize the following things about the chords involved . (If you’re especially ambitious,  you can try playing these chords in your left hand, while riffing with the right.)

(2) The chords are E7, A7 (added ninth, optional), and B7.

(3) The chord progression is a classic 12-bar blues, in its most basic form, outlined here:

E7 — 4 measures (bars)

A9 (or just A7) —  2 measures (bars)

E7 — 2 measures (bars) 

B7 — 1 measure (bar)

A9 (or A7) — 1 measure (bar)


E7 — 1 measure (bar)

B7 — 1 measure (bar) 

Now go back to the top.

(4) Repeat the above progression over and over, as you would in any 12-bar blues.  EXCEPTION: You may notice that the B7 in the turn-around does not happen in the 12-bar introduction, where Ray is playing the left-hand bass line and nothing else.  Here, E7 is implied throughout the last two bars.

(5) In the sections where the band stops, but the singing or soloing continues (called a break, or “stop-time”), the prevailing harmony is four bars of E7, as usual. Each time this break happens, we are sitting at the top of the 12-bar cycle. Therefore, each break leads us right into the A7 at measure 5.

So here’s the video, and have fun!

Learn about the Major pentatonic scale, and its cousin, the “Relative Minor” pentatonic (video lesson)

Learn about the Major pentatonic scale, and its cousin, the “Relative Minor” pentatonic scale (a video lesson). The relationship between any major scale (or key) and its relative minor scale or key is explained here as well, in terms of traditional music theory.

Video: Pentatonic scales, Major and Minor

“A Study in Blues Piano” Course Coupon (starts now, offer expires 3/31/2018)


Coupon Expires March 31, 2018* Here’s a handy dandy discount coupon for my “A Study in Blues Piano” on Udemy: Lifetime access for just $12.99. (List price is $24.99.)

*If you missed the discount window, see the bottom of this post for a another link, where you may find this course at a discount as well.

The Course at $12.99 (coupon is automatic)

or use coupon code 88KENT when purchasing.

Please share this with your musical friends!

Expires March 31, 2018 so act now! 


If you miss the coupon window, the course can be accessed using the link below. Sometimes Udemy sets their own temporary discounts, so you could get lucky!

The course at regular price ($24.99) (may be discounted by the vendor)


Learn a 12-Bar Intro for Blues — Plus the Start of a Solo

Hey Blues people!  Wassup from the OG (Old Guy). Let me show you this nice 12-bar opening, to get your jam started. I’ve also included something to get your improv going after the intro.

The Blues Piano Crash Course (first 3 lessons)


NOTE:  You can buy this entire course here The Blues Piano Crash Course++

You might be interested to know that the information in the first two lessons below was shared with me when I was fourteen years old, at a time when I knew zero about playing piano.  I did have seven years of drumming experience by that time, however.  The guy who showed me this stuff was a drummer as well.  Since I had the advantage of good two-handed coordination skills on the drums, and the additional advantage of piano being a percussion instrument, I was able to go home that afternoon and start seriously jamming on my parent’s piano.  My dad came home from work that evening and he said, “When did you learn how to play the piano?”  I’ll never forget that day! After about a year, I was playing keys in a band.  I started taking formal piano lessons, and eventually I got a college degree in piano and general music.  In other words, Blues was the beginning of my entire career as a piano and keyboard player.

What does all that mean for you?  Assuming you already play either a little piano, or another instrument, there is enough raw material in this post to get you seriously going on blues piano.  On completion of the first few lessons below, you will already have enough information to start sounding like you actually know what you’re doing.

As with all other video-based lessons on this site, it is not necessary to read music.

“Music is like magic.  If you convince the audience, you are a success.” — Me

Lesson One:  The Blues Scale

Lesson Two:  A Left-hand Groove

Lesson Three:  Five Must-know Riffing Devices


NOTE:  You can buy this entire course here:

The Blues Piano Crash Course++