9 Insane Gospel Piano Licks and Lines for EVERY Musician!
Q:What does Cory Henry, Mike Bereal, Travis Sayles, Eddie Brown, and other great gospel improvisers have in common?
A: They all have endless amounts of gospel piano licks, riffs, lines, and scales they can use at seemingly any moment, and with any chord.
Yeah that's great, but when I try and practice my scales, it gets me nowhere!!!!!
A: Yes, you need to practice scales, but are you are memorizing gospel lines and gospel piano licks? Practicing scales are only the beginning, but you also have to memorize lines from gospel artists or records if you want to improvise like them.
Here is How to know whether you need to focus on Memorizing lines:
Today's post looks at how several gospel musicians use various lines to enhance their playing. These are not runs or scales only; we are looking at patterns. Remember, theory is nothing more than studying the relationships between notes and chords.
We want to focus on MEMORIZING LINES in the post. But we need to memorize the right thing and understand what we are doing. Let's look at each of these in context and you should be able to use most of these in your playing right away
This first Gospel Piano Lick for this song works well when you need fast, churchy-type runs that can sound good over and over even without a lot of extra improvisation. The following lines will form as a foundation so you can fall back on these as often as you need them.
Matt is using the Ab Blues Scale and Ab Dorian scale as a basis for his improvisation. The implied chord he is soloing over is an Abmin7 (Ab - B - Eb - Gb). Please note that the Ab Blues Scale and the Ab Dorian Scale contain all of the notes within the Abmin7 chord above.
To get better at these types of runs and lines, set your Metronome to roughly
The Three Types of Scales to use with this groove would be: Ab Dorian, Ab Blues, and Ab Minor Pentatonic
Ab Minor Pentatonic
Hear the Audio
Listen to the Audio version of this song below without the band. The band has been removed so you should be able to hear the keyboard clearly. Click the Orange Play button below
See the Notes
Eddie has Gospel Piano Licks for all types of situations. In this piece Eddie is riff-ing to the song "Still Here" by the Williams Brothers. Eddie has a unique style when it comes to using lines and runs. I am not talking about the notes that he chooses. Observe the TIMING of the notes in the video below. You may notice that he plays slightly "behind the rhythm". I believe this is by design and a key attribute to Eddie's unique sound and style
Eddie begins his improvisation over a Major 2-5-1 to EbMajor7. The 2 is Fmin7 (F-Ab-C-Eb), the 5 is Bb7 (LH: B-D-Ab RH: C-F-Bb). See the exact line Eddie uses on the 2 below
-Descending Notes: start by going down. If you are trying to figure out what to do over 2-5-1 progressions this line is a great way to start. Go to the root note of the 2 chord. In this case (F is the root). Your line will start on the 5 (in this case you will start on a C). Hit a descending triad from the 5 (C, then Ab, then F gives you a Fminor triads). Go down a whole step (in this case going down a whole step would take you from F to Eb). Go three half steps until you are at the note you started on. *This whole phrase should be on the 2, which is a minor chord!!!
-Ascending Notes: to go back up. Start on the 5th note above the Root Note of the 2. Since the 2 is Fminor, the Root of that chord is F, five above that is C. So we will start on a C and that will be our 1. We will be playing a Minor 6 melodically. This means play the 1-2-4-b6, then after that go to 7-b9-7-b7-b6-5. These notes are illustrated in the picture above
Hear the Audio
Listen to the Audio version of this song without the band. The band has been removed so you should be able to hear the keyboard clearly.
Yaahn Hunter Jr
This is a short Organ Lick done during a hard break. Yaahn is on the Hammond organ (left side of screen) on this song. The lick is this song is done during a hard break during a Bbminor groove. It is not a straight arpeggio per se', but judging by the crowd its a very easy lick to memorize and add to your bag of Gospel Piano Licks
This unique pattern comes from notes that are grouped in 4. So we have a series of four notes, starting on Ab, then starting on C#, then back to Ab again, and so on. The interesting sound comes from the first two notes of each group, which are a Minor 2nd interval apart.
Hear the Audio
Listen to the Audio version of this song without the band. The band has been removed and the audio has been slowed down so you should be able to hear the notes clearly.
See the Notes
Please note that the notes should be played with a "swing feel"
In this video, Travis Sales is improvising on the keyboard. This is not really a Gospel Piano Lick but it shows the importance of borrowing and adapting from jazz artists if you want Piano Licks for Gospel. To see the whole clip on YOUTUBE click here.
The influence of Art Tatum's lines on Travis Sayles cannot be understated. It is clear that Travis not only studied memorized many of Art Tatum's songs and movements. Check the Audio below to see if you can hear the similarities between Travis Sayles and Art Tatum
Hear the Similarities
Travis Sayles Playing keyboard
Art Tatum Playing Piano
See the Notes
For the notes, we will only look at the fast line he used over the A7 in the left hand.
Although the line seems complicated, observe the notes of the A Altered scale: A-Bb-C-Db-Eb-F-G-A... Now also observe the notes in the graphic above. You may realize that the notes are the same. You may ask how does one scale sound so cool the way he plays it? The answer is: he is using a PATTERN-based approach. Study the pattern first, and the notes second, and you will find your answer