3 approaches to playing The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” on piano

Hey Improvisers,

Playing pop and rock songs on piano can be fun, but sometimes we find that the right approach eludes us. (Incidentally, by “right approach,” I mean the right approach for each of us individually.)

I’ve loved The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” since the very first time I listened to the Sgt. Pepper album, back in my teenage days. Yet it took me until not to find a way of playing it on piano that I liked.

There are two famous recordings of the song, the original recording by The Beatles and the slow, gospel-blues rendition by Joe Cocker. My big challenge was that while I loved the way The Beatles played the song, I wanted to “bluesify” it a little when creating my own piano interpretations of the song. And while I enjoy playing in the style of the Joe Cocker version, I personally don’t think it fits the song the way I want to play it on piano.

So… what to do?

When I was deciding how to play “With A Little Help From My Friends” for my Complete Beatles Piano video series on YouTube, the answer suddenly and unexpectedly came to me:

I can keep the Beatles’ overall tempo and musical “feel,” while bringing a little bit of the blues into it. Wow – why hadn’t I ever thought of this before? It seems so obvious in retrospect, but this interpretation had eluded me for decades.

To sum up, we can play “With A Little Help From My Friends” the way The Beatles did, the way Joe Cocker did, or by combining The Beatles’ fun, bouncy groove with a little of Cocker’s gospel and bluesiness.

Check out how I played it here, and then give it a try yourself:

With A Little Help From My Friends: Complete Beatles Piano #18

Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

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