Jamming with the A Blues Scale

As a music student at The University of Connecticut in the mid-1980s, I would spend hours in the practice room every day, determined to become the pianist I knew I’d eventually become. I loved hearing everyone practice in that section of the music building, and I rarely just stood in the hallway talking to other students like some of my colleagues enjoyed doing. (Maybe they didn’t need to practice as much as I did!)

Every once in a while, a student we didn’t know would go into one of the “inside” practice rooms that didn’t have any windows, turn out the lights, and energetically “jam out” using the A Blues Scale for an hour or so non-stop. He played very loudly and just kept an A octave going with his left hand while his right hand played fast and furious blues licks, riffs, and scalar passages up and down the keyboard. Over and over and over and over, for a l-o-o-o-o-ng time.

I enjoyed hearing him play, but some of the other students would occasionally say to one another “Doesn’t he know anything else?” and things like that.

But I could relate to him because I had played in a rock band during my middle school and high school years. First on guitar and then on keyboards. And we too would energetically jam for hours on one chord and one scale which was indeed often the very same A Blues Scale that this guy played so much.

And I loved it!!!

So here’s this guy, away from home at college, taking engineering classes or whatever. And whenever he could, he’d walk over to the music building on the outskirts of campus, find a vacant piano in a dark practice room, and transport himself to “musical heaven.”

Maybe he was releasing the stress of his classes. Maybe he wished that he could be a music major but circumstances prevented it. Or, it’s occurring to me for the first time as I write this, maybe like myself he had played in a rock band during his teenage years and he was reliving those fun times at the piano.

Whatever his reasons, he was clearly having a great time playing that A Blues Scale over those fast and furious left hand octaves, and he found meaning in it.

Compare this with all the pianists out there who never really enjoy their own playing, because they never feel they’re “good enough.” But this guy didn’t care, and I think that’s great! I could relate to this as well, because I spent 4-5 years not sounding too good myself but I didn‘t care; I practiced hard and was having so much fun simply being at the piano and playing music that I loved. I knew I’d get better over time, just like the guy in the practice room did, and you will too.

If you haven’t seen my video on this, here it is. It’s a fun look at how we pianists can learn from the attitude of our guitarist friends, who seem in general to “enjoy the moment” more than we pianists, as a group, tend to do.

The REAL difference between pianists and guitar players

And we can all take some inspiration from that guy in the UCONN practice room, all those years ago. I’ll bet that somewhere, wherever he lives, he comes home from work, sits down at his piano and… you guessed it… jams out as energetically as he can using the A Blues Scale over LH octaves.

At least, I hope he does! (And I hope you do too.)

Have fun, enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!”

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