CJC E-News
* Email  

Sign Up




You can help the California Jazz Conservatory grow and keep its fees affordable for all. Please visit our Support page to learn about the many ways to help sustain America's national art form!




Blues Piano: The Nuts and Bolts


This course offers a well-rounded introduction to the nuts and bolts of blues piano: bass lines, common licks, accompaniment patterns for various blues styles and forms, approaches to improvisation, and other essential vocabulary. Materials provided by instructor. Prerequisites: basic keyboard proficiency.

Tuesdays 6:30 – 8 pm
7/10 – 8/14 (6 weeks)
Jennifer Jolly • $280

Note: Sequencing and topics may vary depending on class members’ experience levels and progress.


Week One:

Introductions and course overview.

Review of blues piano styles: down-home, boogie-woogie, swing, jump, early rock            ‘n’ roll, New Orleans, jazz-blues, funky, etc.

Differences among: solo piano arrangement, accompaniment, ensemble w/o bass,   ensemble w/bass.

Straight vs. swung 8ths; “degree of swing.”

Chord/scale review as needed.

12-bar blues form.

Useful “nuts and bolts” bass lines.

Common right-hand (RH) voicings and licks.

Start Tune #1 and sample excerpts.

Group improvisation: “vertical” vs. “horizontal” approaches.

Suggested listening and artists.


Week Two:

Q&A from Week One.

Common variations within the 12-bar blues form.

More “nuts and bolts” bass lines, (RH) voicings and licks.

Introduce “3 and 7” voicings.

Common accompaniment rhythms (e.g., Red Garland’s “and-of-4, and-of-2”)

Start Tune #2 and more sample excerpts.

Set-ups and turnarounds.

Group improvisation: vertical/horizontal, minor and major blues scales.


Week Three:

Q&A from Week Two.

8-bar blues form.

More “nuts and bolts” bass lines, RH voicings, rhythms.

Introduce additional rootless voicings.

More on set-ups and turnarounds.

Start Tune #3 and more sample excerpts.

Group improvisation: hybrid scales, phrasing, trades.


Week Four:

Q&A from Week Three.

Straight 8ths applications.

16-bar blues form.

More “nuts and bolts” bass lines, RH voicings, rhythms, rootless voicings.

Intros and endings.

Start Tune #4 as appropriate, more sample excerpts.

Group improvisation.


Week Five:

Q&A from Week Four.

24-bar blues form.

More “nuts and bolts” bass lines, RH voicings, rhythms.

More on intros and endings.

More sample excerpts.

Group improvisation.


Week Six:

Final Q & A.

Putting it together: blues jam session/gig protocols, how to bring in tunes, how to play along to unfamiliar tunes.

Group improvisation.

Course review and reflections.

Suggested resources for further study.




Jennifer Jolly (piano, keyboards)

B.A. UC Berkeley. Keyboardist, melodica player, vocalist, composer, and educator (keyboards, world music, improvisation). Specialty in New Orleans R&B, African, Caribbean, blues, soul/funk, rock, Americana, jam bands, country swing, Cajun/zydeco, groove/percussive and improvisational music. Currently performing with Zulu Spear, Babá Ken Okulolo & Friends, Big B and His Snake Oil Saviors, The Jolly Gibsons, and several reggae/ska, blues/R&B, and Americana groups; frequent sub with Tom Rigney & Flambeau. Current accompanist for choruses, churches, and musical theater productions. Previous performance credits include Phil Lesh, Kotoja, Barbara Dane, and Hot Links. Long-time faculty instructor at the CJC, Cazadero Family Camp, after-school programs, and private studio. Secondary instruments include steel drums, flute, and percussion.


Jazzschool Catalog