Piano Lessons and Sheet Music

China Grove

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Why do some songs reach the pinnacle of rock greatness and soar into the stratosphere to become classics? In the case of this week’s selection, China Grove by the Doobie Brothers, it is the opening riff, an explosion of energy that hooks the listener from the first bar to the last. Read more »

Released in March of 1973 on the double platinum album, The Captain and Me, China Grove reached 15 on the charts, while the album climbed to 7 and included the Doobie Brothers staples, Long Train Runnin and Without You. Produced by Ted Templeman who also produced the guitar heavy favorites, Van Halen, China Grove features three guitars (Tom Johnston, Patrick Simmons, and Jeffrey "Skunk" Baxter), two drummers (John Hartman and Michael Hossack), Tiran Porter on bass, Ted Templeman on Percussion and Bill Payne on piano. Bill Payne came up with the famous riff on piano and Tommy Johntson added the lyrics after Templeman suggested an oriental twist to match the vibe of the song. China Grove is actually a small roadside town near San Antonio Texas, Johnston says he made the words up and only discovered the town actually existed later. Johnston states he probably had previously seen a road sign for the town and had forgotten. The lyrics themselves are a diversion from reality, they depict a Texas town defended by a samurai sword wielding sheriff and his posse, but it is pure fantasy.. The lyrics, however, are not why this song rocks, this song rocks because the riff flies out of your speakers at mach 5, the chords are electric bliss, a train thundering down the tracks, crackling the airwaves with instant urgency and unbridled energy. No wonder this song is featured on video games like; Guitar Hero, Rock Band 3, Grand Theft Auto: Episodes from Liberty City and Karaoke Revolution Vol. 3 and in television shows such as, The Simpsons, House and Entourage. China Grove has become part of American mainstream culture and a rock and roll classic. As for the Doobie Brothers, they recently released their new album, World Gone Crazy, celebrating 40 years of heavy rock, funk, blues, and country-boogie flavored musical magic.

This song is a four-to-the-floor rocker. Get your left hand working smoothly so you can rock out with the right hand. And master the lick in the intro. Your friends will know this song after you play the first two notes.

Written by Tom Johnston Administered by Warner Chappell All Rights Reserved   Used by Permission

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Lesson, Level 7

Lesson Schedule

Levels 6 and 7: The quickest way to rock is by learning the Groove Chart! To help with improvising, practice the E three-octave scales and learn the E Blues scale. Also learn the E, D, and A chords.

First Week: Beginners practice the Lesson. Intermediate and Advanced students practice the Groove Chart and the Lesson.

Second Week: Add the Exercise and Improvisation to your practice. This is a straight up rocker. Get that left hand groove going and then let loose improvising with your right hand.

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  1. Mick Parker says:

    Lesson 3, Groove charts. I don’t recognise the notation on the score sheet…So, what does the notation mean? If you explain the first bar (with strokes in the upper and diamonds in the lower), then hopefully the rest will fall into place. Thanks.

    • irocku says:

      Great question. The groove chart is the fastest way to learn the essence of the song without getting bogged down reading notes. The groove charts are also great for comping with a band. The different notation used in the groove charts suggests that you play the duration of the note written on the page but you can choose to play any note from the chord or scale that sounds good to you. For example, if the note is a half note (an open diamond with a stem) you could play any note from the chord, or the chord itself, for two counts.

      Approach learning the groove chart by first learning all of the chords. It’s best to learn to play all the inversions of the chords with each hand. Once you’ve mastered the chords, begin playing the left hand rhythm. Begin with the root note of the chord, then octaves, then the root-fifth( ie for C chord play C and G), and then add more notes as you like. Once you are comfortable with the left hand, play the chords in the right hand using the rhythm as written. You can play the chord in any inversion or just one note of the chord and add the melody of the song if you like.

      (Note: If the chord is written C/E you would play the C chord with the right hand over an E in the left hand).

      Matthew ( rocker2) provided a really useful comment on the ”Such a Night” lesson that provides some good ideas on what you can do with the left hand. You might want to check that out.

      • Mick Parker says:

        Thanks for that. It’s a great help. I’ll copy this and print it out so I can keep it with the lessons. I’m having great fun learning here. Might never make it as a jazz/rock pianist, but I’ll keep going.

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