Most rock musicians don’t read notes. Many of the bands Chuck’s played with use the ‘Nashville Numbering System’. This system uses numbers to represent the chords to be played. The numbers represent the note of the scale and it’s corresponding chord in the particular key that you are playing. So if the song is in the key or C, a I would represent the C major chord, a ii would represent D minor, iii would be E minor, IV would be F major, V would be G major, vi would be A minor, viio would be B diminished. Using this system rockers can notate a song using numbers and then play in any key they chose.
For the IROCKU groove charts we choose to simplify the process of mentally converting from the chord number to the chord letter by providing just the chord letters. We also provide the rhythm through the use of ‘slash notes’. The durations of slash notes are read similar to regular musical notation. So a slash quarter note gets 1 beat, a slash half note gets 2 beats, a slash whole notes gets 4 beats, etc. The slash notes look a little odd because they are elongated or diamond shaped instead of round but that is so the reader knows it’s a slash notation and not standard notation. The difference between slash notation and standard notation is that the position of the slash note on the musical staff has no relevance whatsoever. You can play whatever note you choose based on the chord letter represented above the staff. For classically trained musicians this might sound like musical chaos, but this allows the musician to create their own musical interpretation while staying within the rhythmic and tonal guidelines of the song.
Let’s use our sample lesson “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” intermediate level groove chart as an example. We’ll begin with the left hand. The left hand of each measure has a dotted quarter note followed by an eighth-note tied to a half-note. So this would be counted 1-1/2 beats for the first note of the left hand and 2-1/2 beats for the second note. For the actual note to be played in the left hand you would choose any note from the C chord that sounds good to you! As a starter play the root of the chord which is a C or maybe the root and fifth ( C and G) or maybe the C octave. For the second measure you would play the exact same rhythm pattern as the first measure but this time you are playing the F chord. So now try playing the root of the chord which is an F or maybe the root and fifth ( F and C) or maybe the F octave. Continue this for each measure until you have the left hand mastered.
Now for the right hand. The right hand of each measure has two quarter-notes followed by an eighth-note rest followed by a dotted quarter note. So this is counted 1 beat for the first note, 1 beat for the second note, followed by a 1/2 beat rest followed by 1-1/2 beats for the third note. This rhythmic pattern follows throughout the groove chart. For the actual note to be played in the right hand you would choose any note from the C chord that sounds good to you! As a starter play the root of the chord which is a C or maybe the root and fifth ( C and G) or maybe the C octave. Or you can play any inversion of the C chord ( C-E-G or E-G-C or G-C-E). For the second measure you would play the exact same rhythm pattern as the first measure but this time you are playing notes from the F chord.
The groove charts will provide you with the essence of the song to sing along with as a piano accompaniment or as launch pads for improvising. Once you’ve mastered the left and right hand groove with some simple notes or chords continue to experiment within the guidelines of the rhythm patterns and chord changes.
Learn how to play rock and blues piano from one of rock’s greatest. Chuck Leavell, legendary keyboardist for The Rolling Stones, The Allman Bros, Eric Clapton, John Mayer, and more.