Classic Rock Progressions on Piano
Are you interested in playing classic rock chord progressions on the
piano? This article will help you understand the essentials of playing classic rock on your piano!
In classical music we often have chord progression exercises, and are taught with the correct theory or way of
playing them. With classic rock, they had common chords they used in that era, and I will show you how to
effectively master them.
Other things to consider while playing classic rock, is using different types of rhythm while you are playing
The thing that makes rock music so appealing to most music lovers, is the rhythm. Rock players like being
carried away by the beat of the song. The role of the piano is to come in to soothe, and to compliment the rhythm.
Many times, the introduction of the piano offers a twist to the music and makes it very refreshing to the
Now, you could easily learn a classic rock song by ear. Just sit in front of your piano, press the play button
on your radio, have the pause button in easy reach. Listen to the chords, and play the basic chords on your piano, figuring out which one it is. Later, you can listen to how
it’s played in the song, the type of inversions etc.
While you probably already know what chord progressions are, and how to play them in their different inversions,
I want to introduce you to the commonly-heard classic rock progressions.
Piano chord progressions can be played in different ways. For
harmonising, we usually use one note for the bass in the left hand, and three notes in the right.
However, for classic rock you can firstly just use the basic chords to get you started. Play the basic
three-note chords, which you probably know by now. I “tonic”, IV “sub-dominant”, and V “dominant”, are the three
basic chords used in all songs.
In C Major, it will be: C, F, and G.
The main characteristic of Classic rock, is the use of other chords, belonging to other keys or tonalities. They
call this borrowing. For instance, you might see the commonly-used a minor between the tonic and the sub-dominant
chords in the tonality of C Major.
Here is an example of a commonly-used chord progression:
C, am, F, G7.
This forms the basis of the classic rock progression. On the piano you can now play all sorts of inversions to
make it sound professional. To make it even more unique, use different types of rhythms.
Another prominent way to play the chords on the piano, is to leave out the third of the chord, and give it an
open feel to it. This gives a rock sounding tone and is also it easier to play than normal chords. They call this
Some people also tend to put in the “blue note” which gives it a blue feel. To do this, you can lower the fifth
step of the dominant chord.
While some people actually confuse the blues with classic rock. But it’s easy to differentiate the blues from
classic rock due to it’s syncopated rhythm and its twelve-bar structure. Another sound that is quite often heard is
the chord progression from sub-dominant to tonic, and it gives it a warm feeling.
For homework, practise these chords, until you can switch between the chords fast and effortlessly. Then, listen
to your favourite classic rock song, and practise with the song.
Practice around abit to become familiar with the added “borrowed” chords and listen to more songs, until you get
the feel of it. Then use different inversions of the chords, and various rhythms to play with it.