I need to accompany on piano for some blues songs. I play a little on piano in childhood and know basic theory.

What I need to accompany for this songs:

  • Sweet Home Chicago
  • B.B.King - Everyday I Have The Blues
  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe - This Train

So what simplest that I can do?
Maybe 12 bars blues progression?
And if I want to add solo, how should I build it (of course simple)?


Been there. Done that. I'll try to describe what my experiences have been. I rarely got to practice a accompaniment; usually I'd step in at the last minute for a rehearsal or someone would want to sing and they would ask me to accompany.

You've got a good start by knowing some theory (classical, jazz, etc. are useful.) That means you know the general structure of songs. Since you know the songs, you might just memorize the basic chord structure. It's good to think in terms of (probably simplified) Roman numeral analysis; perhaps just think of major, minor, maybe seventh, diminished chords. The blues progression is good to know as it is very common across many types of songs: I,I,I,I;IV,IV,I,I;V,V,I,I, with perhaps some variation. Often the chords are all sevenths (major-minor). If you are playing piano behind a soloist, there are several ways to play such a pattern: block chords (not really for blues), boom-chick (alternate bass and chords, real good for blues), broken chords (good for varying things now and then), or a counter-melody that basically agrees with the chord progression. You can vary these depending on the text of the song and the desire of the soloist. It's good to write out the progression in Roman numerals (or whatever you are more familiar with) so as to make transpositions easy. Singers often want a piece to be moved higher or lower (depending on the amount of sleep the night before and other matters) or maybe the piano is tuned a half-step low (that's happened in real life.)

There are other common chord progressions (there a free pdf on the internet somewhere listing many such progressions) that you can use: I,I,IV,IV,I,I,V,I and the like.

In your case, probably, you will also play the bass on the piano. A strong bass line can really help. If you look at classical lieder (and other stuff for that matter), the bass and the melody make good two-part counterpoint. A walking bass is used a lot in jazz standards and is useful in connecting parts of a song. Also, you can use a more lively bass line when you have the lead.

If you need to play a solo or break, there are several possibilities. The easiest is to just play an embellished version of the melody. When backing up the soloist, one doesn't want to get in the way, rather to be supportive (mostly play either the melodic tone or the fundamental of the underlying harmony, nothing too dissonant so as not the throw off the singer). When soloing during a break, anything goes as long as you can get back to accompanying at the end of the solo.

If you get some rehearsal time with the soloist, you can work out at least an outline of what you are going to do.

I'm sure others can probably contribute more here.


You need to know the chords for each song. The first two are basically 12-bar blues. "This Train" uses the same simple chords but in a slightly different order. Google the song name + "chords" to check them out. Now the hard bit. You really have to do these songs in the keys that best suit the voices. You mustn't make them stretch for notes that are too low or too high because YOU can only play in one key. If you have to take a solo, play the tune. Enjoy!


I can relate. Piano is not my main instrument (I am most proficient on guitar). So here is what I would do to keep it super simple - yet effective.

I would use the left hand to play the root notes of the chords in the chord progression (12 barre blues probably works for at least two of those songs). I would play them as an octave in unison. Or the full chord will work if you can pull it off. Just remember that too many notes together on the lowest keys on piano can sound a bit muddy. That's why the octave unison might work well - besides being simpler to play.

Then I would position my right hand to play the full chord - perhaps alternating between inversions and playing some melody notes from within the chord. Not necessarily the whole chord at once - except occasionally.

You can alternate in a rhythmic fashion between left and right hand.

This should allow you to provide a reasonably effective accompaniment - similar to what a rhythm guitarist would do with the addition of some bass with left hand. And all you really need to know is the 3 chords in the progression. The rest will fall into place as you play.

Have fun!


Learn to play a blues song in all the keys. When you accompany a singer, he or she will call for a certain key that they want to use to sing a certain melody, and you need to get to the point that you are able to provide the accompaniment in that key immediately, no matter what key is requested. This skill is called transposition.

  • 1
    Alternatively, you can hit the transpose button on your new-fangled electric piano. :) All kidding aside, this is an important skill, which any jazz or studio musician will know. Back in my younger days, I requested some jazz standard in F# major, just to see if the pianist had the chops to do it. He played it flawlessly, so I went up and asked if he would give me some lessons. I never really learned to transpose well, though.
    – BobRodes
    Feb 19 '16 at 23:18

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