• Remembering Oscar Peterson: Jazz Blues Form, Bass Lines, Riffs & Cross Over Licks

    in Blues music,Experienced players,Industry News,Jazz music,Piano

    oscar peterson

    Today in history is a special day.

    Every 23rd of December, all ardent fans of Oscar Peterson across the globe remember his death. If you are a lover of jazz blues piano, you’ll enjoy this post.

    Oscar Peterson

    Oscar Peterson (O.P.), a black Canadian, was born on August 15, 1925 to Kathleen and Daniel Peterson who introduced him to music. Young Oscar, at the age of 5, was already into the trumpet and piano (his dad’s favorite instruments) but truly channeled his attention to the piano after he suffered from tuberculosis.

    Oscar was classically-trained and spoke highly of Bach’s Preludes and Fugues, Goldberg Variations etc, however, he fell in love with prevalent 20th century Afro-American styles like blues, stomps, ragtime, boogie woogie, and others. Consequently, his playing showed classical, jazz and popular music influences.

    Personally, I’m a huge fan and think Oscar was out of this world. His playing is characterized by clockwork precision (even at a terrible uptempo speed), technical brilliance (reflecting Art Tatum’s influence) and melodic inventiveness (obviously a product of Bach Inventions. He said this in a TV show).

    On December 23, 2007 (exactly 8 years ago), O.P. died of kidney failure and today we all miss him. In memory of Oscar Peterson, we’ll be exploring a jazz-blues study in the key of F. Have fun.

    Jazz-Blues Piano

    When you listen to the music of Mose Allison, BB King, etc, you’ll hear one thing they share in common – the blues. Blues music is melancholic, dramatic, and expressive. Oscar Peterson is a jazz-blues maestro whose interpretation and style is coveted by so many. We’ll focus on his style in future posts, but until then, remain in the spirit of the blues with all that we’ll cover in this post.


    The traditional blues form has a 12 bar structure (usually with 4 beats to a bar). These 12 bars can be broken down into three 4-bar sections. The first two sections often use the same melody (or a slight variation) while the third section creates a contrast.

    I | I | I | I | Section A (Introduction of theme or melody. Chord I is the first chord in this section)

    IV | IV | I | I | Section A (Recapitulation of theme or melody. Chord IV is the first chord in this section)

    V | IV | I | V | Section B (Introduction of contrasting theme. Chord V is the first chord in this section)

    Therefore, the 12 bar blues form is an AAB form. Which is:

    4 bars of A + 4 bars of A + 4 bars of B

    Left Hand Bass Lines

    There are many left hand bass lines in jazz blues. However, I chose this one because:

    • It’s right in between difficult and easy
    • It sounds bluesier than most bass lines owing to the use of the flat seventh
    • It is energetic because there are eight bass notes per bar. Different from other bass lines of four bass notes per bar.
    I’ll be demonstrating this in the key of F major, but with our new handy little tool, you can transpose everything below into all 12 keys (and even slow things down or loop parts). Be sure to check out our software, “Song Tutor” for the complete tool that does this and so much more.

    Bass line for Chord I

    Bass line for Chord IV

    Bass line for Chord V

    Bass lines Put Together

    Having been on both sides of the track, I understand the importance of practicing bass lines carefully. This is because so many years ago while learning what I’m sharing now, I passed through the difficulty you’ll probably encounter while learning bass lines and I can say to you that “If only you don’t give up, pretty soon, you’ll have a left hand you can be proud of, any day, anytime and anywhere”.

    Right Hand Riffs

    A riff is a distinct melodic or harmonic device that provides an accompaniment to a melody. Here are a few jazz blues riffs you can throw in here and there to spice up your arrangements.

    Riff for Chord I

    Riff for Chord IV

    Riff for Chord V


    Licks are short and active (flashy, catchy) melodic lines that are usually premeditated. Incorporating licks into your jazz blues vocabulary is worth the stress of learning them because there are shed sessions you must not get into without them. If you love it bluesy and jazzy, then you’ll love the following licks.

    Chord I Lick

    Chord IV Lick (Variation #1)

    Chord IV Lick (Variation #2)

    Chord V Lick

    Cross Over Licks

    Yeah! I love cross over licks so much. Oscar Peterson uses them effectively in his solos with a thousand and one rhythmic variations that make them sound fresh and piercing. While playing cross over licks, ensure that your fingers will move smoothly over your thumb.

    Cross Over Lick over Chord I (Variation #1)

    Cross Over Lick over Chord I (Variation #2)

    Cross Over Lick over Chord I (Variation #3)

    Cross Over Lick over Chord IV (Variation #1)

    Cross Over Lick over Chord IV (Variation #2)

    Cross Over Lick over Chord V

    Putting It All Together

    I hope you enjoyed this lesson.

    To Oscar Peterson…

    The following two tabs change content below.
    Onyemachi "Onye" Chuku (aka - "Dr. Pokey") is a Nigerian musicologist, pianist, and author. Inspired by his role model (Jermaine Griggs) who has become his mentor, what he started off as teaching musicians in his Aba-Nigeria neighborhood in April 2005 eventually morphed into an international career that has helped hundreds of thousands of musicians all around the world. Onye lives in Dubai and is currently the Head of Education at HearandPlay Music Group and the music consultant of the Gospel Music Training Center, all in California, USA.

    Attention: To learn more about this, I recommend our 500+ page course: The "Official Guide To Piano Playing." Click here for more information.


    { 2 comments… read them below or add one }

    1 Mwesigwa

    Thnx for the lessons.
    God bless


    2 Rosa

    Thank you
    However I could not get any if the Demo’s to play


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