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on 10 October 2007
I am a complete newcomer to the blues, coming from a classical background. I bought a few books last year, including this one, which I'm almost done working through. There seemed to be some disagreement among the other reviewers about whether this book develops creativity... Even though I agree to some extent that this won't cultivate spontaneity on the piano "immediately", I personally think that in the medium to long run, working through this book is much more beneficial for creativity and improv then other available books. Improvising Blues Piano is simply fantastic and I would personally even say a "must" for anyone genuinely interested in learning the blues!

From the several books I've seen, I think there are different learning approaches out there, which I think can be categorized into "quick learning" and "real learning". What I call the quick learning options will give you entire repertoires of licks and riffs, which build up your blues vocabulary very quickly, but you don't necessarily understand what you're doing or how to expand on it. All you know is that it sounds great, you're having fun and you're definitely playing some groovy blues! So if improvising is about learning the vocabulary and grammar of the blues and then formulating your own sentences, then this type of approach is definitely more gratifying in the short run, and you'll definitely be learning and having fun. The problem is that you'll only be learning fancy vocabulary and very basic grammar; unfortunately no more, and no less.

The other category which I can discern out of the books I've been working from is the "real learning" kind, which this book falls into. The focus here is on understanding the music and getting a real feel of what you are doing, and this book absolutely excels at this! The theory is explained in a VERY approachable manner (as opposed to dry and technical), moving incrementally one concept at a time, and giving you ample room to practice, create and improvise around that single concept. Each concept is also accompanied by a set piece, which serves as a practical example (or sometimes several examples) of how the concept can be applied, so that you don't start from nowhere, as if you'd just read only theory. Each piece is also fully analysed so you understand what is going on throughout, and the CD helps you to follow in case you prefer to play it by ear or need help deciphering the sheet. And the best feature: the exercises that accompany each piece and challenge you to improvise around what's written on paper.

The difference between the two approaches? I think that both are good, but with different advantages. Again if we compare learning the blues to learning a language, here you're learning a LOT more about the grammar, and in the process a lot of vocabulary also. But the vocabulary will come much more gradually, as you discover new riffs, licks or comping patterns with every new piece you work through... It takes a bit more time and quite a bit more work and thinking, but at the end, you'll actually understand what you're doing; you know what sounds good and why, and also how to refine or develop your ideas; your intuition builds up on a much more solid basis, opening many more doors for improvisation than the first approach; and you develop a deeper appreciation for the blues as a whole, (especially since Tim Richards makes it a point to give you history, short bios and fab pictures of the great blues pianists, past and present.)

So once again, very very very highly recommended! (With one caveat: the book does pre-suppose a basic level... say one or two years minimum experience on the piano.)
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on 11 March 2001
I have bought a large number of books on learning to play blues piano. This book is by far the best, taking you logically and progressively through the theory and its application. It also includes a CD of all the tracks in the book. Don't expect to find this book easy if you're not at an intermediate level to start with. Persevere and it won't be long be you can play the blues....
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on 28 January 2003
Good books about blues piano are hard to find.
After a long search, I finally found this gem !
Most of all, it enables any intermediate player to get to another level of playing in a very enjoyable and useful way.
Enjoyable, because it contains a rich variety of classic blues pieces, representing a wide range of blues styles. A good contribution to enrich the performing student's repertoire.
Useful, because it enables any player to really understand and use all those sophisticated chords ( 9#, 13, etc.), opening doors (and ears !) to the aspiring jazz pianist.
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on 24 August 2009
This is the most comprehensive blues/booge woogie piano tutor I have found. And I have read a number of them.

It provides 72 studies to play, together with analysis of their melodic, harmonic and rhythmic content. Introducing concepts in a progressive fashion. So that anyone working through the book can play authentic sounding blues/boogie woogie and assimilate the knowledge to improvise/compose the same.

The book requires that the reader is already able to play piano from standard staff, musical notation. And this is a minimum requirement to be able to benefit from the book. A lot of theory is covered in the book. And in some places topics, which are presented in several pages in other books, are described in one or two paragraphs. This book is a thorough tutorial in blues/boogie woogie piano and to include more details would have made it unwieldy. As it is the book extends to 262 pages. And I think that it strikes a fine balance between covering sufficient topics and the depth of the corresponding descriptions and the examples provided. For example, a substantial discussion of chord inversions and formations is not presented until around page one hundred. At which point the preceding material has ensured that the reader has sufficient experience to understand the significance of the information then presented and the associated, recommended exercises.

This book is a tutorial and it requires that the reader consider the material presented and spend corresponding time playing the piano. What the book does is provide a scheme for using the time spent practising effectively. To enable the reader to reach a level where they can concentrate on the scales and chord structures of a performance without thinking about the mechanics of playing.

The focus of the book is the genre of the 12 bar chord structure. Since this was the origin of jazz and funk and influential in the development of R&B, soul and pop music, the skills developed by following the course can also be applied to these styles of playing.

It is clear from this book that the author both understands the subject matter in depth and is capable of teaching it in a lucid and concise manner (Examples of Tim Richards' blues playing can be found on the Tim Richards Trio CD "The Other Side").

A reader can skim through the book, mostly simply learning to play the pieces presented. Or could work at length through the corresponding exercises suggested. Which could take years to perform with proficiency. A great strength. Because the book can enable the reader to (relatively) quickly play rewarding sounding blues and also provide a companion to becoming an accomplished blues/boogie woogie pianist.
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on 9 November 2008
I was lucky enough to be taught by Tim Richards p/t at Goldsmiths and he wrote this book to help and accompany his students.It is simply but well written and uses great masters for example pieces such as Dr.John and Prof.Longhair. You do need to have some playing experience/knowledge and be able to play (a bit) both hands but I observed a guy on the course who had limited ability become a really good player in less than a year mainly by following the lessons in the book and listening. Unfortunately I didn't do all the things he suggests and still tend to just read the music rather than improvise (v. naughty as it's something the book strongly suggests you don't do)-This book however had a profound effect on my playing and appreciation of the blues and probably would for most people that applied themselves to it.
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on 12 November 2007
The guy above reviewing the book obviously didn't give it the time of day and has written a potentially damaging review about something he knows nothing about.

The writer of this book instructs and encourages ALL THE WAY THROUGH TO IMPROVISE AND CREATE YOUR OWN PIECES.

Yes he gives songs and musical transcripts to play, they are simple at first and get progressively longer and more complicated once the principles have been well practised. But they are simply starting points for his instructions on the same page. You need a context to learn in and he has provided lots of them.

He teaches you to teach yourself, there is ample opportunity to learn and improvise and do your own stuff throughout right from the beginning. I was excited at my progress after th efirst two pages of the book and it never tapered off now I've worked through two and a half chapters.

He even teaches you how to create your own solos and gives well-used 'devices' to make something sound good, that starts right from page 1. These devices were used by professional blues performers even to this day.

The writer himself is a performer, and is a teacher at an established music school. He uses his teaching experience in the book that much is obvious. Don't buy any other book but this one because it's well deserved.

This book is something marvellous. I knew nothing before I started, I have learned more from this book in 7 months than I have in 8 years of tinkering around myself.
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on 13 April 2009
Recently I flicked through the pages of this book and thought how much you get for less than the cost of one piano lesson. I've studied classical piano for 23 years. In the past I've briefly studied blues and jazz from books and taken the odd lesson. Nothing worked. I couldn't seem to leave my classical conditioning behind and see and use the piano in a different way-the way needed to play blues and jazz. This book teaches in a way that balances the classical (cerebral) approach with the physical, tactile requirements needed to play and improvise blues. It gives you a very deep insight in to the theory of what you are doing. Plus it gives countless examples, assignments and drill that secure that information in muscle memory. If followed, this approach allows you to play creatively, breaking those habitual playing habits that keeps a person playing the same safe things over and over. Tim Richards seems to have put his entire musical expertise into these pages (if one includes his two other jazz books). He is a gifted teacher who builds you knowledge step by step, layer by layer.
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on 2 April 2008
I must disagree with the reviewer who thinks that this is simply learning by rote. If you actually work through the book, it gives you a number of exercises where you do have to use your own creativity and understanding. For someone like me who came from a classical background, this book was an excellent way of helping me let go of the printed page.I still found it difficult, but each chapter in this book gives you something tangible to work on. It is not simply "go and do it by yourself"
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on 10 June 2010
Inspired by a local blues musician to re-connect with blues piano, he told me of Blues summer schools that he runs with Tim Richards. I researched and found this publication which I am thoroughly enjoying working through after a very, very long gap in playing piano. I reached a reasonably high standard as a child and happily my fingers remember where to go, so for a returning Intermediate player this is a great resource. The lay out of the publication is excellent from my point of view. The explanations are clear and written in Plain English, with good progression from one exercise to another. The accompanying CD is a great tool for being able to hear how it should be played - but to be used after working at it yourself.
Improvising Blues Piano might be a misnomber at my stage and I'd be tempted to re-name the publication 'Get confident playing Blues Piano', but that's long winded. It's enabling me to realise a long-held desire to play blues piano - and that's great. My goal is to work through the book over the year and then get along to that summer school.
'Easy to grasp'? Most definitely so.
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on 8 March 2012
I bought this book on the strength of the other reviews and I've not been disappointed.

Before starting this book I suppose I would've characterised myself as a beginner - I can read music a bit, play chords with the left and pick out a melody with the right, but that's about it. And I've found this book to be a bit of a learning curve, but that's not to say it is difficult. Each piece introduces a new technique and that is what's been hard. But, with daily practice, I've found that I do get better and before I know it I've managed to learn the piece/technique when I never thought I would upon first listening to it on the CD. I guess that's a testament to the way the book is written and the choice of exercises presented.

I've had this book for just over 2 months and I'm still on the first chapter (although near the end of it) and as I said, I practice everyday. So it's not easy, but learning to play decent blues piano isn't going to be is it?

I've got other books on piano and I've found them to jump on quite a bit despite what they say. This book takes it step by step and pretty quickly you find you can play some decent blues. And is that not what everyone wants to do? Play some decent music? I don't listen to blues (I do like jazz though), but it's very satisfying to play. And actually, looking further on into the book, I would say there are a fair few jazz pieces in there (looking forward to Blue Monk!)

In summary then, if you want to progress your playing, and you are a beginner like me, then you definitely need this book. And some dedication...
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