Billy Joel Piano Licks – Solo Like A Legend

billy joel pianoWould you like to learn some Billy Joel piano licks?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this lesson, you will learn a couple of licks from live performances by the Piano Man himself.

These licks will help you take your soloing to another level.

Let’s get started.

How To Play A Billy Joel Piano Blues Lick

To get started, check out this bluesy lick from Billy Joel’s Old Grey Whistle Test performance of “New York State Of Mind”:

billy joel pianoTo properly learn the lick, here are the steps:

  • First, you need to listen to the lick numerous times.
  • Second, sing the lick a couple of times as well. The first two steps helps internalize it in your mind’s “ear”.
  • Third, practice the lick slowly by itself.
  • Next, play the chord progression with your left hand while practicing the lick with your right.
  • Fifth, learn the lick in different keys so you can get a hang of a Billy Joel piano technique. Learning it in different keys lets you use the lick in any song.

To make things a bit more convenient, I have transcribed the lick for you. Check out the sheet music below:

billy joel piano

Lastly, the most important step in learning any lick is applying it to different tunes.

Any time you encounter a ii-V-I chord progression, use this billy joel piano lick. This will help you commit it to your ever expanding soloing vocabulary.

Let’s take a look at another awesome lick.

How To Use Chromatic Notes in a Billy Joel Piano Lick

Here’s how you can add some chromaticism in a Billy Joel piano style.

Check out this lick at the beginning of “Piano Man”:

 

To effectively learn the lick, follow the steps described in the “New York State Of Mind” lick that you checked out a while ago.

Since you want to fast track the learning process, here’s a transcription of the lick:

As you can see above, this particular lick covers Dm7 and G7(b9). These are the ii and V in the key of C.

There are a number of things that you can do here:

Use this lick whenever you encounter that ii-V chord progression. This small piece of vocabulary is an awesome way to link other lines together.

Learn this lick in all 12 keys and you’ll have a flashy yet useful way of covering a ii-V or IV-V progression in any song.

Interestingly, we have another lick from the Piano Man that you’ll find very useful. Check it out below:

How To Make Use Of Common Shapes To Play Cool Runs

One trick that Billy Joel uses to play fantastic keyboard solos is taking advantage of common shapes and patterns:

For instance, check out the end of Billy Joel’s Minimoog solo in a live version of “Angry Young Man”:

Now, what Billy Joel does in that keyboard lick is take advantage of one shape.

This particular pattern has a single black key in the middle. You can find this in the D and A major triads.

Given that you can easily use a five-finger pattern over that shape, you can mess around with it a lot. This will give you plenty of ideas for runs.

Here’s a transcription of this particular descending run as seen in the video:

billy joel piano

All of the notes on the lick will easily line up with all 5 fingers as long as you use the D major and A major triads with a 1-3-5 fingering.

As you can see above, the first half of the lick only uses the D major triad shape. Only the note G is added to it.

The second half of the lick contains an A major triad arpeggio and then ends at a D major triad with a 9th.

String those patterns together and you can run across the piano like Billy Joel.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson regarding some Billy Joel piano licks.

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for a new lesson, feel free to leave a comment below.

Have fun practicing!

About The Author

Mark A. Galang

Mark Galang is one of our contributors at FreeJazzLessons.com. He loves teaching all styles of music especially jazz, blues, rock, classical, and Christian music.