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!

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Mark A. Galang, OTRP, MAM-MT(c)

Mark Galang is one of our contributors at He loves teaching all styles of music especially jazz, blues, rock, classical, and Christian music. Mark is also a licensed occupational therapist in the Philippines that combines music therapy intervention with occupational therapy.