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How to Play Walking in Memphis


In this video from LessonRating.com we are going to try and do a quick and dirty tutorial on a very famous piano song and piano lick: "Walking in Memphis." That's the one that sounds like this with the intro. Let's first just take apart that intro. What is it? It's really just a series of chords with fifths. The first one is F, but there's no third in it. Basically, you're just going F to the five, so root to fifth, root to fifth. You're doing that through this whole lick. That's probably the easiest way to think of it is root to fifth, root to fifth, using four chords: F, G, C, and A minor. Root fifth, root fifth, that's the fifth. G is root fifth, root fifth. C is root fifth, root fifth. A minor is root fifth, root fifth.

The trickiest part, in my opinion, to this song is the rhythm of it. I think the easiest way is to just make sure you're tapping with your foot here first. You'll notice when it starts you're going to just go part way up that root fifth. If you notice, I only go ... and then I go onto the next one. Really what's happening is each time the first note, the root note, is pushing. You really got to feel it come before the downbeats. If you tap on it ... Sorry. I like to tap it with my foot, as opposed to staying on the beats. Three, one two three four, one two three four. It doesn't do that. It comes before. Two uh three uh four. Uh one uh two uh three uh four, uh one uh two uh three uh four. Sorry, I got off the counting and talking.

I think the easiest way, again, to try and get started within that rhythm is to tap your foot and remember that the first one is only sort of partial. By doing that, it will get you to be pushing the rhythm with those root notes. That essentially is the entire verses. Help come down an octave but it's really the same chords, those fifths. They're actually fun to play with, too. Even if you don't arpeggiate them, just as chords.

Then when he goes to the chorus with ... What is he doing there? It's the same chords but now he's just putting the thirds in them, so F to G to C to A minor to A minor, F to G to C to A minor. Then if you sing with it ... What's he doing on that end of it? All that is is F triad to a C with an E in the bass. F, C, E in the bass. Then he goes right back into the verse. Again, those same chords. Same chords. Same chords. To the C or F, then C with E in the bass, F, C with E in the bass. Then eventually he comes down to C. You can drag this out. This is where he just stays, pedals on Cs. Still in C. Nice to put that seventh in there when they're talking about the gospel. What does he do here? He goes from C to E, dominant third, E7. C to E7 would be ... Now we're up to the fourth. Let's do it again. This is a F sharp diminished.

After the bridge, which is that C, E7, F, F sharp diminished, G, then you're just going right back to that intro again. I just want to clarify that intro one more time because I really think that's the secret to the song is the rhythm of this. Before I was tapping with my foot. I don't think you can hear it on the video. If you tap with your hand, this is a good practice to do. Just tap the quarter notes with your right hand just right on the piano. Then your left hand, try to just play those roots with the right rhythm. You'll notice they're all pushing. They don't line up with my right hand. If you were on the beat, it would sound like this with your right hand, which is not right. They have to push. Actually, a 16th note right before the downbeat. Bah, bah, bah, bah, bah, bah. You can practice even with not just roots but play chords until you really get that rhythm in your bones.

Anyway, I hope that's helpful doing it that way. I know that was the trickiest part of the song for me to learn. Try tapping those quarter notes with your right hand. Get that left hand, and once you feel that rhythm, then you can fill it in with the arpeggio. Anyway, that is "Walking in Memphis." Hope you enjoyed it!


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