From blues to jazz and from funk to RnB and hip hop, Black musicians have had a monumental impact on the history of music. Their achievements are endlessly inspiring and are crucial to study and understand, not just during Black History Month, but for a lifetime. What would music be without Prince or Duke Ellington? Jimi Hendrix or J Dilla? Can you imagine the history of the piano without Herbie Hancock or McCoy Tyner? Or the history of vocal music without Aretha Franklin or Billie Holiday? I certainly cannot, as these innovators practically created the genres that we all now love and admire.
Skoove has many great lessons designed to explore the work of great Black musicians and Black classical pianists. With over 400 lessons and a dedicated AI listening system designed to give you feedback on your playing in real time, Skoove is the best way to learn piano online. Additionally, Skoove has opened up access to some premium content, meaning you can use the top rated online piano app to learn to play piano free during the pandemic! What better way to use your time in quarantine than explore a new hobby and lower your stress at the same time!
In this article you will learn about some important and famous Black pianists and musicians including:
Bill Withers was a singer-songwriter and musician with a relatively short, but impactful career. Active from about 1970 to 1985, Withers composed and recorded a number of hit songs including “Lean on Me”, “Lovely Day”, “Just the Two of Us”, and “Grandma’s Hands.” Withers was nominated for six Grammy awards, winning three of them, and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Two of his compositions have also been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. His compositions are among the best piano songs for beginners. Originally from the town of Slab Fork, West Virginia, Wither spent 9 years in the Navy where he gained an interest in singing and song-writing. He moved to Los Angeles shortly after his service in 1967 to launch his musical career. By 1970, he had landed his first major record deal, and the rest as they say, is history. Skoove has some excellent lessons featuring Bill Withers’ compositions, so stop waiting and get practicing!
Maxi Jazz is the stage name of the English musician, rapper, singer-songwriter and DJ Maxwell Fraser. Maxi Jazz’s career began in 1984 as a DJ with The Soul Food Cafe System, which he debuted on a number of pirate radio stations in London in the mid to late 1980s. However, Jazz is probably best known for his work with the band Faithless, which he founded in 1994 with fellow producers Sister Bliss and Rollo. Faithless went on to become one of the most successful electronic bands of the late 1990s and early 2000s, producing 7 studio albums with over 15 million records sold worldwide. You can learn lessons of Faithless and one of the hit tunes “Insomnia”, in Skoove’s lesson programs! Jazz left Faithless 2011 and began his new project, Maxi Jazz and the E-Type Boys shortly after.
Fats Domino was an iconic pianist, vocalist, and pioneer of rock n roll music. His records sold more than 65 million copies, spanning a prolific 70 year career. Between the year 1955 and 1960, Domino had a total of eleven Top 10 hits and over the course of his career he had 35 records chart in the Billboard Top 40. Domino’s style incorporated blues, boogie-woogie, and RnB. Domino was a major touring star beginning in the 1950s until the mid 1990s. He regularly performed sold out concerts, and many shows in the 1950s and 60s were among the first racially integrated concerts in the United States. It is said at one point he was on the road touring up to 340 days per year! What an incredible life and adventure! Lucky for all of us, Skoove has a great set of Fats Domino lessons ,so we can all learn from and appreciate this man’s genius. This recording “Blueberry Hill” is one of Domino’s most well known pieces.
Fats Waller was an important figure in early jazz and swing music. He was an outstanding pianist, composer, vocalist, violinist, and entertainer. His innovations in the stride piano style helped lay the foundation for the jazz piano styles that would emerge in later years. Stride is a piano style that is characterized by alternating bass notes and chord stabs played with the left land. The technique is difficult to master and extremely fun and rewarding to play. Skoove has a large selection lessons of Fats Waller on this style, so jump right in! This recording is of one of his most famous compositions, “Ain’t Misbehavin’”, which was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1984!
Thelonius Sphere Monk was a principal architect of the new style of jazz music called Bebop that emerged in the early 1940s, primarily from late night jam sessions at a club called Minton’s Playhouse. Monk, along with alto saxophonist Charlie Parker, trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, guitarist Charlie Christian, bassist Oscar Pettiford, and drummer Max Roach among others began experimenting with a faster and more harmonically intricate musical concept. The music was further developed out of some necessity; at the time the American Federation of Musicians had instigated a musicians strike against major American record companies and no union musician could make commercial recordings for any commercial record company. Once the strike broke and musicians began to record again, the music grew to become the dominant genre in jazz by the late 1940s and has influenced generations of musicians since. This video is a live take of one of Monk’s most famous compositions, “‘Round Midnight.”
Alicia Keys is an award winning pianist, vocalist, and composer. She is probably one of the most famous Black artists and among the most famous piano players alive today. Her music is well known all over the world and studied by young pianists and vocalists everywhere. Her early influence in classical music opened the doors to piano technique and music theory, and when she combined that knowledge with the inspirations of Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, and the creative epicenter of New York City, the results have been nothing short of phenomenal! This recording is a live track from Keys Tiny Desk concert from February 2020.
This is but a short list of some important and influential Black musical artists to explore. The history of music would not be the same without the contributions of these amazing musicians. Skoove offers many opportunities to learn about the important contributions of Black musicians. Whether you admire John Legend and want access to “All of Me” piano sheet music or your interests lie more with historical Black musicians like Scott Joplin , there is no shortage of beauty, creativity, and experience to discover in the work of Black musicians!
Author of this blog post
Eddie Bond is a multi-instrumentalist performer, composer, and music instructor currently based in Seattle, Washington USA. He has performed extensively in the US, Canada, Argentina, and China, released over 40 albums, and has over a decade experience working with music students of all ages and ability levels.