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Home : Sample LessonsCurriculum : : Keyboard Styles

Keyboard Styles The Doo-Wop Progression

In this lesson you will learn to use common keyboard patterns to accompany pop tunes that use the Doo-Wop Progression. The The Doo-Wop progression is one of the most enduring progressions in popular music. Perhaps the most famous use of this progression is Hoagy Carmichael/Frank Loesser's 1938 tune, Heart and Soul. But as you will see, many pop tunes are based on the "Doo-Wop" progression.

The Doo-Wop Progression

doo wop progression


Create an arrangement to perform as an accompaniment for a singer or instrumentalist.

  • Choose a song from the songlist.
  • Determine how the Doo-Wop progression is used in your tune. (Note! Some songs use it exclusively, while others do not. Additional chords are provided on the worksheet.)
  • Determine an appropriate keyboard pattern (see discussion below) or use the suggestion provided on the worksheet.
  • Perform with a singer, instrumentalist, or accompany yourself singing!

Song List: playlist

Songs Using Doo-Wop Progression Exclusively

  • Bieber/Ludacris: Baby (Print Worksheet)
  • Springsteen: Hungry Heart (Print Worksheet)
  • The Beatles: Please Mr. Postman (Print Worksheet)
  • Ben E. King: Stand by Me (Print Worksheet)
  • Hoobastank:The Reason (Print Worksheet)
  • Sha Na Na: Those Magic Changes (Print Worksheet)
  • Village People: Y.M.C.A (Print Worksheet)

Songs Incorporating Doo-Wop Progression

  • Elvis Presley: Blue Moon (Print Worksheet)
  • Avril Lavigne: Complicated (Print Worksheet)
  • The Police: Every Breath You Take (Print Worksheet)
  • Regina Spektor: Folding Chair (Print Worksheet)
  • Rolling Stones: Hang Fire (Print Worksheet)
  • Martin/Blane: Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Print Worksheet)
  • CCR: Lookin' Out My Back Door (Print Worksheet)
  • Nazareth: Love Hurts (Print Worksheet)
  • The Beatles: Octopus's Garden (Print Worksheet)
  • Righteous Bros: Unchained Melody (Print Worksheet)
  • Sam Cooke: Wonderful World (Don't Know Much About History) (Print Worksheet)

Keyboard Patterns

View/Print Keyboard Patterns

Even though all the songs on this list utilize the same basic progression, there are many stylistic differences. Style is influenced by rhythmic patterns, chord voicings, and harmonic content. In popular styles, the recurring accompanying pattern is called a vamp. In the popular piano duet versions of Heart and Soul, the basic chord progression is made distinctive through a bouncy rhythm.

heart and soul progression

Basic Vamps

Vamps use either blocked or a broken chord textures. These chords may appear in root position or in inverted positions. The simplest vamp will use a straight four feel appropriate for many songs including Geoge Gershwin: I've Got Rhythm; CCR: Lookin' Out My Back Door, and Village People: YMCA.

basic vamp

Rhythmic Variations on the Basic Vamp

These examples show simple ways that the basic vamp can be varied. This simple rhythmic variation might be used in Avril Lavigne's Complicated.

complicated score

Blocked chords in triplet rhythm evoke 50s rock & roll and would be appropriate for Rodgers and Hart: Blue Moon; Smokey Robinson: I've Been Good to You; and The Beatles:This Boy.

 this boy score

Broken chords in triplet rhythm also evoke 50s popular music and can be heard in North and Zaret: Unchained Melody. A more contemporary example of this can be seen in Leonard Cohen: Hallelujah.

unchained melody score

Variations on the Bass Line

Alternating the root and the 5th of each chord in the bass line is a common way to add interest.

The Beatles: Octopus's Garden

octopus' garden score

Rolling Stones: Hang Fire

hang fire score


Syncopation is an important element in popular music. This example demonstrates a typical syncopated "feel" found in pop styles. This vamp could be used to accompany many songs requiring syncopation.

syncopation example

In Sam Cooke: Wonderful World, a syncopated broken chord pattern works well.

wonderful world


In some songs, the vamp also serves as a hook designed to catch the ear of the listener.

Ben E. King's Stand By Me uses a syncopated, melodic bass line that creates a distinctive and easily identified sound.

stand by me score

In Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart, added chord tones (7ths and 9ths) are used to create richer harmonies.

hungry heart

In Every Breath You Take by the Police, the basic arpeggiated pattern is enriched with passing tones.

every breath you take

In Hoobastank's The Reason, a scalar melodic pattern creates this distinctive hook.

the reason score


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