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How to Master “Great Balls of Fire” Like a Top Gunner

Learn the art of playing “Great Balls of Fire” by Jerry Lee Lewis and rock out like Miles Teller in Top Gun: Maverick! This incredibly fun song brings together a wide range of essential rock’n’roll skills that are bound to impress your buddies.

Parts Breakdown

There are three main sections in this song, each with its own exciting features:

  1. A section – Includes octaves, slides, a rock shuffle, and glissandos.
  2. B section – Involves tremolos, syncopation, and big chords.
  3. Solo – Features a walking bass and even more glissandos!

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“Great Balls of Fire”: A Section

Intro: Octaves

The song kicks off with a series of ascending and descending octaves. Octaves can be challenging for beginners, especially those with smaller hands. One option is to split the octaves between both hands. This may not produce the same “full” sound, but it will achieve a similar effect.

Main Riff: Slides

The main riff is known for its iconic sound, achieved by subtly sliding from E-flat to C triad in your right hand. Simply slide into a C triad from a C minor one.

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Glissando!

Glissandos look incredibly cool and are not overly difficult to execute. However, there is a right and wrong way to perform them…

The right way: Keep your thumb light and loose as you slide your thumbnail over the keys. Avoid holding your thumb too stiffly as it may cause discomfort.

To gliss back up, use the nail part of your middle finger and, once again, maintain a relaxed approach.

Left Hand: Rock Shuffle

The rock shuffle is an iconic part of rock’n’roll music. It involves rocking between fifth chords (also known as “power chords”) and sixth chords. As an example, shuffle between C5 and C6:

“Great Balls of Fire”: B Section

Tremolos

Tremolos occur when you rapidly alternate between notes, creating a trembling effect.

Although C and E♭ played together may not sound pleasant (as they form the notorious tritone), when combined with the tremolo effect, these notes add excitement and tension to the composition.

Syncopated Off-Beats

The B section concludes with some powerful G chords, played in a syncopated manner, or on the off-beat.

Think of it as playing on the “and” rather than the number if you’re counting. Alternatively, develop a strong sense of the downbeat and play in between those beats.

“Great Balls of Fire”: Solo

The piano solo section brings together the skills you have learned thus far, such as playing big chords and executing glissandos. Enjoy yourself and have fun!

Walking Bass

Within this section, the walking bass outlines six chords, including C6, F6, G6, and more.

However, we’ll break these chords into octaves. Remember to avoid any tension in your hand while playing.

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Make the Fire Your Own 🔥

That’s a wrap for our tutorial. However, consider this just the beginning—make “Great Balls of Fire” your own! Feel free to add more glissandos, experiment with rhythm variations, play around with syncopation, or even improvise your own piano solo!

Most importantly, remember to have a blast 🙂

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