“How Come You Don’t Call Me (Anymore),” even though it was only released as a B-side, might in my eyes just be the perfect embodiment of the signature characteristics that made Prince such a great musician.
I remember the first time when I saw Prince play some live, solo-piano on a Youtube video where he was just messing around in a sound-check with his band. No stress for a huge show to come, simply having fun and enjoying making music. Playing so effortlessly. Groovy. Jazzy. Sexy.
I think that was prince in a nutshell – coolness himself really.
This guy just oozed musicality and is so confident – not just as a musician, but as a person. This echos through in his music. It’s why it is so sexy.
“How come you don’t call me (anymore)” might have actually been one of the very first songs of his I got to know fairly well, but not as per played by him.
It was in fact Alicia Key’s cover version that I grew to love back when I heard her play it on her 2005, live DVD “unplugged.” God I always love those stripped-down performances.
I instantly fell in love with this amazing piano-groove – with it’s explicitly dominant, out-of-key (that was the best way I could describe it back then) second chord, poignantly leading to the third-, soulfully jazzy F#maj7 which then transitions to one of my favorites -the sus chord- to smoothly lead back to the one.
It wasn’t before a few years later when I came to know Prince his own version. While I had always liked Alicia’s way of playing this one, I was blown away all over again.
The way this guy manages to translate before mentioned character-traits into his four-chord-calling piano riff is just insane.
After having my previous version of this tutorial taken down from Youtube back in 2014 due to a overzealous licensing manager who apparently didn’t like any videos (lesson or not) of “her” artist Prince floating around the webs, I never really thought of re-doing it, albeit getting tons of requests for it.
After Prince unfortunately passing away, videos with his music have been popping up all over Youtube. I in fact took the plunge and created a lesson for one of his other -amazing- tunes “I Wanna Be Your Lover.”
Since that one is still up, after receiving yet another few requests -one of my students even offering me a whole bunch of free Dropbox storage in return (thanks Harry!), well, here we are. A brand new and improved tutorial for “How Come You Don’t Call Me (Anymore).”
In this tutorial I’ll show you how to play this crazy-groovy piano riff, coming close to the way Prince plays this himself by showing you a few key aspects of his approach, a few pattern- and voicing-versions, which -as he does himself in his original recording- mixes up.
Pop-, funk-, soul-, groove-piano at its very best.
Takeaway Playing Tip
A key playing-/technique-tip/takeaway, learnt from the way he plays and approaches this tune: holding down common tones.
Since the piano has to groove, you really cannot use the sustain too much. So if there’s notes that you want to let ring, you’ll have to keep them down.
Holding down common tones, tones that in the one chord and keep being there in the next (for instance the “f” from the main melody on the B7(9)/A -the second chord- which then turns into the major 7 of the F#maj7 chord) adds a ton of smooth.
Prince – How Come You Don’t Call Me (Anymore)
The public (Youtube) version below holds then entire main riff -chords and pattern-. Chorus and bridge are taught in the premium course pack at Piano Lingo. It’s accessible for premium members or you can purchase it via this unique link.
Have fun learning Prince’s How Come You Don’t Call Me Anymore.
Want the chord sheets to this video?
Or if you rather have “regular” traditional sheets for this song, you can get those either at Noviscore (paid, but good) or Scribd (get a free trial with …)