Don’t Stop Believin’
Learn how to play Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey on the piano! Follow along with your teacher Devon in the best tutorial online.
How many times have you screamed “Don’t Stop… Believin’!” at the top of your lungs in a crowded bar or at the end of a wedding, arm-in-arm, casting inhibitions to the wind? Incredibly, this is an experience shared across generations and beyond borders and it speaks to the sheer timelessness of this optimistic rock anthem – but you might be surprised to find that this wasn’t always the case. “Don’t Stop Believin’” was released as the second single from Journey’s 7th studio album Escape in 1981, and while it certainly didn’t underperform, it was only a blip on the radar relative to its mega-hit status today.
As a millennial, I had always assumed that this song was carrying on a legacy from its inception, but by the early aughts, its popularity had faded. It was a placement on HBO’s ‘The Sopranos’ that led this song to make a major comeback in 2007. Since then, “Don’t Stop Believin’” has been introduced to audiences of all ages thanks to placements on Glee and numerous other movies and TV Shows and is now one of the best-selling digital rock releases of all time.
The piano part is unmistakable, and is marked by a unique chorus effect that gives it the patina of an out-of-tune, humble honky-tonk. Played by keyboardist Jonathan Cain, it was born out of some fatherly advice that he received while facing hard times in the Hollywood music scene. Cain’s father simply said, “Don’t Stop Believin’, son,” and this advice truly changed his life. Once he showed the idea to guitarist Neil Schon, they got to work constructing the infamous arrangement that, believe it or not, saves the chorus until the final 50 seconds of the song! While this was a very unusual move, especially for an album single, they had faith in their arrangement and made sure that this was non-negotiable when they presented it to their label, and ultimately it was approved.
When I perform this one, I continue playing the main riff throughout the remaining verses, since it really fills things out, but it can be fun to whip up a synth patch and play the stabs as well – it all depends on the context. One thing to look out for is the anticipation of the bass line. In the intro, the left hand is consistently landing on the upbeats, but during the verses, it switches to the downbeat every other measure.