5 concepts to guide our musical lives

Hey Improvisers!

One of the fun things about both playing and teaching piano for so long is that I’ve had a lot of time to really study the learning process, both in myself and with my students.

Here are the 5 most important concepts that will help us become the musicians we want to be:

1. Enjoy the journey

Every mountain climber knows that each step of the journey is just as satisfying as arriving at the summit. Or, to put it another way, the experience of arriving at the summit is much better after putting in the effort of actually climbing the mountain. If it wasn’t, they’d just go up in a helicopter, right?

2. Let the music flow

Although we all “know” this, most pianists never put it into practice. Instead, they interrupt the flow of the groove every time they try to play a right hand line that’s too fast for them to manage, and as a result, the flow is broken. Every day, for years and years. Let’s reverse the situation and prioritize flow above all else. A happy pianist plays with flow.

3. M.V.P. (Minimum Viable Piano)

When learning any new musical style, concept, or technique, begin by applying a simple version of it in a way that you can play with flow. Not only will you sound great in a short time, but you’ll be tilling the soil for a more advanced application of the concept. M.V.P is the way to go.

4. The Cure for Practice Paralysis

When I was a teenager (back in the pre-internet days of the late 70s/early 80s), we had so little information about playing piano that we eagerly sat down every day and played for hours. I spent 2-3 years playing jazz standards with 7th chords, and jammed with my rock band using the blues scales in the keys of C, A, and E.

Nowadays, aspiring pianists are so overwhelmed by everything they’re told they have to learn that they become overloaded and don’t do anything.

If you find you have Practice Paralysis, simply take a deep breath and connect with one thing you’d love to learn. And then ignore everything else for a while you play what you love.

5. The Myth of Musical Perfection

Questing for “perfection” usually means that we’re living in a very small room, albeit one that is thoroughly cleaned and immaculately decorated. Recordings reinforce the false perception that “everyone else is better than us” because they’ve been overdubbed, quantized, pitch-corrected, pasted-together, and recorded 30 times until they play it right.

One benefit of the social media age, especially in the past year, is that we hear our musical heroes playing piano in their own homes, without any effort to sweeten up their sound. They sound like ….. us!

Putting these concepts into play is the key to musical success. Have fun!


Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano
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