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So far Ron has created 1097 blog entries.

The joy of playing our favorite songs on piano

By |June 12th, 2021|

Hey Improvisers! There are two sides to becoming a fluent piano improviser. One side involves practicing concepts and techniques. Learning the scales, modes, chord voicings, and bass lines that are associated with each genre of music. The other side of the coin is to play our favorite songs. Songs by George Gershwin, The Beatles, Charlie Parker, Adele, George Winston, Antonio Carlos Jobim, etc. Both sides are necessary, and the overall idea is to gradually bring them together. Here’s one of my all-time favorite songs. It’s the classic “It’s Easy To Remember” by the songwriting team of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz [...]

Playing It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing) as a jazz piano solo

By |June 4th, 2021|

Have you ever noticed how each style of music has its own special “groove,” or rhythmic feeling? It’s like a unique frequency, and in a way, this groove is what distinguished one genre from another. A reggae song and a pop tune may have exactly the same chords, but they sound (and feel) totally different. Groove…. Feel….. Vibe…. Rhythm… Flow…. Swing!!! Yes, swing. The term “swing” is usually used when referring specifically to jazz, where the 8th notes are slightly (and deliciously) uneven. But “swing” can also be used in a looser sense, to mean a certain relaxation and flow [...]

A new Journey Through The Real Book video

By |May 29th, 2021|

I’ve just posted a video of me playing the tune “Israel,” which was made famous on Miles Davis “Birth Of The Cool” recording. The “Birth Of The Cool” sessions have a special place in my heart because I was Gerry Mulligan’s assistant from 1987-88. Gerry, along with his fellow arrangers Gil Evans, John Lewis, and John Carisi (who composed “Israel), had the vision for a small jazz group whose sound was based on that of the Claude Thornhill big band. Miles Davis loved the Thornhill band too and the rest, as they say, “is history.” “Israel” is a beautiful harmonic [...]

Getting started

By |May 21st, 2021|

I get a lot of questions about all styles of piano improv, from jazz to pop to blues to classical, and they usually follow a general theme: “How do I get started?” This is key: The question “How do I get started” is paramount for we improvisers, and it’s not just at the very beginning stages. “How do I get started” playing left hand bass lines with varied rhythms? “How do I get started” applying diminished voicings to chord progressions? “How do I get started” playing bebop over a rhythmically vibrant left hand? “How do I get started” improvising on [...]

Post-Covid Piano

By |May 7th, 2021|

Hey Improvisers, Going back a few decades, before the internet, we all had busy lives. We worked fulltime jobs, pulled all-nighters as students, shuttled our kids to their music lessons and sports games every day, and generally kept as busy as possible. Then the internet arrived. At first it was like a tiny trickle of water. We’d visit an occasional website, maybe join a chat room, and check our emails about once a week. But this trickle of water gradually turned into a slow flood, as more and more people began using the world wide web. I vividly remember a [...]

What’s the “Before and After” with your piano playing?

By |April 30th, 2021|

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever seen those “Before and After” photos in magazines? The ones where they show someone before and after they get a new hair style or makeover? I was listening to someone play piano yesterday and noticed how they’re at an entirely new level of playing than they were a few months ago, and I smiled since they’re music reminded me of these makeover photos. Maybe we can call it a “musical makeover.” Here are some pianistic “before and after” scenarios I see all the time: Before: “Everything I play sounds the same.” After: “I’ve learned how [...]

The musical intersection of blues, jazz, and R&B

By |April 23rd, 2021|

Hey Improvisers! I love the musical intersection where the neighborhoods of blues, jazz, and R&B join together. Many of the great pianists grew up at this intersection, including Wynton Kelly, Johnnie Johnson, Chuck Leavell, Herbie Hancock, and Ray Manzarek. Other instrumentalists too, such as Miles Davis, Keith Richards, and Duane Allman to name just a few. The music we hear on this street corner dis varied, yet all under the same umbrella. It reflects the styles that are being developed in each individual neighborhood, and emphasizes one musical element now, and another one a while later. A slinky swing groove [...]

Ignore rules, but embrace principles

By |April 17th, 2021|

Hey Improvisers, It seems like everywhere we look these days, someone is telling us rules we need to follow: “You need to use 9th voicings to sound good playing jazz piano.” “Start with the blues before you play rock or jazz.” “You have to practice everything in all 12 keys.” Rules. And more rules. But are they true? Let’s look at it another way: In a group of 10 pianists, how could any of these statements possibly be true for all of them? Can they even be true for 5 of them? 3? Of course not. It all depends on [...]

Playing piano with the joy of a child

By |April 10th, 2021|

Wouldn’t it be great to play piano with the joy of a child again? Just imagine… we can sit down at our piano and simply delight in the process of making sounds, exploring chord progressions, creating melody after melody. And we can do it without self-criticism, with a sense of wonder, and with true joy. Yes, this is possible for us and groups like The Beatles can show us the way. Check out this video from director Peter Jackson, who gives us a “sneak peak” of his upcoming Beatles documentary Get Back (the bit at 1:51 is priceless!). The Beatles [...]

How to become a happy (and successful) pianist

By |April 3rd, 2021|

Here’s how to become a happy and successful pianist: Ignore rules, but embrace principles Don’t say “sorry” when you make a mistake (smile instead) Practice because it’s fun, not merely to improve (you’ll improve anyway, I promise) Trust your talent Ride the groove Find a teacher who can take you where you want to go, musically Study music, not just the piano Notice the connections between musical genres Don’t let your way of thinking about music limit you Be opinionated Don’t be opinionated Immerse yourself deeply in the music of your favorite musician (then let it go) Love what you [...]