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So far Ron has created 882 blog entries.

A rare opportunity for us pianists

By |April 7th, 2019|

In the old days, if you wanted to play piano for an audience, you had to get someone’s approval. You had to convince a nightclub owner to hire you, or audition for a concert series. But now, all you have to do is create a YouTube page and post a video of your playing. It’s not exactly the same as playing in front of a live audience, but taken on its own terms it can help us in many ways. First, the very act of playing piano on video will give you an energy boost and help you play better [...]

Moon River… Peter Gunn, and…. Dreamsville???

By |April 6th, 2019|

A kid sits down at the piano, plays a few chromatically ascending open 5ths, and we immediately see the mental image of a cartoon Pink Panther. We hear a vocalist wistfully sing a few lyrics about “my huckleberry friend” and, if we’re a movie buff, we immediately see the mental image of Audrey Hepburn strumming a guitar on a New York City apartment’s fire escape. A jazz pianist plays a beautiful C major 7th to Gm7/C chord progression and we immediately see the mental image of… nothing! What???? That’s because while Henry Mancini’s theme from “The Pink Panther” and hit [...]

“I could never do that”

By |April 5th, 2019|

“Keith Jarrett improvises entire solo piano concerts. I could never do that.” “Elton John puts Bernie Taupin’s lyrics on the piano music stand and writes a song on the spot. I could never do that.” “Jacob Collier has learned how to play many musical instruments. I could never do that.” “Vladimir Horowitz played the Chopin Mazurkas beautifully. I could never do that.” “Otis Spann could express his feelings through playing the blues. I could never do that.” “Chick Corea can improvise phrases with rhythmic elasticity. I could never do that.” What’s your own personal version of these statements? The fact [...]

How to get more joy out of your piano improvising

By |April 4th, 2019|

I was listening to the NY Yankees baseball game on the car radio the other day, as the Yankees were soundly defeated by a team that isn’t considered as good as they are. In a word, the game was an “upset” (congrats to the opposing team!) While as a Yankees fan I was disappointed by the outcome, their radio announcer, John Sterling, made a good point when he said, (“The thing about baseball is that since they play so many games each season, one single game doesn’t really matter much.”) Wow – tell this to a child whose Little League [...]

Understanding chords in motion

By |April 3rd, 2019|

Whenever one of us high school music theory students didn't understand the function of a particular chord, our teach, Mr. Pasqua, would remind us: "It's not where the chord is, but where it came from and where it's going to." I still use this piece of advice all the time (Thanks Mr. Pasqua!), and it's true in all types of music and at all levels. "Where did the chord come from and where is it going to?" This single sentence can help us understand the A7 chord in the chorus of Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," The E7 chord [...]

“Note-perfect” isn’t always “perfect!”

By |April 1st, 2019|

I was teaching a piano student on Skype this morning, and he played a written-out piece he'd been practicing this past week. He's been playing piano for about 2 years, and in one of the measures his finger hit a wrong note and he was able to recover instantly, in real time, without interrupting the flow or spirit of the music. After he finished the piece, I commented "perfect!" He looked slightly confused and pointed out that it wasn't "perfect," since he had mistakenly played a wrong note. (This is understandable, right?) I then explained that to my mind, most [...]

Jamming with the A Blues Scale

By |March 31st, 2019|

As a music student at The University of Connecticut in the mid-1980s, I would spend hours in the practice room every day, determined to become the pianist I knew I’d eventually become. I loved hearing everyone practice in that section of the music building, and I rarely just stood in the hallway talking to other students like some of my colleagues enjoyed doing. (Maybe they didn’t need to practice as much as I did!) Every once in a while, a student we didn’t know would go into one of the “inside” practice rooms that didn’t have any windows, turn out [...]

What’s your “angle” when playing jazz ballads on piano?

By |March 30th, 2019|

Have you ever noticed how differently different jazz pianists play ballads? Listening to, say, Art Tatum and Keith Jarrett play the same tune, it almost seems like they’re in entirely different genres. A big part of this is because different pianists emphasize different aspects of the music in their playing. They have a different “angle” on playing. Different priorities. What’s your personal approach to playing jazz ballads? One way to go about it is to emphasize melody above all else. “Sing” the melody with a smooth, legato touch. Improvise a beautiful melodic solo, aiming for simplicity and purity of phrase. [...]

Let the process flow

By |March 26th, 2019|

As pianists, we're often in a hurry to learn something quickly. In a way, this tendency is understandable: we hear Herbie Hancock, Billy Joel, or Tori Amos play something and we want to learn how to play that way too. If we can quickly learn something new, that's great! Go for it! But real artistic evolution takes time and involves a process. Herbie Hancock didn't start out playing like he did on "E.S.P." It took him years to arrive there and he went through several stylistic changes along the way. Same with Billy Joel, who spent years playing in piano [...]

The “album tracks” on Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road

By |March 24th, 2019|

When we think of Elton John’s iconic 1973 album Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, the songs we immediately think of are the title track, Candle In The Wind, Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting, and Bennie And The Jets. This week, however, I spent some time diving in a little deeper. I listened to the entire album, which I hadn’t hear in years, and thought I’d share a few gems I noticed in the “album” tracks, that is, those songs that didn’t become big hits. “This Song Has No Title” This is a very unusual, wonderful song. Elton begins with a piano [...]