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So far Ron has created 1176 blog entries.

Bringing some gospel/rock to The Beatles’ “Yesterday”

By |August 1st, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Even though we sometimes think of musical genres as being separate, we can have a lot of fun by exploring the crossover between them. I did this on Friday, when I performed The Beatles’ classic song “Yesterday” at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Even though Paul McCartney’s original rendition was very folk-based, a great song like this invites us to take in in any direction we wish. I began my performance by playing the song very gently, and then found wanting to become more rhythmic. At that point, I brought in some gospel influences. I’ve played gospel music [...]

Playing “Over The Rainbow” with pop rhythms and jazz harmonies

By |July 30th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, One of my favorite styles to play is what I call “Taylor Swift-style jazz piano.” The basic concept is to play a favorite jazz ballad with all the usual jazz harmonies, but with a nice, contemporary pop rhythmic feel. I particularly like to use a folksy finger style guitar-like texture, which I call “Fingerstyle piano.” Here’s a performance I did of the classic “Over The Rainbow,” in which I used this style: Over The Rainbow https://youtu.be/xEQoSNbRDTE Give it try yourself! Ron Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for [...]

Ideas for playing Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann” as a jazz piano solo

By |July 30th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, What do you do when you encounter a jazz tune that’s a little out of the ordinary? Well, one approach is to look to another style of music for inspiration, and if possible, see if this style is aligned with the tune itself. Case in point: Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann.” “Miss Ann” is a wonderful, expressive tune. But at first glance, the melody doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the chord progression. The intriguing aspect of this is that it sounds great when Dolphy himself plays it, but it feels strange when we try it ourselves. [...]

To transcribe or not to transcribe; that’s the question!

By |July 26th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever transcribed a recorded solo by your favorite musician? If you have, what was your experience? Did you enjoy the process? Did it help you understand how to improvise better? While transcribing is a very helpful way to improve our ear and develop our improvisational abilities, it’s often over-emphasized as the primary learning tool we have, at the expense of actually improvising and jamming with our peers. Here’s a video I made to help you understand the role that transcribing can have in your practice routine, and how to view it as part of the larger [...]

Bringing variety to your hard bop jazz piano playing

By |July 25th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Playing bebop and hard bop can be fun, but do you ever feel like you’re just playing the same stuff over and over again? If so, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, there are specific things you can do to remedy this and bring some variety to your playing. One of the best ways you can do this is to try some different overall approaches to playing jazz piano, instead of always playing the typical “left-hand comping/right hand single-note soloing” approach. I’ve made a video to give you some ideas for expanding your pianistic concept in this way, [...]

Ideas for playing John Lewis’s jazz standard “Milano” on piano

By |July 23rd, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Well, our journey through The Real Book has brought us to another important tune, “Milano.” “Milano” was composed by the jazz great pianist/ composer John Lewis, who is perhaps most famous for being the driving force behind The Modern Jazz Quartet. “Milano” is just as melodic as Lewis’s other tunes, such as “An Afternoon In Paris and “Django,” and gives us a lot of possibilities for improvisation. John Lewis had musical roots in the Swing Era, and idolized Art Tatum. Whereas Tatum played a million notes, however, Lewis went in the opposite direction, developing a sparse, economical style [...]

Do you need to use rootless voicings to play “real” jazz?

By |July 19th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Question: What do Bud Powell, Erroll Garner, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Fats Waller have in common? Answer: They didn’t usually play rootless chord voicings with their left hands. What????? Aren’t rootless voicings an essential part of jazz piano? Aren’t they the first thing beginners have to learn? Aren’t they the key to playing “real” jazz? As you may be realizing… the answer is no, they’re not. For more on this, along with some demonstrations on the piano, check out this video: Piano Myth-Busting #6: “It Isn’t real jazz if you’re not using rootless voicings.” https://youtu.be/UXnbEL8e-M8 While rootless [...]

The 1970s Pat Metheny Group: Jazz Fusion 2.0

By |July 18th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever listened to The Pat Metheny Group’s initial recordings from the mid-1970s? They’re wonderful, and this live performance of “Midwestern Nights Dream” gives us a feeling for their musical vision. Midwestern Nights Dream (Live 1977) https://youtu.be/ilIfovF7IwY Looking back at that period, Metheny can be seen as helping to usher in a “second wave” of jazz fusion groups. The first wave, from the early ‘70s, consisted of Return To Forever, Weather Report, and Herbie Hancock’s work as a leader. These groups were led by pianists Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, and of course Herbie Hancock, respectively, who had [...]

Text-painting in Joe Zawinul’s “Midnight Mood”

By |July 15th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever text-painted with your music? Text-painting is when we compose or improvise music that depicts something that’s non-musical, such as the passage in Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony that paints a portrait of a walk in the country. We can paint musical pictures in any genre of music, such as rock, pop, folk, or jazz. Joe Zawinul’s “Midnight Mood” is a natural candidate for text-painting, since the title itself conveys an image of the late night, and whatever feelings we associate with the midnight hour. Here’s a video I’ve made to show you how to get started with [...]

Do you have to play songs the way the original artists did?

By |July 12th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, One of the most common piano myths, especially in pop and rock, is that we have to play songs the way the original artists played them. And even though this myth is less pervasive in jazz and other genres, it lurks behind many otherwise creative interpretations. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with playing a song the way the original artist did, but don’t let this limit you in any way. Know that you can play songs any way you like, and be as free and creative as you wish. That’s the main point here. Watch this video to [...]