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So far Ron has created 1183 blog entries.

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 [...]

Highlighting the jazzy elements of Paul McCartney’s “Michelle”

By |July 11th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Paul McCartney grew up playing the music of Cole Porter, George Gershwin, and Irving Berlin on the piano during family sing-alongs. He has spoken about how much he loved the lyrics and chord progressions of these 1920s-40s popular songs, and how much they influenced his own songwriting. So it’s perhaps not too surprising that McCartney would occasionally compose songs that sounded like they were composed in an earlier era, instead of the rock era of the 1960s. 1965’s “Michelle” is a great example of this. Paul apparently began composing it a little earlier, as a teenager, and it [...]

Improvising on Keith Jarrett’s “Memories Of Tomorrow”

By |July 8th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, If someone asked you to compose a jazzy tune that used straight 8th notes, and included elements of rock, pop, folk, and gospel, what would you come up with? Well, you might compose something that sounds similar to Keith Jarrett’s “Memories Of Tomorrow,” which took the musical world by storm when it was included as Part iiC of his Köln Concert live recording in 1975. The piece stood out on the Köln Concert because it had the structural logic of a pre-composed piece, even though the Köln Concert was billed as a total improvisation. Ever since, as a [...]

Using melodic inner-voices on Jobim’s “Meditation”

By |July 8th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, I’ve made a video to show you some pianistic approaches to the great bossa nova “Meditation.” The tune has more musical possibilities than we often hear, so it was a pleasure to explore some of them for you on this video. Pay particular attention to how you can improvise both diatonic and chromatic stepwise inner-voice lines under the melody and your improvisation. Meditation: Journey Through The Real Book #227 https://youtu.be/Y_0eED0v624 Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!” Ron Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano You'll also [...]