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So far Ron has created 1188 blog entries.

Why 3rd-7th left-hand voicings are not always best for beginning jazz pianists

By |June 22nd, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Contrary to what we often hear these days, 3rd-7th voicings aren’t always the best way for beginning jazz pianists to learn harmony and play jazz standards fluently. In fact, they often prevent many beginning jazz pianists from playing with any sense of flow and ease. Here’s a video I’ve made to show you why this is so, and to give you some good, practical suggestions on how to get started playing jazz piano in way that’s fun and musically productive. It will also help you to understand the role that 3rd-7th voicings could have in your musical development, [...]

Ideas for Wayne Shorter’s “Mahjong” as a jazz piano solo

By |June 20th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, While I was in college during the 1980s, I used to drive from Connecticut into Manhattan a few times per year to take jazz piano lessons with Harold Danko. Harold, besides being a really nice guy, had played with Chet Baker, Gerry Mulligan, and The Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Orchestra and was a genuine connection with the professional jazz world for me. Harold eventually recommended me to be Gerry Mulligan’s band assistant, which also helped shape my musical development. Harold suggested that I learn some Wayne Shorter tunes, since they are wonderful compositions and also provide an excellent entryway [...]

Billy Strayhorn’s original chords to Lush Life

By |June 17th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Billy Strayhorn’s “Lush Life” is one of the all-time great jazz ballads. And while the chords in the most popular fake books are good, they aren’t quite what Strayhorn himself played. Here’s a video I’ve made to show you Strayhorn’s original harmonies in some key places, most notably in the final measure of the tune: Journey Through The Real Book #222: Lush Life https://youtu.be/E_QAE0XW-ao In addition to learning the original chords, pay particular attention to the various pianistic textures I use throughout my performance. A tune such as “Lush Life’ really lends itself well to Ellington-like diminished voicings, [...]

Is it OK to look at your hands on the keys when you play piano?

By |June 14th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Every month, I receive at least one or two emails asking me if it’s OK to look at your hands on the keys when you play piano. The people asking me are usually adult “piano re-starters” who remember their childhood piano teachers telling them to never look down at their hands while playing. These pianists are finding it very difficult to play the correct notes without looking at their hands, and they’re wondering if this is good advice or not. It’s an excellent topic, and I’ve made a video to help you understand the broader picture. Here it [...]

Keith Jarrett’s The Magician In You as a jazz piano solo

By |June 13th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers! Keith Jarrett’s tune “The Magician In You” is one of his greatest. It features a fun rock groove and it takes us on a harmonic path full of delightful twists and turns. One aspect of the tune which intrigues me is that it features a short introductory vamp, which briefly returns at the end of each chorus. Since historical hindsight shows us that Jarrett eventually became famous by improvising over long vamps, we can see the seeds of this type of modal improvising contained in the short vamps int his tune. Seen in this light, we can have [...]

Creative Inspiration from Paul McCartney

By |June 2nd, 2022|

Hey Improvisers! I’ve been spending the past few weeks working hard to finish my book on piano improvisation, which I hope to release on either July 1st or 15th. Last December, when I began going through my 10 years of blog posts and newsletters, I imagined that it would take about 2 months to organize them into book form. Wow - I was completely wrong about that! It’s taking much longer than expected, but the result is well worth it in every respect. I began by pasting about 200 of my posts into a long document. I chose the ones [...]

“Lullaby Of Birdland,” Block chords, and a George Shearing story

By |May 7th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, I hope you’ve had the opportunity to spend some time playing music this week. (And please remember that it’s called “playing music.” Not “stressing about music,” or “always feeling you’re not good enough.” It’s playing music, with a sense of joy and purpose.) But I digress… Have you ever tried to play “block chords” on piano but felt overloaded by all the theory you’ve been told you have to know to get started? Things like diminished neighbor chords and such? Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s an easier way. And not only that, but this easier [...]

Getting to know Keith Jarrett’s “Lucky Southern”

By |May 1st, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, When I was 15 years old and just getting into piano improvisation, a friend of mine played me Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert album. Wow! I couldn’t believe that someone could improvise music like this, and my world was changed forever. It may be difficult to imagine a time when Keith Jarrett wasn’t playing standards, but at that time (1979), Jarrett’s music could be generally divided into four categories: 1. Solo piano (primarily improvised) 2. The American Quartet (and KJ Trio) 3. The European Quartet 4. His classical compositions As I eagerly absorbed all of this music, I also [...]

The Journey Through The Real Book continues!

By |April 24th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Thanks for the warm response to last week’s post about my KeyboardImprov “creation story.” Your support and enthusiasm means a lot to me and I’m glad that so many of you are finding inspiration in what I shared in that post. I’m still working on my book, and I’ve started posting Real Book videos again on a weekly basis. In June, I’ll begin making Beatles piano videos again too, as well as videos on various topics (including classical piano improv). Here’s the latest installment in our Journey Through The Real Book. It’s a beautiful tune titled “Love Is [...]

The power of creative imagination

By |April 11th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, When was in college, working towards a degree in classical music composition, I wrote a vocal/piano piece based on a poem by Emily Dickinson. Here’s the poem: To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee. And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few. I love this poem because it speaks to the power of creative imagination. Yes, a bee and a clover an pollinate a whole meadow, but if we don’t have any bees, we can visualize that meadow and create it in our imaginations. I’m reminded [...]