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The Beginner’s Guide To Duke Ellington

By |April 19th, 2019|

Have you heard much of Duke Ellington’s music yet? If this is your intro to his music, you’re in for a big treat! For my part, it’s very exciting to lead you on this music tour of Ellingtonia and I’d actually like to spend a few weeks together, listening to his music 24/7. (“Let’s check out Such Sweet Thunder!” “Oh, if you liked “Black and Tan Fantasy,” you’ll love “Creole Love Call!”) Duke Ellington’s career began in the early days of jazz (1920s), and continued into the modern era of the 1970s. In fact, he kept his band together for [...]

Skype Piano Lessons

By |April 18th, 2019|

It’s interesting to see how a new idea gains acceptance over time. We see it all the time with musical styles, and it’s also true with the elements of music itself. For example, in the time of Bach, a sus4 chord was considered a dissonance that required resolution. Hence, the 4-3 suspension that ended many of his works. As time goes by, however, our collective ears became accustomed to the sound of the 4th rubbing against the 5th so what was once heard as a “tension” now sounds commonplace. After this shift occurs, the next generations begins using sus4 chords [...]

The 2 essential aspects of improving as a pianist

By |April 17th, 2019|

There are 2 essential aspects of improving as a pianist: 1. Sound 300% better with what you already know and 2. Learn new things Most pianists only do one of these, but pianists who really want to transform their piano playing use both approaches. Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!” Ron Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

“Hey jazz pianists! Let’s play the great song from the new hit movie!”

By |April 16th, 2019|

Let’s imagine for a moment that we go see a new movie at the local theater. The movie is a big hit and everyone we know has seen it too. There’s a melodic, emotional song in the movie’s soundtrack during a climactic scene, and within a few days we begin hearing this song on the radio, in many different versions by many different singers and instrumentalists. Does this scenario sound crazy? Unrealistic? Well, it may be difficult to believe these days, but once upon a time, this scenario was commonplace. It happened all the time and I’m especially thinking of [...]

The function of piano intros

By |April 15th, 2019|

Piano introductions give us pianists a big opportunity that goes way beyond their minimum function of setting the key and tempo: They let us state our point of view. This is a big deal, although it's often overlooked. It means that we pianists can establish a point of view about the song even before the melody comes in. Do we want to make it playful?  Or flamboyant? Or tender? Or mysterious? Don't waste these opportunities. The next time you're asked to come up with a piano intro, establish a definite point of view. The Beatles did this, and so do [...]

Why don’t jazz musicians dance anymore?

By |April 14th, 2019|

Why don’t jazz musicians dance anymore? I know… this sounds like a ridiculous question. Jazz musicians don’t dance!!! But let’s go there anyway, and see if they once did. The whole issue of dancing musicians popped into my mind as I read Bob Lefsetz’ newsletter this morning. If you haven’t yet read his music industry/pop culture newsletter, you can find it HERE. https://lefsetz.com/wordpress/ Lefsetz was discussing sensational success of the K-pop group BTS, and how their fans know all their complex dance moves. This got me recalling the origins of jazz, in the “second line” marching bands of New Orleans: [...]

How carefully do people listen to live “background” music?

By |April 13th, 2019|

If you’ve ever played piano as background music for a social event, you may have found yourself wondering if anyone was listening to you play. In one sense, we don’t want them to really listen. After all, they didn’t buy a ticket to hear us play. They came to celebrate their niece’s wedding, or to attend their company’s holiday party. The function of our music is simply to create a pleasant atmosphere for their socializing. But….. we’re human beings. We want to be recognized and appreciated. And we want to share our love of music with the others in the [...]

Tipping Points in culture and music

By |April 12th, 2019|

Have you ever thought about “Tipping Points” in relation to music? I first heard the term Tipping Point when I read Malcolm Gladwell’s book of the same name. Gladwell looks at many instances where something begins in a small way, and then suddenly becomes very big or popular by spreading quickly. He cites certain fashion trends, crime-stopping strategies, cultural fads, and other instances where sudden growth happened at a specific point. The Beatles had a Tipping Point. They had been playing small clubs, driving all night to get from one gig to another, and generally playing to enthusiastic but small [...]

A practical music theory quiz

By |April 11th, 2019|

Let me start by saying that I love music theory. Music theory, in one form or another, is what enables us to sit down at the piano and play the blues. Music theory highlights the main theme of our favorite pop song. And music theory helps us understand why the Kyrie from Mozart's Requiem demonstrates his admiration for J.S. Bach. So why is so much of music theory education dry and boring? Why did the majority of students in my college music theory classes forget 90% of the subject as soon as the went home for summer break? And while [...]

What’s the difference between Bebop and Modal jazz improvisation?

By |April 9th, 2019|

What's the difference between Bebop and Modal jazz improvisation? This is an important topic, and I'd like to clear up a lot of common misunderstanding about it, especially among beginning and even intermediate jazz musicians. Basically, the difference is that in bebop, the improvisations are chord-tone based while in modal styles, they are scalar-based. To understand this, let's take the great Miles Davis as an example: When Miles Davis played "Confirmation" during his bebop period, he was basing his solos around the chord tones for each harmony as they rapidly changed from one to the next. And when he played [...]