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A Sonny Rollins story about playing ballads

By |September 7th, 2020|

There’s a feeling we get while playing ballads that’s very special and we don’t get while playing at faster tempos. I love playing ballads, and I always feel a nice connection with other musicians who feel the same way. It could be someone like be the doctor I know who hosts evening jam sessions at her home. Or, it could be a famous jazz musician who can express his deepest feelings through a beautiful song. Here’s a wonderful Sonny Rollins story about playing ballads. I tell it near the beginning of this video, and then I play the classic ballad [...]

The #1 Way to Become a Better Improvising Pianist

By |September 1st, 2020|

Here’s a question that we pianists can ask ourselves: When we learn a new chord voicing, scale, or technique, what’s the next step we feel we need to do in order to play better? If you’re like most pianists, your answer goes along the lines of: “I’ll learn something a little more challenging.” Although that’s a logical thought, in practice it rarely gets us where we want to be. For one thing, the new thing we’ve just learned has already stretched us to the limits of what we can comfortably play (or “almost” comfortably play). So trying to play something [...]

Ideas for playing Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” on piano

By |August 22nd, 2020|

I get emails all the time about my Journey Through The Real Book video series on YouTube, saying things like “I loved your video on such-and-such a tune – I’ve been waiting for that for months!” Well, this week I finally got up to tune #167, which is the one that I’ve been waiting for months to play! It’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” which was composed by my own piano teacher, Billy Taylor. I studied with Taylor during the 1980s, and I got to hear him play this joyful, gospel-tinged tune on many [...]

How to develop your sense of jazz phrasing

By |August 16th, 2020|

Do you ever think about phrasing while you’re improvising jazz? If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ve never had to and your piano playing always sounds fresh and inspired. And if you’re one of the “unlucky ones,” you overthink the process and feel stilted because you don’t “understand” phrasing. (Ironically, this approach is what’s holding you back in terms of soloing.) For most of us, the best approach is to listen to a lot of jazz and absorb the way our favorite musicians play phrases, and then to simply let it come out in our own playing, getting better [...]

Zoom and Skype Piano Lessons

By |August 9th, 2020|

Hey everyone! When I started teaching online, in 2012, I had no idea where it would take me. I didn’t know anything about the internet but I did know that 99% of the musicians and piano students I had ever worked with enjoyed the experience and that this would translate into the online world in one way or another. The journey has been amazing so far, and has exceeded my expectations. One “bonus” has been that everyone who seeks me out online is passionate about music and learning the piano, so this keeps me continually inspired and motivated. It’s a [...]

31-Day Jazz Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge!

By |August 2nd, 2020|

Hey everyone! I had so much fun making my 31-Day Rock Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge last month that I‘ve decided to jump right in with a jazz series. The pianists who went through the rock series made remarkable progress and I’m really excited to be making these jazz videos. Yes, the rock series concluded yesterday, and today I posted Day One of my new 31-Day Jazz Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge on YouTube. It’s free, and it’s the “real” introduction to playing jazz piano that will get you improvising with flow and fluency in a fun, joyous way. If [...]

How to play piano like Billy Joel

By |July 28th, 2020|

Do you want to know how to play piano like Billy Joel? The typical answer might be to learn his songs and copy his style. But that won’t get you playing like Billy Joel. You might have fun doing that, and yes, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. However…. To really play like Billy Joel, you’ll need to become interested in some of the same music that the Piano Man himself is interested in. And in fact, it’s a perhaps surprisingly wide array of music and it’s made Billy Joel into the musician he is today. For instance, one of the biggest [...]

A Thelonious Monk “reaction” video on “I Mean You?”

By |July 27th, 2020|

Have you ever seen those “reaction” videos that people post on YouTube? They generally consist of someone listening to a recording, and “reacting” with big facial expressions of surprise and delight. They’re very popular and a lot of people find them to be entertaining. “Reaction” videos were on my mind as I sat down to play Thelonious Monk’s tune “I Mean You” this week. “I Mean You” is a wonderful tune with some of the “Monk-isms” that we’ve come to expect in his music. Things like tricky rhythms, unexpected dissonances, and challenging chord progressions. Just the things, I thought, that [...]

World Piano Jam!

By |July 19th, 2020|

I’m excited to share a video that 50 of my online piano students and I have put together. A few months ago, I asked all of my online students, who live all over the world, if they’d like to participate in a kind of “virtual orchestra” video, with all of us pianists jamming together. 50 of them replied “yes,” and I began to map it all out. I love that moment when the whole concept starts to become envisioned in my mind, and then it’s a step-by-step process to make this vision a reality. It’s just like cooking a meal, [...]

A funny thing happened on my way to the Real Book

By |July 16th, 2020|

Hey everyone, A funny thing happened on my way to the Real Book. Between giving lessons each day and doing some non-jazz recording sessions this week, I haven’t been playing as much jazz lately as I usually do. But at the same time, I’ve been posting a daily 20-minute Rock Piano for Beginners Workout video on YouTube. On the surface, the stuff I’m playing on these rock videos is very simple for me, since I’ve been playing for so long. I’m improvising with the basic blues scales in a straight-forward rhythmic manner that beginning rock pianists can play along with [...]