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Creating a joyful “practice/enjoyment” cycle with your piano playing

By |July 13th, 2019|

Do you view your musical development like this? 1. If I practice more 2. I’ll get better 3. And then I’ll enjoy playing the piano more. If you do and it’s working for you, then by all means keep going. But if it’s not, it’s because there are two things about it that aren’t working for you. First, you probably don’t have enough time or motivation to practice as much as you’d like, and secondly, if you don’t enjoy your playing now, you won’t enjoy it when you’re better either. (There are many, many “advanced” pianists who don’t enjoy their [...]

Bringing our own musical interests into our jazz piano playing

By |July 12th, 2019|

One of the great things about jazz is that the genre is incredibly flexible. So flexible, in fact, that we can incorporate just about any specific musical interest we have into our jazz piano playing. Do you love melody? Great! You don’t even have to improvise solos! Just play the songs themselves. Do you enjoy playing classical them and variations? Wonderful! You can have fun varying and embellishing all the brilliant songs that Gershwin, Porter, and Ellington composed. Are you a Bach fan? If so, you’ve hit the jackpot! Bach used the same walking bass lines, reharmonization techniques, and counterpoint [...]

Music as “Applied Physics”

By |July 10th, 2019|

Since music involves listening, physical activity and coordination, intellectual analysis, creativity, a thorough learning process, patience, performance, and in most cases, interpersonal skills, it overlaps with just about everything else, from math to team sports. Plato considered music to be the most essential subject to teach in school. I often think of music as “Applied Physics.” Like Physics, music involves vibration (sound), energy, movement, weight, and balance; all in a highly practical way. The more we dive into and ponder these aspects of music, the more alive the musical universe becomes. Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!” Ron [...]

A musical way to learn modes

By |July 8th, 2019|

Have you learned your modes yet? If so, then you know how useful they are to have under our fingertips. And if not, take comfort in the fact that you’re not alone. Modes are a huge stumbling block for most aspiring jazz pianists and there are some very specific reasons for this. However, the more you understand why you haven’t learned them yet, the easier they’ll become to learn. Modes aren’t difficult; they’re just taught in a way that makes them difficult. For starters, there’s a huge disconnect between the way modes are usually taught to beginners, and the way [...]

Can you play as simply as Miles Davis did on “Blue Haze?”

By |June 30th, 2019|

Can you play as simply as Miles Davis did on "Blue Haze?" It's a question worth asking, and if you can't, you'll learn a lot about yourself and your jazz piano playing by discovering the answer. "Blue Haze" is a slow blues that Miles recorded in 1954, and it represents his complete break from the pressure to play fast bebop like he did as a member of the Charlie Parker Quintet. Oh yes, Miles still played fast when he chose to, but the simple, lyrical qualities that he began exploring while still a member of Parker's group are now brought [...]

Choose yourself

By |June 27th, 2019|

In the old days, someone had to choose you. A club owner had to hire you to play on Saturday night. A record company executive had to give your album the green light. Or Columbia Artists Management had to promote your tour. But the old days are gone. Now, you can choose yourself. Choose yourself to specialize in a very particular musical niche. Study it passionately and make a weekly YouTube video about it. Share your passion and interest with the rest of us. Choose yourself to play every Rolling Stones song in the style of Mozart. Choose yourself to [...]

The musical benefits of playing Steve Swallow’s “Falling Grace”

By |June 21st, 2019|

When I was first learning jazz piano, there were some tunes I’d avoid playing. These included all of Steve Swallow’s tunes. I’d turn the page in my Real Book, see one of his tunes like “Falling Grace,” and keep turning the page to get to the next tune as quickly as possible? Why did I avoid them? It was the chord progressions. They made no sense to me. Swallow didn’t follow each chord with the ones I expected and I felt lost when I tried to improvise over his progressions. Luckily for me, however, circumstances forced me to look at [...]

The jazz influence on rock and pop musicians

By |June 19th, 2019|

Why is it that so many rock and pop musicians respect jazz and cite it as an influence on their musicianship? Yes, jazz if fun to listen to. But I think the main reason it’s influenced these musicians so much has more to do with the infinite possibilities jazz offers in terms of improvisation and musical expression. In other words, learning to play even a little bit of jazz keeps us growing as musicians and keeps our musical universe expanding. When Bruce Springsteen praises his band’s playing the instrumental section of “Born To Run” by saying “That’s really hard to [...]

Learning to improvise jazz piano fluently, right from the beginning

By |June 16th, 2019|

When you’re learning jazz piano, it’s very important to work on fluency right from the beginning. And I’m hesitant to say this publicly, but practicing exercises over ii/V chord progressions isn’t going to get you there. In fact, it’s probably going to inhibit true fluency, because the level of theory involved requires too much thinking at every moment. Yes, it’s helpful to practice. Yes, it’s helpful to learn theory. And yes, it’s helpful to think about music intellectually. But none of us ever learned to speak a language fluently like this. We learned our language by doing it. By immersion. [...]

If you play jazz piano, this could be a game-changer for you

By |June 13th, 2019|

If you play jazz piano, this could be a game-changer for you: Jazz Pianists: Aim for “Flow” first, complexity later https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag7LsBeh8ZQ Good luck with your playing! Ron Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano You'll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration