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 even more difficult at this moment will make us sound worse, not better. And another reason is that if we’re always on the edge of what we can easily play, we’ll always sound like we’re struggling to keep up.
All the great pianists, in every genre of music, have found another approach.
The approach that Elton John, Norah Jones, and Chick Corea have taken is to keep playing the easy stuff, over and over and over and over, while at the same time working to learn something more challenging.
Most pianists, have it the wrong way around. They spend most of their time struggling with things they can barely play while thinking that “if it comes easily to me, it must not be the real deal.”
But yes, my friends, it’s the real deal.
Playing melodies is the real deal. Improvising simple melodies that sound beautiful is the real deal. And developing rhythmic flexibility with the voicings you already know is the real deal.
All three of these add up to us sounding great. And because this approach leads to increasing fluency, it also leads to faster and long-lasting musical improvement.
I’ve seen this work many times these past two months as I’ve created my two 31-day improv workouts on YouTube. The pianists who’ve followed along have seen remarkable progress and are having a wonderful time with their music. Some of them, in fact, have said that they’ve made more progress than they have in years, and are having more fun at the piano than ever before!
The #1 way to become a better improvising pianist is to use what you’ve recently learned over and over again in fresh ways.
If you haven’t started the workouts yet, here they are. Just click on the one that interests you the most:
31-Day Jazz Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge!
31-Day Rock Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge!
Have fun, and enjoy your musical progress!
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