Using musical text-painting can keep our jazz piano playing fresh

Do you ever feel “stuck in a rut” with your jazz piano playing? Do you get tired of playing the same licks over and over again? Do you ever feel like your playing lacks freshness?

Well… one of the best (and easiest) ways to invigorate our jazz piano playing and keep it fresh is to use musical ”text painting.”
Text painting is a term that comes from classical music, when composers would musically describe something non-musical in their compositions. Beethoven used text painting when he made part of his 6th symphony sound like a rainstorm. And Mussorgsky used text painting when he wrote Pictures At An Exhibition to musically depict artwork in a museum.

Duke Ellington used text painting all the time, most famously in pieces such as “In A Harlem Airshaft” and “Daybreak Express.” Other jazz musicians use it too, when they improvise while visualizing a place they’ve been, or an event that happened to them.

To hear how you can use musical text painting to freshen up your jazz piano playing, check out this video I made of the great bossa nova ”Little Boat.” Instead of starting the bossa groove right away, I begin by visualizing a boat rocking on the water. I let this image influence the pianistic texture, and you’ll hear how it led to a unique, and fresh, interpretation of this song.

Here’s the video:

Little Boat: Journey Through The Real Book #211

I hope you enjoy watching and hearing me use text painting on “Little Boat,” and then trying it yourself while playing your favorite jazz tunes.

Have fun!


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