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Jazz Piano Ballads and Bossa Novas

When was the last time you played a ballad or bossa nova? If your answer isn’t “this morning” or “yesterday,” then this one’s for you: When we think of jazz piano, we often think of medium or uptempo tunes with a swing feel. Although this music is wonderful, there’s a lot more to jazz music than that. As a result of this narrow focus, many aspiring never become the well-rounded musicians they are capable of becoming, and would enjoy being. Today, let’s explore some other styles: ballads and bossa novas. Ballads and bossa novas actually have a lot in common. [...]

By |May 26th, 2018|general|0 Comments

What are the correct chords for “Chelsea Bridge?”

If you've ever opened The Real Book and played Billy Strayhorn's jazz ballad, Chelsea Bridge, you've seen that the opening chords are Eb7(#11) and Db7(#11). Beautiful, yes. But if we listen to Strayhorn's original arrangement of the tune, for the Duke Ellington Orchestra, we hear different harmonies: Bbm6(maj7) and Abm6(maj7): Duke Ellington: Chelsea Bridge https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xN16JMNb2Yw Either way, the chords are wonderful and very impressionist. But if you play the melody with both versions of the harmony, you'll hear a big difference. I myself learned the "wrong" chords and enjoyed playing it like that for years. Now, after getting accustomed to [...]

By |May 25th, 2018|general|0 Comments

Receiving daily inspiration at Miles Davis’ NYC apartment

Receiving daily inspiration is a vital aspect of anything we enjoy doing, whether it’s a job or a hobby, and I’m the same as you in this regard. Every day I try to stay connected with my love of music, and I’ll take inspiration from wherever it appears. I get to do this in a fun way several times per week, when I drive through Manhattan's Upper West Side near Riverside Drive. One of my usual routes takes me right past the NYC apartment that the great jazz trumpeter Miles Davis lived in for decades (312 W.77th Street). As I [...]

By |May 24th, 2018|general|0 Comments

Playing Jobim’s “Chega De Saudade” (No More Blues) on piano

Have you ever played the bossa nova "Chega De Saudade," by the Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim? Jobim is more widely known for his song "The Girl From Ipanema," and it's worthwhile getting to know some of his other songs, like this one. Also known as "No More Blues," Chega De Saudade is unusual in that it's not only twice the length of a "usual" AABA standard tune, but the fist half is in minor while the second half moves to the parallel major (D minor to D major). It's almost as if Jobim composed two tunes based on the [...]

By |May 21st, 2018|general|0 Comments

Are you learning jazz piano backwards?

If you love jazz piano but are frustrated that you're not progressing fast enough, maybe it's because you're learning it backwards. Don't worry - you're not alone. Most pianists nowadays actually learn jazz piano backwards and as a result, they don't progress as fast as they'd like. Here's what I mean: All the great jazz pianists that we look up to learned it by first developing a sense of flow with their improvising. Like water flowing. Whether it was by playing the chords to "All The Things You Are," or embellishing the melody to "There Will Never Be Another You," [...]

By |May 18th, 2018|general|0 Comments

A step-by-step plan to accomplish your pianistic goals

Take a moment and ask yourself what your pianistic goals are. How would you love to be playing? Now... take out a piece of paper and write your goals down. It's OK to have several goals, but if you really think about them, there's probably one larger "umbrella" goal that unites them all. Write this umbrella goal down. (It's important to physically write your goals down on paper, not electronically. The act of drawing the shapes actually ingrains the goals more.) Then.. list 10 steps you need to take in order to reach that goal. These 10 steps may be [...]

By |May 18th, 2018|general|0 Comments

Participation

If you want to experience the piano more fully, participate. Participate by sitting down and playing it as often as you can. Participate by going to concerts. Participate by jamming with other musicians. Participate by taking piano lessons. There's no "downside" to participating. Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

By |May 17th, 2018|general|0 Comments

Playing Steve Swallow tunes on piano

Have you ever played a Steve Swallow tune? Although there are many great tunes he composed in The Real Book, if you're like me, you've probably taken one look at them and quickly turned the page to find something with more familiar chords. I spent years doing this, but I've been sufficiently intrigued by his music to keep returning to them from time to time. The effort is well worth it! There are 4 stages to learning an unusual jazz tune, either by Swallow or any other idiosyncratic composer: 1. You look at the tune, play the chords and melody, [...]

By |May 14th, 2018|general|0 Comments

Practicing piano improv and developing a personal style

Practicing improv is like practicing a language. You learn the words, then put them together into phrases and sentences, and then practice using them in conversation. In daily life, sometimes we say the same things over and over, and then sometimes we come up with new ways to express our thoughts and feelings. It's the same with piano improv. You learn chords, voicings, bass patterns, scales, melodic concepts, rhythmic styles, and as you're learning them, you begin to put them together in new and fresh ways. And yes, sometimes we come up with new ways to express our thoughts and [...]

By |May 13th, 2018|general|0 Comments

The Pianist Whisperer

Even though the piano is such a wonderful instrument to play, many pianists have some emotional baggage in regards to their own playing. Part of this is because of the relentless drive to play ever more and more complex music during their years of piano lessons. While it's fun to be able to play complex piano music, there's something a bit lopsided when this is the main emphasis for a period of years. Often, the "fun" part of making music gets completely lost in the shuffle. As a pianist, if you ever have feelings of "I'm not good enough" or [...]

By |May 11th, 2018|general|0 Comments