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Practicing begets more practicing!

Whether you're an adult or a teenager, finding enough practice time at the piano can be challenging, to say the least! In fact, our schedules can become so busy that many people just throw their hands up in despair and don't practice at all. Please, don't let this happen to you! The solution is simpler than you might realize, and I've found that if we look at another activity in our lives, we can successfully transfer what we learn back to the piano and benefit from the process. For instance, let's take fitness. We all want to get in shape [...]

By |May 22nd, 2017|general|0 Comments

The 3 ways to become an incredibly fluent improvising pianist

Is it your dream to sit down at your piano and have it be easy, without much effort? This is actually a great goal, and you intuitively sense that it’s possible for you. You can sense the possibility. But “possibility” and “current reality” are two different things, and you probably feel like you’re never going to get there. You have too little time to practice, or you’re “not talented enough.” Neither one of these is true, because you are talented enough (and anyway, talent isn’t as important as you may think) and even a few hours per week will get [...]

By |May 12th, 2017|general|0 Comments

“Loosening up,” with help from Elton John

I was watching some videos of Elton John performing live, and it reminded me of just how tied to the sheet music most pianists are. But Elton John isn't. Yes, he knows how his songs go (of course!), but he also gives himself leeway to freely interpret his piano parts from day-to-day, according to how he feels each time he plays. He doesn't change the overall feel of the songs, but he clearly has fun improvising the chord rhythms and his melodic fills. He even changes some intros that you may have have thought were "set in stone." The introduction [...]

By |May 8th, 2017|general|0 Comments

May The 4th Be With You

Since today is May 4th, Star Wars fans all over the world have proclaimed it "Star Wars Day." ("May the 4th be with you." Get it?) So... this year I thought I'd get in on the fun and compose a piano piece especially for this day. I call it (what else?) "May The 4th Be With You," and it's constructed entirely using the interval of a 4th. You can download your free copy here: May The 4th Be With You (piano music) Enjoy! Ron Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz [...]

By |May 4th, 2017|general|0 Comments

The Lennie Tristano/Herbie Hancock connection

I had a funny moment in the car this morning. I turned on the radio to WKCR-FM, from Columbia University, and found that they were playing a some great jazz. It was already in the middle of the piano solo, and the first thing that popped into my head was "Oh, this is Lennie Tristano playing in a live setting." And yes, it had all the hallmarks of Tristano's playing: chromatic bebop lines, angular phrasing, a sparce left hand, and an interest in motivic development while displacing beats. I knew I had heard the exact recording before, but couldn't quite [...]

By |May 3rd, 2017|general|0 Comments

The Best Way To Use The Real Book

I was thinking about what I would say to you if we met in a café and you asked me for some advice on how to become a much better jazz pianist. We all know some of the obvious answers to this questions: take lessons, practice more, etc. But what would I say to you that most people overlook? What could I tell you in a few sentences that would change your whole outlook on how to practice and learn piano? Here it is, and it’s only 42 seconds long. I’ve used The Real Book as an example but my [...]

By |May 2nd, 2017|general|0 Comments

How Charlie Parker practiced jazz tunes

Have you ever sat down at the piano and to play a difficult jazz tune and found that you didn't sound as good as you wished? Of course you have, and so have I. I think we've both felt how frustrating this can be! Fortunately, we've been given some help from those who've come before us. Wouldn't it be a big help, for instance, to know how someone as great as Charlie Parker practiced jazz? (And yes, believe it or not, he actually had to practice too!) In 1987-88, I was lucky enough to be Gerry Mulligan's assistant, and in [...]

By |May 1st, 2017|general|0 Comments

How to use motifs to play better jazz piano ballads

Have you ever listened to a great jazz ballad player like Keith Jarrett or Bill Evans, and wonder what they were doing that made them sound so great? Yes, they have a lot of musical sensitivity and a personal style, but what about specifics? What specific techniques do they use to sound so great? Well, one thing that most if not all of the great jazz ballad players use is called "motivic development." The term sounds a bit academic but the concept is simple. So simple, in fact, that you've known it your whole life though the songs you listen [...]

By |April 28th, 2017|general|0 Comments

Autumn Leaves and your progress as a jazz pianist

For many of us jazz pianists, “Autumn Leaves” is one of the first jazz tunes we learn (it was actually my very first one!). I think there are 3 reasons for this: the melody is sequential and easy to “grasp,” there are only a few main chords in the progression, and it’s near the beginning of the Real Book. So to connect this with what I said above, we start learning jazz with “Autumn Leaves” and as we progress and grow as jazz pianists, the tune can become a kind of barometer that reflects where we are, musically. To see [...]

By |April 24th, 2017|general|0 Comments

How to really learn to play piano from chords

Almost every day, I get an email from someone who's played piano for years and wants to know how to "play from chords." And in fact, this is probably the best thing a pianist can want to do. It's actually an easy skill to acquire, and it's a big shame that the classical music world doesn't teach this anymore. Bach, Mozart and all the others made chords the main focus of their teaching. After all, everything else comes from this, including learning written music if done with proper understanding. So today, I thought I'd give my "in a nutshell" advice [...]

By |April 22nd, 2017|general|0 Comments