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Ron's Blog on piano improv and the role of music in our lives

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Works in progress

As my student Bob reminded me today, we're all "works in progress." That's the real beauty of it all, and the more we each embrace this, the more rewarding our musical journey will be. The more we enjoy being works in progress, the more our work will progress. 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

By |December 12th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Jazz piano improvisations on Stevie Wonder songs

Why do so many Stevie Wonder songs sound great when played in a jazz style? Maybe it’s his harmonies, which include jazzy 9ths and 13ths, as well as ii/V/I progressions and the like. Or perhaps it’s his rhythms, which include the same latin and funk grooves that many jazz musicians use in their own tunes. It might even be his vocal phrasing, which sounds as improvisatory as Ella Fitzgerald singing the Great American Songbook. Whatever it is, jazz musicians have always loved Stevie’s music and in fact, the original Real Book included two of his compositions which are still in [...]

By |December 9th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Christmas piano ebook

I love Christmas songs. In addition to being beautiful music, they are one of our few cultural inheritances in which we actively participate each year. They also bring together the different generations in a way that few types of music do anymore. Young children sing along with their grandparents and perhaps a teenager accompanies them on piano. Over the years I’ve developed piano arrangements of 20 Christmas classics that I’ve played on piano at holiday parties, concerts, and worship services. Now, I’ve put these professional-sounding arrangements together for you in this ebook, A Keyboard Christmas Collection. The musical styles range [...]

By |December 8th, 2019|general|0 Comments

10,000 Steps or 5 Miles?

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By |December 1st, 2019|general|0 Comments

Creating jazz piano interpretations of Billie Holiday’s God Bless The Child

One of the joys of playing jazz piano is that we can bring so many “flavors” to a tune. Whether we’re improvising on something from The Great American Songbook or an original composition, the material is so versatile that we can play it with a blues flavor one day, a lyrical sweetness the next, and with a harmonic richness the day after that. We can also blend these flavors together in a myriad of combinations, often within a single interpretation. Billie Holiday’s iconic standard “God Bless The Child” is a prime example of this versatility. Over the years I’ve played [...]

By |November 26th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Is Kanye West a genius?

Is Kanye West a genius? If you believe what he himself says about this, then the answer is … yes. If you can’t stand his egotistic swagger and his crazy lyrics, then you’ll probably say… no. And if you actually listen to his music, you might reply… maybe. I asked myself this question the other day while I was driving my son to an outlet mall about 45 minutes north of New York City. We began the ride by listening to the classic King Crimson album In The Court Of The Crimson King. I wanted my son to hear this [...]

By |November 20th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Personalizing bebop melodies

One of the grandest traditions in jazz is that of melodic variation, or personalizing melodies according to the taste of the performer. And it pre-dates jazz, too. I once read that Louis Armstrong was inspired to create the jazz solo as we know it by listening to operatic tenors embellish the arias they sang. When we listen to Armstrong, Lester Young, Bud Powell, Dizzy Gillespie, Ahmad Jamal, Chick Corea, and today’s jazzers play jazz versions of The Great American Songbook, they each phrase the melodies in their own personal way. After all, this is a big part of the fun, [...]

By |November 17th, 2019|general|0 Comments

What makes a musician “great?”

What makes a “great” musician? In other words, what characteristic do they have that the rest of the field doesn’t have? Is it talent? No – I’ve met unbelievably talented musicians who have never fully developed their talent? Is it ability? No – We’ve all heard virtuosos whose playing is lifeless. Is it their depth and passion? Maybe – and at last we’re getting a little closer to zeroing in on musical “greatness.” So what IS it? What characteristic do Mitsuko Uchida, Bruce Springsteen, Ravi Shankar, Adele, and Duke Ellington have in common? While it may be counterproductive to our [...]

By |November 9th, 2019|general|0 Comments

How to sound twice as good when playing The Girl From Ipanema

The Girl From Ipanema is one of the most frequently-played bossa nova tunes of all time. Jazz musicians play it at wedding receptions and cocktail parties all around the world, and it’s still one of Brazil’s most popular songs. After playing it about 1,000 times over the years, I stumbled upon a way to instantly make our performances of this great song about twice as good. Since you’ll benefit most from hearing it for yourself, rather than simply reading about it, I’ve made this video to demonstrate this for you. The Girl From Ipanema: Journey Through The Real Book #134 [...]

By |November 8th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Perspectives on playing John Coltrane’s Giant Steps

Well, it’s taken 133 weeks, but our journey through the Real Book has finally brought us to John Coltrane’s seminal composition “Giant Steps!” In keeping with the hugely influential nature of this tune, I went deep on this one, producing a video I’m very proud of and one which I think will help you get a good overall perspective on playing the tune (whether you’ve been playing it for decades or are just now discovering it.) On the video: 1. I discuss both the compositional and historical aspects of the tune. 2. I’m delighted to share valuable insight about Coltrane [...]

By |November 4th, 2019|general|0 Comments