The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between

Although 99% of musical instruction is about which notes to play, the most transformative thing you can do for your piano playing isn't about the notes at all: it's about the silence between the notes. Let me ask you a question: When you sit down at the piano, what are you thinking about? Probably the notes, right? As well you should. Yes, we need to play notes. But equally (or maybe, more) important is the space in between the notes. Here's what Mozart said about this: "The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between." The guy [...]

By |June 20th, 2017|general|0 Comments

Immersing yourself in jazz standards

When learning any type of music, it’s vitally important to immerse ourselves in every aspect of the songs we play and the musicians we admire. Not only does this help us improve faster than we may realize, but it also exposes us to recordings and musical interpretations that we might normally miss. And who knows, the next thing you hear may change your musical life forever. By “pre-judging” everything we come across, we’re not only limiting our current enjoyment but also our future progress. As many of you know, one of the big ways I’m personally growing as a musician [...]

By |June 17th, 2017|general|0 Comments

Soloing on the melody like Thelonious Monk

The next time you're playing piano in a jazz group and it's your turn to take a solo, consider trying something "radical": use the tune's melody as the basis for your solo! Maybe you've though about this before, but dismissed it for one reason or another. Or maybe you've tried it but don't actually do it very much. But improvising around a tune's melody can do a lot for your music. Here are a few of its benefits: 1. You'll be connecting yourself to a big part of the early jazz tradition. 2. The audience will enjoy it. 3. Your [...]

By |June 13th, 2017|general|0 Comments

Playing Wayne Shorter’s “Beauty And The Beast” on solo piano

When you come across something that's difficult to play at first, do you see it as a "positive" or a "negative?" I mean, do you feel it's a challenge to be "slogged through" or do you get excited at the opportunity it presents? An opportunity to grow as a musician and experience new pianistic possibilities firsthand? Wayne Shorter's classic tune "Beauty And The Beast" is one of these tunes. The composition presents musical challenges as well as opportunities as it moves between funk and lyrical grooves. Part of this is because Shorter is often In fact, although I've never heard [...]

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

Piano improv in 2 “voices”

When we improvise on piano, we generally play some sort of melody with our right hand while the left hand provides an accompaniment. Or sometimes the accompaniment is also in the right hand under the melody in the form of chords or arpeggios. But have you ever tried playing 2 melodies at once with your right hand? The concept is like in a chorus. The melody is (usually) sung by the sopranos, and the altos and other voices sing melodic lines under the melody. We can do this on piano too, even when we're improvising. I've written a short example [...]

By |May 30th, 2017|general|0 Comments

Should you practice Hanon exercises in all 12 keys?

Ever since they were published in 1879, The Hanon exercises have been used by countless pianists to develop their technique, particularly in regard to the 4th and 5th fingers of each hand. There is a problem, however; all of the exercises are in the key of C (white notes only.) You can practice them for a full year and never play a black note or become familiar with any other keys. This is not good! So, the questions arises... should you practice the Hanon exercises in all 12 keys? As with anything else, you'll find varying points of view on [...]

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

In music, “commercial” doesn’t have to mean “dumbed down”

If we look back in musical history at the musicians who have made the greatest music, we’ll see that they have one thing in common: they made the music that they wanted to make. This generally holds true even when they had big hits. Mozart’s opera “The Magic Flute” was a big hit. So was Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo.” The Beatles’ “Let It Be” was, too. Big hits, but also exactly what the artists wanted to play. No one would accuse any of these musicians of “dumbing down” their music just to be more commercially successful. There are still a [...]

By |May 27th, 2017|general|0 Comments

How to play jazz piano with a good “swing feel”

If you're learning to play jazz piano but are struggling to play with a good "swing feel," take heart that you're not alone. In fact, this is one of the main challenges that any aspiring jazz pianist faces, and it can take a while to learn. It wasn't always this way, however. "Back in the day," during the 1920s-1950s, the swing feel of jazz was very much related to a lot of pop music from the time. A budding jazz pianist would hear songs everywhere that had the swing beat. Broadway show tunes like Gershwin's I Got Rhythm had a [...]

By |May 25th, 2017|general|0 Comments

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