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

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Climbing hills

When we're taking a walk and come to a hill, we either become energized or lethargic. What makes the difference? What causes us to either get a little burst of energy and a spring in our step, or, on the other hand, a feeling of "OK, I'll just have to grit my teeth and force my body to get up this hill." I just experienced this while walking through Central Park this week. Upon encountering a hill, I felt a burst of energy while my friend felt lethargic. On another day it might have been reversed. But the question remains: [...]

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

How “Minimum Viable Piano” can take your piano playing to new levels

A few years ago I coined a new term: Minimum Viable Piano. Minimum Viable Piano, or M.V.P. for short, means that when we’re learning a new style or technique, the first stage is to play it the simplest way possible that sounds good and has a sense of flow. One of the students in the Piano Improv class from the workshop I did in Fairbanks, Alaska last month sent me an email. She is celebrating the fact that for the first time ever, she’s become comfortable playing the piano and singing at the same time. She’s an excellent vocalist and [...]

By |August 11th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Here are the correct chord changes to Wayne Shorter’s “Footprints”

Wayne Shorter likes to consider his compositions as "works in progress," subject to change and evolution over time. While this is wonderful and in a sense very "alive," it can make things a little tricky when we want to simply call out the title and count off the tune at a jam session or gig! "Footprints" is perhaps Shorter's most widely-performed tune and in this regard it's no exception. I've seen at least 4 different sets of chord changes printed for "Footprints," and when I set out to play the tune for my Journey Through The Real Book video series [...]

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

Becoming comfortable with performing on piano

Yesterday’s blog post, on learning to enjoy playing piano for others, really resonated with a lot of people! I received many emails from pianists who are gradually becoming more comfortable with performing and some people commented on my Facebook page about the post as well. Today, I’d thought we can continue in the same vein, with a practical way to get accustomed playing for an audience. Try this a few times: Call a friend or family member on the phone and explain that you’re getting used to playing piano for an audience. Ask them to simply listen to you play [...]

By |August 7th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Finding a way to enjoy playing the piano in any situation

Find a way to enjoy playing the piano in any situation. You owe it to yourself, and yes, it’s possible. It’s possible to sit down at the instrument, in front of an audience, and thoroughly enjoy yourself. During my many years of playing piano at home, in senior centers, in schools, at Carnegie Hall, at jazz festivals, and just about anywhere else I can find a piano, I’ve come to realize that it’s up to me to find a way to enjoy myself wherever I’m performing. The key for us is to listen to the music and enjoy it. More [...]

By |August 6th, 2019|general|1 Comment

The type of piano blues you don’t hear much anymore

I hope you’ve been having a great summer, winter, rainy season, or whatever it is in your part of the world! I arrived back in New York City from Alaska last Sunday, and went right in for jury duty the first thing on Monday morning. It’s taken a full week, but I’m now back in my usual groove here! One of the fun things about being at The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival is that I got to play so many types of music. The students in my Piano Improv class wanted to know how to play pop, rock, and blues [...]

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

Nurturing our musical talent

You can't force a flower to bloom, but you can water it and make sure it gets enough sunlight. As pianists, the "watering" is our practicing, and the "sunlight" is providing ourselves with a stimulating environment by attending concerts, playing with our musical peers, and learning from more experienced musicians. Enjoy the journey and "let the music flow!" 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 |August 2nd, 2019|general|0 Comments

Old-Time Piano Blues

Here's a blues piano performance I gave on July 19, 2019, when I was up in Alaska at The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. I call it "This Is The Type Of Blues That You Don't Hear Much Anymore." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L5ULwZjEyuA Enjoy! 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 |August 1st, 2019|general|0 Comments

Embrace the beginning stages, whether you’re 8, 38, or 88 years old.

Every moment at the piano can be viewed as the beginning of something new. It could be a person’s first time pressing down a piano key. It may be the beginning of learning a new style of music. Or, it might be the first time you try to play a new keyboard technique, such as a lively pop bass line or a Keith Emerson-like progressive rock ostinato in 7/8 time. Going deeper, it could be the beginning stages of learning a new song, or memorizing it. Or, if you already know the song well, this moment can be viewed as [...]

By |July 30th, 2019|general|0 Comments

A bold chord voicing choice from Art Tatum

Here’s a true story that may surprise you: In the 1980s, my jazz piano teacher Billy Taylor told me that when he studied with the great Art Tatum back in the 1950s, Tatum would sit down at the piano and gladly show him all kinds of wonderful chord voicings. But if Tatum heard Billy use any of these voicings on a gig, he’d stop showing him anything else. In other words, Billy was required to instantly assimilate Art’s concept and use it in his own way. And from what Billy said to me, this wasn’t unusual at that time. All [...]

By |July 27th, 2019|general|0 Comments