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

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The little “secret” that professional pianists rarely talk about

Since having a healthy mental attitude is such a big part of playing piano, I thought I’d share a perspective with you today that no one really talks about very often. If you can embrace this, you’ll be a happier pianist and play at a consistently higher level as well. Here it goes: Have you ever sat down to play piano and found yourself frustrated because you played better “yesterday?” Or that the music seemed to flow much easier the last time you played? Well, here’s the “secret:” It happens to the greatest players in the world too! (Congratulations – [...]

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

The more you listen to the groove, the less superfluous notes you’ll play.

Picture yourself having dinner with 5 incredibly interesting people. People whose company you enjoy and who share the same interests as you. Question: What do you do when they say something fascinating? Answer: You listen. Yes, you listen. You listen with rapt attention, hanging onto every word they say. And then, when it’s appropriate, you say something too and they listen to you. My point here is that we don’t have dinner with Einstein and spend the whole time talking, right? That would be a waste of time. Instead, we ask questions, listen, and speak in a way that keeps [...]

By |November 16th, 2018|general|0 Comments

The Beatles/Bossa Nova connection

I always laugh when I hear the Beatles referred to as "classic rock." Yes, the played some rock. And folk, and classical, and country, and pop, and Tin Pan Alley, and swing. Hey, the even played an Italian-style Tarantella ("Yellow Submarine")! They also played music that was heavily influenced by South American dance music such as rhumba and Bossa Nova. Historically, it makes sense. Bossa Nova took the world by storm in the late 1950s - early 1960s, which is exactly when the Beatles began playing together. They arranged and recorded the Broadway show tune "Till There Was You" (from [...]

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

A Bunch of Beatles

The Beatles have been on my mind all week, so I thought I’d share some of the things I’ve been excited about so you can check them out too. The big news is that Giles Martin, son of Beatles producer George Martin, has remastered the Beatles White Album. He’s included bonus tracks that were left off the original album, some outtakes, and something I’ve been waiting year for: the acoustic demos of many of the songs. As much as I love the White Album, I miss the spirit of joy and optimism that’s heard on these demos, which were recorded [...]

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

Did Gil Evans arrange Dear Old Stockholm for Miles Davis?

Did Gil Evans arrange Dear Old Stockholm for Miles Davis? Questions like this become more and more fascinating as we begin to dig deeper into them. The traditional viewpoint was that Miles and Evans met in the 1940s, when Evans’ small basement apartment became a “crash pad” for the beboppers when they needed a nap or place to rest from the hectic pace of the nearby 52nd Street jazz scene. (Wikipedia lists this as the blocks of 52nd Street between 5th and 7th Avenues, but the stretch between 5th and 6th was where Gerry Mulligan showed me the locations of [...]

By |November 10th, 2018|general|0 Comments

“Discovering” The Who’s Quadrophenia

I've always been interested in learning about a wide variety of music. Along the way, I've played and studied jazz, pop, rock, classical, folk, rock, R&B, Broadway... you name it. The flip side of this is that there are some great recordings I've missed in each of these genres. But the fun part is that I'm still like a kid; discovering new and exciting music all the time. Case in point: The Who's "Quadrophenia." Although I love a lot of The Who's music, like the music from their rock opera Tommy and songs like "Won't Get Fooled Again," believe it [...]

By |November 6th, 2018|general|0 Comments

How do you want to be playing piano in 5 years?

Ask yourself how you want to be playing piano in 5 years. And then start practicing towards this today. If you don’t start today, then you won’t be playing the way you’d like in 5 years. It’s as simple as that. Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

By |November 4th, 2018|general|0 Comments

The Evolution of Jazz Ballads

Although we tend to lump all “jazz ballads” together, we can in fact begin to understand them in a new way if we study how they’ve evolved over time. Their chord progressions in particular can yield great insight. Here’s some historical perspective on the evolution of jazz ballads: Jazz musicians began playing ballads by adapting slow popular songs to a jazz context. The pop songs of the Great American Songbook era typically used a lot of ii/V/I chord progressions which gave them their characteristic sound. Here’s an example of this type of jazz ballad, courtesy of the great jazz pianist [...]

By |November 3rd, 2018|general|0 Comments

Piano and the spirit of playing catch

Traditional piano lessons can be great, but they can also be pretty relentless in terms of always moving to the next thing. “Now that you’ve learned 5 notes, let’s learn 5 more.” “Can you play that faster? And more smoothly?” “You play that Mozart sonata beautifully. Now you’re ready for Beethoven.” Although this approach will aid the march to complexity, it can also send the unintended signal that “it’s never good enough.” Let’s look at it another way: “Congratulations on learning your first 5 notes! Now it’ll be easy to play a few more fun songs without having to learn [...]

By |November 2nd, 2018|general|0 Comments

The three ways to interpret songs on piano

There are three, and only three, ways to interpret songs: 1. The way the original artist performed it. 2. Your own way, completely independent of the original style. 3. Meeting the composer or original performer halfway. For each song, we get to choose which we prefer. Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

By |November 1st, 2018|general|0 Comments