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

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The #1 key to learning to improvise on piano

Hey Improvisers! Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about what holds people back from learning to improvise. And every week, with all types of pianists, I’ve noticed that it’s not due to a lack of talent, or a lack of time, or any of that. In fact, the number one thing that holds most people back is that they can’t imagine themselves every actually “getting it.” They can’t picture themselves in their minds eye improvising on piano. They can’t emotionally feel themselves doing it. Form decades of experience, I’ve learned how to ignore these feelings when they come [...]

By |September 26th, 2021|general|0 Comments

Using a technique from Stravinsky on J.J. Johnson’s “Lament”

Hey Improvisers, After I make each of my Journey Through The Real Book videos, I enjoy watching them and writing all the annotations for the timestamps. Since I don’t usually plan the musical arrangements, it’s fun to go back and see what I actually played! Today, I was a little surprised to hear that I played something on the jazz ballad “Lament,” that reminded me of Stravinsky. Well… yes and no. I was surprised because I made the video a few days ago and didn’t recall playing anything Stravinsky-like on it. But at the same time I wasn’t really surprised, [...]

By |September 19th, 2021|general|0 Comments

Deep immersion in the music we love

Hey Improvisers! Even though there’s more music available to us nowadays than ever before, I’ve noticed that we generally don’t tend to listen as deeply as we once did. While it’s great to listen to music in the car, or while at work, it’s also vital to listen while doing nothing else, so we can immerse ourselves in the music. Deep listening. Immersion. Letting the sounds wash over us. Absorbing the music. When I was a teenager, I only had a handful of albums. But one thing I did do was lie down on my bed almost every day at [...]

By |September 5th, 2021|general|0 Comments

Charlie Watts (A jazz drummer trapped in a rock band)

Hey Improvisers, The great Charlie Watts passed away this week. Watts was (is) one of my musical heroes, and in a very real sense was a jazz drummer trapped in one of the most popular rock bands on the planet. (Please excuse the “trapped” pun!) Charlie discovered jazz as a youth when he heard Gerry Mulligan’s tune “Walking Shoes,” and initially turned down the gig with the Rolling Stones because he didn’t like most rock and roll music. Of course, he grew to love playing rock but in his heart, he retained the jazz sensibility and would open up to [...]

By |August 29th, 2021|general|0 Comments

2 tips to help you avoid feeling overwhelmed when practicing piano

Hey Improvisers! It’s very common these days to feel overwhelmed when we sit down at the piano. And yes, this is understandable because there’s so much we could practice. If we feel all of this at once, then we’ll usually feel overwhelmed. We pianists, however, deserve better. Much better. The piano is such an amazing instrument, we want to feel excited each time we sit down to play. Let’s begin by reminding ourselves that it’s called “PLAYing the piano!” If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed by everything you’re being told you have to learn, then let’s reverse the situation. First [...]

By |August 22nd, 2021|general|0 Comments

September’s schedule

Hey everyone, I’m looking ahead to September, when I tend to get a lot of inquiries about Zoom piano lessons. If you’ve been thinking that you’d like to start studying with me, just let me know and we’ll put something on our schedules. I take as many students as possible but there were about 2 months last year when I had to start a waiting list for the first time. With adult piano students, I feel that the main priority is that the study of piano fits in with the person’s lifestyle as much as possible. For instance, if someone [...]

By |August 8th, 2021|general|0 Comments

Joyful Persistence

Hey Improvisers! We’ve all heard about the need for persistence. Perseverance. Slow and steady wins the race. Yes, we know it’s true. But sometimes we associate the idea of persistence with a kind of weary uphill slog. As pianists, we’re lucky because music is so joyful. If we can remind ourselves of this at each step of the way, each day, then our musical journey becomes one of joyful persistence. Yes - Joyful Persistence. That’s the “ticket!” My annual stint in Alaska at The Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival ended yesterday and I was reminded of joyful persistence many times during [...]

By |August 1st, 2021|general|2 Comments

Greetings from Fairbanks!

Hey Improvisers, Well, I’m midway through my 2-week stint here in Alaska, teaching and performing at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. It’s wonderful to be back here after missing last summer due to travel restrictions, and this is an important year for the festival in terms of continuity. Just like with music, an organization such as the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival needs to keep it’s momentum and I’m delighted to be helping this great festival continue into the future. On Wednesday, the vocal performance class I’m teaching gave a lunchtime concert at a local community center and it felt great [...]

By |July 26th, 2021|general|0 Comments

Rejuvenation

Hey Improvisers! I’ve just arrived here in Fairbanks, Alaska, where I’ll be teaching and performing for the next two weeks at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. I’m excited to be here for at least two big reasons. Firstly, I’ve been coming here every year since 1999 but had to skip last summer due to Covid-related travel restrictions. Fairbanks has become a kind of “home away from home” for me so it’s great to be back! The second reason why I’m excited to be here is that it’s an opportunity for me to refresh and rejuvenate my music and piano teaching. [...]

By |July 17th, 2021|general|0 Comments

Developing a positive frame of mind and a Max Roach story

Hey Improvisers, When I was a teenager, I became serious about learning piano. And although I didn’t know it at the time (in the late 1970s/early 80s), I enjoyed a huge advantage over many of you who are reading this: I didn’t see or hear many note-perfect performances. In fact, I didn’t see or hear many performances at all! As with anything else, there are two sides to this coin, so to speak. On the one hand, today’s aspiring pianists can hear more wonderful recordings that ever existed before, and watch countless hours of inspiring videos of pianists playing the [...]

By |June 26th, 2021|general|0 Comments