Children’s games and improvising on songs

I was walking in NYC's Central Park today and saw a group of kids playing ball. Actually, it looked like they were playing an elaborate game of "Capture The Flag," using a football instead of a flag. They were running around energetically and reallyenjoying themselves, and what impressed me the most was the fact that all they needed was a ball to make it all happen. Actually, that's not quite correct. They needed a ball and one more thing: a set of rules, or parameters. That's all kids (or adults) need in order to play a game. A set of [...]

By |March 19th, 2018|general|0 Comments

Playing through The Real Book, tune by tune

If you play jazz piano, you probably know some Real Book tunes. (And if not, then what are you waiting for???) Whether you know 5 tunes in the book, or 150, there's no doubt that you're missing out on a great many musical experiences that the other tunes contain. The ones you've never played. One way to make sure you get the most from this wonderful collection of tunes is to go through the entire book. Not all at once, of course, because this would be overwhelming. But gradually. Little by little. The key is to play each new tune [...]

By |March 18th, 2018|general|0 Comments

Getting beyond what we think is possible

We’ve both been there, right? Sitting at the piano, and practicing something that we can’t even imagine ourselves playing at the correct tempo. Sometimes it’s a complex, written-out piece. At other times, it’s a chord progression that doesn’t seem to make any sense. And sometimes it’s just trying to get our hands to work together(!) When this happens, it’s important to keep from getting frustrated. And often, the best way to do this is to temporarily forget about the “result.” Don’t worry about the future. Instead, slow down. Waaaaay down. Practice the music incredibly slowly, and let your hands begin [...]

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

When will your musical breakthrough happen?

How do you envision yourself playing piano? Yes, it's important to enjoy how you play right now, today, but at the same time, we all have an image in our minds of how we'd like to eventually play, right? Here's the thing: your musical breakthrough will happen, but you can't predict when it will happen. I just saw this once again yesterday. I was giving a Skype piano lesson to a teenager who's been struggling with keeping a steady beat while playing jazz tunes. He's been working on this for about a full year, and yesterday it all clicked. Wow! [...]

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

Honking car horns and your jazz piano playing

This morning I was walking out to my car, along with a neighbor who was walking to her car with her 3 kids. As we neared our building's parking lot, a car across the street started honking. I barely noticed the honking and my neighbor kept walking as well. But the honking persisted, and as my neighbor was getting her kids into her car, I finally looked up, mainly to see who was being so loud and obnoxious. To my surprise, it was a smiling woman, waving out her car window at us. She yelled to me, "Ask them if [...]

By |March 15th, 2018|general|0 Comments

Improvising on pop songs

Unlike pop artists, we piano improvisers aren't limited by the confines of a 3-4 minute recording, which is the length most hits need to be. (Some big hits like the Beatles "Hey Jude" are longer, but they're the exception, not the rule.) This gives us a lot of artistic freedom that even the original artists didn't have. It's actually more akin to how jazz musician take popular songs from the 1920s - 50s and "do their own thing" with them, stretching and expanding the material as they shape it according to their own personal tastes and preferences. You can play [...]

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

The Tortoise, the Hare… and the Snail

The Tortoise, the Hare... and the Snail Once upon a time there was a tortoise, a hare, and a snail. The hare was always boasting about how fast he was, and the others were growing tired of his bragging. So one fine day, the tortoise challenged him to a race. He told the hare, "Well, you might think you're so fast, but I can beat you in a race!" Hearing this, the hare burst out laughing so hard he almost fell down his rabbit hole. "Ha!," he exclaimed. "You couldn't even outrun Little Miss Snail over there. I accept your [...]

By |March 9th, 2018|general|2 Comments

Text Painting in Jazz Piano

Do you know the musical term "text painting?" It's when a composer or improviser portrays something "extra-musical" with their music. In other words, they paint a musical picture through sound. A famous example of this is Beethoven's 6th Symphony, where he evoked a rainstorm through music. Duke Ellington did this a lot, with pieces like Daybreak Express that sounded like trains, complete with orchestral "steam whistle" and the sound of wheels chug-chugging down the railroad tracks. In those examples, the composers text painted intentionally. It was planned out in advanced and they accomplished it masterfully. Sometimes it happens by itself, [...]

By |March 9th, 2018|general|0 Comments

The 3 things every pianist needs to practice

There are 3 things every pianist needs to practice: 1. The things you like to practice 2. The things you need to practice but don't like and 3. The things you need to practice but don't yet realize. Of all these, #3 is by far the hardest. Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

By |March 8th, 2018|general|0 Comments

A simple step towards playing rootless jazz chord voicings

If you're learning jazz piano and are at the stage where you know the basic 7th chords and enjoy playing a few tunes, it can be daunting to make the leap to playing rootless chord voicings. Not only do the now-standard 'A and B' rootless voicings have 9ths and 13ths in them, but they're so different from root position 7th chords that it may seem like you have to forget everything you already know in order to play them. Although at some point you will have to do some serious "woodshedding" on A and B voicings, it often a lot [...]

By |March 7th, 2018|general|0 Comments