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

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I’m Beginning To See The Light: Duke Ellington’s chords vs. the Real Book’s

The Real Book is a great resource, but sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to truly understand how to play a particular tune. Duke Ellington’s “I’m Beginning To See The Light” is a good example of this. For starters, the Real Book uses a series of chords in measures 1-3 that are very different from Ellington’s original harmonies. How do you know which ones to use? I learned more than I expected about this lively tune while making my latest Journey Through The Real Book video, and you’ll come away understanding more about how to play the song [...]

By |October 26th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Keith Jarrett had a stroke

Hey everyone, Keith Jarrett is a big reason why I have devoted my life to playing the piano. So it was a shock to read in the NY Times about the stroke he had two years ago which left him partially paralyzed and unable to use his left hand. He may never be able to play piano again with his two hands. Perhaps you read it too: Keith Jarrett Confronts a Future Without the Piano https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/21/arts/music/keith-jarrett-piano.html I found this news to be sad and shocking. And while reflecting upon it during the past few days, it’s become very sobering as [...]

By |October 23rd, 2020|general|0 Comments

5 tips for playing jazz waltzes on piano

Have you ever played a jazz waltz? If you have, you may have experienced the thrill of playing jazz piano in a way that’s kind of a cross between a ballad and an uptempo swing groove. Or, you may perhaps have found yourself a little bit “out of your element,” with none of your usual jazz rhythms working quite as well as you’d like. I love playing jazz waltzes, and I’ve found that the key to enjoying them fully is to develop a fluid rhythmic approach to them that combines some elements of ballad playing with the swinging rhythms of [...]

By |October 18th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Pianists who played with Charlie Parker

Since jazz music includes such a wide range of styles, it can be tempting to think of each sub-genre as having a relatively narrow spectrum of variety. To put it another way, since bebop sounds so different from modal jazz, we sometimes think that all bebop sounds the same and all modal sounds the same. Once we put a seemingly-narrow genre under our audio microscope, however, we begin to notice a great deal of variety. It’s just like when we look out over a field of grass in nature. From a distance, it looks like a uniform blanket of green [...]

By |October 13th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Eddie van Halen at the piano

Like much of the music world, I was saddened by the recent passing of Eddie van Halen. His rock group, Van Halen, released their first album in 1978, when I was playing keyboards in a middle school rock band myself. Since Eddie instantly established himself as a “rock guitar god,” it surprised many listeners when he began playing keyboards on songs like “Jump.” Later on, we learned that the piano had in fact been his first instrument, and he had won four consecutive classical piano contests in his youth. I’ve been enjoying his piano playing over the past few days [...]

By |October 11th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Getting to the next level

Take a quick moment and imagine how you’d like to be playing piano. How does the music sound? How does it feel to play like this? Yes, all want to get to the next level with our piano playing. The big question is: how do we get there? How do we need to practice in order to attain our musical dreams? This is the big question for all of us, and here’s the thing that most pianists miss: The efforts that got each of us to our current level of ability are not the efforts that will take us further. [...]

By |October 6th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Moving in the right direction

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our piano playing that we don’t see the “bigger picture” regarding our musical development. To help us see this, it’s often easier to put our musical development in perspective when we’re studying a non-musical subject, like learning language or a sports event. I was reminded of this while attending a baseball game yesterday in which my teenage son participated. Even though we, as a society, tend to focus on stats and scores when it comes to sports, I find the “inner game of sports” to be the most fascinating aspect of them. And, [...]

By |September 28th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Roland Hanna’s bold, classically-influenced piano solo on Concierto De Aranjuez

Every once in a while, we hear a piano solo that’s so bold it stops us in our tracks. Roland Hanna’s piano solo on Concierto De Aranjuez is one of these solos. Have you ever heard this solo? It’s on guitarist Jim Hall’s jazz adaptation of Rodrigo’s classical guitar piece Concierto De Aranjuez, which they recorded in 1975. The 1970s were a pivotal time for jazz. (“jazz is dead, long live jazz!”) The “old” days of swing music we fading from the public consciousness, and most of the jazzers (and crooners, btw) were either creating identities for themselves as “keepers [...]

By |September 20th, 2020|general|0 Comments

The creative vision of the Rolling Stones

When we hear people talk about the Rolling Stones, we tend to hear them use phrases like “The world’s greatest rock band.” Rarely, however, do I hear them described as being “creative.” (That platitude is usually reserved for their 1960s colleagues The Beatles.) If we really examine their music, however, we begin to see a continuity of creativity that began fairly early in their history and continues to this day. The Rolling Stones began life as a cover band, playing American rock, pop, and blues as best they could. Knowing how great the band would eventually become, it can be [...]

By |September 19th, 2020|general|0 Comments

The 3 types of advice you’ll get from piano teachers

When choosing a piano teacher, it’s very important to understand the various teaching styles in order to find someone who’s right for you. Basically, there are three types of advice piano teachers give, and you’ll want to make sure you identify how a particular teaching is giving you instruction and if this is the way you want to learn. Here are the 3 types of advice that piano teachers give: 1. "This worked for me so I want you to play like this too." (In my opinion, this is the kind of advice you want to avoid if it's the [...]

By |September 13th, 2020|general|0 Comments