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


Exploring modal piano textures with John Coltrane’s “Impressions”

You (and I) have the potential to improvise on the piano in a highly personal, satisfying way. In fact, this is something that connects us directly with our musical idols. And, 40 years of performing and teaching experience has shown me that you’re closer to having extraordinary musical experiences that you might think. Here’s some “food for thought,” along with some very practical ways to develop your own, unique style of playing piano. Have you ever played modal jazz? It’s funny, because as much as we hear things like “there are so many possibilities with modal jazz” and “you can [...]

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

Using “fingerstyle-guitar” techniques while playing Ralph Towner’s “Icarus” on piano

A pianistic style I find very relaxing to play is what I call “fingerstyle guitar.” Basically, we pianists can imitate the way an acoustic guitarist will sometimes play folk-like textures with their fingers on individual strings, instead of strumming full chords. It’s a wonderful sound and translates very well to the keyboard. Watch how I use this intriguing technique on guitarist Ralph Towner’s composition “Icarus,” and then give it a try yourself. It works well on many rock, pop, country, and folk tunes, and you can also apply it to jazz standards as I show in the video. Icarus: Journey [...]

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

A Piano Blues For Healing

I hope you’re doing well! Back in March, I posted some videos of relaxing piano music and lately people have been requesting more of these videos. So… yesterday I sat down and improvised a Blues For Healing. The response has been great and I’ll be posting more videos of relaxing piano music, in a variety of genres. Here’s Blues For Healing: https://youtu.be/M_ElEfTNj1g Enjoy the journey, and "let the music flow!" Ron Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

By |November 17th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Jazz meets pop and blues with Jobim’s “If You Never Come To Me”

One of the great things about taking on a project like our Journey Through The Real Book is that we discover (or revisit) some real gems that aren’t as widely-known as that should be. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s tune “If You Never Come To Me” is one such hidden gem! Like all of Jobim’s bossa nova compositions, “If You Never Come To Me” features a gentle Brazilian straight-eighth note rhythm that has a lot in common with pop music. Listen to, say, Elton John’s pop hit “Daniel” and you’ll hear the similarities. It’s no coincidence that pop artists as wide ranging [...]

By |November 15th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Steve Swallow’s blending of pop and jazz in his tune “I’m Your Pal”

Hey everyone, Our Journey Through The Real Book has brought us to #172, which is the wonderful Steve Swallow tune “I’m Your Pal.” Swallow started out as part of the mid-to-late 1960s Boston jazz scene. It must have been an incredibly vibrant place to play music and share ideas with the other musicians there at the time, which included Chick Corea, Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett. All of these musicians were composing similar music at the time (and through the early 1970s) and my hunch is that Swallow influenced all of these more-famous musicians at least as much as they [...]

By |November 4th, 2020|general|0 Comments

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