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

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Deep Listening

Hey Improvisers, I hope you’ve been having a great week! It’s been pretty busy over here, but it’s all about good things. I addition to my piano teaching, I’ve been writing a book about piano improv. I’ve been working on it every day and I hope to publish it on April 1st for the Kindle on Amazon. It’s been challenging to make videos over the past few weeks because my upstairs neighbors are renovating their apartment. It seems like every time I get everything set up to start filming, the workers start drilling or something. But where there’s a will [...]

By |January 31st, 2022|general|0 Comments

The Chick Corea/Stevie Wonder connection

Hey Improvisers, It can be lot of fun to we discover that some of our favorite musicians are fans of one another. A good example of this is the relationship between Chick Corea and Stevie Wonder. Corea’s 1970’s jazz-fusion group, Return To Forever, inspired Wonder to compose this jazzy instrumental tune for his landmark album Songs In The Key of Life: Stevie Wonder: Contusion https://youtu.be/6T5q7BzpEe4 Stevie also enjoyed playing Chick’s famous piece “Spain” in concert from time to time: Stevie Wonder: Spain https://youtu.be/Q3VJOl_XeGs In his later years, Corea returned the favor by performing Wonder’s Latin-influenced song “Pastime Paradise” as a [...]

By |January 25th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Playing Joe Lovano’s “Lines and Spaces” as a jazz piano solo

Hey Improvisers, The actor/comedian Steve Martin once made a TV skit where he simply looked into the camera, perplexed, and said, “What the heck IS that?” Being the great comedian that he is, the skit somehow got funnier and funnier each time he repeated the question! Do you ever look at a jazz tune with complex chord changes and ask yourself “What the heck IS that?” It’s OK. This is a natural response to when we encounter unusual chord progressions, which often don’t establish tonal centers in conventional ways. After all, we’ve practiced soloing over ii/V/I chord progressions, and then [...]

By |December 31st, 2021|general|0 Comments

Using musical text-painting can keep our jazz piano playing fresh

Do you ever feel “stuck in a rut” with your jazz piano playing? Do you get tired of playing the same licks over and over again? Do you ever feel like your playing lacks freshness? Well… one of the best (and easiest) ways to invigorate our jazz piano playing and keep it fresh is to use musical ”text painting.” Text painting is a term that comes from classical music, when composers would musically describe something non-musical in their compositions. Beethoven used text painting when he made part of his 6th symphony sound like a rainstorm. And Mussorgsky used text painting [...]

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

A 3-Step Plan to achieve your musical goals

Hey Improvisers, Since the transition to a New Year is a natural time for renewal and rejuvenation, let’s take a moment to reflect on our individual musical goals and how to develop a 3-step plan for achieving them in the coming year. First, let’s reflect upon what we know doesn’t work, and how to tap into a method that we know will actually work. We know, from lots of experience, that resolving to “practice more” in the coming year probably won’t work. After all, we’ve been down this road before. We get all motivated to practice 3-6 hours per day [...]

By |December 28th, 2021|general|0 Comments

Playing a jazz piano interpretation of “All I Want For Christmas Is You”

Every December (and sometimes as early as November!), I hear Mariah Carey’s ever-present song “All I Want For Christmas Is You” on the radio and think to myself, “This song would make a great jazz piano piece. Someday I’ll play it as a jazz standard.” Well, I’ve finally done it, and my hunch was correct: the song is a fun vehicle for jazz improvisation. When we think about it, this shouldn’t be too surprising. After all, the melody, chord progression, musical form, and swing beat would sound right at home on a 1950s Ella Fitzgerald album. The only thing that [...]

By |December 24th, 2021|general|0 Comments

The musical reason why “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is such a huge hit!

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever wondered why some songs become timeless classics and others don’t? While a popular singer or a big marketing campaign can catapult a song to a place on the pop charts, why do some songs, like “Let It Be” and “Yellow Submarine,” endure for decades? What makes a song take its place in the hearts of young and old listeners alike? In the case of Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You,” it’s because the song was composed in a way that cleverly combines classic musical elements with new, contemporary ones. The classic elements [...]

By |December 23rd, 2021|general|0 Comments

Getting past the “Ghost of Art Tatum” while playing Limehouse Blues

Hey Improvisers, When I sat down to play the old chestnut “Limehouse Blues” this week, I was faced by a crushing thought: “I have Art Tatum’s version running through my head, and everything I can play seems really lame in comparison.” Have you ever felt this way when playing piano? Have you ever had your musical idol’s version running around in your head, and you had to face the fact that you yourself couldn’t play like that? Well… let’s take solace in the fact that we’re not alone! Actually, just about every improvising pianist has faced this reality at some [...]

By |December 15th, 2021|general|0 Comments

How to take a quantum leap forward with your music

Hey Improvisers! In the majority of musical education, whether in private lessons or in classes, there’s an implicit assumption that: 1. We are “down here,” and musicians like Beethoven, Charlie Parker, Paul McCartney, and Joni Mitchell are “way up there.” 2. Furthermore, there are about 10 steps in the ladder between us and them. 3. To rise to their level, we have to go slowly, step-by-step, and gradually climb up this ladder over the course of our lives. 4. But…. (and this is the clincher)… we’ll never really get to where they are because they are “geniuses” and we are [...]

By |December 11th, 2021|general|0 Comments

Interpreting the melody of the jazz standard “Like Someone In Love”

Hey Improvisers, One ironic aspect of the current information-overload era of music instruction is that melody is usually overlooked. I’m always mystified by this because we all love melody and when we think of a particular song, isn’t it the melody we hear in our minds? Melody is one of the primary aspects of music that resonates with us, yet it’s one of the least-mentioned when it comes to learning music these days. Indeed, there are entire websites devoted to improvisation that don’t even contain a single melody. Let’s remedy this for ourselves, and rediscover what Mozart, Charlie Parker, and [...]

By |November 27th, 2021|general|0 Comments