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

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A Thelonious Monk “reaction” video on “I Mean You?”

Have you ever seen those “reaction” videos that people post on YouTube? They generally consist of someone listening to a recording, and “reacting” with big facial expressions of surprise and delight. They’re very popular and a lot of people find them to be entertaining. “Reaction” videos were on my mind as I sat down to play Thelonious Monk’s tune “I Mean You” this week. “I Mean You” is a wonderful tune with some of the “Monk-isms” that we’ve come to expect in his music. Things like tricky rhythms, unexpected dissonances, and challenging chord progressions. Just the things, I thought, that [...]

By |July 27th, 2020|general|0 Comments

World Piano Jam!

I’m excited to share a video that 50 of my online piano students and I have put together. A few months ago, I asked all of my online students, who live all over the world, if they’d like to participate in a kind of “virtual orchestra” video, with all of us pianists jamming together. 50 of them replied “yes,” and I began to map it all out. I love that moment when the whole concept starts to become envisioned in my mind, and then it’s a step-by-step process to make this vision a reality. It’s just like cooking a meal, [...]

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

A funny thing happened on my way to the Real Book

Hey everyone, A funny thing happened on my way to the Real Book. Between giving lessons each day and doing some non-jazz recording sessions this week, I haven’t been playing as much jazz lately as I usually do. But at the same time, I’ve been posting a daily 20-minute Rock Piano for Beginners Workout video on YouTube. On the surface, the stuff I’m playing on these rock videos is very simple for me, since I’ve been playing for so long. I’m improvising with the basic blues scales in a straight-forward rhythmic manner that beginning rock pianists can play along with [...]

By |July 16th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Entering a virtuous cycle with our piano playing

Hey everyone! I’m having the time of my life making the Rock Piano for Beginners Workout videos this month, and I’m delighted that many of you are coming along for the ride. We’re only halfway through the month, and it’s gratifying to hear how this series is helping with hand independence and getting players to improvise with a greater ease and sense of flow. One pianist, Stephen, left a comment today that says it better than I can: “Bite-size chunks and lots of practicing what you can actually manage to do, not what you can not quite manage to do. [...]

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

Improvising a jazz piano intro in the style of Chick Corea

Have you ever sat down at your piano and specifically tried to play in the style of one of your favorite jazz pianists? This can be a lot of fun, especially if it’s during a rubato, out-of-tempo section where we can take our time and think of what comes next. I recently did this while playing Cole Porter’s “I Love You.” The opening melodic interval is a descending major 7th, and this is exactly the type of angular melodic shape that Chick Corea likes to use, particularly while playing rubato. So I decided to use that motif as the basis [...]

By |July 7th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Developing the hand independence to play rock bass lines and solo at the same time

Hey everyone, I’m having a great time making the videos for my 31-Day Rock Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge on YouTube! In a sense, I’m going back to how I myself learned to play rock piano, when my friends and I formed a “garage band” at the age of 15. We didn’t know anything about music, and we dived right in, practiced together at the guitarist’s house several days a week after school, and loved every minute of it. (Well, I probably didn’t love the time when the bass player pretended he couldn’t play “Satisfaction” correctly because he didn’t like [...]

By |July 5th, 2020|general|0 Comments

How to play rock piano accompaniments

Day 4 of my 31-Day Rock Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge gets you playing rock piano accompaniments in a fun and rhythmically flexible way. Here's the video - enjoy! https://youtu.be/yyhBZLz4Pms Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

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

How to play the A Blues Scale on Piano

The best way to become a fluent rock pianist is to dive right in and jam right away. Getting started is easier than you may think, and I’ve made a video to show how the notes in the A Blues Scale and how to use them to solo over rock grooves. In fact, we’ll spend a full 20 minutes jamming on the A Blues Scale so you really get to know it well. Here’s the video: Day Two: Rock Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge https://youtu.be/6iYt9F4jn4M Enjoy! Ron PS – If you’d like to start at the beginning of this video [...]

By |July 2nd, 2020|general|0 Comments

Day 1 – Rock Piano for Beginners 31-Day Workout Challenge!

I’m noticing more and more these days that the traditional, effective way of learning piano improv styles has been reversed, and this is holding a lot of aspiring pianists back. Even more importantly, it’s preventing many of us from fully enjoying the process of playing music. All too often, piano study becomes 20 years of feeling we’re “not good enough.” Traditionally, a beginning rock, jazz, or blues pianist would learn a few chords, or a scale, and immediately begin jamming with other musicians, having tons of fun right from the beginning. Think of the Beatles. Jazz musicians such as Horace [...]

By |July 1st, 2020|general|0 Comments

Playing Cole Porter’s “I Love Paris” as a jazz piano solo

Our journey through the Real Book has brought us to #162, which is Cole Porter’s great song “I Love Paris.” Playing a jazz interpretation of a song like “I Love Paris” leads us into fascinating places because the piece itself isn’t mainstream jazz, or even mainstream popular music of the 1950s, when it was composed. By contrast, if we’re playing a tune like “Confirmation,” we immediately have a kind of style in mind. It’s a bebop tune by Charlie Parker and we’ll almost always play it as a straight-ahead bebop tune. And if we’re playing a typical standard from the [...]

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