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


Improvising on The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling”

Hey Improvisers, One of the great things about The Beatle’s music is how it draws on so many types of musical influences. In the case of “Oh! Darling,” the primary influence is good old 1950s early rock and roll. The Beatles were teenagers during the 1950s, and the music of that time really inspired them to go into music themselves. They loved the doo-wop of groups like The Drifters, the harmonies of the standard songs of George Gershwin and Cole Porter that were still on the radio at that time, and the lively blues-based rock and roll of Chuck Berry, [...]

By |August 16th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Approaching Wayne Shorter’s “Miyako”

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever played any of Wayne Shorter’s compositions? If so, you’ve probably played “Footprints,” and perhaps “Speak No Evil” or “Witch Hunt.” Those are all great tunes and among his most popular and most approachable. But after you’ve played those, keep going. Shorter has written many wonderful pieces and they’re all right there, waiting for us to discover them! I was first introduced to Wayne’s music when I took lessons with the jazz pianist Harold Danko, back in the 1980s. Harold had learned to play jazz during the 1960s, when Shorter was with The Miles Davis Quintet, [...]

By |August 16th, 2022|general|0 Comments

To learn jazz, do you have to start with the blues?

Hey Improvisers, I get a lot of new piano students who are into jazz, but have been told by someone that “if you want to learn jazz, you have to start with the blues.” On the surface, this sounds logical, right? After all, blues music predated jazz during the late 1800s and certainly influenced jazz in a huge way. In fact, Buddy Bolden, the cornet player who was the earliest great jazz musician we know of, is credited with bringing the blues into the dance hall. That was one of his big innovations that led to the creation of jazz. [...]

By |August 16th, 2022|general|0 Comments

A piano reharmonization of “Misty”

Hey Improvisers, Reharmonizing jazz standards is a lot of fun, but it can daunting to get started if you’ve never tried it before. Therefore, I’ve made a video to give you some ideas and inspiration. When I was 18 years old, I began studying jazz piano with Billy Taylor, who was a big proponent of reharmonization. Billy had learned the technique directly from the great Art Tatum, and I felt fortunate to be learning it from him. You’re next in the line, as I pass this along to you. On the video, you’ll gain a perspective on what reharmonization is [...]

By |August 9th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Learning the minor blues with John Coltrane’s “Mr. PC”

Hey Improvisers, There are certain iconic tunes that serve as good ways to go deeper into various types of music. For the minor blues, John Coltrane’s “Mr. PC” is one of these tunes. The minor blues is a very important form to learn, as it can be found in various styles across the musical spectrum. It’s influenced the classic rock of The Doors, The Allman Brothers, and Van Morrison, as well as traditional blues by BB King and Eric Clapton, as well as jazz by Miles Davis and Bill Evans, among many others. John Coltrane’s “Mr. PC,” although usually played [...]

By |August 6th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Are you improvising, or just “stringing together licks?”

Hey Improvisers, It’s common for beginning improvisers to start out by learning a bunch of licks and stringing them together to create solos. But is this really the best way to learn to improvise? Going further, is it really improvising? Wouldn’t it be better to actually improvise while learning to improvise? And it this it true, then what exactly is the role of learning licks in your musical development? I explore these essential topics in my new Piano Myth-Busting video: Piano Myth-Busting #8 https://youtu.be/z2g1P7qXnA0 Happy improvising! Ron Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand [...]

By |August 3rd, 2022|general|0 Comments

Ideas for playing Pat Metheny’s “Missouri Uncompromised” on piano

Hey Improvisers, The guitarist Pat Metheny is one of those musicians who enjoys bringing various genres of music together, and his “Missouri Uncompromised,” which seamlessly blends jazz, folk, and country music together in a very organic way. It can be fun to adapt a guitar-oriented song to the piano ,and here are some ideas, and a performance, to get you started: Missouri Uncompromised: Journey Through The Real Book #235 https://youtu.be/CRwBlUB5iYo Have fun exploring this! Ron Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano You'll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with [...]

By |August 2nd, 2022|general|0 Comments

Bringing some gospel/rock to The Beatles’ “Yesterday”

Hey Improvisers, Even though we sometimes think of musical genres as being separate, we can have a lot of fun by exploring the crossover between them. I did this on Friday, when I performed The Beatles’ classic song “Yesterday” at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Even though Paul McCartney’s original rendition was very folk-based, a great song like this invites us to take in in any direction we wish. I began my performance by playing the song very gently, and then found wanting to become more rhythmic. At that point, I brought in some gospel influences. I’ve played gospel music [...]

By |August 1st, 2022|general|0 Comments

Playing “Over The Rainbow” with pop rhythms and jazz harmonies

Hey Improvisers, One of my favorite styles to play is what I call “Taylor Swift-style jazz piano.” The basic concept is to play a favorite jazz ballad with all the usual jazz harmonies, but with a nice, contemporary pop rhythmic feel. I particularly like to use a folksy finger style guitar-like texture, which I call “Fingerstyle piano.” Here’s a performance I did of the classic “Over The Rainbow,” in which I used this style: Over The Rainbow https://youtu.be/xEQoSNbRDTE Give it try yourself! Ron Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for [...]

By |July 30th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Ideas for playing Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann” as a jazz piano solo

Hey Improvisers, What do you do when you encounter a jazz tune that’s a little out of the ordinary? Well, one approach is to look to another style of music for inspiration, and if possible, see if this style is aligned with the tune itself. Case in point: Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann.” “Miss Ann” is a wonderful, expressive tune. But at first glance, the melody doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the chord progression. The intriguing aspect of this is that it sounds great when Dolphy himself plays it, but it feels strange when we try it ourselves. [...]

By |July 30th, 2022|general|0 Comments