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


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

To transcribe or not to transcribe; that’s the question!

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever transcribed a recorded solo by your favorite musician? If you have, what was your experience? Did you enjoy the process? Did it help you understand how to improvise better? While transcribing is a very helpful way to improve our ear and develop our improvisational abilities, it’s often over-emphasized as the primary learning tool we have, at the expense of actually improvising and jamming with our peers. Here’s a video I made to help you understand the role that transcribing can have in your practice routine, and how to view it as part of the larger [...]

By |July 26th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Bringing variety to your hard bop jazz piano playing

Hey Improvisers, Playing bebop and hard bop can be fun, but do you ever feel like you’re just playing the same stuff over and over again? If so, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, there are specific things you can do to remedy this and bring some variety to your playing. One of the best ways you can do this is to try some different overall approaches to playing jazz piano, instead of always playing the typical “left-hand comping/right hand single-note soloing” approach. I’ve made a video to give you some ideas for expanding your pianistic concept in this way, [...]

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

Ideas for playing John Lewis’s jazz standard “Milano” on piano

Hey Improvisers, Well, our journey through The Real Book has brought us to another important tune, “Milano.” “Milano” was composed by the jazz great pianist/ composer John Lewis, who is perhaps most famous for being the driving force behind The Modern Jazz Quartet. “Milano” is just as melodic as Lewis’s other tunes, such as “An Afternoon In Paris and “Django,” and gives us a lot of possibilities for improvisation. John Lewis had musical roots in the Swing Era, and idolized Art Tatum. Whereas Tatum played a million notes, however, Lewis went in the opposite direction, developing a sparse, economical style [...]

By |July 23rd, 2022|general|0 Comments

Do you need to use rootless voicings to play “real” jazz?

Hey Improvisers, Question: What do Bud Powell, Erroll Garner, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, and Fats Waller have in common? Answer: They didn’t usually play rootless chord voicings with their left hands. What????? Aren’t rootless voicings an essential part of jazz piano? Aren’t they the first thing beginners have to learn? Aren’t they the key to playing “real” jazz? As you may be realizing… the answer is no, they’re not. For more on this, along with some demonstrations on the piano, check out this video: Piano Myth-Busting #6: “It Isn’t real jazz if you’re not using rootless voicings.” https://youtu.be/UXnbEL8e-M8 While rootless [...]

By |July 19th, 2022|general|0 Comments

The 1970s Pat Metheny Group: Jazz Fusion 2.0

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever listened to The Pat Metheny Group’s initial recordings from the mid-1970s? They’re wonderful, and this live performance of “Midwestern Nights Dream” gives us a feeling for their musical vision. Midwestern Nights Dream (Live 1977) https://youtu.be/ilIfovF7IwY Looking back at that period, Metheny can be seen as helping to usher in a “second wave” of jazz fusion groups. The first wave, from the early ‘70s, consisted of Return To Forever, Weather Report, and Herbie Hancock’s work as a leader. These groups were led by pianists Chick Corea, Joe Zawinul, and of course Herbie Hancock, respectively, who had [...]

By |July 18th, 2022|general|0 Comments