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


The creative vision of the Rolling Stones

When we hear people talk about the Rolling Stones, we tend to hear them use phrases like “The world’s greatest rock band.” Rarely, however, do I hear them described as being “creative.” (That platitude is usually reserved for their 1960s colleagues The Beatles.) If we really examine their music, however, we begin to see a continuity of creativity that began fairly early in their history and continues to this day. The Rolling Stones began life as a cover band, playing American rock, pop, and blues as best they could. Knowing how great the band would eventually become, it can be [...]

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

The 3 types of advice you’ll get from piano teachers

When choosing a piano teacher, it’s very important to understand the various teaching styles in order to find someone who’s right for you. Basically, there are three types of advice piano teachers give, and you’ll want to make sure you identify how a particular teaching is giving you instruction and if this is the way you want to learn. Here are the 3 types of advice that piano teachers give: 1. "This worked for me so I want you to play like this too." (In my opinion, this is the kind of advice you want to avoid if it's the [...]

By |September 13th, 2020|general|0 Comments

A Sonny Rollins story about playing ballads

There’s a feeling we get while playing ballads that’s very special and we don’t get while playing at faster tempos. I love playing ballads, and I always feel a nice connection with other musicians who feel the same way. It could be someone like be the doctor I know who hosts evening jam sessions at her home. Or, it could be a famous jazz musician who can express his deepest feelings through a beautiful song. Here’s a wonderful Sonny Rollins story about playing ballads. I tell it near the beginning of this video, and then I play the classic ballad [...]

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

The #1 Way to Become a Better Improvising Pianist

Here’s a question that we pianists can ask ourselves: When we learn a new chord voicing, scale, or technique, what’s the next step we feel we need to do in order to play better? If you’re like most pianists, your answer goes along the lines of: “I’ll learn something a little more challenging.” Although that’s a logical thought, in practice it rarely gets us where we want to be. For one thing, the new thing we’ve just learned has already stretched us to the limits of what we can comfortably play (or “almost” comfortably play). So trying to play something [...]

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

Ideas for playing Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” on piano

I get emails all the time about my Journey Through The Real Book video series on YouTube, saying things like “I loved your video on such-and-such a tune – I’ve been waiting for that for months!” Well, this week I finally got up to tune #167, which is the one that I’ve been waiting for months to play! It’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” which was composed by my own piano teacher, Billy Taylor. I studied with Taylor during the 1980s, and I got to hear him play this joyful, gospel-tinged tune on many [...]

By |August 22nd, 2020|general|0 Comments

How to develop your sense of jazz phrasing

Do you ever think about phrasing while you’re improvising jazz? If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ve never had to and your piano playing always sounds fresh and inspired. And if you’re one of the “unlucky ones,” you overthink the process and feel stilted because you don’t “understand” phrasing. (Ironically, this approach is what’s holding you back in terms of soloing.) For most of us, the best approach is to listen to a lot of jazz and absorb the way our favorite musicians play phrases, and then to simply let it come out in our own playing, getting better [...]

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

Zoom and Skype Piano Lessons

Hey everyone! When I started teaching online, in 2012, I had no idea where it would take me. I didn’t know anything about the internet but I did know that 99% of the musicians and piano students I had ever worked with enjoyed the experience and that this would translate into the online world in one way or another. The journey has been amazing so far, and has exceeded my expectations. One “bonus” has been that everyone who seeks me out online is passionate about music and learning the piano, so this keeps me continually inspired and motivated. It’s a [...]

By |August 9th, 2020|general|0 Comments

31-Day Jazz Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge!

Hey everyone! I had so much fun making my 31-Day Rock Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge last month that I‘ve decided to jump right in with a jazz series. The pianists who went through the rock series made remarkable progress and I’m really excited to be making these jazz videos. Yes, the rock series concluded yesterday, and today I posted Day One of my new 31-Day Jazz Piano for Beginners Workout Challenge on YouTube. It’s free, and it’s the “real” introduction to playing jazz piano that will get you improvising with flow and fluency in a fun, joyous way. If [...]

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

How to play piano like Billy Joel

Do you want to know how to play piano like Billy Joel? The typical answer might be to learn his songs and copy his style. But that won’t get you playing like Billy Joel. You might have fun doing that, and yes, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. However…. To really play like Billy Joel, you’ll need to become interested in some of the same music that the Piano Man himself is interested in. And in fact, it’s a perhaps surprisingly wide array of music and it’s made Billy Joel into the musician he is today. For instance, one of the biggest [...]

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

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