Classical piano students have a clear-cut path: Start taking lessons at a very early age, practice many hours each day, and in 20 years they’re virtuosos.
But with rock, pop, jazz, and other styles that involve improvisation, many pianists flounder around for years without ever reaching the musical level they wish to be at. They dabble here and there, enjoying some of it along the way but ultimately become frustrated because they never really learn the skills or gain the necessary experience that will enable them to play the way they’d like to play.
Why? Because with these musical styles, the path is a little more elusive.
The Rolling Stones had a path. They rented a house together and listened to blues records incessantly, studying every song and blues lick they could find.
Keith Emerson had a path. He became a classical virtuoso (see above) and then applied the musical techniques he had acquired to rock music, forging a new, hybrid musical style along the way.
Chick Corea had a path. He started playing jazz as a kid and embraced improvisation right away. As a teen, he played in Boston-area Latin bands and absorbed that style so well that it gave his jazz playing a unique character.
Alicia Keys had a path as well. She took classical lessons while at the same time immersing herself in pop, R&B, and jazz styles. In addition to studying traditional harmony, she payed close attention to George Shearing’s sophisticated reharmonizations of “Over The Rainbow” and other popular standards, and has even studied Chopin’s piano pieces (with a teacher) while on tour as a pop star.
In order to realize your musical dreams and potential, you’ll need a path. What’s it going to be?