You can learn a lot from playing music you already know well

RDPianoGreenShirtThere’s so much great music out there that we sometimes think we always have to be practicing something new. We get a little bored with the pieces we already know and consider it the “same old, same old.” But the truth is that we can learn a lot from playing songs on piano that we already know well.

Case in point: The other day I discovered a new app called Meerkat. Meerkat is a streaming video app for iphones, via Twitter. I decided to use Meerkat to broadcast a live piano concert on Twitter and decided to start with one of my favorite jazz tunes: Wayne Shorter’s “Ana Maria.” There’s a fun 2-chord vamp in the song which lends itself very well to improvisation. For years, I’ve been giving each chord it’s own scale. As I change chords, I change scales as well.

So I set up my iphone, started Meerkat, and sat down at my piano. When I got to the improv section, however, I surprised myself by finding a scale that fit both chords. As I said, I’ve been playing “Ana Maria” for years but had never seen this possibility. And the really cool thing is that this scale (C harmonic minor with G in the bass) brings out the flavor of the chords in a way that my previous 2-chord method didn’t. So now I have 2 options and can pick and choose as I go along improvising!

This is the kind of discovery that can and will happen when you revisit material over and over. Just make sure that you always keep an open mind and a sense of curiosity when playing familiar music. It’s a great way to keep your music fresh. Bob Dylan and Miles Davis are good role models in this respect. This way of playing old material with fresh ears worked for them and it will work for you too!

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