I. Dust off your instrument.
2. Watch some YouTube concerts featuring pianists playing the music you love.
3. Find your metronome.
4. Read some inspiration material about folks like yourself who have succeeded.
5. Start noodling on the piano. Review some old favorites. Explore some new music. Dream.
6. Plan practice time in your schedule to succeed.
The happiest students know what they want, why they want it. They've made time for it, and stuck with it. Come join us.
The pandemic appears to be waning. We have all enjoyed the extra practice time lockdowns gave us. Extra time was an unexpected consequence during these tragic times.
How will be hold on to this extra time when things move back to more normal times? Good question.
Here is some of the things I’m considering. Perhaps it will be helpful for your situation too.
"Spending winters in the sunshine, reading, playing golf and socializing seemed a wonderful way to spend retirement. With both of us being music lovers, our sound system is always on all day with great music ranging from Classical, Jazz and some pop. But I felt something was missing and it wasn’t snow. My wife encouraged me for years to take music lessons. I was not too keen because my memory of lessons was the Nuns whacking my fingers with a ruler insisting, I keep my lazy fingers off the keys; that ended in 1958 when I got my Grade 8 piano. But the seed was planted. I decided to look on the net for a music teacher near Burlington and came across David’s website. This really looked interesting. During our cocktail hour that night, I said – when we get back to Burlington, I am going to take Jazz lessons from this David Story guy. On April 23, 2013 my life changed.
Of course, I thought I would be rattling off Jazz tunes within weeks; grief! As time progressed, I realized how complex Jazz really is, especially soloing; how do they do that? Practice, practice, practice every day and soon I started to see the tunnel – no light yet! After a few years of toil and trouble, something that sounded akin to music emerged; I encouraged my cousin to take lessons from David. Then, 4 years ago, David encouraged us to attend the Jamey Aebersold Summer workshop in Louisville. There we were for 6 days: 2 old guys, jamimg in groups, attending classes and intense listening, from 7am to 10 PM. Hardly time for a Scotch closer at night! At last, all those lessons from David were clicking into place like a Rubik’s cube. We went back the next summer and did it again. Then, David encouraged me to try and get a group together to Jam. The pressure was on; my 2 songs would not cut the mustard. More practice. An advert in Kijiji did the trick; we ended up with an exceptional drummer, bass, guitar – and me. We met every week for 3 hours until covid.
My lessons continue. The Jam will continue after we all get our shots. I am still amazed at what some practice along with amazing guidance and encouragement from David has done for my life and continues to do so. Not bad for an 80 year old!"
The rankings follow the descriptions:
In my experience of teaching jazz, I would rank these traditional methods in the following order:
Jazz attracts adults of a certain type. Likely just like you. Professionally successful, academically trained, and determined to figure it out. The kind of person who sets goals, allocates resources, makes time, gathers intelligence from books and the internet, and then applies focus to solve a problem or pursue an opportunity.
Alas the kind of learning traditionally associated with professional success can lead a student off in the wrong direction when learning to play jazz. First, music is a manual skill which requires many years of practice to play at even a basic level of competence. Second, playing jazz is an aural skill. Manual skills and aural skills are not traditionally part of most people’s education. So, a mindset shift must occur. Those professional skills will come in handy though; I’ll just help enlarge them.
(Authors note I own more than 100 drum books, I’ve listened to hundreds of hours of podcasts on drumming, I’ve subscribed in the past to a Jazz education subscription service promising great masterclass from my jazz heroes, and I live on YouTube. Furthermore, I own too many drum sets, snare drums, and cymbals. So, I understand.)
What can I do for you?
In short, I will present material to you in a logical fashion based on your specific circumstances and provide weekly feedback. Old fashioned teaching in a modern 21st c. multi-modal manner.
4 hours of practice: No Grinding.
Top 5 tips for practicing any musical instrument
General and Jazz Specific Theory
If you would like some help, call me.
Who know hundreds of tunes, in the right keys, at the correct tempo? He never complains, is ready day and night? Doesn't drag or get lost?
Mr. Sunny Bass
Someday I hope to buy him lunch, a small gesture for all the get help he has been to my students.
Poland is a long way to travel to learn with American Jazz Masters Dena DeRose, Miguel Zenon, Aaron Goldberg, Mike Moreno, Ali Jackson, and Luques Curtis.
It was worth every penny for such a transformational experience. Bonus, a beautiful country and people too.
Aaron Goldberg, pianist, was our ensemble leader for the week.
About seven years ago I first attended the Jamie Aebersold Jazz Workshop in Louisville Kentucky as a drummer. I was green but pumped. I was pulled out of the workshop on day one and sent to a room where two instructors waited. Bassist Bob Sinicrope started drilling me with questions. Who are you? Why are you here? Very direct.
I explained I was a piano teacher and musician from Toronto who now played the drums. I had attended Berklee College of Music back in the day… He cut me off. “Who did you study with?”
Ah, Ray Santisi.
“Ray Santisi, I’m his bass player!” We were instant friends.
Which brings me back to Poland and Aaron Goldberg.
After hearing us all play we were put into groups and assigned rooms to report to. A bunch of us showed up, nervously eying each other. Language was an issue. There were 5 Poles, 2 Russian teenager wunderkinds, 1 Chinese Rock Star, and 1 Canadian old guy. We all noticed the room was devoid of music stands.
Aaron walks in. He was a student of Bob Sinicrope! He calls the first tune: Body and Soul. No music. We sing as a group the bass line of the song after much discussion and negotiation. We get it. Then the singer, in halting English, explains it’s in the wrong key. Aaron gives us a new tonic note and low and behold we sing the bass line in a new key. He counts us in. Away we go. I’m glad I’m a drummer that day.
At the concerts during the week, we are the only group playing without music. We play with intensity and conviction born from pure terror. We nail it.
Aaron buys us a bottle of Bison Vodka at weeks end and salutes us all.
Thank you Aaron for valuable insights and the vodka.
Memorize these tunes as your first priority using the method below. This method is based on the wise words of Louis Armstrong and experience of Lenny Tristano. I credit the singing of the chord roots to my week of study with Aaron Goldberg of Yes Trio. What a great insight Aaron presented.
Autumn Leaves https://youtu.be/tguu4m38U78 Key of Gm
Take the A train https://youtu.be/D6mFGy4g_n8 Key of C
Blue Monk https://youtu.be/_40V2lcxM7k Key of Bb
Satin Doll https://youtu.be/Gj42JotNUko Key of C
Blue Bossa https://youtu.be/U7eOs5lERww Key of C minor
C jam Blues https://youtu.be/16UIKglJ56w Key of C
How do I become a great pianist?
An honest question if a tiny bit naïve. If you are in a great hurry, it is going to be difficult. If you are looking for a “hack” or some shortcut, I don’t know any.
For centuries pianists have followed a standard set of proven practices.
I'm available to help and encourage you on your journey. Just call me.
"A landmark in jazz studies, 'Thinking in Jazz' reveals as never before how musicians, both individually and collectively, learn to improvise. Chronicling leading musicians from their first encounters with jazz to the development of a unique improvisatory voice." Amazon description.
A worthwhile read for every jazz student for the first hand recounting from master jazz musicians on how they learned to improvise.
If you are feeling stale, try the following exercises.
Have Fun, see you in September.
An Ideal Practice Session
Ear training gives you the ability to conceptualise what you hear, nothing more. There are countless phone apps, YouTube videos, and social media hustlers, and books promising results in short order. Unless you are in possession of perfect pitch and deep prior experiences listening to music, this will take some time. I am 48 years in. I am still working on it.
Ear Training for Jazz Musicians
1. Listen attentively to music. A lot. Ask yourself, "what is going on here?"
2. Listen to a particular solo or piece of a solo until you can sing it. Then find it on your instrument.
3. Sing intervals.
4. Sing broken chords
5. Sing the bass roots of your pieces in time and on pitch.
6. Listen to more music.
7. Record yourself, listen back.
8. Record yourself playing scales with the metronome. Listen back.
9. Record your next band practice, listen back.
10. Sing everything you learn in your theory studies.
This is just a start for pianists. The bass lines created by professional bassists will be more sophisticated that what I've given you here. But this is a start.
These techniques will create a simple left hand walking bass line in Blues. The principals can be used in Jazz standards.
To discover how these lines were created, do the following.
If I can help you further, please call me.
Here is how it works. Swing jazz at slow and moderate tempi plays 8th pair long short with the accent on the short side or upbeat side.
The four videos below can be used various ways. Namely scales and jazz melodic patterns as found in the music of the Bebop era. Swing melodies work well too.
If you need help, contact me, I consult video Skype or Zoom.
My go to podcasts. I listen in the car on my way to classes. One reason I bounce through the door on arrival.
A list of tunes I've played at public jam sessions in Toronto over the last 2 years that I've been attending as a drummer.
All of me
Now's the time
Scrapple from the apple
It don't mean a thing
C jam blues
Straight, no chaser
All the things you are
East of the sun
If I were a bell
There will never be another you
What is this thing called love
Have you met miss jones
Song for my father
Take the A train
All the things you are
Scrapple from the apple
There is no greater love
Girl from Ipanema
Days of wine and roses
Softly as in a morning sunrise
Lester leaps in
Fly me to the moon
Blues for Alice
My little suede shoes
A night in Tunisia
How high the moon
Stella by starlight
Body and soul both fast and slow
I hear a rhapsody
Up jumped spring
There will never be another you
I love you
Out of nowhere
Night and day
The link below offers some good advice to read before you attend your first jam, including a short list of essential tunes for beginners. You don't need to learn the entire list before attending. A blues in Bb and F, a common standard or two, one bossa and you are ready to go.
Found on pages 77 & 78
I highly recommend this book to all my Jazz students.
You've got to learn your instrument. Then, you practice, practice, practice. And then, when you finally get up there on the bandstand, forget all that and just wail.
I'm a professional pianist and music educator in West Toronto Ontario. I'm also a devoted student and teacher of the drums.