I was asked a most difficult question yesterday from a sincere student. “How do I play like that?” (I had just improvised a jazz version of Somewhere over the rainbow.)
The answer is complex. The quick answer is no you cannot, the way I play is a result of my unique collection of skills and life experiences revealing itself in a 30 second jazz performance. But as a teacher this is not a helpful answer.
Let me try again.
The development of musicianship is a lifelong journey. You are a hobbyist. Best strategy? Like a middle age marathon runner, run against yourself. Comparing yourself against Kenyan runner Wilson Kipsang is going to be disheartening. Comparing yourself against pianist Lang Lang ditto.
The good news?
We can all improve with systematic disciplined effort over a sustained period.
Let’s break it down what this effort will entail.
Musicianship includes technical skill on an instrument, artistic vision, deep knowledge of repertoire, sight reading skills, aural skills, and applied theory. For the 21st century throw in composition and improvisation as core elements. If you want to play with others add ensemble skills. These are common elements regardless of your preferred idiom: Classical, Jazz, Electronica, Country, etc.
Maybe you can learn from my journey.
Now back to you...
Though I’ve not arrived any destination after nearly 50 years of practicing, performing, and teaching, I’m not where I started either. And, importantly, I’m still enthusiastically at it.
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 percussionist and drum teacher.