Musings of a Jazz Piano Teacher

Daily articles carefully curated by the All About Jazz staff. Read our popular and future articles.

Jazz Practice

Read "Jazz Practice" reviewed by Paul Abrahams

Why practise? The obvious answer has to be that we practise in order to improve. But why does the very word cause many of us to go running for the TV remote? Is it just possible that the thought of practising conjures up the brain numbing activity of running up and down scales and arpeggios? The problem is not the scales themselves but the way we approach them. The solution is to approach scales and arpeggios musically and ...

Working with jazz singers

Read "Working with jazz singers" reviewed by Paul Abrahams

Understandably, most of my jazz piano students want to improvise; their prime aim is to solo creatively. However, my 40 years as a pro keyboard player has taught me that being given the opportunity to solo comes as a bonus. A more realistic expectation for a pianist is that we will spend most of our working lives accompanying soloists and singers, in other words, comping. Therefore, unless a student has no ambition or desire to play with other musicians or ...

Teaching the blues

Read "Teaching the blues" reviewed by Paul Abrahams

A moment after writing the title of this article, up popped an image of John Lee Hooker smiling and shaking his head. “Nobody can teach you the blues. Blues is a feeling, something you have to live." I tried explaining that I'm a jazz piano teacher and that it's part of my job but the image faded. So where do we start? If you've read my previous articles or are one of my students, the following message will ...

MUSINGS OF A JAZZ PIANO TEACHER

Stop playing jazzy. Start playing jazz!

Read "Stop playing jazzy. Start playing jazz!" reviewed by Paul Abrahams

I concluded my last article in this series with a piece of advice handed to me by one of my old jazz piano teachers: “Don't try to play jazzy." I'd now like to explore this statement and demonstrate how it affects my own teaching. In the 70's I played keyboards in what was known as a “jazz rock band" and people often described my playing style on Hammond organ as “jazzy." In hindsight I would say that my ...

Stop trying to swing

Read "Stop trying to swing" reviewed by Paul Abrahams

Dave Brubeck tells the story that Miles Davis approached him at the end of a gig and murmured in his ear “You're the only person in this group that swings." Had Brubeck replied: “What, exactly, do you mean by swing?" I suspect he would have been given short shrift. But of course both musicians had an implicit understanding of the word without the need for analysis or elucidation. But what does the word “swing" mean in the context ...

Learning to Play Jazz

Read "Learning to Play Jazz" reviewed by Paul Abrahams

With “Musings of a Jazz Piano Teacher" Paul Abrahams addresses a range of topics that can arise from working as a jazz piano teacher, reflecting on the day to day issues and challenges of teaching improvisation to students from various musical backgrounds and levels of ability. Learning to play jazz Have you ever been asked the question “What do you do?" When I used to reply “I'm a singing coach" the usual annoying response was “Do ...


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