Category Archives: Lessons

Piano Lessons: Slowing down

Sometimes when learning something new one reaches a saturation point. People just have to slow down, “do it at the speed you actually can do it without mistakes”, said the best teacher I had. Don’t practice mistakes instead practice playing it right, if that’s very slow so be it, it’ll change tempo later.

In this exercise Mr. B. is trying to play both in 3/4 and 2/4. Using the phrase “not difficult” to remember the feel of the rhythm.

These four jugglers have an imaginary piano between them.

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I’ll tell you about some of the people I’m currently teaching. There’s 2 classical musicians who want to improvise, there’s a comedian who wants to write well structured songs quickly, there’s a kid who wants to play Adele, there’s a guitarist who wants to play piano better, there’s a musical theatre actor who is looking for clarity re: how to jam with people, there’s a song-writer who wants an honest response to what’s good or what’s boring when I listen to her song-writing and how to add hot sauce to it and others with other issues I’ll write up for another post.

What are they doing? All are learning how to play and improvise blues piano or African influenced ostinatos in various keys. Some are analyzing Joni Mitchell technique and others the Beatles, Ben Folds, Burt Bacharach – this reflects questions they bring to me or strategies I supply. Some want me to play and then stop me when I do something they want to copy, then I slow it down and they try to tattoo it onto their brain. There are other licks and techniques I teach the way other teachers would start with scales, and we work at getting them to utilize those techniques for ease and speed into their playing (there are scales too). Often we record what we did so they can review it at home.


And for everyone who asks about teaching cats yes I still do that as well.

Quick quiz  – did I teach the cat below to play minor seconds in free time or is it coincidence?

Go to the music lessons section of my website or write

About Those Piano Lessons

Some people have a talent for driving fast cars some for cooking – me I can show people how to write music, not necessarily brilliant music but good enough to remedy certain problems like classical musicians who want to improvise or people who fear they are too old to start.


My brother Ronnie trained me – I was his left hand so he could solo in the treble clef. I spent hours as a little kid accompanying his blues fantasies and that’s how I start most new students jamming blues on a shared the piano bench. When I was a kid I saw three of these guys in concert – Muddy Waters, Sonny Terry, Brownie McGhee but oh what I would give to see or talk to Otis Spann.


Sometimes journalists want to discuss my piano playing often asking the same questions about Keith Emerson, Garth Hudson or Jerry Lee Lewis but I never studied any of those people – I guess that reflects the journalist’s record collection (especially what’s missing from it). I studied Otis Spann, Keith Jarrett and Joni Mitchell, if I was lucky some of it rubbed off on me but first and foremost it’s the real blues style that informs everything.