Don’t We Have to Learn Scales First?

When I give workshops on improvisation for teachers (whether classical or jazz), one idea is particularly difficult to accept. It directly contradicts what we have been taught. We were taught that we must “know” a scale before we can create melodies with it. “Knowing” a scale (since the middle of the 19th century) means being

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Don’t Play Piano with Your Fingers!

When I was younger, I really struggled at the piano for a number of years. I just couldn’t do what I wanted to do! Finally, after a completely disastrous performance, I quit piano for an entire year.  As a result of these early traumas, I make physical freedom a top priority in my studio. Why should students suffer when

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Mozart Meets Bach!

Mozart spent much of his youth touring Europe with his family. He would often give performances with his sister Nannerl for the royal crowd. When Wolfgang was just eight years old, the family visited London for the first time. There, Wolfgang met J.S. Bach’s youngest son, Johann Christian Bach, the man pictured above, who was then a gifted

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A Favorite Story On Mozart’s Birthday

  When Mozart was thirty-three, he was passing through Dresden and paid a visit to some friends. A portrait artist named Dora (Doris) Stock was at the household that evening. She made the sketch you see below, a portrait that has since become a famous one of Mozart. According to Ms. Stock’s account of the evening, Mozart

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The Limping Horse Trainer

When I was in college, I began collecting parables and stories from various traditions. Some have acted like wise mentors to me during my teaching career, so I’d like to share them with you. I have lost track of the sources, so I will retell the stories in my own way. Here’s the first one:

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Clara’s “Unsurpassed Joy”

  Clara Wieck (soon to become Clara Schumann) wrote in her diary, “Composing gives me great pleasure… There is nothing that surpasses the joy of creation…” Clara’s father taught her a wide spectrum of musical arts from a young age, including improvising, arranging, and composing. At the age of fourteen, Clara wrote a piano concerto.

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A Radical Shift in Pedagogy

The word “radical” comes from a Latin word meaning “root” and is closely related to the word “radish.” Though a radical is now thought to be someone clearly “out on a limb,” the word actually refers to someone who is returning to the roots. I’d like to share a truly radical idea. I know from personal experience

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Notes and Tones

Notes don’t make sounds. They have no voice. They can’t even hear sounds because they have no ears. The fact is, notes don’t have a clue about what a musical sound is! Their fate is to remain both deaf and silent for all eternity. They sit rigidly on a page and continue to sit there;

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