top of page
  • jonathanmusician

"Hey, you should play like..."

Decades ago I was playing in a nightclub where I had a steady gig accompanying singing waiters (these days referred to as "servers.") As I walked over to the piano some guy yells to me "Hey, you should play like Roy Bittan!" Bittan was Bruce Springsteen's pianist. He does a great job, he has a nice life, and I regret not going to an audition long ago to try to become Bruce's pianist. But even then that rubbed me the wrong way. I even said to the guy "Hey, he should play like me!" It was just a snarky retort.

I think that there's often a tendency among musicians to try to sound like some other famous instrumentalist. Either they just love that sound or they think it'll get them work (and maybe it will.) We all want to know what we just heard that was new, different, or fantastic. When I tell you that given the time to do so, I could name at least a couple of hundred pianists who have influenced the way I play, I'm not kidding. I can remember endless thousands of hours trying to dissect and sound like Art Tatum, ,Herbie Hancock, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and a host of others. And there are elements of their playing that have settled or assimilated into my own. But I'm not them. They did it way better than I ever will, and finally in my life, that's just fine. I always try to be a better pianist than I was last week, and I tell my students that my goal is to make them better players than me, but at the same time I let them know that I'm going to keep progressing myself.

A million sax players tried to sound like John Coltrane, and a million guitarists tried to sound like Jimi Hendrix. it has taken me a lifetime to decide to just be the best me I can be at the piano. That doesn't mean that I won't study others. Of course I will. But I seem to have arrived at a place where I can just develop my own style, whether you think it's original or an amalgam of others. For me, the pressure is

20 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Chopin: living the piano player's life

I'm finishing up reading "Fryderyk Chopin: A Life and Times" by Dr. Alan Walker. I've really enjoyed it. Two things that stand out to me among many: First of all, that whether you're a 21st century ja

On being LOGICal

For the last couple of years I've been using Logic Pro software to not only record my compositions, but to orchestrate them. Using virtual software instruments, I can create whatever ensemble I want:

Parkinson's and piano playing.

I just had a phone conversation with an old friend, an older man who has Parkinson's. He used to do comedy and comedy writing, and he's a witty fellow. He got diagnosed with Parkinson's 20 years ago.


bottom of page