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New Book Details How to Play Stride Piano

A new book by Ari Kast, Stride Piano Tricks, aims to guide students through the specific hand and finger patterns used by stride pianists to produce their distinctive sound. Surprisingly, given the broad popularity and universally acknowledged historical significance of stride, this is the first book ever to explain in detail how it is played.

Stride piano, the style practiced by such legends as James P. Johnson, Fats Waller, and Donald Lambert, is at the roots of jazz piano, and as such commands strong interest from jazz students as well as the general public.

Kast wrote this book with the aim to teach anyone with an interest in the style how to play it. "When I started researching stride, I found some great transcriptions of stride performances in print, and a few scattered references to some of the better-known stride licks, but nobody comprehensively explained the core set of stride techniques that are used to create these great performances. The advantage to learning the underlying techniques is that you can then use them to improvise great performances of your own over any tune," he explains.

Starting with a brief review of music theory, the book then delves into more than 50 stride rolls, slides, shuffles, riffs, and runs, with an emphasis on the underlying harmonics and finger patterns that make them possible.

"When you look at it, those mesmerizing stride finger pyrotechnics on the keyboard actually share something in common with the fast-picking Scruggs banjo style," Kast reveals. "They both boil down to a set of finger patterns and licks artfully applied over a set of moving chords."

Quickly clarifying, Kast adds, "This comparison faced a chilly reception from some stride players. But they should understand that I am not downplaying or trivializing the great art of stride piano in any way. Instead, this book provides an entry point so that anyone can participate and directly experience this great jazz piano tradition instead of just gazing in wonderment from the sidelines. Ultimately, I'd like to see stride spread to schools as part of a standard music education."

Kast continues, "There is a bit of a magicians guild mentality among the stride community, because anyone who knows stride today has arrived at the knowledge only through painstaking original research. When you ask striders their stories, you get some fascinating stories of truly herculean learning efforts -- studying piano rolls note-for-note, slowing down and carefully listening to bootleg recordings thousands of times, traveling great distances to meet and learn from the precious few who know its secrets. So there's naturally a bit of bravado surrounding the accomplishment of having learned it, and a bit of unease that I'm giving away all the secrets."

Stride Piano Tricks is currently available through the companion website,, and other resellers. The companion website also provides free audio recordings for all of the examples in the book.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: Ari Kast

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