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So far Ron has created 1179 blog entries.

3 approaches to playing The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” on piano

By |August 28th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Playing pop and rock songs on piano can be fun, but sometimes we find that the right approach eludes us. (Incidentally, by “right approach,” I mean the right approach for each of us individually.) I’ve loved The Beatles’ “With A Little Help From My Friends” since the very first time I listened to the Sgt. Pepper album, back in my teenage days. Yet it took me until not to find a way of playing it on piano that I liked. There are two famous recordings of the song, the original recording by The Beatles and the slow, gospel-blues [...]

Deepening the way you play jazz waltzes on piano

By |August 28th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, When we sit down to play a jazz waltz, we very often begin by emulating Bill Evans or another great jazz pianist who plays jazz waltzes well. But let’s ask ourselves, how did they themselves learn how to play jazz waltzes? And, would we benefit by approaching jazz waltzes in a similar manner? This is a fascinating topic, because the way we experience waltzes these days is far removed from how someone like Bill Evans would have grown up with waltzes. First of all, Evans, developing his musicianship in the 1940s and 50s, would have heard many traditional [...]

How to practice Keith Jarrett’s “Moonchild”

By |August 25th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers! Our Journey Through The Real Book has brought us to a tune by one of the greatest improvisers of all time: Keith Jarrett’s “Moonchild.” “Moonchild” is a short-yet-potent early composition by Jarrett, from the Gary Burton & Keith Jarrett album. Recorded in 1970 and released in 1971, the recording captures a vibrant time when jazz musicians were just beginning to combine jazz harmonies with rock and pop grooves. (There were some earlier precedents, but the late 1960s-early 70s were when the fusion movement really took off.) Although the tune is short, it’s a little tricky to become acquainted [...]

The Inner Game of Piano Improvisation book

By |August 25th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Wow - the first few days of my book’s publication have been amazing! Thank you to everyone who has grabbed their digital copy of The Inner Game of Piano Improvisation. It’s the #1 New Release in the Piano Instruction category and it’s very gratifying to hear how readers are enjoying it so much already. Here’s an interview that the Emmy Award-winning TV producer and author Peter Berkow did with me about the book. Peter has interviewed many famous authors and really got me to open up and talk about the process of improvising. Ron Drotos interviewed by Peter [...]

A 4-Step Method for practicing fast jazz tunes

By |August 22nd, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, We’ve all struggled to play fast, uptempo tunes, and if the tune’s chord progression is complex, it even more difficult to keep up with the pace. Yes, it’s challenging, but attainable with the right approach. Here’s a 4-Step Method I’ve developed to help you become comfortable improvising on those fast, uptempo jazz tunes that give us all some trouble from time to time. I use this method myself and it works wonders! Here’s the method: 1. Playing out of tempo, with the goal of hearing our way through the chord progression. 2. Playing simple melodic lines, at a [...]

Insights and perspectives on playing Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo”

By |August 18th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, A few days ago, I sat down and played Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” on video, and I think it may be my Real Book performance yet. All the planets seem to have lined up for this one: Duke Ellington is one of my musical idols and his harmonies have greatly influenced my playing, I’ve played the tune countless times in public and sometimes for audiences with as many as 25,000 listeners at jazz festivals, and it’s the type of slow, bluesy groove that comes completely naturally to me. There’s also a lot of healthy perspective in the comments [...]

Improvising on The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling”

By |August 16th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, One of the great things about The Beatle’s music is how it draws on so many types of musical influences. In the case of “Oh! Darling,” the primary influence is good old 1950s early rock and roll. The Beatles were teenagers during the 1950s, and the music of that time really inspired them to go into music themselves. They loved the doo-wop of groups like The Drifters, the harmonies of the standard songs of George Gershwin and Cole Porter that were still on the radio at that time, and the lively blues-based rock and roll of Chuck Berry, [...]

Approaching Wayne Shorter’s “Miyako”

By |August 16th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever played any of Wayne Shorter’s compositions? If so, you’ve probably played “Footprints,” and perhaps “Speak No Evil” or “Witch Hunt.” Those are all great tunes and among his most popular and most approachable. But after you’ve played those, keep going. Shorter has written many wonderful pieces and they’re all right there, waiting for us to discover them! I was first introduced to Wayne’s music when I took lessons with the jazz pianist Harold Danko, back in the 1980s. Harold had learned to play jazz during the 1960s, when Shorter was with The Miles Davis Quintet, [...]

To learn jazz, do you have to start with the blues?

By |August 16th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, I get a lot of new piano students who are into jazz, but have been told by someone that “if you want to learn jazz, you have to start with the blues.” On the surface, this sounds logical, right? After all, blues music predated jazz during the late 1800s and certainly influenced jazz in a huge way. In fact, Buddy Bolden, the cornet player who was the earliest great jazz musician we know of, is credited with bringing the blues into the dance hall. That was one of his big innovations that led to the creation of jazz. [...]

A piano reharmonization of “Misty”

By |August 9th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Reharmonizing jazz standards is a lot of fun, but it can daunting to get started if you’ve never tried it before. Therefore, I’ve made a video to give you some ideas and inspiration. When I was 18 years old, I began studying jazz piano with Billy Taylor, who was a big proponent of reharmonization. Billy had learned the technique directly from the great Art Tatum, and I felt fortunate to be learning it from him. You’re next in the line, as I pass this along to you. On the video, you’ll gain a perspective on what reharmonization is [...]