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So far Ron has created 1183 blog entries.

An essential step when learning jazz waltzes such as “My Favorite Things”

By |September 6th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, One essential step that many players skip when learning jazz waltzes it to play then straight, as traditional waltzes. Although it may be tempting to plunge right in with your favorite Bill Evans-style jazz waltz rhythm, take a moment to play your favorite ¾ tune as a traditional waltz. You know… 1-2-3, 1-2-3, with an “oom-pah-pah” left hand pattern, One of the reasons why players of the past such as Bill Evans played jazz waltzes so well is that they had so much previous experience playing straight waltzes and even dancing them because waltzes were such a big [...]

Being inspired to learn a particular song

By |September 2nd, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, What do you do when you look at the leadsheet for a tune you’ve never heard? Well, if you’re like most people, you probably turn the page and look for something more familiar. Yet, this approach, while understandable, also limits us. Part of the challenge is that the days are long gone when jazz standards were popular songs. It didn’t take a lot to get Miles Davis to enjoy playing, say, “If I Were A Bell,” because the song was a big hit during the 1950s when Miles recorded it. He heard the song everywhere, and was inspired [...]

Piano Improvisation is becoming mainstream again

By |August 29th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, Once upon a time, in the days of Bach and Mozart, most pianists improvised. They added embellishments to written melodies, created their own accompaniments from figured bass, and learned to improvise preludes, fugues, and variations on folk songs and operatic arias. Gradually, though, improvisation died out in the classical music world, and became associated with specific styles such as jazz, blues, and rock. Nowadays, the situation is changing as pianists all over the world are integrating improvisation into their musical lives in a way that crosses musical genre. Classical pianists are adding synth tracks to Bach 2-Part Inventions, [...]

Will learning fancier left-hand accompaniments make you a better pianist?

By |August 28th, 2022|

Hey Improvisers, When I begin working with new piano students, I begin by asking them about their musical goals. Often, they’ll say that they want to “improve” by learning a bunch of fancy left-hand accompaniment patterns. Whether they play jazz, rock, pop, or whatever, they dream of watching their left hand fly up and down the lower part of the keyboard under the melodies they play. While I do show them some new patterns to play, the biggest change in their playing comes when I lead them through the process of playing the left-hand accompaniments they already know with a [...]

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 [...]