Learning to improvise jazz piano fluently, right from the beginning

By |June 16th, 2019|

When you’re learning jazz piano, it’s very important to work on fluency right from the beginning. And I’m hesitant to say this publicly, but practicing exercises over ii/V chord progressions isn’t going to get you there. In fact, it’s probably going to inhibit true fluency, because the level of theory involved requires too much thinking at every moment. Yes, it’s helpful to practice. Yes, it’s helpful to learn theory. And yes, it’s helpful to think about music intellectually. But none of us ever learned to speak a language fluently like this. We learned our language by doing it. By immersion. [...]

If you play jazz piano, this could be a game-changer for you

By |June 13th, 2019|

If you play jazz piano, this could be a game-changer for you: Jazz Pianists: Aim for “Flow” first, complexity later https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ag7LsBeh8ZQ Good luck with your playing! Ron Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand Techniques for Jazz Piano You'll also get my weekly jazz newsletter with practice tips and inspiration

The Beginner’s Guide To Dr. John

By |June 10th, 2019|

The Beginner’s Guide To Dr. John by Ron Drotos The New Orleans pianist/vocalist Dr. John was a true giant in the world of music. His piano playing stands at the intersection of blues, jazz, Latin, rock, funk, and much more, all flavored with the pungent spices of a delicious New Orleans gumbo. Dr. John was born Malcolm John Rebennack Jr in 1941, which places his teen years right at the formation of early Rock and Roll. At the same time, he eagerly absorbed the vibrant musical environment of his native New Orleans. He heard marching bands, traditional jazz, down-home blues, [...]

BAM! The influence of Wayne Shorter’s “E.S.P.”

By |June 8th, 2019|

Jazz pianists who were around in 1965 (I was only a year old at the time!) tell me that they were floored the first time they heard Wayne Shorter’s tune “E.S.P.” Here’s some context as they’ve described it to me: You grow up playing swing, bebop and some hard-bop music such as you’ve heard Art Blakey and The Jazz Messengers play. And you’ve been following Miles Davis via his recent recordings where his group has been playing around with jazz standards in new ways. You especially enjoy hearing what they did on their recent live album from MYC’s Philharmonic Hall [...]

Stanley Cowell’s Equipoise: A forerunner of jazz/rock, fusion, and smooth jazz

By |June 5th, 2019|

One of my current projects is to go through The Real Book in alphabetical order, tune by tune, and make a video for each one. Taking on a challenge like this is great because it forces us to learn tunes that we otherwise might pass over, and to dive deeper into the those we already know pretty well. When I got up to Stanley Cowell’s “Equipoise,” which is the 11th tune in the book, my first reaction was, “Alright, here’s a tune I kind of enjoyed playing before and I’ll practice it a bit to get it back in shape.” [...]

Pssst…is that Henry Purcell???

By |May 31st, 2019|

Have you ever spotted a celebrity such as a movie star in your daily life? Like in a restaurant or walking down the street? If you have, you may have had a moment when you asked yourself “Is that her? It looks like her, but she’s a little taller than she looks in the movies.” Or something like that. I have this experience the other day, but with a composer’s music on the radio. I got in my car and turned the radio to my favorite station, WKCR-FM from Columbia University. (You can listen to them online too.). They play [...]

When stylistic labels begin to limit our music understanding

By |May 27th, 2019|

Van Morrison’s “Moondance” is labelled Classic Rock, but it sure sounds like jazz to me. Duke Ellington’s “Blue Pepper” is labelled Jazz, but it sure has a driving rock beat. The Beatles “Yellow Submarine” is labelled Classic Rock, but it sure sounds like a European Folk Dance to me. Sure, stylistic labels can be useful at times for our musical understanding. But when they begin to break down, let’s not hesitate to discard them. Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!” Ron Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for [...]

Is it necessary to remember what you improvise?

By |May 26th, 2019|

“Is it necessary to remember what you improvise?” I get asked this question a lot, and if you ever feel like you want to remember the great music you’ve just improvised but can’t, I know what you mean. I can't remember what I improvise either, although if I was composing I'd focus more on that and yes, remember 4 bars at a time. But in general, it's the same situation for everyone. I don't think that Herbie Hancock or Keith Jarrett can remember their improvs either. And they don't want to. That's the nature of improvisation. It's like trying to [...]

When playing chord progressions, “You gotta know the territory”

By |May 25th, 2019|

One of the best lines in the Broadway musical The Music Man, is when the traveling salesmen are on the train, musing on how to be successful at their trade. “You gotta know the territory” they emphatically tell each other, implying that each town is different and that a successful salesman is one who takes the time to study each locality in detail before arriving there. It’s a great scene, and if you haven’t seen it before, you can enjoy it here: The Music Man (Opening scene) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ9U4Cbb4wg We pianists “gotta know the territory” as well, and for us, this [...]

How can I help you become a better pianist?

By |May 24th, 2019|

Thanks for being here. For me, it all comes down to this question: How can I help you become a better pianist? If there’s something specific you don’t understand about a piece of music you’re playing, feel free to send me an email about it. (If you wish, you can simply reply to this email with your question.) I’ll be happy to explain it if I can! Or maybe you’ve been playing piano at the same level for years and want to finally play better. I can help you with this as well, either through my video course or with [...]