What Time Is It?

Ron's Blog on piano improv and the role of music in our lives


Exploring Elton John and Classical music

I’ve been fascinated with Elton John’s piano playing ever since I bought his Greatest Hits (on cassette!) when I was about 14 years old. I still love his music, and I learn something new every time I listen to one of his recordings. Lately, I’m becoming more and more interested in the influence of classical music on Sir Elton, and I’ve made a video to share a fun pianistic exercise with you that explores this musical connection. First, have a quick look at this video, where rock and roll DJ Jim Kerr asks Elton specifically about this classical influence, and [...]

By |January 13th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Building community to help us with our music

Hey everyone, I hope you’re having a great weekend! I just have to say that the response to my ebook Get Ready To Jam Vol. 1 was very touching. Lots of you downloaded a copy and I was overwhelmed by how many of you emailed me to share your experiences with learning walking bass lines. One of my favorites was hearing about the group of “Dads” who get together to jam while their daughters are at their dance class each week. It was very gratifying to hear how they use my Journey Through The Real Book videos to learn about [...]

By |January 11th, 2020|general|0 Comments

A question about “listening”

Q. When we play music, what are we listening to? A. (Study this for 30 years, and then please let us know your answer.) Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

By |January 8th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Playing Keith Jarrett’s “Grow Your Own”

Here's my (our) latest Journey Through The Real Book video. It's #142 which means we're nearing the 3-year mark! (At one video per week, it’ll take about 8 years to complete the entire book.) "Grow Your Own" is an early Keith Jarrett tune which to my ears reflects the influence of composer Steve Swallow, who played bass on the original recording (Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett, from 1971). In fact, Swallow is one of the largely unsung heros of the early jazz fusion scene, particularly around the Boston area where Jarrett had the Berklee College of Music for a while. [...]

By |January 7th, 2020|general|0 Comments

The value of playing jazz walking bass/ rootless chord voicing accompaniments

I remember it well. I was accompanying a well-known jazz vocalist at a New York City jazz club called Cleopatra’s Needle (great name!). It was just the two of us, and I was having a great time playing walking bass lines with my left hand while “comping” with my right, as this wonderful vocalist sang the melodies to jazz standards old and new and expertly scat-sang her improvised solos. As we finished our first set and headed to the bar area to take a break, she whispered to me “I’m so glad you’re playing walking bass lines!” This surprised me, [...]

By |January 4th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Two ways to play “old” musical genres

When you play an older musical genre, what approach do you take? Do you simply “wing it,” or do you think about the possibilities you can use? It’s a good question and whether we realize it or not, almost all interpretations of historical musical styles take one of two approaches to interpretation. One approach is to basically play the way you like to play, and “flavor” it with some elements of the older style. Paul McCartney did this with his song “When I’m Sixty-Four,” for example. It doesn’t really sound like something from the 1920s, but it has a little [...]

By |January 3rd, 2020|general|0 Comments

5 Songwriting Lessons From Taylor Swift

Have you seen the NY Times video on Taylor Swift, where she shows us exactly how she composed her song "Lover?" If you haven't seen it yet, here it is: Here are 5 Songwriting Lessons we can learn from her: 1. The song doesn’t have to be complete when you begin. This is where a lot of would-be songwriters get stuck. They get a little idea for a song but then give up because they can’t envision the entire song. Taylor Swift knows that this is still an early stage in the development of a song, and it’s important to [...]

By |January 2nd, 2020|general|0 Comments

What don’t you know yet?

What don’t you know yet? Here’s the thing: we think we know what we don’t know, but we don’t really know it until we learn it, right? This isn’t just semantics. It’s what’s limiting our musical experiences and our abilities at the piano. Let’s take improvisation, for example. We each have a “specialty,” or perhaps several specialties. (Rock, jazz, etc.) And we each have an idea of the music we can’t yet play. (Latin, Middle-Eastern, etc.) But here’s the thing: we don’t actually know what it’s like to play that other kind of music until we actually do it. And [...]

By |January 1st, 2020|general|0 Comments

The Beginner’s Guide To Keith Jarrett

The Beginner’s Guide To Keith Jarrett by Ron Drotos Whether you’re just now discovering Keith Jarrett, or want to dive deeper into his work as a whole, I hope this Beginner’s Guide helps you get a good overview of his artistic evolution as well as the breadth of his musical diversity. Jarrett has never defined himself by genre; rather, it’s the strength of his musical vision that shines through in everything he does. Enjoy! Keith Jarrett was born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1945, which was just the moment when Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, and the other early beboppers where developing [...]

By |December 31st, 2019|general|0 Comments

2010s Piano recap: Trends of the decade

The 2010s have been a wonderful decade for we pianists. Here are some of the trends we’ve seen over the past 10 years: Mainstream Pop Simplicity triumphed. The basic quarter-note chordal pop piano part was introduced the 1960s, gained momentum in the 200s, and became firmly established over the past decade. It’s the great “leveler,” since beginners and professionals can both use it when playing anything from “Over The Rainbow” to the latest hits. A Golden Age for Solo Piano Accompaniment In the “old days,” we’d get a popular song accompanied by a lone piano maybe once per decade (Sinatra: [...]

By |December 29th, 2019|general|0 Comments