What Time Is It?

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

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“Lullaby Of Birdland,” Block chords, and a George Shearing story

Hey Improvisers, I hope you’ve had the opportunity to spend some time playing music this week. (And please remember that it’s called “playing music.” Not “stressing about music,” or “always feeling you’re not good enough.” It’s playing music, with a sense of joy and purpose.) But I digress… Have you ever tried to play “block chords” on piano but felt overloaded by all the theory you’ve been told you have to know to get started? Things like diminished neighbor chords and such? Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s an easier way. And not only that, but this easier [...]

By |May 7th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Getting to know Keith Jarrett’s “Lucky Southern”

Hey Improvisers, When I was 15 years old and just getting into piano improvisation, a friend of mine played me Keith Jarrett’s Köln Concert album. Wow! I couldn’t believe that someone could improvise music like this, and my world was changed forever. It may be difficult to imagine a time when Keith Jarrett wasn’t playing standards, but at that time (1979), Jarrett’s music could be generally divided into four categories: 1. Solo piano (primarily improvised) 2. The American Quartet (and KJ Trio) 3. The European Quartet 4. His classical compositions As I eagerly absorbed all of this music, I also [...]

By |May 1st, 2022|general|0 Comments

The Journey Through The Real Book continues!

Hey Improvisers, Thanks for the warm response to last week’s post about my KeyboardImprov “creation story.” Your support and enthusiasm means a lot to me and I’m glad that so many of you are finding inspiration in what I shared in that post. I’m still working on my book, and I’ve started posting Real Book videos again on a weekly basis. In June, I’ll begin making Beatles piano videos again too, as well as videos on various topics (including classical piano improv). Here’s the latest installment in our Journey Through The Real Book. It’s a beautiful tune titled “Love Is [...]

By |April 24th, 2022|general|0 Comments

The power of creative imagination

Hey Improvisers, When was in college, working towards a degree in classical music composition, I wrote a vocal/piano piece based on a poem by Emily Dickinson. Here’s the poem: To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee, One clover, and a bee. And revery. The revery alone will do, If bees are few. I love this poem because it speaks to the power of creative imagination. Yes, a bee and a clover an pollinate a whole meadow, but if we don’t have any bees, we can visualize that meadow and create it in our imaginations. I’m reminded [...]

By |April 11th, 2022|general|4 Comments

Look To The Sky

Hey Improvisers! Look to the sky, indeed. Besides being the title of the new Journey Through The Real Book video, “Look To The Sky” is a great motto for our development as pianists. Rather than keeping our heads in the clouds, so to speak, we’ll improve fastest and have emotionally healthy musical lives if we look “upwards” while making sure our feet are planted firmly on the ground. In practical terms, this means that yes, you can acknowledge that you don’t yet know the challenging chord progression to the new song you’re working on. At the same time, you’ll benefit [...]

By |March 30th, 2022|general|0 Comments

The Little “Secret” That Professional Pianists Rarely Talk About

Hey Improvisers, Since having a healthy mental attitude is such a big part of playing piano, I thought I’d share a perspective with you that we rarely hear about. If you can embrace this, you’ll be a happier pianist and play at a consistently higher level as well. Here it goes: Have you ever sat down to play piano and found yourself frustrated because you played better “yesterday?” Or, that the music seemed to flow much easier the last time you played? Well, here’s the “secret:” It happens to the greatest players in the world too. (Congratulations - you’re in [...]

By |March 16th, 2022|general|0 Comments

A jazz piano cover of Billie Eilish’s “My Future”

Hey Improvisers, “Bravo” to all my piano students who made videos for our Online Piano Recital. The big takeaway from the 22 performances is that to give a great performance, it’s usually best to stay within your current abilities, and work with what you can play fluently. Not only does this take the pressure of playing “brilliantly” away, but it actually enables us to play consistently well and, ironically, have some brilliant moments along the way. After all my piano students’ videos were posted to my KeyboardImprov YouTube, I sat down and played Billie Eilish’s “My Future” as my own [...]

By |February 25th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Finding a Healthy Source of Musical Inspiration

Hey Improvisers! Where do you go for musical inspiration? What motivates you to sit down and play your favorite music? What gets you excited about practicing new stuff? The key is to find a source of inspiration that motivates you without making you feel overwhelmed or not “good enough.” I’m delighted to report that the Online Piano Recital that my students and I are showcasing this month is providing a fun, emotionally healthy source of inspiration in this way. Although there are 19 recital videos on the KeyboardImprov YouTube channel so far, I’m highlighting 4 of them here so you [...]

By |February 19th, 2022|general|0 Comments

The importance of learning common chord progressions

Hey Improvisers, While playing Jerome Kern’s great song “Long Ago And Far Away,” I was reminded about how important it is to become familiar with some of the most common chord progressions. Progressions such as I-vi-ii-V, ii-V-I, I-vi-IV-V, and I-V-vi-IV are the foundational building blocks of countless pop, jazz, rock, and folk songs, and by spending some quality time with them, we’ll be preparing ourselves to play these songs more easily. In addition to recognizing these progressions when we find them in songs, we’ll also understand how the chords we come across are often derived from these underlying chord sequences. [...]

By |February 6th, 2022|general|2 Comments

Creating a musical community for support

Hey Improvisers, If there’s anything I’ve learned during my musical career, it’s that we learn best as part of a community. Whether it’s by playing in a band, taking classes with other music students, or simply hanging out at a friend’s house while listening to recordings, we thrive when we and our peers support one another. With this in mind, my online piano students and I are presenting an Online Piano Recital this month. We’ll be posting a new video each day, and here’s what we have so far: Day 1: Olly plays a wonderful jazz interpretation of Tchaikovsky’s “Swan [...]

By |February 3rd, 2022|general|0 Comments