What Time Is It?

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

Having fun with your music

Hey Improvisers, One of my Zoom piano students, who is taking a jazz ensemble class, recently listened to Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five recordings for the first time. These are groundbreaking recordings from the 1920s and a wonderful example of joyous New Orleans jazz. When I asked her what she thought of the performances, she replied, … Read More

The 2 missing ingredients in most New Year’s resolutions

Hey Improvisers, The New Year is a good time for reflection, and as we near the transition into 2023, let’s look at the missing ingredients in the way most people make New Year’s resolutions. This will help you achieve your goals for the upcoming year. New Year’s resolutions are usually about what we’d like to … Read More

Have you heard of the iv/VII/iii chord progression?

Hey Improvisers! “Beware the Jabberwock, my son.” (Lewis Carroll) Have you heard of the iv/VII/iii chord progression? If not, then count your blessings and skip down the page a bit. If you have heard of it, it may be because you’ve looked at the opening chords of “Autumn Leaves,” Am7/D7/Gmaj7, and tried to fit them … Read More

Jazz Piano Skills Interview with Ron Drotos

Hey Improvisers, Here’s an interview that Dr. Bob Lawrence of The Dallas School of Piano did with me. Bob is an amazing interviewer and took me back to my very beginnings as a pianist. To date, this is the only place where you can hear my “musical life history.” Ron Drotos interview: https://www.jazzpianoskillspodcast.com/special-guest-ron-drotos/ Enjoy! Ron … Read More

Using Gil Evans-inspired reharmonization on “My Ship”

Hey Improvisers, I vividly remember the first time I saw a pianist reharmonize a jazz standard. It was in 1983 and I was attending a 2-week jazz workshop with the great jazz pianist Billy Taylor. During our first class, Billy sat down at the piano and changed the chords to a jazz ballad. Wow! While … Read More

2 ways to play The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine” on piano

Hey Improvisers, Do you want to play some classic rock? Great! So let’s go to a traditional Italian wedding and dance the tarantella, OK? No? Why not? Isn’t traditional Italian folk music the kind of classic rock you enjoy listening to? Well… if you enjoy The Beatles’ “Yellow Submarine,” then you absolutely do enjoy Italian … Read More

Exploring the joys of mainstream jazz piano with “My Romance”

Hey Improvisers, As wonderful as it is to develop our unique musical personalities, it can sometimes be fun to simply play a jazz standard in “the tradition.” Case in point: My Romance My Romance, which was composed by the great songwriting team of Rodgers and Hart, has become the epitome of swinging, mainstream jazz piano … Read More

Imrpovising on The Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields Forever”

Hey Improvisers, Is “Strawberry Fields Forever” the Beatles’ greatest song? Well, whether it is or not, it certainly revolutionized their sound. Producer George Martin recalled how fresh and unexpected the music and lyrics sounded when John Lennon first played it for the group while strumming his acoustic guitar. After a couple dozen attempts at arranging … Read More

Piano improv on The Beatles’ “I’ll Follow The Sun”

Hey Improvisers, There are two stages to playing songs by The Beatles on piano. First, we simply get comfortable playing the chords and melody, seeking to emulate the overall feel of the Beatles’ recording. After a while, though, I’ve found that I want to go deeper. After all, we don’t have John and Paul harmonizing … Read More

Sign up for Blog Updates