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


The Inner Game of Piano Improvisation book

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 [...]

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

A 4-Step Method for practicing fast jazz tunes

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 [...]

By |August 22nd, 2022|general|0 Comments

Insights and perspectives on playing Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo”

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 [...]

By |August 18th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Improvising on The Beatles’ “Oh! Darling”

Hey Improvisers, One of the great things about The Beatle’s music is how it draws on so many types of musical influences. In the case of “Oh! Darling,” the primary influence is good old 1950s early rock and roll. The Beatles were teenagers during the 1950s, and the music of that time really inspired them to go into music themselves. They loved the doo-wop of groups like The Drifters, the harmonies of the standard songs of George Gershwin and Cole Porter that were still on the radio at that time, and the lively blues-based rock and roll of Chuck Berry, [...]

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

Approaching Wayne Shorter’s “Miyako”

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever played any of Wayne Shorter’s compositions? If so, you’ve probably played “Footprints,” and perhaps “Speak No Evil” or “Witch Hunt.” Those are all great tunes and among his most popular and most approachable. But after you’ve played those, keep going. Shorter has written many wonderful pieces and they’re all right there, waiting for us to discover them! I was first introduced to Wayne’s music when I took lessons with the jazz pianist Harold Danko, back in the 1980s. Harold had learned to play jazz during the 1960s, when Shorter was with The Miles Davis Quintet, [...]

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

To learn jazz, do you have to start with the blues?

Hey Improvisers, I get a lot of new piano students who are into jazz, but have been told by someone that “if you want to learn jazz, you have to start with the blues.” On the surface, this sounds logical, right? After all, blues music predated jazz during the late 1800s and certainly influenced jazz in a huge way. In fact, Buddy Bolden, the cornet player who was the earliest great jazz musician we know of, is credited with bringing the blues into the dance hall. That was one of his big innovations that led to the creation of jazz. [...]

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

A piano reharmonization of “Misty”

Hey Improvisers, Reharmonizing jazz standards is a lot of fun, but it can daunting to get started if you’ve never tried it before. Therefore, I’ve made a video to give you some ideas and inspiration. When I was 18 years old, I began studying jazz piano with Billy Taylor, who was a big proponent of reharmonization. Billy had learned the technique directly from the great Art Tatum, and I felt fortunate to be learning it from him. You’re next in the line, as I pass this along to you. On the video, you’ll gain a perspective on what reharmonization is [...]

By |August 9th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Learning the minor blues with John Coltrane’s “Mr. PC”

Hey Improvisers, There are certain iconic tunes that serve as good ways to go deeper into various types of music. For the minor blues, John Coltrane’s “Mr. PC” is one of these tunes. The minor blues is a very important form to learn, as it can be found in various styles across the musical spectrum. It’s influenced the classic rock of The Doors, The Allman Brothers, and Van Morrison, as well as traditional blues by BB King and Eric Clapton, as well as jazz by Miles Davis and Bill Evans, among many others. John Coltrane’s “Mr. PC,” although usually played [...]

By |August 6th, 2022|general|0 Comments

Are you improvising, or just “stringing together licks?”

Hey Improvisers, It’s common for beginning improvisers to start out by learning a bunch of licks and stringing them together to create solos. But is this really the best way to learn to improvise? Going further, is it really improvising? Wouldn’t it be better to actually improvise while learning to improvise? And it this it true, then what exactly is the role of learning licks in your musical development? I explore these essential topics in my new Piano Myth-Busting video: Piano Myth-Busting #8 https://youtu.be/z2g1P7qXnA0 Happy improvising! Ron Learn the 5 Essential Left Hand Techniques with my free ebook: Left Hand [...]

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

Ideas for playing Pat Metheny’s “Missouri Uncompromised” on piano

Hey Improvisers, The guitarist Pat Metheny is one of those musicians who enjoys bringing various genres of music together, and his “Missouri Uncompromised,” which seamlessly blends jazz, folk, and country music together in a very organic way. It can be fun to adapt a guitar-oriented song to the piano ,and here are some ideas, and a performance, to get you started: Missouri Uncompromised: Journey Through The Real Book #235 https://youtu.be/CRwBlUB5iYo Have fun exploring this! 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 [...]

By |August 2nd, 2022|general|0 Comments