What Time Is It?

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


10,000 steps a day

Have you ever used the fitness app on your cellphone to keep track of how many steps you’ve taken on a particular day? I recently started doing this myself, and I’ve had a lot of fun trying to get in 10,000 steps each day. Why 10,000? Well, it’s a nice round number, easy to remember, and it’s just a bit more than I would naturally do on a daily basis. So I’m gently pushing myself to stay (get?) in shape by using the technology in a productive way. Also, 10,000 steps turns out to be about 20% more walking than [...]

By |September 4th, 2019|general|0 Comments

5 ways to take your jazz piano playing to the next level

With all the available jazz piano instructional materials readily available these days, it may seem ironic that so many aspiring jazz pianists feel “stuck” at their current level. But perhaps this is inevitable, because becoming a fluent jazz pianist isn’t simply a matter of learning more and more scales, licks and chord voicings which is mostly what we see in books and on the internet. Instead, you’ll attain your jazz piano dreams by following these 5 ways to becoming truly fluent with jazz: 1. Aim for Flow first, Complexity later This mind-shift completely reverses the mistake most beginning and even [...]

By |September 2nd, 2019|general|0 Comments

How to overcome stage fright

In every performance situation, find a way to play for yourself. You love music, and you owe it to yourself to find a way to enjoy your own piano playing, no matter who is listening. Listen to the music, as you would if someone else was playing. Tap into your innermost enjoyment of the music, and simply share that with everyone else. Yes, it’s possible… with some practice. In every performance situation, find a way to play for yourself. Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!” Ron PS - The Rolling Stones are currently on a US tour, and [...]

By |September 1st, 2019|general|0 Comments

Exploring Neil Young’s views on streaming music in a larger context

Neil Young is angry. He’s angry that the sound quality of recorded music has degraded over 95% from the glory days of vinyl until now, with most of the world listening to streaming recordings. It’s like going into a museum and looking at digital thumbnails of the Mona Lisa and other masterpieces instead of seeing the real things. Here are his views in more detail: Neil Young hates what the internet has done to music https://boingboing.net/2019/08/20/neil-young-hates-what-the-inte.html Yes, he’s correct. There’s about 20x more information on a vinyl recording from the golden age of records, such as The Beatle’s White Album [...]

By |August 27th, 2019|general|0 Comments

For Heaven’s Sake: A beautiful, underplayed jazz ballad

Question: What do Billie Holiday, Charlie Haden, Kenny Barron, and Ravi Coltrane know that most jazz musicians don’t? Answer: They know that 1940s ballad, “For Heaven’s Sake,” is a great tune to play! When we want to play a ballad at jazz jam sessions, we typically play such chestnuts as Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood,” Horace Silver’s “Peace,” or Chick Corea’s “Crystal Silence.” In fact, even if we have previously learned “For Heaven’s Sake,” we’d probably get blank stares if we called it an impromptu session. However, the tune is beautiful, and as the above artists discovered for themselves, [...]

By |August 23rd, 2019|general|0 Comments

The benefits of sometimes performing simple music

I’m spending a few days in rural Vermont, and last night a friend who lives here took me to visit her brother, who plays classical guitar. After a while, this friend asked her brother to play some music for me and this is the rare and amazing part: He said that he’d be happy to play something because he “needs more experience performing for an audience,” and then he proceeded to beautifully play a piece that was very simple for him. In my experience, this almost never happens, and this is what makes it all the more extraordinary. When faced [...]

By |August 21st, 2019|general|0 Comments

The joy of playing Jazz Ballads in a slow stride style

A few weeks ago I lightheartedly titled one of my improvisations “This is the kind of blues that you don’t hear much anymore.” As I was re-watching my latest Journey Through The Real Book video, I smiled and thought it could be called something in a similar vein: “This is the kind of jazz ballad playing you don’t hear anymore.” In jazz, we tend to hear recordings that are “modern” at any given point in time, and forget that they don’t necessarily reflect the what listeners heard in nightclubs every evening. A good example of involves solo piano jazz ballad [...]

By |August 20th, 2019|general|0 Comments

A creative exercise in combining musical genres

Let's try an imaginative exercise that can lead to creativity. Start by choosing two different types of music. Then, combine them in your imagination and hear what it sounds like. Some examples might be: Missisippi Blues and Bebop Bach and Heavy Metal Folk and Swing We can also include specific musical artists: Charlie Parker and Hip Hop The Rolling Stones and Samba Norah Jones and New Orleans Jazz After you spend some time mentally imagining the combinations, sit down at your piano or keyboard and play it. As you may have already realized, many famous musicians have based their styles [...]

By |August 19th, 2019|general|0 Comments

You don’t have to learn everything. (Sigh of relief!)

You don’t have to learn everything. (Sigh of relief!) This is true. Despite everything we’re told we need to learn, we don’t have to learn everything. And in fact, the feeling that we do need to learn everything can be the very thing that’s preventing us from improving as pianists. We become overwhelmed which leads to what I call “practice paralysis.” Part of the problem is that piano instruction books, by their very nature, contain information. Much of it is useful information, but when it’s all gathered together in one place, we can feel as if we need to “learn [...]

By |August 18th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Climbing hills

When we're taking a walk and come to a hill, we either become energized or lethargic. What makes the difference? What causes us to either get a little burst of energy and a spring in our step, or, on the other hand, a feeling of "OK, I'll just have to grit my teeth and force my body to get up this hill." I just experienced this while walking through Central Park this week. Upon encountering a hill, I felt a burst of energy while my friend felt lethargic. On another day it might have been reversed. But the question remains: [...]

By |August 17th, 2019|general|0 Comments