What Time Is It?

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


Avoiding the whole concept of “avoid” notes

Here’s a question I get all the time: “I’ve read that in the key of C major, the ‘F’ is an “avoid” note. That means I shouldn’t play it, right?” In a lot of books on musical improvisation, particularly jazz improvisation, they talk about “avoid” notes. In other words, they claim that in scales, there are certain notes to “avoid” because they don’t sound good. One such note (so they claim) is the 4th note in a major scale. What???????????? All I can say is that it’s a good thing that Beethoven had never read any of these books. If [...]

By |May 20th, 2019|general|2 Comments

Please stop comparing yourself to Chick Corea

If you find that you compare yourself to Chick Corea (or Keith Emerson, or Diana Krall, or Billy Joel), please stop. Chances are, it’s holding you back much more than you realize. Yes, by all means let yourself be inspired by the pianists you admire. Yes, study and enjoy their music. Yes, aspire to be as great as they are. But if it’s making you depressed, frustrated, or melancholy, then please stop right now. It’s not worth it. Music is one of the wonders of the world, and these constant comparisons may be preventing you from fully entering into the [...]

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

Finding “alone time” at the piano

I hope you’re able to find a little “alone time” at the piano. We have to nurture our love of music, and we owe it to ourselves to do so. Even when life gets busy. Even when we don't "have time." Especially when we don't "have time." We deserve to have some "alone time" at the piano, even if it's only for 3 minutes on a hectic day. Please... find a few minutes each day to sit down and play some music. For yourself. Ron Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock [...]

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

Getting to a new level with our piano playing

How do we get to a new level with our jazz piano playing? The biggest challenge regarding this is that while we usually think we see the way, this often involves “more of the same.” But more of the same won’t get us there. Yes, it will make us better and more well-rounded players, but it won‘t get us to the new level that we dream of. Getting to a new level involves taking a leap. Sometimes it’s a leap in how we think about music. Sometimes it involves putting ourselves in a whole new (and perhaps unfamiliar) musical situation. [...]

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

With piano improv, I’ve found it best to work on 2 levels at once

With piano improv, I've found it best to work on 2 levels at once: 1. Practicing something very specific which you drill and drill over and over. 2. Relaxing our previous way of trying to play and broadening into a deeper experience of the music. This creates vast improvement very quickly. An example of #1 would be to focus on RH soloing. Focus on one aspect of soloing at a time, and go into it in great depth. One thing I teach my students, for instance, is how to take a melodic motif through the chord changes of a jazz [...]

By |May 16th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Keeping your musical thread going

Life can get busy, and we sometimes can't get to the piano as much as we'd like to. And if you're traveling, you may find yourself away from a keyboard for weeks or even months at a time. Aspiring pianists frequently ask me what they can do about their piano playing during these busy times. Should they wait until all the planets align in just the right way before they begin learning a new song or take a piano lesson? Or should they begin something new, knowing it will be interrupted yet again? From what I've seen over the years, [...]

By |May 15th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Playing tunes we’ve known for a long time

What happens when you play a piece of music you’ve known for a long time? What’s your experience? Do you get bored? Do you enjoy playing something you don’t have to struggle with? Do you see if you can play it differently each time? Do you use these moments as opportunities to go deeper and deeper into the music? The choice is ours to make. Enjoy the journey, and “let the music flow!” Ron Enter your email here to get your free copy of my ebook, Pop and Rock Accompaniment for Piano * indicates required Email Address *

By |May 14th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Instead of trying to play better, how about trying to hear better?

When you sit down to improve your piano improvisation ability, what do you practice? Do you learn fancy licks, “hip” chord voicings, and try to play what you hear your musical idols play? This is fine, but let’s look at it from a slightly different angle: You probably have a lot of great music floating around in your head already. What if you tried to play this music instead? Playing the music you’re mentally hearing involves slowing down, listening with your inner musical ear, and establishing a firm connection between the notes you hear in your mind and what your [...]

By |May 12th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Can the same musical idea give birth to two different compositions?

We’ve all heard the famous opening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony: Da-da-da-dum…. Da-da-da-dum…. And then a quick burst of energy as the lively tempo kicks in and we’re off to the races! But what if Beethoven had followed those opening phrases with something more subdued? It‘s entirely plausible, and Beethoven was such a master musician that he could have followed these loud declamations with a contrasting, slower theme and make it seem logical. There’s nothing in those opening motifs that says the following music “has” to be fast. It only seems that way to us because Beethoven wrote the music in [...]

By |May 11th, 2019|general|0 Comments

Improvisation in daily life (and at the piano!)

We improvise all day long, although we rarely think of it as such. Every time we respond to a friend’s greeting, we’re improvising. Every time we walk into a store and search for an item to buy, we’re improvising. In fact, every time we walk down a hallway, we’re improvising where we place each step. Just like in our everyday lives, piano improvisation is mostly using a language or set of gestures that we’ve become comfortable using. We use it in fresh ways. And since we’re so comfortable with this language (verbal, cultural, physical, etc.), we have no problem adapting [...]

By |May 10th, 2019|general|0 Comments