What Time Is It?

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


Getting to the next level

Take a quick moment and imagine how you’d like to be playing piano. How does the music sound? How does it feel to play like this? Yes, all want to get to the next level with our piano playing. The big question is: how do we get there? How do we need to practice in order to attain our musical dreams? This is the big question for all of us, and here’s the thing that most pianists miss: The efforts that got each of us to our current level of ability are not the efforts that will take us further. [...]

By |October 6th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Moving in the right direction

Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our piano playing that we don’t see the “bigger picture” regarding our musical development. To help us see this, it’s often easier to put our musical development in perspective when we’re studying a non-musical subject, like learning language or a sports event. I was reminded of this while attending a baseball game yesterday in which my teenage son participated. Even though we, as a society, tend to focus on stats and scores when it comes to sports, I find the “inner game of sports” to be the most fascinating aspect of them. And, [...]

By |September 28th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Roland Hanna’s bold, classically-influenced piano solo on Concierto De Aranjuez

Every once in a while, we hear a piano solo that’s so bold it stops us in our tracks. Roland Hanna’s piano solo on Concierto De Aranjuez is one of these solos. Have you ever heard this solo? It’s on guitarist Jim Hall’s jazz adaptation of Rodrigo’s classical guitar piece Concierto De Aranjuez, which they recorded in 1975. The 1970s were a pivotal time for jazz. (“jazz is dead, long live jazz!”) The “old” days of swing music we fading from the public consciousness, and most of the jazzers (and crooners, btw) were either creating identities for themselves as “keepers [...]

By |September 20th, 2020|general|0 Comments

The creative vision of the Rolling Stones

When we hear people talk about the Rolling Stones, we tend to hear them use phrases like “The world’s greatest rock band.” Rarely, however, do I hear them described as being “creative.” (That platitude is usually reserved for their 1960s colleagues The Beatles.) If we really examine their music, however, we begin to see a continuity of creativity that began fairly early in their history and continues to this day. The Rolling Stones began life as a cover band, playing American rock, pop, and blues as best they could. Knowing how great the band would eventually become, it can be [...]

By |September 19th, 2020|general|0 Comments

The 3 types of advice you’ll get from piano teachers

When choosing a piano teacher, it’s very important to understand the various teaching styles in order to find someone who’s right for you. Basically, there are three types of advice piano teachers give, and you’ll want to make sure you identify how a particular teaching is giving you instruction and if this is the way you want to learn. Here are the 3 types of advice that piano teachers give: 1. "This worked for me so I want you to play like this too." (In my opinion, this is the kind of advice you want to avoid if it's the [...]

By |September 13th, 2020|general|0 Comments

A Sonny Rollins story about playing ballads

There’s a feeling we get while playing ballads that’s very special and we don’t get while playing at faster tempos. I love playing ballads, and I always feel a nice connection with other musicians who feel the same way. It could be someone like be the doctor I know who hosts evening jam sessions at her home. Or, it could be a famous jazz musician who can express his deepest feelings through a beautiful song. Here’s a wonderful Sonny Rollins story about playing ballads. I tell it near the beginning of this video, and then I play the classic ballad [...]

By |September 7th, 2020|general|0 Comments

The #1 Way to Become a Better Improvising Pianist

Here’s a question that we pianists can ask ourselves: When we learn a new chord voicing, scale, or technique, what’s the next step we feel we need to do in order to play better? If you’re like most pianists, your answer goes along the lines of: “I’ll learn something a little more challenging.” Although that’s a logical thought, in practice it rarely gets us where we want to be. For one thing, the new thing we’ve just learned has already stretched us to the limits of what we can comfortably play (or “almost” comfortably play). So trying to play something [...]

By |September 1st, 2020|general|0 Comments

Ideas for playing Billy Taylor’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” on piano

I get emails all the time about my Journey Through The Real Book video series on YouTube, saying things like “I loved your video on such-and-such a tune – I’ve been waiting for that for months!” Well, this week I finally got up to tune #167, which is the one that I’ve been waiting for months to play! It’s “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” which was composed by my own piano teacher, Billy Taylor. I studied with Taylor during the 1980s, and I got to hear him play this joyful, gospel-tinged tune on many [...]

By |August 22nd, 2020|general|0 Comments

How to develop your sense of jazz phrasing

Do you ever think about phrasing while you’re improvising jazz? If you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ve never had to and your piano playing always sounds fresh and inspired. And if you’re one of the “unlucky ones,” you overthink the process and feel stilted because you don’t “understand” phrasing. (Ironically, this approach is what’s holding you back in terms of soloing.) For most of us, the best approach is to listen to a lot of jazz and absorb the way our favorite musicians play phrases, and then to simply let it come out in our own playing, getting better [...]

By |August 16th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Zoom and Skype Piano Lessons

Hey everyone! When I started teaching online, in 2012, I had no idea where it would take me. I didn’t know anything about the internet but I did know that 99% of the musicians and piano students I had ever worked with enjoyed the experience and that this would translate into the online world in one way or another. The journey has been amazing so far, and has exceeded my expectations. One “bonus” has been that everyone who seeks me out online is passionate about music and learning the piano, so this keeps me continually inspired and motivated. It’s a [...]

By |August 9th, 2020|general|0 Comments