What Time Is It?

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


Piano Improv: The Year In Review (2020)

Hey everyone! With all the “year in review” articles coming our way in a week or so, I thought we’d get a fresh start by looking at the Piano Improv trends that have arisen during the past year and are still in full bloom. For all the craziness of Covid, 2020 has been an exciting year for we pianists, especially as far as improvisation is concerned. Here are the 3 major trends I’ve observed, which began about a decade ago and were sped up beginning last March: 1. Piano Improv became mainstream Pianists all over the world are improvising! Not [...]

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

Playing a solo jazz piano arrangement of Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood”

Well, our journey through the real book has given us a precious gift this week - Duke Ellington’s “In A Sentimental Mood.” This beautiful jazz ballad was one of the first jazz ballads I ever played, and it brings back many fond memories for me. The song was a a regular feature during the many performances I did with a vocal jazz group I played in during my college days, and we sometimes performed it for crowds of up to 25,000 listeners when we opened for famous jazz musicians like Dave Brubeck and Lionel Hampton at outdoor festivals. “In A [...]

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

Entering the Pianistic World of Duke Ellington

Duke Ellington’s career encompassed the whole history of jazz from the early era of the 1920s all the way into the 1970s. (I say “the whole history” because even most of what’s come after can be found in his music in some way or another.) Not only did he play music during this whole time, but he embraced all of the new styles that came about along the way: Stride piano New Orleans (through the players in his band) Ballroom dance music Popular ballads Swing tunes Broadway Bebop Latin Rock (check out “Blue Pepper”) Avant Garde Not only is Ellington’s [...]

By |December 3rd, 2020|general|0 Comments

Thank you

Hey everyone, It’s been almost exactly 8-1/2 years since I first went online with my piano teaching in June, 2012, and the response continues to be incredible. I’m grateful to be in touch with enthusiastic, creative, and musical pianists from all over the world, and I’d like to take a moment to thank you. Thank you… for bringing music into your daily lives. Thank you… for continuing the improvisatory tradition which has developed over the centuries. Thank you… for being wonderful. Thank you… for sharing your musical gifts with us. Thank you… for being brave and being willing to “not [...]

By |November 29th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Exploring modal piano textures with John Coltrane’s “Impressions”

You (and I) have the potential to improvise on the piano in a highly personal, satisfying way. In fact, this is something that connects us directly with our musical idols. And, 40 years of performing and teaching experience has shown me that you’re closer to having extraordinary musical experiences that you might think. Here’s some “food for thought,” along with some very practical ways to develop your own, unique style of playing piano. Have you ever played modal jazz? It’s funny, because as much as we hear things like “there are so many possibilities with modal jazz” and “you can [...]

By |November 23rd, 2020|general|0 Comments

Using “fingerstyle-guitar” techniques while playing Ralph Towner’s “Icarus” on piano

A pianistic style I find very relaxing to play is what I call “fingerstyle guitar.” Basically, we pianists can imitate the way an acoustic guitarist will sometimes play folk-like textures with their fingers on individual strings, instead of strumming full chords. It’s a wonderful sound and translates very well to the keyboard. Watch how I use this intriguing technique on guitarist Ralph Towner’s composition “Icarus,” and then give it a try yourself. It works well on many rock, pop, country, and folk tunes, and you can also apply it to jazz standards as I show in the video. Icarus: Journey [...]

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

A Piano Blues For Healing

I hope you’re doing well! Back in March, I posted some videos of relaxing piano music and lately people have been requesting more of these videos. So… yesterday I sat down and improvised a Blues For Healing. The response has been great and I’ll be posting more videos of relaxing piano music, in a variety of genres. Here’s Blues For Healing: https://youtu.be/M_ElEfTNj1g 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 |November 17th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Jazz meets pop and blues with Jobim’s “If You Never Come To Me”

One of the great things about taking on a project like our Journey Through The Real Book is that we discover (or revisit) some real gems that aren’t as widely-known as that should be. Antonio Carlos Jobim’s tune “If You Never Come To Me” is one such hidden gem! Like all of Jobim’s bossa nova compositions, “If You Never Come To Me” features a gentle Brazilian straight-eighth note rhythm that has a lot in common with pop music. Listen to, say, Elton John’s pop hit “Daniel” and you’ll hear the similarities. It’s no coincidence that pop artists as wide ranging [...]

By |November 15th, 2020|general|0 Comments

Steve Swallow’s blending of pop and jazz in his tune “I’m Your Pal”

Hey everyone, Our Journey Through The Real Book has brought us to #172, which is the wonderful Steve Swallow tune “I’m Your Pal.” Swallow started out as part of the mid-to-late 1960s Boston jazz scene. It must have been an incredibly vibrant place to play music and share ideas with the other musicians there at the time, which included Chick Corea, Gary Burton and Keith Jarrett. All of these musicians were composing similar music at the time (and through the early 1970s) and my hunch is that Swallow influenced all of these more-famous musicians at least as much as they [...]

By |November 4th, 2020|general|0 Comments

I’m Beginning To See The Light: Duke Ellington’s chords vs. the Real Book’s

The Real Book is a great resource, but sometimes we have to dig a little deeper to truly understand how to play a particular tune. Duke Ellington’s “I’m Beginning To See The Light” is a good example of this. For starters, the Real Book uses a series of chords in measures 1-3 that are very different from Ellington’s original harmonies. How do you know which ones to use? I learned more than I expected about this lively tune while making my latest Journey Through The Real Book video, and you’ll come away understanding more about how to play the song [...]

By |October 26th, 2020|general|0 Comments