What Time Is It?

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

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 … Read More

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 … Read More

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. … Read More

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 … Read More

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 … Read More

Bringing some gospel/rock to The Beatles’ “Yesterday”

Hey Improvisers, Even though we sometimes think of musical genres as being separate, we can have a lot of fun by exploring the crossover between them. I did this on Friday, when I performed The Beatles’ classic song “Yesterday” at the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. Even though Paul McCartney’s original rendition was very folk-based, a … Read More

Playing “Over The Rainbow” with pop rhythms and jazz harmonies

Hey Improvisers, One of my favorite styles to play is what I call “Taylor Swift-style jazz piano.” The basic concept is to play a favorite jazz ballad with all the usual jazz harmonies, but with a nice, contemporary pop rhythmic feel. I particularly like to use a folksy finger style guitar-like texture, which I call … Read More

Ideas for playing Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann” as a jazz piano solo

Hey Improvisers, What do you do when you encounter a jazz tune that’s a little out of the ordinary? Well, one approach is to look to another style of music for inspiration, and if possible, see if this style is aligned with the tune itself. Case in point: Eric Dolphy’s “Miss Ann.” “Miss Ann” is … Read More

To transcribe or not to transcribe; that’s the question!

Hey Improvisers, Have you ever transcribed a recorded solo by your favorite musician? If you have, what was your experience? Did you enjoy the process? Did it help you understand how to improvise better? While transcribing is a very helpful way to improve our ear and develop our improvisational abilities, it’s often over-emphasized as the … Read More

Bringing variety to your hard bop jazz piano playing

Hey Improvisers, Playing bebop and hard bop can be fun, but do you ever feel like you’re just playing the same stuff over and over again? If so, you’re not alone. But don’t worry, there are specific things you can do to remedy this and bring some variety to your playing. One of the best … Read More

Sign up for Blog Updates