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Any Fellow Pianists Out There?

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I've been taking piano lessons for about a year now, and something's been irking me... How do people improvise?! 

 

It baffles me to know end that people can just sit down in front of their instrument and just... Play. I mean, I can sit down at my piano, look at my sheet music, and start playing. But how do you guys manage do just make up stuff on the fly like that? Do you just play a chord, and start pressing keys that kinda fit? Are you all secretly super computers that can make up these melodies whenever? Do you shove peanut butter up your nose and magically receive the gift of music?!?! ...Yeah... Please reply. :/

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I've been playing piano for two years now.

 

Improvisation is just picking a scale and playing something with that scale. A key to improvisation is to keep the same rhythm. Play as many different notes as you want in any octave but keep the same rhythm for it to sound normal.

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Iv'e been playing piano for about six or seven years now. I do improvise a bit, but I am not that good at it. I mostly just play songs i have learned myself.

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How do people improvise?!

 

Learn about and practice utilizing pentatonic scales:

Edited by NLR Information Minister
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I've been playing since I was 7 (so 14 years?), and for me, improvisation came from not wanting to do my piano homework. My teacher was cool with it, so instead of doing the songs in the book 100% like they were supposed to be done, I usually played them with added bits, or sometimes in a different genre (playing a christmas or classical song with jazz rhythm and structure). It honestly really screwed me over when I joined marching band and played synth in it; I was so used to improvising that I hadn't really cared much for learning how to read all the intricacies of sheet music, so I had a tough time keeping up with others when we were learning our parts for the first time.

 

Now I write electronic music, which I plan out in my head before I even start writing it, but when I do play actual piano, I usually stick with blues or jazz. If you want to learn improvisation, I'd highly recommend learning a couple blues scales. Once you know a blues scale or two, all you have to do is keep a rhythm with your left hand and do whatever you want within that scale with your left hand. Listen to some Johnny Winter ("Life is Hard" is a good one) and try doing what they do, then change it up. It'll also help you get a grasp for swing timimg, which can help with jazz improvisations later on.

 

Another fun thing to practice is trilling. If you don't know, that's when you play two notes repeatedly very fast. It's very hard to do at first because your fingers likely don't have the muscles built in the particular way necessary for trilling, but you can build those muscles pretty easily by practicing trilling every couple of hours with this technique:

 

1. Practice a trill with your pointer and middle finger. (I recommend doing it on a piano or good keyboard, if that's not an option, you can do it on your leg or chair or some other somewhat soft surface with your fingers/hand held up about an inch from the surface). Do it until your fingers are getting too fatigued to keep a consistent speed, then,

 

2. Keep the trill going, but swap your middle finger out with your ring finger. Do it until your fingers are getting too fatigued to keep a consistent speed, then,

 

3. Keep the trill going, but swap your pointer finger out with your middle finger. Do it until your fingers are getting too fatigued to keep a consistent speed, then,

 

4. Keep the trill going, but swap your ring finger out with your pinkie finger. Do it until your fingers are getting too fatigued to keep a consistent speed, then,

 

5. Keep the trill going, but swap you middle finger out with your ring finger. Do it until your fingers are getting too fatigued to keep a consistent speed.

 

6. Repeat all on your other hand.

 

If you do this often enough, you'll build muscle in your fingers pretty quick, and you'll see a noticable difference in your trill speed and endurance after about a month. Trilling is very useful for improvising, because it adds a nice bit of "fancy" to your flow. You can also trill in short bursts for a neat effect.

 

Lastly, just go with the flow. The beautiful thing about jazz and blues is that mistakes can be part of the experience. Jazz is all about expressing an idea, while blues is all about changing negative, sad emotions into a positive, enjoyable melody that people can feel. When you improvise blues, just pour all your sadness out onto the keys and let them tell your tale for you.

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I can, sort of, improvise a song. My method includes music theory and chord progressions.

 

I choose a chord progression; C F G C for example. 

I follow a rhythm

My left hand plays the root note.

My right hand experiments.

voila insta-song. :)

 

Some notes:

  • Chord progressions can really complicated or incredibly simple.
  • My left hand can play chords, arpeggios, or just a single note. As long as each note fits into the chord, and the root note is at the bottom, it should be fine.
  • My right hand plays a melody. Usually this melody goes into the next chord. Say my melody starts on C and goes to F, I can play any notes in a measure, barring accidentals, as long as when the chord changes I am either playing the note of the chord, or not playing anything.
  • I can stay on a single chord for a long time, it doesn't matter when I change it. Experiment with this.
  • Experiment! Nothing I said is set in stone.

Yes improvising takes practice, but it can sound decent if you follow a progression.

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