Five steps to improvising at the piano

Published: 24th November 2005
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You're sitting at the piano playing your favorite song but you can only play the notes on the sheet music in front of you. You long to play that song the way it is running in your head but you just don't know where to begin. Does this sound like you?



Years ago I could only play the music in front of me. I knew the sound I wanted but I couldn't understand how to play it. Then one day I was listening to a cd of some favorite tunes and I could recognize what the pianist was doing. In a nutshell he was playing the scale notes in between the melody! Along the way I discovered there was a bit more but I have it down to formula that works for me now.



1.Sing the song first: Even though at first I was only improvising on songs I already at least had a melody line and chord for, I now improvise a number of songs in my head before even sitting at the piano. Many times your creativity with a song will stop at your fingers. If you sing/humm the song first you will notice a lot more creativity happening because you were proficient with speech first.



2. If you can't make it then fake it: If you're having problems coming up with your own tunes, turn to a fake book and start your improvising there.



3. Don't be afraid to use the whole piano: Next time you are around a good pianist, say the one at your favorite department store, notice how they will do several runs up and down the piano. Or how they play those wonderful deep notes in the bass of the piano.



4. Don't get discourage by your first results: You're not going to sound good at first. Well you might but since 99% of us won't just go with the flow and don't give up.



5. Keep at it: You will get better with time. Practice makes perfect or at least much better sounding.



Some things to keep in mind. If you aren't already familiar with chords and scales, get to know them. This will greatly increase your improvising abilities. Invest in some good learning tools, for this. Books or videos the choice is yours. Choose depending on your learning style.

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